Observations of a Judicial Extern

I am spending my summer working for a (female) judge. Since there is not much on the site regarding women in government jobs, I have decided to share some observations I have made over the past few weeks.

There are over 30 externs working where I am situated. There are about twice as many female externs as male externs. I have several thoughts as to why this may be the case, but of course they are just my thoughts, and are not substantiated by much (or any) investigatory work on my part.

It seems most (if not all) of the female judges have female externs. Nothing shocking there. These women have worked hard to pave the way for women in the legal profession, and they are happy to see capable and ambitious young women just starting out in their legal careers. Many of the male judges also have female externs. These male judges are likely also happy to see able and dedicated young women, since women have been underrepresented in the judiciary forever. I think male judges who go out of their way to have female externs are likely also concerned with their external appearance and are consciously making such decisions so as to show they favor women's advancement within the profession and that they are not sexist themselves, despite indications of sexism within the legal field as a whole.

Perhaps there are simply more female applicants for summer judicial extern positions, which would account for the disparity. Whatever the reason, I am certainly pleased to see the high representation of women in these positions.

My second observation has to do with the interactions between the research attorneys and the judges. In my limited experience thus far, I have noticed that the male attorneys are very careful not to step on the toes of the male judges, but they are less concerned with talking over the female judges. I wonder whether this deeper respect for the male judges on the part of male attorneys stems from some silly belief that the males are still running things, despite the presence of females on the bench, or the thought perhaps that if the attorney can win over the male judge, that judge will pull more weight than the female judges. The female attorneys, on the other hand, are very quick to back off or stop talking altogether as soon as a judge opens his or her mouth. I am concerned that some attorneys may believe female judges are just figureheads, and are still lower on the totem pole regardless of their identical titles and roles to their male counterparts.

If there are others with judicial externship experience out there, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these matters.



Hmm…while I havn't experienced such attorney attitudes toward the gender of judges, I have noticed that the gender make up of judges seems to vary depending on the field of law. While interning  in the juvenile division there were more female judges than males. I think by about 70/30. I now see the reverse in traditional criminal division—the males outnumber the female judges by about 80/20. Interesting.

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