I finished my first year of law school pretty unsure of what type of legal career I was interested in. I thought KU’s Judicial Clinic would fit well with my 1L skill set and provide exposure to a variety of legal careers. I accepted a federal clerkship in Wichita with Chief Judge J. Thomas Marten of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, and it has been a great experience. It was kind of intimidating trying to be an effective summer clerk after just one year of law school, but I’ve been able to use my foundation in research and writing to produce valuable work – even as a rising 2L with minimal substantive knowledge of the law.
I spent most of my summer writing draft orders, which allowed me to utilize and refine my research and writing skills. I worked on a wide variety of legal issues, writing orders on Social Security disability appeals, motions for reconsideration and review, and an objection to a magistrate’s order. I also got to watch proceedings in the courthouse, including arraignments, sentencings, plea changes, motion hearings, and jury trials.
Working in a courthouse has been invaluable because it exposed me to many facets of our justice system. In addition to the judges, the U.S. Marshals Service and probation office were in the courthouse, and the U.S. Attorney’s and Federal Public Defender’s offices were just across the street. I met and spoke with people from all these offices, which helped provide me with a more thorough understanding of our legal system.
My first week in the courthouse, I observed KanTrac, which is a re-entry court for high risk offenders on supervised release. KanTrac is made up of judges, probation officers, federal public defenders, and assistant U.S. attorneys. One of the women with whom we spoke was just finishing the 12-month KanTrac program, and she kept saying how she felt more accountable to her re-entry and drug rehabilitation because of her extended personal experiences with these people who she had always seen as being on “the other side” of the system.
This clerkship helped humanize my understanding of our legal system, whether it was through observing programs like KanTrac, watching jurors during trial, or even just reading pleadings in cases. My summer experience has made me realize that hands-on learning opportunities – whatever they may look like – are an essential part of a good legal education.
— Hannah Brass is a rising 2L from Wilmore, Kansas.