Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Kaleidoscope of Unique Programming Raises Clerking/Judging Awareness

Chief Judge Edward Becker of the Third Circuit and Judge Harry T. Edwards of the D.C. Circuit led a national effort to get judges at the district and appellate court levels to move hiring of law clerks from the beginning of a student's second year of law school to the beginning of the third year (learn more). Judges nationwide agreed that moving the application process later in the law school experience would give judges a fuller picture of a student's abilities. The moratorium on hiring law students begun in 2002 will be lifted this September and Professor Berman's course is designed to enhance Moritz students' understanding of the processes of judging and clerking.

In offering the course, Professor Berman and Judge Graham hope that students will gain an appreciation for the unique challenges judges face and the complexities of judging. "I want students to understand the different dynamics involved in being a judge in different courts throughout the country, the differences between being a trial judge vs. an appellate judge, or a federal vs. a state judge," says Professor Berman. An outstanding teacher, Professor Berman was one of only 10 faculty members to receive the Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished University Teaching in 2000.

Judge Graham wants to cultivate a vision in the minds of students who want to become judges. "I decided early on that becoming a judge was something I wanted to do, and I would like to plant a seed in the minds of my students to do the same." No stranger to teaching, Judge Graham has served on the faculty of the Ohio Judicial College and the Ohio Legal Institute. The one-week course format reconciled Judge Graham's busy schedule with his desire to return to a Moritz classroom.

Both Professor Berman and Judge Graham are avid supporters of judicial clerkships, albeit from different perspectives. Professor Berman served as a law clerk for Judge Jon O. Newman and then for Judge Guido Calabresi, both on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Graham was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 1986. Lawyers' consistently use words like "brilliant," "scholarly" and "knowledgeable" in their evaluations of Judge Graham. His most recent honor is the Moritz College's William K. Thomas Distinguished Jurist Award for 2003-2004.

Hon. James L. Graham
Hon. James L. Graham '62

Judge Graham feels that being a clerk is an invaluable experience, "As a clerk, you have a high level of responsibility, often times more than a first- or second-year associate at a firm, and it can place a person ahead of his or her peers." His current clerk Tara Aschenbrand '02 agrees, " As a clerk I have been exposed to the law at an intense, in-depth level that I probably would not have experienced as first-year associate at a firm." Tara was an extern to Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio during her second year at Moritz. She thought that clerking was something that she would ultimately want to do, and the externship confirmed her decision. "Tara has the advantage of watching some of the best advocates work, and is able to witness what strategies and styles work well with a judge as opposed to those that do not work so well," according to Judge Graham.

Professor Berman
Professor Berman

Professor Berman has also partnered with the Office of Professional Development in its on-going and rigorous efforts to publicize the benefits of clerking, put students in touch with alumni who have clerked, and increase the programs and services offered to students to apply for judicial clerkships. In fact, the Office and Professor Berman have issued the 50/50 Challenge to third year students. If 50 3L students apply for a minimum of fifty judicial clerkships each in the two weeks after Labor Day, Professor Berman has pledged to shave his head. Although he good-naturedly admits that such a shaving will only be speeding up Mother Nature's process, he encourages students to rigorously apply for clerkships. In addition, Moritz Law will begin a program to reimburse a portion of student travel expenses associated with clerkship interviews. This program is thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country.

The Office of Professional Development adds that with the ending of the moratorium, it is likely that federal hiring will occur at a fast and furious pace, hence students are encouraged to apply to more judges in a shorter time frame to enhance their probability of success. The most recent statistics for the number of graduates accepting judicial clerkships nationally is 11.4 percent. Over the past two years, Moritz students accepting judicial clerkships have ranged from 7 to 12 percent of the employed graduates.

The one-credit course will be taught during the second week of August at the College. These two teachers' knowledge and experience are likely to ignite a similar passion for judging in their students.