A Month At the Court As an Intern

A Month At the Court As an InternThis week we’re hearing again from guest writer Stephanie Gregoire, this time about what her experience as an intern in the court has been like during the summer.

For the past month, I’ve had the honor of interning with a Texas appellate court justice. It’s hard to believe my time in this position is over, but this has been an unforgettable experience, and I am so grateful for the opportunity. If you’re wondering what a judicial intern does, or at least what they might do, read on to learn more about what the past few weeks have involved for me. I should caveat up front that not all experiences will necessarily be the same, depending on the particular court or judge/justice you work with, but hopefully this will be helpful to you in some capacity.

Background on the Court.

Courts in general are their own world, with different positions, titles, hierarchies, and approaches. In Texas, judges are elected rather than appointed. That means they campaign for their roles rather than get selected to sit on the bench. Additionally, appellate courts in Texas do not have any discretion in what they review, they must review every case that gets appealed from the trial level, whether civil or criminal. So if a trial-level case has an appeal of some kind, appellate courts are required to hear it.

The Work I Did – Writing, Writing, and More Writing.

The work I performed could be divided into two categories: citations, and research/writing, but mostly writing. The citations work was to verify citations in opinions preparing for publication, ensuring their compliance with Bluebook (and since this is Texas, also Greenbook) standards for structure as well as their accuracy/correctness. Along with that, I was given a matter pending before the court to review, research, and draft an initial opinion for. It was basically like writing a legal memo for a legal writing class, except from the other side of the bench. It was on a topic I had zero familiarity with whatsoever, and I loved every second of it. We also got to experience what I call Oral Arguments Lite, where we were assigned a case, picked a side, and summarized the arguments for that side to a panel of justices from the court under a time constraint. It’s a surreal feeling standing at the podium, staring at the Chief Justice of the court, and presenting before the court. I hope to have a chance to experience that again soon!

The Coolest Part was getting to Observe Court.

Probably one of my favorite things about this internship was the opportunity to observe court – which I highly recommend you do if you ever get a chance. The appellate courthouse I was at is a couple of blocks away from the county civil and criminal courthouses, and judges at those courthouses welcomed us with open arms to watch proceedings. Some of the neater things we got to see included oral arguments before the appellate court, criminal docketing, as well as sentencing (in Texas, juries also decide sentences, so it’s like a trial within a trial in some ways), and a few of my peers also saw some civil trial matters. I saw some great lawyering, some average lawyering, and some not-so-great lawyering, and the big takeaway was I may not be anywhere near as great as the fantastic lawyers I saw, but if the not-so-great lawyer could make it, so can I.

One of the most valuable elements of this opportunity outside of the skills development has been the networking. Aside from my fellow interns, all of whom are amazing, I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with staff attorneys who work for the court, the different justices, and lawyers in the community through various bar association events. We went to a lunch panel on judicial independence, had a panel of local appellate practitioners speak to us about their work, and have attended lunches with other local appellate practitioners. The court has also set up weekly meetings between justices who didn’t have any interns and the interns so we could meet more of the justices on the court. And in case you were unaware, networking is the key to many doors in the legal industry, so that’s been very helpful.

My only complaint about this internship is it’s too short, but I fully understand that it’s designed the way it is to give us a taste of what life is like in the appellate courts that is appropriate to the amount of legal skills we have as law students. Plus in Texas, splitting summers is still fairly common so it is structured to allow interns to have experiences at different places. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. I know my legal research and writing skills are better for it, as are my advocacy abilities just in general. If you’re reading this because you’re considering applying for a judicial internship, take this as your sign to do it. Best case, it’s an extraordinarily rewarding experience that you never want to end. Worst case, you still interned for a judge, and that’s a pretty big deal.


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About Stephanie Gregoire

Stephanie is a 2L at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2017, where she majored in History. In the years since completing her B.A., she has worked in Human Resources across the country, working in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Washington before moving to Texas. Outside of school, her hobbies include baking, working out, and travelling.

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