Two years ago, I packed up my law school apartment and moved across the country to begin a two-year state judicial clerkship. I knew only one person in my new city and had no idea where the courthouse was, let alone how to be successful in a clerkship. Furthermore, I was the first person to complete a two-year clerkship with this particular Court. This meant that I did not have a senior clerk to ask questions to, which at times was difficult. Below are some tips I learned along the way, as well suggestions for outfits to wear for your first week in Chambers.
1. Ask Questions
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Remember you can't be expected to know the answers to everything. Coming straight out of law school, no one expects perfection. Instead of spending time researching an issue that could be resolved with just a quick question, ask the question.
2. Write Concisely and Accurately
Keep it short and sweet. Get to the analysis and the recommendations to the Court. The court has a heavy docket and probably does not have time to read a seven-page memo about jurisdiction. Unless it's a complicated issue that requires a lot of analysis, the shorter the memo, the better.
For the first two weeks, I was spelling "judgment" as "judgment." During the last week of my clerkship, I typed out "marital property" instead of "marital property" in a divorce order. Spell check cannot get everything correct, so manually check your work before you submit it to the Court.
4. Prepare & Be Organized
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You should know the cases you submit to the Court and be prepared to back up your memo and work. You will get questioned, but if you are prepared, the questioning will be a lot less stressful! Also, get a good calendar, and write down all important deadlines and dates. Moreover, I kept every document in their respective case folders and wrote all applicable dates on the folders. This sounds so simple, but it took me a few months to figure out this system, and really helped. Once I was finished with a case, I filed my folder and moved on to the next.
5. Have Fun and Stay Open-minded
Definitely stay open-minded about the work you're doing. Go to as many hearings as you can, and expose yourself to all areas of the law. During my clerkship, I was able to work on all aspects of the law-- from one of the largest civil jury verdicts in south Dakota-- to two murder trials. It was an awesome experience but wouldn't have been as great if I would have been more closed off to a particular area of law.
Finally, below are a couple of outfit ideas I put together + some outfit ideas from Loft.