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Pepperdine Law Hosts Twelfth Annual Judicial Clerkship Institute

The Pepperdine School of Law hosted the 12th annual Wm. Matthew Byrne, Jr. Judicial Clerkship Institute (Byrne JCI) in March, garnering favorable reviews as it continues the tradition as the only law school in the country to sponsor such a conference.

The two-day event welcomed 148 clerks and 24 judges, representing federal courts throughout the country. The group gathered at the Malibu campus for the continuing education of career clerks and for sessions directed to those entering clerkships for the first time. There were several plenary sessions in addition to various specialized sessions geared toward career and bankruptcy clerks.

"The substance was rich, and it was a wonderful opportunity for people to meet new friends and colleagues and to renew long-standing friendships," said Shelley Ross Saxer, director of the Byrne JCI and professor of law. "As always, we remembered with great fondness and respect, Judge Matt Byrne, who was a legend in the Central District of California. It was also evident from the judicial faculty and others that our dean, former 10th Circuit Judge Deanell Tacha, is widely known, loved, and respected by the federal judiciary."

Clerks in attendance at the Byrne JCI, which is a service Pepperdine provides to the federal judiciary, were sponsored in part by a Pepperdine endowment fund created by Judge Byrne's former law clerks, the American Bankruptcy Institute and the Federal Judicial Center.

"Our partnerships with the Federal Judicial Center and the American Bankruptcy Institute continue to enrich the program and the experience," Saxer said.

Matt Sharbaugh (JD '08), an associate at Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles, will be serving as a law clerk to Judge Robert L. Wilkins in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia beginning in the fall of 2012.

"I was interested in attending the JCI because I was hoping to learn more about the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities of law clerks from distinguished federal judges and law professors," Sharbaugh said. "Overall, the program more than exceeded my expectations. Not only did the conference provide an unparalleled opportunity to network with federal judges and other law clerks from around the country, but it also prepared me to hit the ground running in my upcoming clerkship, exploring a variety substantive legal issues facing law clerks, as well as more practical aspects of the job, like chambers management and judicial writing."

Alyssa Ayotte, a third-year law student at Pepperdine, will be beginning her first clerkship in August for the Honorable Ronald S. W. Lew, U.S. District Court Judge for the Central District of California. Her second clerkship will begin in September for The Honorable Edith Hollan Jones, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

"I decided to attend the Institute because I was really uncertain as to what would be expected of me as a law clerk and what my job would entail," Ayotte said. "Based on what I read and heard about the Institute, I could tell that it would give me an overview of what would be expected of me in the future as a clerk as well as what I should anticipate my responsibilities being. I particularly valued the specific advice that judges and clerks gave regarding how to write bench memos and opinions for judges, which was the aspect of clerking that most concerned me."

Ayotte also noted, "Given the vast wealth of information provided during the Institute and the fact that we are the only law school in the country that offers such training for term and career clerks, I definitely recommend that future judicial clerks attend this."