Friday, September 27, 2019
My First Two Months as a Judicial Clerk
So a couple of months ago, I made a post about not getting my dream job. However, after I didn't get my dream job, I ended up taking a job as a judicial clerk. So far, this has been a wonderful experience. So, I thought I'd update you all on what my first two months as a judicial clerk has been like!
First things first, you may be wondering how much time I had between taking the bar exam and starting my career. Unfortunately for me - it was less than 24 hours! No - seriously. The bar exam ended at 5:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I started my clerkship at 9:00 a.m. the next day. It was definitely a whirlwhind 24 hours. Of course, my judge didn't just schedule the beginning of my clerkship right after the bar to traumatize me. The clerkship always starts on August 1st, and the July 2019 bar exam was on July 30th and 31st. So it was just the way the calendar worked.
One thing that was nice about starting my job so early is that I didn't have time to spend stressing out about the bar exam. My brain was occupied with starting a new career - not worrying about how well I did on the exam. The bad thing is that starting right way is that I barely absorbed any of the infomration they told me during orientation. In fact, this ended up causing a small problem with payroll when I took two vacation days I didn't have. Luckily, my judge vouched for me and it wasn't a big deal. With that being said - take notes during orientation, people!
I am working for a state appellate court, meaning my day isn't filled with trials, hearings, or other things you might see in a trial court. My day is filled with reading, reading, and more reading! The job of my court, as an appellate court, is to review decisions of the trial courts below us. This means that I take the entire case file - transcripts of the trial, evidence, pleadings, briefs, etc. - and review it to determine whether the trial court made the right decision, or if they made errors where the parties assert they did. Sometimes I spend multiple days reading through a case file, sometimes it's a fairly quick review. It all depends on the type of case.
After I review the case file, I typically converse with my judge about what way she thinks she wants to decide, and then I start researching and writing an opinion. For us, the parties each file a brief, so a majority of the argument and research is done for us. Of course, I have to always double check and make sure the arguments and research in the briefs are accurate - but that is a lot quicker than starting from the very beginning! Once the opinion is written, my judge and I pass the opinion back and forth and exchange edits.
In some cases, we might have oral arguments, where the parties are each allowed ten minutes to argue their side of the case. During that time, the attorneys have to be prepared to answer questions from the judges. Sometimes these oral arguments help us clear up fuzzy details, or help tip the scale when we are having a hard time making a decision.
And that pretty much sums up my job! So far, I'm really enjoying it and learning a lot. It's been a great first job and a wonderful immersion into the world of lawyering. A part of me feels a yearning and longing to get out and practice, but it is also nice to have a slow and easy transition into being a young professional.