Law Students

What is a Judicial Externship and How Can It Help Your Career?
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Summary: Judicial Externship i.e working for a judge is a great opportunity for law students to gain legal work experience.

As a law student, you are offered many opportunities for career-building out of campus activities. Judicial externship i.e working for a judge is an excellent opportunity, especially for law students whose career aspirations include becoming a judge someday. If your school is located near any chambers, you should give this opportunity a chance.

What is a Judicial Extern

As a Judicial Extern, you will conduct legal research and writing to assist the work of the judge and/or of the court’s central staff, which can include staff attorneys and law clerks.


Judicial externs typically do work similar to that done by the judge’s clerks. However, you shouldn’t call yourself a “judicial clerk” of “law clerk”- these terms are reserved for full-time clerks who graduated from law school.

As an extern, your job will be to analyze and summarize legal cases, as well as research legal questions. The writing assignments usually include rulings, bench memoranda, order, and opinions. You might work on a memo on a particular issue of law, or research evidentiary rules if you’re in a trial court. You’ll also have the chance to observe court trials, motion hearings and jury selection. 

How Working as a Judicial Extern Can Help Your Legal Career

Being a judicial extern can be beneficial to your development as a lawyer. Working for a judge can be exciting and educational.

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You’ll read motions and briefs, understand more about how to create a winning legal argument, and, more importantly, you’ll learn what not to do. You’ll get a chance to see how a judge decides cases, which can be an enthralling experience. Most of all you will enhance your research and writing skills. If you are dedicated enough you’ll gain a mentor for the rest of your legal year.

As a law student, you might wonder how working as a Judicial Extern will influence your later application for a judicial clerkship. This mostly depends on the judge’s policy. Some judges have a strict policy of never hiring judicial externs as clerks. Other judges, however, openly hire their externs and use the externship as a year-long interview. 

If the judge’s policy doesn’t come up naturally in the initial extern interview, you can probably assume the judge doesn’t have a strict policy, but you can always ask about it.

Even in the worst-case scenario, where you extern for a judge with a “no hiring externs” policy, you can always do an excellent job, impress the judge, and there’s a good chance they’ll put a good word for you with their peers.

How to Apply for a Judicial Externship

Each school and each judge has different rules. However, to apply for a judicial externship, you’ll have to submit a cover letter, a resume, and a writing sample. Some judges also require references, so it’s advisable to make a good impression on your professors early in your academics.

There are vast possibilities – most federal courts, state courts, trial courts, and appellate courts have options for a judicial externship. Choose one that suits your legal career plan.



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