On Monday, May 19, promptly at 10:00 a.m. I began my clerkship. First, I met with Maren von Pappritz, the Chief Judge for the Chamber for Commercial Matters (Vorsitzende Richterin am Kammer für Handelssachen). After a short tour of the Essen District Court, Judge von Pappritz explained my clerkship, which includes working in the Chamber for Commercial Matters, the Criminal Court (Strafgericht), and the Assize Court (Schwurgericht), among other divisions of the District Court.
Besides working at the Essen District Court, Chief Judge von Pappritz told me that I would also be working for a well-known German firm, Holthoff-Pförtner, which practices in almost every conceivable area of law. Chief Judge von Pappritz also told me that I would be allowed to participate in an Arbeitsgemeinschaft with the other clerks. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft (AG) is an intensive course, during which clerks learn how to write hypothetical judgments and arguments for different parties, before taking the second bar exam. In Germany, the legal education is quite different. After receiving a bachelors of law, German law students take their first bar exam, followed by a two year clerkship and then, the second bar exam. After successfully completing the second bar exam, German lawyers are able to practice in any part of Germany, as well as immediately become a judge. Thus, being able to be part of the AG means that my clerkship will include not only practical legal work experience but also a concentrated educational opportunity.
Following a discussion of my duties and responsibilities, the Chief Judge officially swore me to secrecy about what I heard and saw regarding cases, as well as had me sign a personal liability waiver. As my first day was only an introductory meeting, I finished relatively early. However, because the Chief Judge does not speak much English, everything was and will continue to be in German. Moreover, German legalese is a Fachsprache (technical language), which many Germans do not understand; thus, in addition to learning about the German civil law system, I will be challenged to broaden my German language skills. After my first day of work, I was completely exhausted; so, after a quick hour at the gym, I fell asleep.