This past summer, following 1L, I worked as a judicial intern at the Massachusetts Land Court. The Land Court court deals in property matters, which allowed me to put some of my 1L property class knowledge to use. When I began researching and applying for judicial internships, I had a general idea of the kind of tasks I would be assisting with. However, there is so much more. For readers interested in pursuing such an internship, particularly at the trial level, I hope a snapshot of a workday will be beneficial.
My days began with a meeting with the judge and the clerk to briefly overview what was scheduled for the day. I encountered two types of workdays – one centered on trials and court hearings (ranging from case management conferences to motions), the other centered on drafting various documents. As a judicial intern at the trial level, there is no shortage of hearings and trials to attend. During hearings, I would often take notes alongside the clerk. I found these days particularly interesting because I could observe the different approaches used by different attorneys. I was able to get a sense of the early stages of a case and all the preparation that precedes a trial.
Trial days were similar to this, though I would not always take notes. Occasionally I would sit in on trials simply to observe. Much like hearings, this was an opportunity to understand different strategies presented by attorneys. On these court-heavy days, I would fill in any gaps with projects I was working on, whether it was studying a case, researching a legal issue, or drafting an opinion. These tasks, however, were primarily completed on days when there were no hearings or trials in court.
This leads me to the second type of workday I experienced. Aptly called writing week or a writing day, these periods of time were spent on research and writing. Sometimes this meant sorting through case files, transcripts, and exhibits to get ready to research and draft an opinion. Other times this entailed researching a legal question that arose in a hearing in order to determine what steps should be taken next. Whatever the project was, these days involved heavy use of Lexis and Westlaw. I found this aspect of my internship to be extremely beneficial, as it allowed me to hone my research skills on a variety of real legal matters.
Overall, I would strongly recommend first year students to pursue a judicial internship. It is a beneficial experience regardless of the type of law you want to practice because it sharpens such fundamental skills. Though I intend to practice transactional law rather than litigation, for instance, I still found that my legal research and writing abilities improved substantially. Being able to work closely with a judge and clerk also presents a wonderful opportunity to learn from the experts. My ten-week internship allowed me to get a greater sense of what practice looks like.