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This guide is (a) finding jobs in the judiciay, and (b) co-oping in the judiciary, specifically on how to do research.
Tips to Remember While on Co-Op
- Know your court inside and out – Court Rules; Citation Rules; Judges; Clerks of the Court; Formatting/Submission rules – physically where it is!
- Get to know procedural rules – Civil & Criminal Procedure; Rules of Evidence; Lesser Rules.
- Understand the research question being asked – recite the question back “so you want X, Y, Z” etc.
- Make sure you know what format the judge or supervisor wants, i.e. just a list of cases, a short one page memo, something a lot longer, a whole opinion, etc.
- You work for the courts – so use neutral writing with no bias. Keep your writing terse, clear and precise. You are not writing a novel. The rigid format you learned in LRW is not often used – see other examples in your co-op.
- If it was easy, the legal research would not have been given to you. Don’t get frustrated.
- Don’t be put off by proving a negative.
- If you find nothing, that’s okay – either say that, and where you looked, and/or analogize to other jurisdictions or areas of law.
- When do you know to stop researching? If you are not advancing your argument any – best to start writing. The writing process will shape your research going forward.
- Best place to start when you don’t know the area of law (most likely for you) are secondary sources – e.g. Mass. Practice. If you have time, don’t read and pick out the narrow element you are looking at, but try to understand the larger legal area, whether it be case or statute based.
Often clerks are required to write a bench memo. See The Bench Memorandum, by Jessica Klarfield at the Georgetown Writing Center for a good layout, format and description.
In Chambers: Effective Writing Tips for Judicial Interns and Law Clerks, by Scott Meisler & Brian Wahlquist, also from the Georgetown Writing Center.