Christine Schleppegrell

Leverage Your Judicial Clerkship for a Successful Private Sector Career: Training the Incoming Clerk

As summer rolls around you are likely preparing to transition to private practice come the end of your term. You may be at various stages in your job search and hiring usually slows down in the next few months. In turn, court filings are usually lower from June through August with an uptick in September.

During this time try to accomplish a few things: time your exit with the new clerk’s start date, formulate a training program, and follow up with the new clerk. The goal is to provide the judge with a smooth transition from one clerk to the other and to leave your successor with the tools s/he needs to fly solo.

Timing

A good training program will take into account your schedule and accommodate your move to private practice as well as the incoming clerk’s transition to chambers.

First, find out how much training time the court will pay for. Some courts allow for up to two weeks of overlap between the outgoing and incoming clerks’ terms.

Second, think about what your needs are for your future in private practice…are you still looking for work? Will you need time off during the training/overlap period to interview or go on vacation? It is reasonable to need time for your job search. Judges and chambers staff are aware that term clerkships have a hard end date and are usually willing to accommodate reasonable absences for job searching.

If you plan to take time off prepare longer training lessons so that in your absence the incoming clerk has a substantial task to occupy his/her time.

Third, consider the incoming clerk’s needs. Does s/he plan to take time off after the July bar exam?

Training Program

First, see if your chambers already has a training program in place. If the answer is yes, improve the pre-existing system. If the answer is no, reflect on how you were trained for the position. What would you change? What part of your training was most applicable in completing your day to day tasks? What do you wish you would have known sooner?

Second, in fashioning a training program, think about how hands-on your judge is. If s/he is willing to answer several questions a day from the incoming clerk then you may not need a structured training program. However, keep a few day-long assignments in your back pocket just in case both you and the judge will be out for a day or two and the incoming clerk will be alone in chambers.

Examples of longer term assignments include reading local rules, becoming familiar with general orders, reviewing the clerkship ethics handbook, reviewing any templates the judge uses for tentative rulings on routine matters, and researching for an upcoming trial or opinion.

Third, make sure that your training program is designed to impart all crucial information within the training period and allows time for questions. If you only have three days of training, narrow down topics to the essentials.

Fourth, introduce the incoming clerk to other judges, clerks, and chambers staff. Becoming familiar with employees in other chambers provides additional resources.

Follow Up

If you end up practicing in the area try and follow up with the incoming clerk by email or meet up for coffee or lunch. Staying in touch will allow you to get feedback on what training techniques worked, what can be changed, and will give the incoming clerk a chance to ask any questions.

Especially if you relied on a network of clerks as a resource for your job search, contribute to this network by making yourself available to answer any questions, including those related to job searching as his/her term comes to an end.

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