Judge Hughes

Judicial Externships FAQ

What is the benefit of a Judicial Externship?

1.  Perspective.  Although you are taught objective legal argument in law school, the primary thrust is to train you as an advocate.  The largest benefit of an externship is for students to see advocacy through the eyes of a judge.  When you are gaining the perspective of the judiciary, you are ultimately a better attorney. 

2.  Exposure.  Working with a court allows you to view the documents and observe hearings on a larger number and variety of legal actions than you would be able to in a semester with a firm, public interest organization or government agency.

3.  Resume Value.   Legal employers respond very favorably to Judicial Externships.  The experience serves as a reliable discussion topic during interviews.  Additionally, many judges consider judicial externship experience as a factor in selecting their law clerks.

4.  Networking.  Certainly the best contacts made during an externship are the judge and his or her staff.  However, interns also have an opportunity to observe and meet many legal practitioners with business before the court.
 How do I get a Judicial Externship ?

Students apply directly to the court and/or judge for their Judicial Externships . You should check with the court for specific application requirements, but most federal and appellate judges will require the following information [1]

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume
  3. Writing Sample (from LARC class is fine)
  4. Transcript

* State trial level judges usually require only a student’s resume and cover letter to begin the application process. 

When should I apply for an Judicial Externships ?

Students must have their Judicial Externships arranged before applying for academic credit. As a general rule:

For fall Judicial Externships , it is best to send out your applications by June 15.

For spring Judicial Externships , it is best to send out your applications by November 1.

For summer Judicial Externships , it is best to send out your applications by February 1.

Different courts have different deadlines. Please check the individual court’s website for more specific information (for the state appellate courts) or call the judge’s chambers (for all other courts) to inquire. For example, some judges will not consider applications for the summer until March. If you miss the earlier dates, check with the court to see if they are still accepting applications.

What courts should I consider?

You can receive credit for any Texas state court at the county court level or higher. (This includes courts with special jurisdiction such as family or probate). You can also receive credit for interning with any federal court including federal magistrates and bankruptcy judges. The externship supervisor has binders containing previous intern evaluations of their externship experiences. This is a valuable tool for students in determining which courts/judges might be of most interest.

Determine the type of experience and exposure you would like to receive. For instance, appellate courts help hone your research and writing skills. Trial courts generally have limited research or writing opportunities, but allow for a good deal of litigation observation and interaction both with the court and practicing attorneys. The federal district courts, on the other hand, offer opportunities for writing, research and litigation observation in civil and criminal areas of the law. If you know you are interested in a specific area of the law, consider interning with a “specialty court,” such as family, probate, bankruptcy, or immigration.

See also the “what do judicial interns do” section below.

Can I only get credit for interning in local courts?

Students can intern for trial level or appellate judges anywhere in the United States. If you are interested in a court outside of Houston, please contact Professor Erma Bonadero at ecbonade@central.uh.edu to ensure the placement meets the Law Center’s requirements for academic credit.  

May I work for a particular judge for credit for more than one semester?

No.  The goal is for students to gain experience working in a different type of court with a different judge should they decide to participate in a second judicial externship. As a result, students cannot receive credit for working for a judge for whom they have previously worked, whether for credit, compensation, or on a volunteer basis.

What do judicial externs do?

The experience will vary between courts and judges; however some considerations are as follows:

Appellate Courts:  In an appellate court, a student may cite check opinions, observe oral arguments, research points of law and write judicial memoranda to be reviewed by the deciding judge(s).  In some courts, students are allowed to sit in on the judicial conference where the judges discuss their decisions.  Most of an intern’s time, however, is spent researching and writing.  The courts handle both criminal and civil appeals.  While students spend some time observing proceedings, they can also learn a great deal of procedure and evidence when reviewing the trial court’s record. 

Federal District Courts (and Magistrate Judges):  These are trial-level courts.  Students will observe a great number of proceedings, but will also have the opportunity to research and write.  Unlike state trial courts, these courts issue written opinions to the litigants (some of which are published) so students will fine tune their writing skills.   These courts also provide exposure to civil and criminal areas of the law.

State District Courts:  In smaller counties, district courts hear civil and criminal cases.  In larger counties (like Harris County), courts have either civil or criminal jurisdiction.  In courts with civil jurisdiction, students are often assigned to review motions (like summary judgment motions) and write memoranda to the judge advising him/her of the controlling authority.  Criminal courts do not have as many written motions and those externships are frequently more observation oriented. 

At any level, a judge may have a particular issue he or she would like an intern to research and address either verbally or in a written memo.  Additionally, interns may research material for CLE articles or speeches for the judges. 

I’ve heard there is a certain etiquette to applying for an Judicial Externships.  Tell me more.

The main thing to know is that you should not turn down an offer from a judge.  You may apply to several judges/courts and even accept interviews from several judges.  However, you must accept the first judge who gives you an offer.  Keep in mind you can do two Externships in the summer (see below).  Then you must contact all the courts with your application and withdraw your name from consideration (and cancel other interviews if necessary).    Keep a record of your communication with the courts – even if it is verbal, so there is no question of your adhering to proper etiquette.  As for etiquette in the interview, this is generally a matter of respect, good manners and research on the particular judge.

What will the interview be like?

Depending on the court, you may interview with a law clerk, a staff attorney, one or more judges, or a combination. No matter who interviews you, always display respect toward the judge and his or her staff, and be sure to conduct research on the judge prior to the interview.

What should I wear to an interview?

Always wear formal business attire when interviewing with a court. The key is to dress conservatively. This includes dark suits, white shirts, and conservative ties for men, and dark suits, collared shirts, and panty hose for women.
What do I have to do to get credit?

  1. You must have finished your first year of law school and have a minimum 2.33 GPA at the time you apply for credit.

2. Secure your position with the court of your choice.

3. Apply for enrollment in the Judicial externship Course with the on-line application located at www.law.uh.edu/clinic/judicial.html. The application will be sent to the externship supervisor and she will notify you of your admission to the program via email. The externship supervisor will then enroll admitted students in the appropriate course. Students cannot enroll themselves.

4. Once accepted, you must, at a minimum perform legally substantive work during the course of the semester (which may include a certain amount of observation of court proceedings and discussion with judge). Students seeking 3 credits must spend a minimum of 180 hours at the placement; students seeking 4 credits must spend a minimum of 240 hours at the placement. Students must submit detailed time records and reflective writings throughout the externship.


How many credits are the courses?

Students may receive 3 or 4 credit hours for a Judicial externship, which is a minimum of 180 hours or 240 hours at the placement, respectively.  The externship credits fall within the non-substantive credit cap. If you have questions about non-substantive- hours-cap, please contact Derrick Gabriel in Student Services.


Still feel like you need more guidance or information? 

Stop in and talk with the externship supervisor:
Professor Erma Bonadero