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Judicial Externships: Research and Resources: Writing and Editing Resources

Research resources for students participating in judicial placements.

Neat Tech

There are a lot of neat legal writing tools on the market and the law school has access to a few. These tools can be helpful but be cautious in your approach - open source AI is still in the early stages so errors, hallucinations, and privacy issues abound.  Be sure you understand any privacy issues and policies before using commercial tools as well - you may be sharing confidential information more broadly than you expect.

Actual useful ways generative AI can help you do some research without abdicating your professional responsibilies:

  • Ask it to help you come up with other words for a legal term
  • Ask it to define a concept you're unfamiliar with, so you can find a reliable source

From Westlaw 'How Ask Practical Law AI works':

"The AI-generated summary of results above the list of Practical Law resources can be extraordinarily useful for getting an overview of the issues and pointers to source documents, but it should never be used to advise a client or otherwise be relied on without doing further research.

Use it to accelerate thorough research. Don't use it as a replacement for thorough research."

Knowledge Management

One of the best resources for learning the writing and research norms in your court will be the existing work product of the clerks and staff attorneys in your office. Most courts have example work product readily available and often have an internal manual with grammar and citation formats preferred by the judges.

  • Ask about sample documents and formats
  • Ask if there are internal guides for writing
  • Ask if the court librarian is available to answer research questions
  • Ask about the confidentiality of the work product shared by and with you


"Members of the general public will rarely read opinions. But reporters from the media will communicate what they believe to be the substance of an opinion that strikes them as being of public interest. When an opinion addresses an issue of general public interest or is likely to attract media attention, it should be written in a manner that will ensure it cannot be misunderstood. The mark of a well-written opinion is that it is comprehensible to an intelligent layperson."

Federal Judicial Center, Judicial Writing Manual 6 (2d. ed. 2013).

Practical Approach

Most of the commercial legal research platforms have a practice-driven section that students may miss if they don't attend training sessions or take an upper-level research class. They often contain drafting tools and sample documents that can help ease the transition between doing legal research and creating a legal document.

  • Use West's Practical Law to see standard documents and clauses, or upload a document to Drafting Assistant to get citation and resource feedback. Navigate to these features by clicking the arrow next to "Westlaw Edge."
  • Use Lexis' Practice Advisor for similar sample drafts and clauses as well as articles and practice notes.



Legal Style Manuals

Effective Court Practice

Recent scholarship from court clerks includes recommendations on writing briefs for the court that focus on clarity and simplicity.


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