The ‘Write’ Way: A Judicial Clerk’s Guide to Writing for the Court

67 Pages Posted: 5 May 2011

Date Written: October 30, 2008


Many law students leave law school to become judicial clerks for federal and state appellate and trial judges. But few law schools teach students how to be great judicial clerks. The “Write” Way: A Judicial Clerk’s Guide to Writing for the Court fills that void. This article provides much needed direction to judicial clerks on drafting judicial opinions, bench memoranda, jury instructions, and orders – the documents judges commonly ask clerks to draft. This article explains the entire writing process for each document listed above. With regard to each document, I articulate its purpose and function, outline the steps that a clerk must take in preparing to draft it, set forth a format for the document, explain the function of each section in the document and identify the information that each section must contain, provide an example of the document, and identify specific problems that clerks must be watchful of when editing each particular document.

Armed with this article, new judicial clerks will be better prepared for their clerkships and will be able to hit the ground running from the moment they enter the judge’s chambers. This article will also serve as a useful reference guide for clerks to have before, during, and even after their clerkship. Indeed, judges will find it helpful to hand their clerks a copy the day they start work.

Keywords: bench memoranda, bench memorandum, chambers, clerk, court, drafting, edit, editing, judge, judicial clerk, jury instructions, opinion, order, writing

Suggested Citation

Sheppard, Jennifer, The ‘Write’ Way: A Judicial Clerk’s Guide to Writing for the Court (October 30, 2008). University of Baltimore Law Review, Vol. 38, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Sheppard (Contact Author)

Mercer University School of Law ( email )

1021 Georgia Ave
Macon, GA 31207-0001
United States
478-301-2239 (Phone)

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