Southern Illinois University School of Law

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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Benefits of a Judicial Externship

Extern experiences vary depending on the type of court and the personality of the judge.

Appellate courts – Externs working in appellate courts typically receive intensive exposure to appellate procedure, research and writing. Depending on the court schedule, they also have the opportunity to observe oral arguments. The externship provides an opportunity to build in-depth knowledge of the legal topics involved in the case(s) the externs are assigned, but limited ability to network with a lot of other lawyers and judges. Because externs work closely with the judge's law clerks, these externships often provide excellent opportunities to get feedback to improve writing skills.

Trial courts – Externs working in trial courts are immersed in the full range of trial procedures and motion practice of their supervising judge. Although some courts have a specialized focus, such as family law courts, others expose externs to a potpourri of legal issues on both the criminal and civil dockets. The research and writing experiences available in trial court externships vary from judge to judge. Federal trial judges typically offer writing experiences similar to appellate courts because those judges produce a lot of written opinions. Conversely, state trial judges more commonly rule from the bench. As a result, externs typically bring those judges the relevant cases/statutes and present their findings orally. Because of the volume of activity in the trial courts, they typically present the greatest opportunities to meet a wider cross section of the legal community.

In either setting, students learn how courts operate, become familiar with the duties of various court personnel, and observe how judges handle ethical and well as substantive and procedural issues. Click here for some of the practical lessons they have learned from their experiences.