Friday, December 19, 2014

Judicial Clerkships for Recently Admitted Attorneys

April 25, 2014 by Hon. Heather A. Welch

At the fall 2013 Indiana Judicial Conference, Court of Appeals Judges Margret Robb and Patricia Riley informed trial court judges that together with Indiana’s law schools they had created a Judicial Law Clerk Program to assist new law school graduates and trial court judges. The law schools will identify recent law school graduates who are seeking full-time employment and pair them with one of the participating state trial court judges. Only a handful of Indiana’s trial judges use law clerks, primarily because the counties, which finance the operations of the trial courts, cannot provide funding for such positions.

Michael Bratcher with Managing Partner Gregory A. Crisman. Photo courtesy of Indianapolis law firm, Eichhorn & Eichhorn.

The new program promises several positive outcomes. New lawyers will be able to establish working relationships as law clerks with the judges in the area of the state where they wish to practice law. They will also gain valuable experience by completing research projects, drafting proposed orders, and observing attorneys in the courtroom. Judges will benefit from having lawyers serve as a law clerks assisting with legal research and preparing proposed orders. Although the courts are not able to provide compensation, these young lawyers will be in an environment where they are able to network with practicing attorneys and learn skills that will enhance their marketability in a tough legal hiring environment.

I knew that this program would benefit my court, which has a large civil docket with many complex matters. In early December of 2013, I received notice that I would be assigned a new lawyer, Michael Bratcher, who had an interest in the healthcare field. This was an added bonus since my docket consists of approximately four hundred medical malpractice cases. He was a delightful young man, eager to learn and hard working.

He assisted in several large complex civil matters, including the drafting of a lengthy order in a medical malpractice and products liability case involving two separate motions for summary judgment. Michael wrote well, worked efficiently, and learned from the assignment. I benefited from his preparation of the proposed order and was able to issue my ruling much more quickly than I could have without his help. He worked on other research and writing assignments and was able to observe a jury trial along with many summary judgment hearings and other court proceedings. He also had the opportunity to meet many attorneys from Indianapolis.

While serving as a law clerk, Michael applied for a job opening, and in February of 2014 he interviewed with the Indianapolis firm of Eichhorn & Eichhorn. He accepted an offer they extended to him and is now working with them focusing on medical malpractice and other healthcare matters.

He shared these reflections on his experience: “Securing the first years of legal experience has proven to be a difficult task for many law graduates of late. However, as in most of life’s worthwhile pursuits, finding the right career fit requires a blend of networking, perseverance, and timing. This program facilitates all three, all the while putting a few additional months of meaningful, practical experience under the belt. I even dare say there are more than one or two judges around the state who could use a bit of help managing case volume, even from someone a little wet behind the ears. In all, I consider myself very fortunate to have had this opportunity to learn and serve under Judge Welch.”

Any judge considering participation in this excellent program should contact Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Riley at 317.232.6902 or patricia.riley@courts.in.gov.


Judicial Law Clerk Program

Indiana Judges Association

Committee Members

Patricia Riley
Court of Appeals/Chair

Margret Robb
Court of Appeals

Daniel Pfleging
Hamilton Superior #2

Darrin Dolehanty
Wayne Superior #3

David Chidester
Porter Superior #4

David Dreyer
Marion Superior Civil Div. 10

Susan Orth
Floyd Superior #1

Jane Seigel
Indiana Judicial Center

Participating Law Schools

Indiana University - Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Indiana University - Maurer School of Law

Notre Dame Law School

Valparaiso University School of Law

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law