IU students can now clerk with Indiana Supreme Court judges through a partnership between the Maurer School of Law and the Indiana Supreme Court.
“The program promises to be a fantastic opportunity for our students,” IU law lecturer Robert Downey said.
The program is available for up to five first-year law students at IU-Bloomington. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush and Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Edward W. Najam Jr. created the program. The pilot program will serve rural Indiana and is a part of the law school's Supporting Rural Justice, an initiative that gives smaller communities more access to legal services.
“It was a great synergy between our desire to have students do more clerkships and the court’s interest in serving rural counties and the Center for Rural Engagement,” said Aviva Orenstein, associate dean of students at the law school.
Participants will do research for judges and learn about courtroom procedures in smaller, more rural areas, Orenstein said.
It is the first program of its kind at the Maurer School of Law. Orenstein said students have worked with judges in the past, but this program is different because they will receive both pay and school credit for participation.
“Students will get a tremendous amount of learning from the program,” Orenstein said. “But they also get the chance to help citizens that are often underserved and judges that are overworked. It’s a win-win.”
The program received 24 applicants, and 19 judges applied for a clerk. Currently the program can only fund five judges. The selected students will be announced this week. The deciding committee includes Rush, Orenstein and professors Jody Lyneé Madeira and Inge Van der Cruysse.
Clerks in the program will get a different perspective on the law, said Cruysse, who is the director of judicial externships and clerkships.
“Students get to see the behind the scenes of how a court works,” Cruysse said. “They get to watch the procedures from a bird’s-eye perspective.”
Cruysse said this is a good opportunity to see what truly happens.
“It’s not at all like in the movies,” Cruysse said. “People in the courtroom have to follow rules and procedures, and it’s very formal. Students will be able to see what good lawyering looks like and what not so good lawyering looks like.”
The program begins in the summer. It starts off with a boot camp that helps participants prepare for being in a courtroom. Throughout the program, the students will write essays on their experiences and meet as a group, Orenstein said.
Students in the clerk program have the chance to apply what they learned in law school in a tangible way.
“They will be exposed to the law in action in a way that can’t be done by just sitting and reading books,” Orenstein said. “They will get to see how the theories and things they learned in class matter to individual people.”
The program also gives them the chance to learn from experienced judges.
“The get to discuss issues from court behind closed doors and ask the judges for their perspectives,” Cruysse said.
Although the program is just beginning, Orenstein said she hopes it will grow.