If you’re in law school (or recently graduated) you should find a way to hang out with judges while they work. The benefits are off the charts, and it’s pretty fun (at least some of the time). You’ll learn more, and more of value, spending time with a trial court judge than doing pretty much anything else.
For some lawyers, trial courts are a lot like the end zone in football—the place where you either win or lose the game. But for most lawyers, trial courts are the place you’ll do almost anything to avoid visiting. Either way, much of a lawyer’s time is spent thinking about how an issue might be handled in a trial court. That’s why spending time there, and getting inside judges’ heads, is so worthwhile.
Why Hang Out With Judges?Spending time with trial court judges, whether as a judicial clerk, extern, intern, or what-have-you, and helping them do their work, allows you to see how the law really works (unlike what you learn in law school, which is taught mostly by people who either never spent a day in court or haven’t been in court for a long time). At the trial court level, judges are usually extraordinarily busy. Their schedule (depending on where they serve) can vary wildly in terms of both the types of cases they hear and the kind of lawyers that appear. So the judge relies a lot on her clerk, staff, and often on law students earning credits for helping out.
Not every judge is brilliant, but every judge’s idea of what quality lawyering is matters to quite a few lawyers. In chambers, you’ll learn a ton about what makes for good and bad lawyering. Sometimes the judge will tell you directly, but often you’ll hear it from court staff. (Also, knowing court staff is a big advantage.)
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