Summer jobs for law students are a big deal. They often set the stage for a graduate's first real legal position. Among the choices, working in a judge's chambers is quite popular. But if you're lucky enough to land one, there are a lot of things you shouldn't do.
Working with judges and their clerks can be trying on a law student's mind. There's also that whole working for free issue, as most law students will be well-dressed volunteers. Most 1L and 2Ls won't know what to expect until they actually start.
However, regardless of your supervisor's personality, here are five things you should never do as a summer law clerk.
1) Don't be Anonymous in Chambers
Networking is a big part of any summer legal position. Unless your dad is the president, don't assume people will remember you once you're gone. Not attending court functions, ignoring other staffers, and, in general, not making yourself known is a big no-no. These connections will make your future legal career much easier. [That said, you also don't want to embarrass or otherwise put your judge in any kind of bad light. Isn't that right, Kumari Fullbright?]
2) Don't Phone it In on Any Assignment
There's a good chance your judge could saddle you with little or menial tasks. Don't be discouraged. The most memorable externs are the ones who take and show initiative. They usually score the best recommendations and build the best connections. Those who don't will get forgotten.
3) Don't Be a Know-It-All
Did you like the gunners in your class? Do you remember why most didn't? Do you want that same kind of backroom grumbling to be about you in a federal courthouse? Then remember that summer externships are supposed to be a learning opportunity. Keep gunner talk to a minimum.
4) No Whining
Working for a judge can be frustrating. Often times (depending on the court) you won't even see your judge. Instead, you'll likely be dealing with their equally demanding clerk.
Unpaid law students can regularly find themselves with too much or too little work, long hours, and rude staff. Oh, did we mention working for free? But complaining only makes you look unprofessional, regardless of who you spout off to. Remember, the legal community is small and word travels fast.
5) Never Assume - Always Ask Questions
Perhaps the biggest blunder you could make in a judge's chambers is not asking questions. The legal profession is full of result-oriented people. Assignments are given with the expectation that they'll be performed with precision. Turning in the wrong work product will not only make you look stupid, but could land you a bad recommendation or worse.
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