About the Course


The exciting experiential course, which pertains to  judicial clerking at the participating courts, is taught by Professor Abigail Perdue, a former employment law attorney and law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Professor Perdue is also the author of The All-Inclusive Guide to Judicial Clerking, which serves as the course text. The course meets one evening per week at the Washington Center and includes an enriching combination of interesting discussion, interactive exercises, and engaging guest speakers.

Before the Externship Commences:

During the spring semester prior to the externship, students attend a comprehensive orientation that provides a detailed overview of information they will need to make an excellent first impression in chambers, including chambers confidentiality, judicial ethics, professionalism, and chambers decorum. At this time, students are provided with a comprehensive reading list of key cases and court rules relevant to their court’s jurisdiction, which they must complete prior to commencement of the externship.  Professor Perdue prepares the reading list often in conjunction with the participating judge or special master for whom the student will extern. Students also undergo a research session aimed at effective research strategies for the practice areas of the specific courts at which the students will extern. This preparation has proven extremely beneficial to students.

During the Externship:

The experiential summer course will meet one weekday evening per week. Students will explore relevant topics, such as professionalism, courtroom decorum, chambers confidentiality, judicial ethics, docket and time management, bench memo drafting, oral argument preparation, and judicial opinion drafting.  Each session will be interactive. Students will engage in simulations and complete short writing exercises tailored to the actual work they are doing in chambers. Guest speakers will occasionally visit the class, including judges, practitioners, in-house counsel, government attorneys, and former law clerks. Students spend the summer following a real pending federal case, and the class takes a field trip to see it argued.

The course also includes several fun and interesting field trips to points of interest from the Library of Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court.  For example, students have toured the Supreme Court of the United States, the FBI, Quantico, the Watergate Hotel, the U.S. Capitol, and the White House as part of the course. Students also enjoy informal lunch meetings with several federal judges and a federal Clerk of the Court. They also meet and mingle with federal prosecutors, in-house counsel, government attorneys, and attorneys at prominent D.C. law firms. As part of the course, each student is also paired with one or more law school alumni living and working in the Washington area who agree to mentor the students throughout the summer. The course further includes multiple opportunities to network with D.C. Deacons at happy hours, baseball games, etc.

How will the course be graded?

The course grade depends on participation, reflections, and short experiential assignments, such as drafting a bench memo and a judicial opinion. The experiential exercises provide students with an opportunity to apply lessons learned in the weekly session to the externship experience and vice-versa. For example, they include an ethics hypothetical, a bench memo, a list of questions for oral argument, and a judicial opinion. Students occasionally complete short post-exercise reflections considering which strategies worked for each exercise as well as what they might do differently next time.

How many credits will I receive?

Students will receive 6 credits, including 3 pass/fail credits for the externship and 3 honors pass/fail credits for the classroom component. The course will satisfy the Law School’s experiential learning requirement.