Christine Schleppegrell

Leverage Your Judicial Clerkship for a Successful Private Sector Career: Tips for Managing Summer Externs

Tips for Clerks

Types of Assignments: Before your externs arrive think about the types of assignments you plan to give them. If your chambers does not have a standard practice of giving certain work to externs, then choose items from a calendar or entire calendars that involve general litigation concepts externs may have already encountered in law school. Alternatively, you can assign discrete tasks (checking notice and service) that are part of a more complicated calendar.

Training: Consider setting up one or two formal training sessions to walk through the process of analyzing a motion or completing an assigned task. You can even set up the meeting as a brown bag luncheon to give the session a more relaxed feel.

Course Credit: Ask for your externs’ evaluation sheet from their law school(s) within the first couple weeks of their start date. Summer externs often spend only two to three months in chambers and it is important to think about the criteria upon which they are evaluated throughout their externship. In order to receive full credit externs may have to complete certain types of assignments, i.e. research and writing, and it’s best to plan for these up front.

Educational Opportunities: Think about learning experiences that might present themselves during the summer. Is a major trial scheduled? Does the court offer tours of its facilities?

Welcome Reception: Consider hosting a welcome reception in chambers to provide an informal environment in which other judges, clerks, externs, and support staff can get to know the externs. Such an event can be as simple as an informal potluck breakfast, or just coffee and bagels.

Weekly Staff Meeting: If time permits try and schedule a weekly staff meeting where the judge, clerks, support staff, and externs can get together to discuss due dates, trials, upcoming events, scheduling, and any concerns. A standing meeting is a great way for externs to understand the different roles court employees play and the importance of collaboration.

Mid-Summer Review: During the first week let your externs know whether you plan to review their work at the half-way point. Setting a date for the review will give your externs a goal to work toward and also presents an opportunity to provide tips for improvement.

Tips for Externs

Career and Term Clerks: Use the clerks as a resource for completing your daily tasks as well as a sounding board for career advice. Get to know clerks who work for other judges as they may serve as helpful resources come job search time. Working in chambers can be isolating so it’s up to you to initiate contact and be social. When other judges look to fill a term clerk position they often consider candidates who externed for fellow judges.

Ask Your Supervising Clerk: Within the first week ask the clerk supervising your work if s/he has any general suggestions for making the most out of your summer in chambers.

Writing Sample: If possible, see if there is an opportunity to leave your externship with a writing sample in hand to use during on campus interviewing or your post-graduation job search. Judges’ policies regarding writing samples vary, but you may be able to draft an internal memo summarizing recommending a specific outcome.

Attend Hearings: One mistake externs make is trying to finish all the work assigned to them without realizing that they are there to learn and attending court is a huge part of the learning experience. Clerks and judges understand their mentoring roles and will often tell externs that they should stop what they are doing, regardless of whether they are able to finish their assignments, and attend important hearings. 

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