June 15, 2005

Jason Samuel: Diary Entry 1

by Guest Contributor

In keeping with those who've already posted about their internships with federal judges, I thought I'd add. Before I do, I have a question for you all, especially those interning with federal judges. What is the proper nomenclature for a law school student who works for a federal judge--as we are doing? I have alternated between "intern" and "summer clerk."

I recently attended a Federalist Society cocktail party where an associate (at some white shoe firm) correct my use of "summer clerk." He was adamant that what I was doing was simply "interning." My first reaction was to cite him for the fashion violation that was his timeworn fanny pack. In charity, however, I submitted. Assuming a law school student were talking to someone, or among those in the legal community, if he were to mention that he just finished with his first year and for the summer he will be clerking for a federal judge, could his use of "clerking" be misinterpreted. I don't believe so. Of course just because it wouldn't be misinterpreted does not mean that it's the necessarily preferred nomenclature for what it's describing, I admit. Thoughts?

My first two days went well. The facilities are beautiful, and the judge for whom I am working couldn't be more engaging. His law clerks too are helpful. Tomorrow I will be testing one of the clerk's patience patenting with my litany of questions regarding as assignment she gave me this morning. I was assigned something to do with admiralty law. Needless to say, as a first year I was not exposed to admiralty/maritime law. I found out that, like bankruptcy, its an area of the law that isn't overpopulated with attorneys. Of course I am sure this depends on geography, but I Iive and work in an area where I figured to be 'enough' attorneys who specialize in maritime law. One of the law clerks informed me that there aren't many maritime practitioners in these parts. Anyhow, the assignment has proven interesting and has sparked my interest.

My mornings have gone by quickly with lunch coming fast--but not fast enough, my stomach growled in the couple conferences I attended today. I am still getting used to not being able to eat throughout the day, as is normal for me. Since Monday, I have also seen several plea hearings and a couple sentencings--each equally depressing.

June 15, 2005 12:33 AM | TrackBack

In my old age (74) I am auditing a course on Judicial Politics. A recent reading assignment included excerpts from Ed Lazarus' "Closed Chambers" about his year clerking for S. Ct. Justice Blackmun. Mention was made in class of the code of conduct for S. Ct. clerks and its possible violation by Lazarus with his book. I'm curious. Do interns, clerks of lower federal courts have codes of conduct? Also, what do interns, clerks, law students think of Lazarus' book? Has it helped or hindered justice? Should what happens in Las Vegas stay in Las Vegas?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at June 15, 2005 06:21 AM

At Boalt Hall, the term of choice is "judicial externship." The etymology of the term escapes me.

Posted by: Caliboy at June 15, 2005 06:52 PM

Yes, we do have codes of conduct. There is a Judicial Clerk handbook that has seven canons and also adresses ethics, procedure, etc.

I call myself a summer intern. However, as a summer intern, that makes me an honorary judicial clerk or summat.

Our rule is that what is said in chambers (by any of us) stays in chambers. So any posting I do about my internship will stay firmly in the realm of things I'm allowed to discuss.

I'm curious to see how much interaction other interns get with their judges. The judge I work for has a huge docket and things are run quite efficiently, so there isn't much actual interaction. I wonder if interns whose judges have smaller dockets get more so-called "face time."

Posted by: Ruth at June 15, 2005 09:22 PM

Can I ask what District you're in? We have a huge criminal docket here, so we get to watch sentencings and/or pleas every morning. It stops being depressing after a few days.

Posted by: Ruth at June 15, 2005 09:42 PM

The title might be on the official paperwork you would have filled out at the beginning... in the NDCal, I was called a "judicial extern."

"Intern" or "summer clerk" would probably be clear enough to future employers if you don't have an official title.

Posted by: Anon at June 16, 2005 09:05 AM
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