TJSL Board of Trustees members Hon. Roger T. Benitez and Hon. William McCurine, Jr. (Ret.) shared their perspectives on the importance of legal writing skills with students at “A View from the Bench,” a panel hosted by Thomas Jefferson School of Law's Legal Writing and the Clinical Externship and Pro Bono Programs on Saturday, March 8th.
“I really appreciate the judges taking the time to speak with us,” said Paul Hefley (3L). “In terms of written briefs filed with the court, judges are the end users of an attorney's work product so getting their unique perspective of what works and what doesn't work in legal writing was priceless.”
The judges shared their expectations from the bench and cautioned students on specific things to avoid. Some of the judge's pet peeves were incorrect citations, hiding contrary authority, using string citations, cutting and pasting without knowing the case law, and creating false facts. “We depend on good lawyers to tell us what the law is,” said Judge McCurine.
“I thoroughly enjoyed what Judge Benitez had to say about the importance of writing and submitting to the court, and how brevity is key,” said Johnathan Stahler (3L).
In addition to writing tips, students also gained valuable insights from the judges on being young practicing attorneys from the judge's personal “war stories.” “As a young lawyer the most important and hardest thing is learning how to manage your time well, while still putting out good work product,” said Judge Benitez.
“Judges are always held on such a high level that sometimes I feel as if they are not accessible, but these two Judges were really down to earth and had some funny and valuable war stories. I enjoyed the presentation very much,” said Lucia Valenzuela (2L).
The judges also shared their unique perspectives on the legal profession. “Judge Benitez explained that lawyers are in the ‘sales business’ and that as lawyers we sell through our words by having concise and clear language,” said Ricardo Elorza (2L).
Stephanie Ferguson (3L) and Stuart Mellman (3L), attended the event and shared their perspectives on clerking for Judge Benitez this semester. “Working as a judicial extern for Judge Benitez has been a tremendously valuable experience because it has provided me with the opportunity to expand the scope of my legal education,” said Mellman. “I have conducted legal research and writing on new subject matters and continue to hone my writing abilities.”
“This has been one of my most rewarding experiences during law school for two reasons. First, my legal writing has greatly improved as a result of the unparalleled feedback from the law clerks, and second, I have a greater appreciation and respect for the legal profession and the Federal court system,” said Ferguson. “From witnessing criminal sentencing hearings to patent claim construction hearings, I am constantly provided with unique opportunities which allow me to fully analyze and appreciate the nuts and bolts of litigation from both sides of the bench,” she added.