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Judicial Internships

Interns often work closely with the judge's law clerks or staff attorneys and may be asked to research and write memoranda, attend trials and hearings, summarize cases, and help with administrative work. The nature of the work will differ depending on the type of court: appellate or trial; state or federal.

In appellate courts, interns reflect on issues raised by the trial record. They perform legal research and may write draft versions of the judge's opinions and orders; read the briefs in a case scheduled for argument and perform research in order to prepare a "bench" memo for the judge; discuss the case with the judge, co-clerks, and law clerks of other judges on the "panel;” and attend oral argument.

In trial courts, interns are typically involved in decision-making at every stage and are exposed to litigation procedures. A trial court intern may have the opportunity to participate in the preparation for pretrial motions, evidentiary hearings, and jury and non-jury trials; attend oral arguments; attend settlement conferences; review and make recommendations on motions; prepare trial memoranda for the judge (including a summary of issues presented in the case); and organize exhibits. Like appellate court law interns, trial court law interns perform legal research and may write draft versions of the judge's opinions and orders.

Applying for Judicial Internships

Generally, while some judges post judicial internships on the CSO Job Bank on UT Law Symplicity, most do not. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to research these openings, and then send application materials directly to the judge. Most federal district judges and many state appellate judges take judicial interns during the summer and during the school year. Fewer federal appellate judges and state trial judges take judicial interns. Remember that there are also judicial internship opportunities with bankruptcy judges, magistrate judges, probate judges and county court judges.

A good place to start your research of judicial internship openings is by referring to the Judicial Internship Program website maintained by Professor Mary Crouter, which contains lists of state appellate and federal courts and judges where UT Law students have recently interned for academic credit. This is a good indication that these judges are likely to take interns again. You may also find information about receiving academic credit for your judicial internship on the Program website. Judicial internships with all federal courts and state appellate courts may qualify for academic credit; however, judicial internships with state trial courts do not qualify for academic credit.

Another good resource for researching judicial internships is the Judicial Yellow Book, which is part of the Leadership Library on the Interne, and available on the CSO eResource Library. This resource is like a yellow pages of judges, where you can find which judges sit in which cities, their phone numbers and mailing addresses, as well as a current list of their law clerks. If you are uncertain if a judge will be taking judicial interns, you should find his/her phone number in the Judicial Yellow Book, call the chambers and ask if the judge is taking applications for judicial interns, and if so, how you would go about applying.

Once you have identified the judges you would like to apply to for an internship, you will generally mail them hard copies of your current resume, a legal writing sample, and a cover letter (see examples). Make sure to state in your cover letter your year in law school, and that you are applying for a judicial internship (don't call it a clerkship as these are postgraduate positions). You should also state the time period in which you are interested in interning; e.g., I'm interested in applying for a judicial internship with your chambers for the summer of 2011. To maximize your chances of receiving a judicial internship, we suggest that you apply to a number of judges. Most judges interview and select summer judicial interns between January and March, so we suggest that you send your application materials for these positions by the middle of January. However, if you are applying to a popular judge or if the judge sits in a popular location (Austin, big cities), you will maximize your chances of receiving these summer internships if you apply earlier in December. Application deadlines for fall judicial internships are usually the preceding May. Application deadlines for spring judicial internships are usually the preceding October.

The main exception to the "judges don't post judicial internships" rule is for judges that sit in Austin. The CSO realizes that many students will be interested in these opportunities, so we proactively contact all of the state appellate and federal judges in Austin and ask them if they will be taking unpaid judicial interns for the upcoming semester or for the summer. If they respond to us affirmatively, we include a job posting for this position in the CSO Job Bank on UT Law Symplicity. So, you should check the job bank for judicial internship positions in Austin, and follow the application directions. Recognize that not all of the courts in Austin respond to our inquiries, so if you are interested in an internship with a court in Austin that does not have a posting in the Job Bank, you should go ahead and contact the chambers to ask if the judge would be willing to take an unpaid intern. In addition, there are a few other Texas courts with established summer internship programs that will post these openings on the Job Bank.

If you have additional questions about how to apply for judicial internships, please contact Rémi Ratliff, Director of Judicial Programs, at rratliff@law.utexas.edu or 512-232-1163.