Summer Job Diaries: Refining Appellate Advocacy Skills on the Ninth Circuit

Cameron Schlagel

Cameron Schlagel, a rising third-year day student, is spending his summer as an extern to the Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is the editor-in-chief of the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review. The transfer student relishes the doors Loyola has opened.

How did you land your summer job?

I was fortunate enough to meet Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw at a public event hosted by Judge Alex Kozinski at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit courthouse in Pasadena. I struck up a conversation with Judge Wardlaw, and shortly thereafter she extended me an offer for a summer externship in her chambers.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

I find working at the appellate level to be very interesting. Cases on appeal typically have a fully developed record and involve narrow issues, which usually pertain to more theoretical aspects of law. That being said, I really enjoy observing the process by which judges reach their decisions. I also enjoy writing bench memoranda and the research involved in that process. While the general format of a bench memo is the same as the memos you learn to write in a legal writing class, a bench memo at the appellate level tends to have a more personal or conversational tone, which makes writing them more interesting. 

What has been your most challenging assignment thus far?

My most challenging assignment was writing my first bench memo; specifically, the process of learning what is expected at this level and how important it is to pay attention to not only technical details (i.e., the Bluebook and grammar), but also stylistic details such as tone.

What new legal skill(s) have you acquired during your summer job?

I cannot necessarily say I have acquired new skills, but I have definitely been able to practice and refine my research, writing and editing skills.  Additionally, because I served as an extern for a judge at the United States Bankruptcy Court last semester, it has been interesting to observe the differences and similarities between the advocacy techniques employed by attorneys at the appellate level compared to the trial level.

How has your Loyola education helped you make a difference in your placement?

I cannot overstate the importance of the fact that I am a transfer student.  I transferred to Loyola because I likely would not have had these types of opportunities at my previous school. Loyola is very respected by judges and attorneys in the area, and that name recognition has helped me immensely.  It also boosted my confidence when applying for positions because telling potential employers that I am a student at Loyola carries a certain amount of weight with it. Aside from that, because the subject matter of appeals varies greatly from case to case, having the ability to choose from a wider range of classes at Loyola has been very beneficial.

What LLS courses have you found most helpful to your position? Please explain.

California Civil Procedure with Professor Allan Ides and Professor Simona Grossi helped immensely. I strongly recommend taking that course since there is usually a procedural issue at the core of every dispute.

While law review is not a course per se, I cannot understate the value of being a member of the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review. Law review helped me reach a higher level with my research, writing, and editing skills. No matter what anyone says, effective writing is arguably the most important skill in the legal profession. Well-written motions and briefs stand out, especially if the opposing side’s documents are not well-written. 

In what additional ways has Loyola helped you map your career path?

Without transferring to Loyola, I likely would not have had any of the wonderful opportunities I have been afforded. Furthermore, Loyola professors as well as the faculty in the Externship and Career Development Departments at Loyola are wonderful.