I can’t stand my co-clerk

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Dcc617

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by Dcc617 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:02 am

So again, there's probably no need to hypothesize possible excuses for the guy, given that there's nothing in the OP that would make you think that the guy was behaving appropriately.

He's a shitty, unprofessional coworker. OP needs to figure out how to get this behavior to end.

shoebox

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by shoebox » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:30 am
Is it customary to nit-pick your co-clerk’s work? He spends hours pouring over my drafts to highlight little issues, many of which boil down to discretionary preferences. I don’t think I’d mind this as much if it didn’t always come along with a lecture.
Nit-picking is sort of in the eye of the beholder. It's been my experience that clerks were expected to exchange drafts and do everything they could to make sure the draft opinion was as good as it could be before going to the judge. If I received an edit that was just a stylistic preference thing that I didn't agree with, I had no problem disregarding it. (And you co-clerk shouldn't take it personally if you don't accept that change.) That said, the "grading" and lecturing absolutely shouldn't be part of the process.

nixy

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by nixy » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:36 am

Dcc617 wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:02 am
So again, there's probably no need to hypothesize possible excuses for the guy, given that there's nothing in the OP that would make you think that the guy was behaving appropriately.

He's a shitty, unprofessional coworker. OP needs to figure out how to get this behavior to end.
For crying out loud, no one was excusing the guy. Understanding what his deal is can help in handling him, and that’s all. Other posters have actually provided suggestions about that rather than just complaining about how others have characterized the situation.

He probably does think he’s being a mentor and it’s sucky and stupid but probably still driven at some level by insecurity as well as ageism/sexism. Keeping that in mind *doesn’t* mean you have to *cater* to his insecurities, it can just help you anticipate what might work best with him.

OP, my chambers didn’t generally have clerks read/edit each others’ work, so I can’t really comment on what’s normal in that setting (it would have been weird to do what he’s doing in my chambers unless for some reason the judge actually asked the clerk to do it).

One of the issues is that he probably thinks he’s helping, and the editing could in fact look helpful to outsiders, so it’s a little hard to complain about that specifically (as opposed to the lectures and grading). If it’s not the practice to swap work (like the judge or JA hasn’t specifically told you to do so), maybe then just ignore his edits and carry on. When he tries to give them to you, say something like “oh gosh, you didn’t need to do that, I already gave it to the judge, it helps me keep on schedule to move stuff along.” (If you put it in terms of taking too much of *his* time he’ll probably insist he can DO IT ALL so he can look heroic.) If he asks to see stuff before you submit it, say you don’t have time because you told the judge you were going to get it to them.

If you are expected to swap work, I’d just ignore how long he spends on your stuff, and do whatever other work you have to do in the meantime. Try to cut off his lectures in the ways talked about above, maybe with “It makes more sense for me to work through this myself, if I have any questions I’ll let you know.” Or “I’m right in the middle of this other thing and don’t want to lose my train of thought, so I can’t look at this now, but I’ll let you know if I have questions.” Or even, “I really want to finish [this, something else, whatever’s plausible] today, so I really only have 5 mins to talk about this and then I’m going to have to cut you off.” (And then cut him off!)

Also, as someone said, is he actually getting his own work done? He might not be, and is the kind of thing that it might be worth raising with the JA (who’s also probably pretty aware of what’s happening).

Finally, one thing to keep in mind is that while he’s a total PITA to deal with, don’t let it make you feel discounted or undeserving. He’s not the judge and he didn’t hire you. His sense of himself as being in a position to mentor you is about him, and it’s how he’d look at anyone in your situation, not you personally. What matters is what the rest of chambers thinks about you. Try to just ignore him and/or internally laugh at his presumption. This is a total pop psych cliche, but you can’t change what he thinks, only how you react to it (which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work on getting him to stop what he’s doing; he shouldn’t treat you that way. But if you can think of him as ridiculous rather than infuriating - because he *is* being ridiculous - it might help you get through the days more easily).

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2020 1:35 pm

shoebox wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:25 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:30 am
Is it customary to nit-pick your co-clerk’s work? He spends hours pouring over my drafts to highlight little issues, many of which boil down to discretionary preferences. I don’t think I’d mind this as much if it didn’t always come along with a lecture.
Nit-picking is sort of in the eye of the beholder. It's been my experience that clerks were expected to exchange drafts and do everything they could to make sure the draft opinion was as good as it could be before going to the judge. If I received an edit that was just a stylistic preference thing that I didn't agree with, I had no problem disregarding it. (And you co-clerk shouldn't take it personally if you don't accept that change.) That said, the "grading" and lecturing absolutely shouldn't be part of the process.
Yeah, this. In a lot of chambers, it is normal to swap drafts and have varying levels of intensity in suggesting edits. (In some chambers, another clerk will edit things only on the face of the document--and mostly just look for proofreading errors; in others, co-clerks will substantively cite-check and shepardize everything, and they will give substantive and stylistic feedback). Often, co-clerks might suggest stylistic edits, which you can incorporate or disregard.

It is normal for a friendly co-clerk to joke, "hey, you need to open your bluebook more often, there are several bluebooking errors in here." It's also normal to occasionally say "I am not sure that you got the jurisdictional analysis right; do you want to talk it through because I see this a little differently?" But, these are all the types of normal collaboration that happens in a workplace.

Giving lots of long lectures is not normal. Grading is not normal. And viewing yourself as a mentor when you are neither a more seasoned law clerk or formally your co-clerk's supervisor is not normal.

So, I wouldn't get frustrated if his stylistic suggestions are robust if/when you trade drafts. And, certainly, if he is a remarkably good proofreader and bluebooker, I would appreciate his nits. But don't dismiss the lectures and patronizing tone as "normal." They are not, and they need to be shut down.

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 1:35 pm

Yeah, this. In a lot of chambers, it is normal to swap drafts and have varying levels of intensity in suggesting edits. (In some chambers, another clerk will edit things only on the face of the document--and mostly just look for proofreading errors; in others, co-clerks will substantively cite-check and shepardize everything, and they will give substantive and stylistic feedback). Often, co-clerks might suggest stylistic edits, which you can incorporate or disregard.

It is normal for a friendly co-clerk to joke, "hey, you need to open your bluebook more often, there are several bluebooking errors in here." It's also normal to occasionally say "I am not sure that you got the jurisdictional analysis right; do you want to talk it through because I see this a little differently?" But, these are all the types of normal collaboration that happens in a workplace.

Giving lots of long lectures is not normal. Grading is not normal. And viewing yourself as a mentor when you are neither a more seasoned law clerk or formally your co-clerk's supervisor is not normal.

So, I wouldn't get frustrated if his stylistic suggestions are robust if/when you trade drafts. And, certainly, if he is a remarkably good proofreader and bluebooker, I would appreciate his nits. But don't dismiss the lectures and patronizing tone as "normal." They are not, and they need to be shut down.
Yeah, this exactly. My judge expected co-clerk review to be serious, and you were expected to sheperdize, nit, and offer both stylistic and substantive suggestions if you thought the memo or draft opinion could be improved. The co-clerk reviewer obviously wasn't going to have the same background knowledge of the case as the clerk who wrote the draft, but there was a clear expectation that he or she would be actively looking for ways to improve the work product. But even in this environment, "grading" and lectures would have been so far removed from accepted practice, and the judge would have shut it down immediately.

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mjb447

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by mjb447 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:36 pm

Dcc617 wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:02 am
So again, there's probably no need to hypothesize possible excuses for the guy, given that there's nothing in the OP that would make you think that the guy was behaving appropriately.

He's a shitty, unprofessional coworker. OP needs to figure out how to get this behavior to end.
The behavior OP specifically asked for feedback about -- nitpicking, especially over discretionary preferences, or spending hours reviewing another clerk's draft for errors -- is encouraged or required in some chambers (see above). That part of the co-clerk's behavior isn't going to end if OP is in one of those chambers (I still don't think we know), and OP would be wasting her time and limited capital trying to get it to. On the other hand, the condescension, lecturing, and "grading" that are coming along with it would need to be addressed in any remotely functional chambers.

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:30 am
OP here. Thanks for all the replies. It’s good to know I wasn’t just creating an issue in my own head.

The co-clerk is not a K-JD. In fact, he’s much older than me. I think that’s one of the sources of his behavior, as well as the implicit sexism. It’s like he believes I am his mentee.

Is it customary to nit-pick your co-clerk’s work? He spends hours pouring over my drafts to highlight little issues, many of which boil down to discretionary preferences. I don’t think I’d mind this as much if it didn’t always come along with a lecture.

I’m hesitant to say anything because I do think he believes he’s just being helpful. But I’ve worked very hard to achieve this milestone, and I don’t want to feel discounted or undeserving.
Just be very clear with co-clerk that the edits based on discretionary preferences are unnecessary and you aren't going to include them in your draft. Basically, give him feedback on his feedback. You can also tell him that it is unnecessary to spend a long time delivering feedback or editorializing. You can frame this as better for your judge: Only making necessary edits and delivering them efficiently better utilizes a limited amount of time.

The other thing is that it really sounds like co-clerk is power-tripping here. Don't let him do this. It's bullying. Respond firmly and clearly to his bad behavior. Getting literally any word in in response is better than not saying anything at all.

hatelawandgoinghome

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Re: I can’t stand my co-clerk

Post by hatelawandgoinghome » Wed Sep 02, 2020 2:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:23 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:30 am
OP here. Thanks for all the replies. It’s good to know I wasn’t just creating an issue in my own head.

The co-clerk is not a K-JD. In fact, he’s much older than me. I think that’s one of the sources of his behavior, as well as the implicit sexism. It’s like he believes I am his mentee.

Is it customary to nit-pick your co-clerk’s work? He spends hours pouring over my drafts to highlight little issues, many of which boil down to discretionary preferences. I don’t think I’d mind this as much if it didn’t always come along with a lecture.

I’m hesitant to say anything because I do think he believes he’s just being helpful. But I’ve worked very hard to achieve this milestone, and I don’t want to feel discounted or undeserving.
Just be very clear with co-clerk that the edits based on discretionary preferences are unnecessary and you aren't going to include them in your draft. Basically, give him feedback on his feedback. You can also tell him that it is unnecessary to spend a long time delivering feedback or editorializing. You can frame this as better for your judge: Only making necessary edits and delivering them efficiently better utilizes a limited amount of time.

The other thing is that it really sounds like co-clerk is power-tripping here. Don't let him do this. It's bullying. Respond firmly and clearly to his bad behavior. Getting literally any word in in response is better than not saying anything at all.
LOL. Assert your dominance. Wholeheartedly agree with this post.

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