Communicate with the Judge
“It takes two to tango,” so the saying goes, and it’s the same with your judicial internship. A judge willing to help you learn still needs to see your willingness to be taught.
Think of it like this: The fact you’re even permitted into chambers shows that the judge has extended you an open offer—one that is up to you every day to accept. Here’s how: Show up. Be present. Presence in this context is paramount, even more than being prepared. Because, guess what? You won’t be. And that’s the point.
Remember how the purpose of law school is to get you to think like a lawyer? It’s possible you’ll be interning in a different jurisdiction than where you go to school. Regardless, trust that the work you put in during the semester allows you to think like a lawyer. This can hardly be stressed enough—you didn’t go to law school to memorize the law; you went to ask questions that elucidate general legal principles.
And another thing—verbal communication is always superior to email. So, if it’s ever a question and unless told otherwise, poke your head in or knock on the judge’s door.
Ask Yourself, “What Do I Want?”
This is probably one of the most important questions—if not the most—to ask yourself in life. Well-intended questions that are important to you or your legal career are never “wrong.” In fact, for that reason, they are usually met with respect.
Granted, you want to become a lawyer. But that’s what law school or the bar are for. Your judicial internship should really be an opportunity to learn about actual practice, so it is important to shift your mindset a bit ahead.
In law school, we learn big-picture concepts but rarely address how they will play out legally day to day. For example, how does a complaint get to the judge in the first place? Or, if there are issues of civil, probate, and family law—all within a single action—how does the court administer among the separate issues?
Of course, a litany of court administration issues like these exists; however, by grappling with them, you may begin to form an intuition or understanding of how they are typically resolved. And, just practically speaking, this isn’t always something you learn in law school.
So get to know the courtroom staff, always communicate with the judge, and ask yourself each day, “What do I want?” By doing these three things, you will not only advance your career; it will be a fun, rewarding experience at the same time.