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Judge touts clerkship benefits

Friday, November 2, 2007

Clerks exposed to different areas of law, gain confidence, Paez says

— By Lori Craig

USC Law students considering a judicial clerkship after law school will gain valuable insight into the court process and how judges make decisions, Court of Appeals Judge Richard Paez told a packed audience of students this week.

“My former clerks tell me that their experience working with me has given them a great deal of confidence, a great deal of exposure to different areas of the law, and a chance to improve their writing like never before,” Paez said. “Clerking is a wonderful experience.”

Richard PaezPaez (pictured right) was invited by the Board of Councilors Select Committee on Federal Judicial Clerkships to speak at USC Law during lunch Oct. 30. He spoke about the responsibilities and benefits of judicial clerkships and externships before answering questions from students.

Being a clerk involves “heavy research and heavy writing,” Paez said. Circuit Court clerks are expected to produce bench memos for judges based on briefs, District Court rulings and other relevant cases. They also help draft depositions, which often are used as the basis for opinions, and they provide an opportunity for a judge to discuss a case.

The responsibilities of District and Bankruptcy Court clerks are similar, with more day-to-day responsibilities and a closer relationship with the judge.

There also are advantages to the experience of a clerkship or externship even for students who aren’t thinking of going into litigation.

“You get the experience of working through very concrete legal problems in a very short time frame,” Paez said. “It is going to give you confidence.”

Judges are looking for clerks who are interested in research and have some writing experience, either with a law review, journal or on a faculty paper, Paez said. Some judges will only consider applicants who are in the top 10 percent of their class.

Richard Paez spoke to students Oct. 30“There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of work, and it’s a big commitment,” he said. “Judges are looking for people who are committed to spending a lot of time at the courthouse.”

Paez recommended that law students considering a clerkship or externship should first talk to several people who have clerked, to learn about the experience. He also advised that students have at least one professor who knows their work and can speak with a judge about it  Paez himself makes a point to call both professors who write the required recommendations for applicants.

USC Law students who want to know more about clerking or speak with former clerks and externs should contact the Office of Public Service or the Career Services Office.

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