Judicial internships are valuable for many reasons. Perhaps one of the more obvious reasons for pursuing a judicial internship is the prestige and goodwill associated with working for a judge (though I knew nothing about this system before beginning law school). This reputation holds true for any level, including both state and federal judges. Any position associated with the Supreme Court, however, undoubtedly yields immense reputational (and financial) value, as evidenced by the Big-Law bonuses awarded to post-SCOTUS clerks when they transition to a firm.
During the spring of my 1L year, the dean at my then-law school—Florida International University College of Law—suggested that I apply for a position as a judicial intern. Conveniently, Miami is home to one of the busiest federal court districts in the country: the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. After typing countless cover letters, purchasing fancy heavyweight paper, and stamping all of the old-fashioned envelopes, I waited with anticipation for several weeks until I received an email from one of the judge’s clerks asking me to come in for an interview. I was more nervous than I had been for any previous job interview. Judges, it’s true, are just people, but their position makes them quite intimidating, especially for someone like me who had no prior experience with the judicial system.
My nerves continued all the way through security, but disappeared almost as soon as I got to the judge’s chambers. I was greeted by the soft-spoken court deputy, who then introduced me to the judge’s three clerks. They were all extremely friendly, and I was a little surprised by the laidback and congenial environment. It was clear that while they took their jobs seriously, they also enjoyed working together in a positive atmosphere. After the interview was over I headed to the court’s café to grab lunch before my next interview. I had made the amateur mistake of wearing new high heels (complete with the first suit that I had ever purchased), and my feet were howling. I slipped my shoes off under the table as I sat alone, reveling in the view of downtown Miami from above. A few minutes later, I heard someone say my name, and I turned around to see one of the clerks I had just met walking toward me with a very fashionable and friendly-looking woman. This woman, as you might have guessed, was the judge, and she had come downstairs to offer me the job. I immediately stood up to shake her hand and thank her, only to realize that I was barefoot. Although horrified, I played it cool, and after a brief conversation they left me to finish my lunch. I’m still not sure whether either of them noticed my embarrassing oversight.
There are too many wonderful experiences from last summer for me to recount them all here, so instead I will briefly offer a few highlights from my time as a judicial intern:
(1) I had the chance to meet a number of really amazing people, which is great for networking, but also just a nice life circumstance in general.
(2) A judicial internship gives you the opportunity to hone your legal writing skills, and to prepare a writing sample that is sure to impress future employers (just make sure you get your judge’s permission before using your intern work as a writing sample, for confidentiality reasons).
(3) The opportunity to work on something “real” after the deluge of academic work 1L year was incredibly rewarding. I started thinking, “Hey, maybe I’ll get the hang of this whole lawyer deal.”
(4) My favorite part of interning in chambers was being able to observe the court proceedings. I sat in on at least part of several different trials, both civil and criminal, and I was also able to watch various hearings that my judge conducted. Observing actual lawyers in an actual courtroom really gave me a sense of what exactly I am getting myself into by going to law school, and I relished that opportunity.
If this post didn’t convince you to go for a judicial internship, maybe my next one will. Next time I’ll be writing about my current judicial internship at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, so stay tuned!