Here’s my list of ten practical things young lawyers can do now to become a judge later.
(Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order, except maybe the No. 1 thing. I don’t know it all but I do know I have no aspiration to become a judge at this time. My list comes from my experiences as a law clerk for the administrative judge in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, my own practice and from my experiences interviewing candidates across Maryland as an at-large member of the Judicial Appointments Committee of the Maryland State Bar Association. My views are mine alone.)
10. Know the law.
Learn and get experience in practicing both civil and criminal law. Many career prosecutors and public defenders become judges but what is not so apparent is the fact they have taken CLEs or done their homework in the civil arena before they are given the nod to take a seat on the bench.
9. Be humble.
After a few years of practice, you might start thinking you are the bees knees. No one knows everything. Show your legal community that you are a person who is willing to continually learn.
8. Join and get involved in Bar associations.
Some might argue that they are too expensive for a young lawyer. But the Maryland State Bar Association is a good way to network and meet influential people across the state, including lawmakers in Annapolis. You can join the Maryland State Bar Association here. The networking and knowledge you get from Bar associations is invaluable in your quest to become a judge.
Good judges masterfully seem to do the impossible — make everyone feel like they were treated equal and had a chance to be heard. Figure out how they do it. (Don’t ask me!)
6. Abide by the rules of professional conduct.
Never lie. Always be candid.
5. Minimize personal litigation.
When you apply to become a judge, you don’t want it to look like you are constantly being sued for this reason or that. It makes it look like you don’t have it all together. However, some personal litigation can easily be explained away. For example, a divorce is generally not a big deal.
4. Show that you can handle a heavy case load.
Judges are slammed with work more than ever. Moving a docket is a key trait that all good judges have. There is a certain skill set that must be acquired where you can make the litigants feel like they have been heard while deciding the case and moving on to the next one. Make sure it’s clear you can handle a case load. Are you filing a ton of continuances? Are you missing deadlines? Be reliable in everything that you do. Show this to your legal community.
3. Have a good temperament. Don’t scream or treat anyone in a way that you would not want to be treated. This includes everyone at all times. This applies when you are at the grocery store and talking to opposing counsel or courthouse staff.
2. Be active in a party that is the majority party in your county.
As ugly as it gets sometimes, circuit court, governor-appointed judges are sometimes unseated by another political party. What are you doing to make sure you are that party’s nominee?
1. Know the governor (or who is going to be governor in the future).
Need I say more? The governor makes the judicial appointments. It also is helpful to know someone in the legislature who will lobby for you to the governor.
Please feel free to comment on any item that I missed in the comments section.