Legal Writing Resources for Judicial Clerks and Externs

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If you’re about to begin—or have already begun—an externship or clerkship with a judge, you might be nervous about tackling new writing assignments like bench memos and appellate opinions. But fear not: there are a lot of resources out there to help you prepare.

This post has collected a variety of articles and books about writing during clerkships and judicial externships. If you’re interested in broader resources about working for a judge or finding clerkships, check out our Libguide.

Abigail Perdue, The All-Inclusive Guide to Judicial Clerking (2017).

This book – as the title indicates – is about all aspects of clerking. However, chapters 13-17 deal specifically with drafting a variety of judicial documents like orders, chamber correspondence, and bench memos. It is available online via West Study Aids.

Debra Strauss, Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships (2017).

This book is also a more general guide to clerking, but chapter ten includes research and writing tips. It is also available via West Study Aids.

Federal Judicial Center, The Law Clerk Handbook: A Handbook for Law Clerks to Federal Judges (2017).

This handbook, available online here, has a specific chapter on judicial writing assignments beginning on page 98.

Georgetown University Law Center, In Chambers: Effective Writing Tips for The Judicial Interns and Law Clerks (2017).

Available online from Georgetown Law, this helpful handout lays out six central issues to keep in mind when working on an assignment in chambers: audience, timing and process, type and scope of assignment, prewriting, writing basics, and proofreading.

Federal Judicial Center, Judicial Writing Manual: A Pocket Guide for Judges (2013).

While this manual is written for judges, it is helpful for gaining insight into how judges write and what they’re looking for. There is also a section on “Using Law Clerks” beginning on page 10 that might help you understand the role of a clerk better. It is available online here.

Ruth C. Vance, Judicial Opinion Writing: An Annotated Bibliography, 17 Legal Writing: J 197 (2011).

This helpful resource is if you’re looking for even more books and articles on judicial writing, including helpful annotations. It is available on HeinOnline.

Gerald Lebovitz & Lucero Ramirez Hidalgo, Advice to Law Clerks: How to Draft Your First Judicial Opinion, 36 Westchester B.J. 29 (2009).

This article includes lots of practical tips, including a helpful “Do’s and Don’ts” section. It is available online here.

Jennifer Sheppard, The “Write” Way: A Judicial Clerk’s Guide to Writing for the Court, 38 Univ. Balt. Law Rev. 73 (2008).

This article goes extremely in-depth on all phases of the writing process including preparation, formatting, and tone. It is available for free online here.

Rebecca A. Cochran, Judicial Externships: The Clinic Inside the Courthouse (1999).

This book is about the broader experience of clerking, but includes a specific chapter on judicial opinion drafting. You can find it in the UNC catalog.


Posted by Andrew J. Wisniewsky on Fri. July 2, 2021 2:00 PM
Categories: Uncategorized


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