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Around the Blawgosphere: David Lat Takes a Crack at 'Clerk Lit'; Introverts and Extroverts on Juries


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A Novel Blog

Corrected: There was a subtle promo at the end of an Above the Law post last week and at the post at Underneath Their Robes the week before, that we missed. But let it be known that Above the Law founder and managing editor David Lat is writing a “clerk lit” novel—i.e., a novel in which the protagonist is in the middle of a judicial clerkship—at the blog Supreme Ambitions. Installments are written as blog posts, and readers can comment on each entry. There have been three of them so far; Lat hopes to post new entries on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The basic storyline? From the blog’s preface entry: “Supreme Ambitions is the story of Audrey Coyne, a bright young lawyer in pursuit of her dream job: a clerkship with the Supreme Court of the United States (‘SCOTUS’).” Audrey is off to a good start, having graduated from Yale Law School and landed a clerkship with Christina Wong Stinson, a “feeder judge” on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Still, Audrey “faces competition from rival clerks within Judge Stinson’s chambers and also beyond them, including clerks from higher-ranked feeder judges. She must deftly handle a headline-making appeal with major national implications. And she must carefully coordinate her own ambitions with those of her intensely demanding boss, Judge Stinson—who, as a high-profile and conservative woman judge, covets not a mere clerkship, but a seat on the Supreme Court itself. Will Audrey be able to achieve her dreams without losing her sanity or her soul?”

Lat admits in the preface that he does not have supreme ambitions for this work. “Although this project arises out of my desire to feign ambition when asked what’s next for me, it’s actually far from ambitious. I’m not doing it for fortune or fame. I’m not doing it to make a living. I’m doing it just for fun, for my own amusement.”


Rethinking Jury Deliberations

At Verdict, Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb shared her thoughts on Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by former Wall Street lawyer (and introvert) Susan Cain. Specifically, she thought that some of the experiments cited in the book, documenting the ill effects that a misguided extrovert can have on a group, are applicable to juries.

“Extroverts on the jury are—as the stereotype holds—the most likely to speak up early and often,” Colb wrote. “In workshops that Cain attended on how to act more like an extrovert (and thereby achieve success and influence people), she was told to behave as though she was confident of whatever she was saying, even if she in fact had some doubts. We have here the ingredients for poor decision-making: The main speakers are those who reach conclusions quickly and confidently (but not more accurately), and the quiet people who are inclined to ponder matters and entertain doubts have their own thought processes distorted and/or inhibited by the statements and certainty of their peers.” Extroverts on juries confidently arriving at hasty conclusions could potentially intimidate less confident introverts who disagree.

Colb wrote that Cain observed that while the “wisdom-of-crowds phenomenon (where a crowd of people can do a better job of problem-solving than just one individual can)” is real, it tends not to emerge in in-person group meetings as much as it does in settings in which individuals can independently offer their insights: “an approach that is quite common on the Internet,” Colb writes.

How might one fix a broken jury dynamic? “Perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider having each member of a jury, after the evidence is all submitted, separately compose his or her own written assessment and analysis of the facts, of legal and factual questions and uncertainties, and of a conclusion (guilty / not guilty, etc.),” Colb wrote. “Once each juror had written such a document, the documents could be distributed and read by all the other jurors. And only then might deliberation begin.”


But Football Is On

We’ve previously raised the question of how lawyers can quickly spot clients they’d rather not take. New York City attorney Scott Greenfield has a new red flag to add to that list: The potential client who places a not-urgent call on a Sunday evening and is not content to call back in the morning.

“Aside from emergencies, even criminal defense lawyers get to live relatively normal lives,” Greenfield wrote at Simple Justice. “We are allowed to eat dinner with our families, plan a day at the beach or a trip to the zoo. And on Sundays, we get to watch football. When a call comes in from a person we’ve never met, never spoken with, don’t know at all, on a Sunday evening, it interrupts the normalcy of life.”

When the caller insists on talking right then, the lawyer should know “that the caller, should he become a client, won’t be calling or reachable during the business day, but will expect his lawyer to be available for discussions, perhaps even meetings, in the evenings or at his convenience.”

Greenfield also points out that a Sunday-night caller may just want something for free. Maybe “the thought suddenly struck him and he figured he could scour the Internet, find lawyer phone numbers and see if there was someone around with whom he could have a pleasant free chat [and] get some quick and dirty legal advice at his convenience.” Greenfield wrote. “He’s not the potential client you want.”

Updated Oct. 11 to correct the first name of the fictional judge in Supreme Ambitions.

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