I am just returning to campus after an amazing coop at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts working for the Honorable Judge Nancy Gertner. Working in chambers far surpassed every expectation I had. The Judge took a lot of time to discuss cases and court proceedings with all of the interns. I was always in awe of the moments I found myself sitting in her office, one on one, discussing a memorandum I had written or a legal issue I was pondering. One of the characteristics I enjoyed most about her advice was how much she challenged me to think outside the box and explore innovative legal arguments but to also keep my feet on the ground and remember the constraints of the system. She pushed for our legal writing to be accessible and easily understood by everyone who might read it, rather than just understood by a legal audience. Having experienced the “behind the scenes” perspective on litigation was a unique opportunity and the Judge’s insights will definitely shape the way I think about strategy for cases in the future.
Both of the law clerks were also incredible mentors who made really challenging work enjoyable. They spent a lot of time providing in-depth feedback that helped mold me into a better legal writer and thinker. My writing has improved tremendously as a result of their thoughtful instruction.
I spent day after day deeply immersed in research and writing on real cases that I then had the opportunity to watch play out during my 11 weeks in chambers. The pace of chambers is fast and unpredictable, an atmosphere I have realized I thrive on.
One of the highlights of my time in chambers was being assigned “lead associate” on a two week trial. I had the opportunity to observe and participate in everything from summary judgment, to motions in limine, to observing in court as the jury trial was held and a verdict finally reached. One of my best memories was when the Judge, a law clerk and I stayed in court until 8:30PM awaiting the verdict. The anticipation, having never observed a full trial before, was both exciting and nerve wracking.
Another thing I learned that I didn’t think much about before taking on the coop was how much the actual lives of the people who came before us in court would impact me. I do not think I will ever forget the first person I watched during a sentencing or the emotional struggle that often took place in my mind between knowing it was necessary to apply the law and yet grappling with the realities of life that the law cannot account for.
The best part of this quarter will, without a doubt, be my continued work in chambers. Judge Gertner’s chambers are busier than ever, and I was asked to stay on and assist with all of the work that will inevitably need to be wrapped up before September. I cannot wait to continue working with such a great team of people and to continue to improve my legal skills.