Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Sample Instructions to Law Clerks

Sample A -- Law Clerks for Judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Frederick G. Hamley

General Responsibilities

1. You should therefore adopt a professional attitude at the outset. 2. You will need to employ industrious work habits. 3. Cultivate efficient, time-saving ways of doing your work. 4. Make this a year of continuing legal education and an intensive training period. 5. You will come into possession of information concerning the processing of appeals which must remain secret until the opinions are filed. 6. Your prime loyalty is to your judge. 7. All of the judges on this court read the briefs before oral argument. Some have their law clerks prepare "bench" memoranda, based mainly on a review of the briefs. 8. In preparing "bench" memoranda, brevity is essential. 9. Some judges have their law clerks prepare more elaborate pre-argument memoranda, going far beyond a review of the briefs. 10.Some judges do not ask their law clerks to draft any pre-argument memoranda. Reviewing Drafts of Opinions Prepared by the Law Clerk's Judge


Sample B -- Duties of Law Clerks

Ruggero J. Aldisert

1. Bench Memos-- You will have to prepare pre-argument bench memos. 2. Chambers Routine (a) Hours of work. (b) Chamber Procedures. (c) Routine for argument list. (d) draft opinions written by the other judges e) I read all slip opinions of the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit, and it is important for the clerks to do likewise. ... 6. Final cite checking before final draft goes to panel. 7. Aldisert Opinion Book and Index - An important function of the law clerk is to keep the Aldisert index current. 8. Priority of Responsibilities in opinion preparation. 9. Confidentiality - The judge-law clerk relationship is protected by a confidentiality relationship as respected as a lawyer-client or a priest-penitent. 10. Your relation with me. You were not selected by me to be a "yes man." I value your opinions and your intellectual independence. Prior to the decision-making of the court, I invite your impressions and solicit your views.You are not to express a viewpoint simply to please me during the process of decision making. Nevertheless, there is only one judge in these chambers. Once a decision is made, your role changes. Although you are my intellectual equal, it is I, and only I, who has the judge's commission. It is my ultimate decision that will control. And when the decision is in, that is it.