Struggling with workload Forum

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Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 08, 2021 12:32 am

Current federal clerk. As the title says, I'm having trouble keeping up with the workload. Right now I'm working ~8:30-8:00 M-F + narrower hours on weekends, and I still feel behind. I'm a slow writer (I think), so it's partly my own fault. Does anyone have constructive advice? Not at the point where I'd bring this up to my judge, but I'm getting exhausted and don't want the quality of my work product to drop.

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 08, 2021 7:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Oct 08, 2021 12:32 am
Current federal clerk. As the title says, I'm having trouble keeping up with the workload. Right now I'm working ~8:30-8:00 M-F + narrower hours on weekends, and I still feel behind. I'm a slow writer (I think), so it's partly my own fault. Does anyone have constructive advice? Not at the point where I'd bring this up to my judge, but I'm getting exhausted and don't want the quality of my work product to drop.
Sorry to hear. The learning curve can be brutal. One suggestion is talk to your co-clerks. Clerks more cooperatively in some chambers than others. In chambers where you're more independent, you might learn some tips from your colleagues. Relatedly, consider how you allocate your time on a given task. If you perceive writing is slowing you down, perhaps it's because you don't have a firm grasp on what you're writing, so perhaps spending some more time reading/researching will help clear the logjam. Good luck!

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 08, 2021 9:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Oct 08, 2021 12:32 am
Current federal clerk. As the title says, I'm having trouble keeping up with the workload. Right now I'm working ~8:30-8:00 M-F + narrower hours on weekends, and I still feel behind. I'm a slow writer (I think), so it's partly my own fault. Does anyone have constructive advice? Not at the point where I'd bring this up to my judge, but I'm getting exhausted and don't want the quality of my work product to drop.
Are you at the district court level? I think everyone struggles at first. But I'm curious to hear more about why you think it's partly your own fault.

Maybe first identify what process of the writing process (other than being a slower writer) you struggle with. Do you think you spend too much time reviewing the pleadings, or spend too much time reviewing caselaw?

j01

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by j01 » Mon Oct 11, 2021 1:12 pm

Is someone telling you that you're moving too slowly? If not, what specifically gives you that idea?

A lot of new clerks assume they are moving too slowly, but ultimately district courts are usually able to set their own schedule, and the priority is excellent work.

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bretby

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by bretby » Mon Oct 11, 2021 6:05 pm

It's surprising that the workload seems heavy now, because you should have just come off the six-month list and so able to catch a breath. If you just started in September, I think you'll find that things get a lot easier pretty soon as you start to gain familiarity with the style/issues/preferences of your judge. If you've been around longer, I'd be a little more concerned. I agree that excellent work is the priority, but in my experience district courts don't just set their own deadlines so there are real moments in time when work product is due. Do you have a good relationship with your judge? Sometimes it can be helpful to set internal deadlines to get him or her drafts (if he or she is the type of judge who will read drafts -- some will and some won't). This can help jumpstart a conversation where you talk about your work product and you might get some helpful ideas about how to streamline your process. Also, have any of your co-clerks been around a lot longer than you? If so, I would definitely ask them for pointers. If they are unhelpful, that's on them and I think it's better to have asked. Are you friendly with any of this judge's former clerks? Maybe someone who went to your law school/someone you overlapped with at the beginning? Most people are happy to help and a 30 minute conversation with a former clerk could give you some real, practical advice on whether you really are moving too slowly and, if you are, how to speed things up.

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 11, 2021 7:10 pm

Might not be your fault. Those hours don't strike me as unusual for many district court judges in high-volume districts, and even some COA. My COA was not a 9-5.

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:13 pm

If you're in a high-volume district, those hours are not necessarily unusual, especially if you worked through the lead-up to the six-month list. The district court learning curve is tough for everyone and the timing of the list makes it much worse.

lawposter10000

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by lawposter10000 » Wed Oct 13, 2021 12:35 am

I found it to be helpful to write out brief descriptions of the parties' positions as I read the briefs. Then I had some of the order written already, and I could use it as an outline of what I needed to decide without going back to the briefs. You can always take it out if it shouldn't be in the final order (although I'd save it in another document in case just in case).

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Re: Struggling with workload

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Oct 13, 2021 7:45 pm

Unfortunately I do not have too much advice cause I’m in a very similar boat. But a couple things I have been working on, in case it helps you:
- realizing I don’t have to respond to every single argument, esp the minor ones that are just a couple sentences each (might depend on your judge but mine said this was fine)
- starting to write sooner. In the beginning I was exhaustively researching every issue to make sure I knew what was happening at all angles before I started drafting. That’s just not realistic time-wise. If you start drafting it forces you to realize what you know vs. what you actually need to research more.
- making an outline of the party I’m ruling against’s arguments and how the other side responds to them. This helps me avoid having to go back and forth to the briefs and trying to remember where it was that I saw that line I’m looking to quote

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