March 18, 2015 Practice Points

Ethics and Professionalism Committee Co-Hosts JIOP Roundtables Non-Lawyer Employee Title Opinion

Advice on putting your best foot forward when Interviewing in judicial chambers, what hiring judges are actually looking for in a competitive applicant, and the impact of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct on court employees.

By Will Knight

Last month, the Section of Litigation’s Committees on Ethics & Professionalism and the Judicial Internship Opportunity Program (JIOP) hosted JIOP’s inaugural Roundtable: “Working for the Judiciary—From Interviews to Ethics.”

Panelists Amber Grand (former Northern District of Texas law clerk), Natalie Bennett (JIOP alum and former Federal Circuit and Eastern District of Texas law clerk), and Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer (Supreme Court of Arizona) offered their advice on putting your best foot forward when interviewing in judicial chambers, what hiring judges are actually looking for in a competitive applicant, and the impact of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct on court employees.

Program takeaways included:

  • Applications: Time to break out that ruler! Because law clerks perform most of the editing and cite-checking for their chambers, it is imperative that your written application materials are neat and free of unsightly formatting or clerical errors.
  • Interviews: Know your materials! Many applicants forget to review their writing sample, often written months prior to the application and interview. If the judge wants to talk substantively about a writing sample, you will miss out on a golden opportunity, because . . .
  • What Judges Want: Judges are looking for someone they get along with! For some, that means a substantive knowledge of certain practice areas. For most, that means finding the right personality fit. Be prepared to discuss recent and important decisions from your judge’s bench, but follow the judge’s lead on conversation topics and, above all, be yourself.
  • The Code of Judicial Conduct: Learn the code, and be ever vigilant to avoid theappearance of impropriety! What you do during your tenure as a judicial employee reflects on your judge and the bench. Accordingly, it is imperative that you learn court policies, avail yourself of administrative resources, and know your judge’s preferences regarding political activity. When in doubt, ask your judge prior to your involvement in extracurricular activities.

The Roundtable had an ABA-record 160 registrants, and this author is aware of at least one listener who used the panel’s advice to land a law clerk position in a federal district court. Given the roundtable’s success, we plan to host it again around the same time next year. To receive notifications, join the JIOP or the Ethics & Professionalism Committee in the Section of Litigation.

 Will Knight, Aiken Schenk, Phoenix, AZ


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