March 4, 2009: The Half-Way Point

Sarah L. Caragiulo

March 4, 2009

The Half-Way Point

We are in our eighth week of the semester – about half way done.  Whenever I reach the semester half-way point, my heart rate begins to increase.  And with each passing week after the half-way point, my heart rate goes up just a little bit more.  The big debate for me is always when to begin the outlining process.  I am reluctant to start it too early, because I want the information to still be fresh come exam time.  But I am nervous about waiting too long and not being able to truly study the information before exams.  My first exam is two months away from today (March 4)!  Therefore, I am going to commit myself to starting the outlining process within the next two weeks (notice I am still refusing to give a hard date).

This semester has been different than any of the previous three because I am on campus much less and at irregular times.  I spend two days a week in a judge’s chambers, and as a result I am taking more evening classes to accommodate my externship schedule.  It has taken me awhile to get use to this schedule.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I spend the morning and afternoon in chambers, then run home, grab my books and computer and head off to class.  It is as if I have two days crammed into one, with no break in between.  My externship has provided me with the opportunity to sit in on a number of various proceedings.  My favorite aspect thus far has been observing courtroom proceedings and then listening to the reaction in chambers.  I want to go into litigation, so I am trying to soak up as much as possible.  Watching various attorneys, in various types of cases, and reading briefs is teaching me what I want to do and what I do not want to do once it is my turn to be in a courtroom.

Sometimes it is daunting thinking about the responsibility that rests on a judge’s and his or her clerks’ shoulders.  They are interpreting and applying the law.  To a litigant or defendant a case is a very personal thing and can take over one’s life.  When I am reading through a party’s brief I constantly try to keep this in the forefront of my mind.  I always want to remember that there is a person with a story on the other side of the brief that I am reading and the cases that I am researching.  But, if I think about this too much it can be overwhelming.  At the same time, the thought of working on an opinion and having other people reading my words during their own research is quite thrilling.

It takes a special kind of person to be a good clerk.  Your mind is always turning, thinking about the law, how it applies or does not apply to the cases you are working on at that time.  The position trains your mind and hones your writing skills.  It is truly a great training ground for attorneys and I fully understand why the position is considered a “meal ticket” towards greater things in one’s career.  I have approximately seven weeks left to absorb as much as possible and I plan on doing just that!


Sarah L. Caragiulo

2L Day (Class of 2010)

Criminal Law; Litigation

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Undergraduate degree:
BA in Political Science, and Philosophy and Religion from Colgate University 

Federal Judicial Honors Extern Program; Advanced Appellate Advocacy; Pace Law Review