An Inside Look at Judicial Clerkships

I am pleased to host a Q&A with Andrew Trombly, ’14, who gives his insights on his clerkships with Judge Paul Barbadoro, USDC, District of NH and Judge Robert Bacharach, US Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit.

Why did you decide to apply for a clerkship?
I thought that clerking would offer a good opportunity – particularly for somebody just out of law school – to write a lot and to learn about a wide variety of areas of law. Also, I wanted to observe the judicial process from a judge’s perspective. Short of actually becoming a judge, clerking is probably the only chance a litigator will ever have to do so.

Why did you decide to apply for a second clerkship?  
My first clerkship was on a trial court, and my second clerkship was on an appellate court. I applied for a second clerkship because I wanted to see what appellate-court work is like. There was little downside to doing so, because the firm I worked for during my 2L summer (WilmerHale in Boston) encourages its associates to clerk and offered to preserve my spot and seniority for both of my clerkship years.

How have the two clerkships compared?
The two jobs – trial-court clerk and appellate-court clerk – are quite different. Work on the trial court seems to move faster than on the appellate court. Trial-court work, like appellate-court work, involves a good amount of legal writing on difficult topics, but the trial court also has to oversee case management, trials, hearings, discovery, and so forth. Appellate work is different. The job, and the work, can seem much quieter, and apart from periodic oral arguments, we’re never really in court. The job consists almost entirely of legal research and writing. The quieter and less hectic atmosphere, however, lets us research and write more thoroughly than the trial court’s workload sometimes permits.

What has been your favorite part of clerking?
My bosses – Judge Barbadoro and Judge Bacharach – have been extraordinary. They’re both friendly and fun to work for, and they are happy to give advice and guidance to new lawyers. Unsurprisingly, they also know a ton of law. I’m amazed by how much I’ve learned from them in the short time since I graduated from BC Law.

What have you learned from clerking that you did not expect?
Deciding cases is a lot harder than it might seem from reading casebooks in law school. The more interesting the case, the closer the call usually is, and the more complex the underlying law becomes. Law school classes teach students to closely scrutinize judicial decisions, which is, of course, a good thing. But clerking has taught me to be more appreciative of the tough job that judges have, and less censorious of the work that they do.

What advice do you have for students considering applying for a clerkship?
Apply early. The trend among all federal judges, regardless of position or geographic location, is to hire earlier, not later. And apply broadly. One of the great things about clerking is that it’s a one- or two-year job with a firm stop date. For that reason, clerking offers a chance to live in a completely different part of the country for a definite period of time. Some might see that as a drawback, but I see it as a big advantage, assuming that one has the flexibility to do so.

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