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Law Clerk - Probate and Family Court

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

TRIAL COURT MISSION 

The Trial Court is committed to: 

  • Fair and impartial administration of justice;
  • Protection of constitutional and statutory rights and liberties;
  • Equal access to justice for all in a safe and dignified environment with policies and practices that strengthen and support diversity, equity, and inclusion;
  • Efficient, effective, and accountable resolution of disputes;
  • Prompt and courteous service to the public by committed and dedicated professionals utilizing best practices in a manner that inspires public trust and confidence.

The Massachusetts Trial Court is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer and provides equal opportunity in state employment to all persons. No person shall be denied equal access because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, pregnancy, military or veteran status, physical/mental disability; or genetic information. If you need a reasonable accommodation, or have any questions or concerns about being afforded fair and equal treatment, please contact the HR Benefits Team at reasonableaccommodation@jud.state.ma.us.

Law Clerk - Probate and Family Court

  • 495385
  • Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Probate & Family Court Dept
  • Law Clerk/Clerkship
  • Full-time
  • Closing at: Dec 16 2022 at 23:55 EST

Title: Law Clerk - Probate & Family Court

Pay Grade: Grade 16

Starting Pay: $68,160.35

Departmental Mission Statement: To deliver timely justice to the public by providing equal access to a fair, equitable and efficient forum to resolve family and probate legal matters and to assist and protect all individuals, families and children in an impartial and respectful manner.

Organizational Profile:

http://mass.gov/courts/court-info/trial-court/pfc/

Notes: Please note that there are multiple Law Clerk positions available.

Some positions are currently vacant and successful candidates who have already graduated from an accredited law school or are eligible to sit for the Massachusetts bar exam can start as soon as possible (term will finish August 31, 2023, with a possibility of renewal for an additional year).

The other positions have a clerkship term from September 1, 2023 - August 31, 2024.

This position currently offers a hybrid work schedule per the Trial Court remote work policy.

This is a posting to serve as a Probate & Family Court Law Clerk in either Eastern or Western Massachusetts.

Eastern Massachusetts may be assigned to Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester.
Western Massachusetts may be assigned to Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin.

All applicants must upload a resume with the online application. The resume must be in PDF format and its filename must start with the applicant’s last name. Applicants must indicate whether they would like to be considered for a law clerk position in either eastern Massachusetts or western Massachusetts.

In addition to the submission of their resume and application online at the Trial Court website, applicants are also required to submit a current transcript (official or unofficial) and a writing sample in response to the fact pattern as listed in this posting.  The transcript and writing sample must be emailed by December 16, 2022 to: chris.vogel@jud.state.ma.us.

Letters of recommendation are not requested or required. Applicants selected for interviews may be asked to submit additional materials, including a statement of interest, an official law school transcript, and an additional writing sample.

Position Summary: The law clerk position is responsible for performing legal research and writing assignments to assist the judges of the Probate and Family Court. The term runs until August 31, 2024. There may be the opportunity to apply for an additional one-year clerkship term. Law clerks work directly with the judges, and under the supervision of the Manager of Legal Research Services, the Managing Attorney, and the Chief Justice.

A reliable car and the willingness to travel to courthouses throughout the Commonwealth are requirements of the position.

A judicial clerkship in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court offers a unique, exciting and rewarding environment in which to begin a legal career. The Probate and Family Court hears cases on subjects relating to all aspects of a person’s life, from birth to death. Law clerks in the Probate and Family Court are exposed to a wide variety of family, probate and equity issues; including adoption, paternity, custody, divorce, guardianships, legal bioethics, petitions to partition real estate, trust reformations and will contests. The law in these areas is constantly evolving and cases of first impression often confront the court, making a clerkship experience in the Probate and Family Court interesting and challenging. Cutting edge issues such as the changing definition of family are not uncommon. 

Law clerks apply to serve in either eastern or western Massachusetts. The majority of opportunities to serve are in eastern Massachusetts. All law clerks are assigned to rotations by the Manager of Legal Research Services, with the final approval of the Chief Justice.

Law clerks based in eastern Massachusetts may be assigned to any of the Probate and Family Court divisions within or east of Worcester County. These are Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester. Law clerks based in western Massachusetts may be assigned to any of the Probate and Family Court divisions west of Worcester County. These are Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin. The rotation system gives law clerks the opportunity to work with numerous judges and to gain a broader understanding of the work of the Probate and Family Court.

Duties: 

  • Attending hearings, portions of trials, and other courtroom proceedings, as needed
  • Discussing legal issues with judges
  • Performing careful and accurate legal research and analysis, using both online and book resources
  • Clearly and concisely conveying results of research and analysis to judges, orally and in writing
  • Preparing well-written and error-free legal research memoranda, and drafting findings of fact, conclusions of law, rationales, judgments and memoranda of decision
  • Completing assignments in a timely manner and within deadlines established by judges
  • Performing additional legal research and analysis and further review and revision of written work products as appropriate
  • Rotating among various Probate and Family Court locations every six months, as assigned by the Administrative Office of the Probate and Family Court
  • Accurately and timely submitting all required administrative forms, such as work logs and attendance
    forms, among others
  • Maintaining law clerk offices and work areas, including updating pocket parts of books as necessary
  • Performing related tasks as required

Minimum Requirements: These are the minimum requirements necessary to apply for a position of Law Clerk:

  • Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school or eligibility to sit for the Massachusetts bar exam, as of the start of the clerkship
  • Excellent legal writing and communication skills
  • Excellent legal research and analytical skills, using both online and book resources
  • High professional and ethical standards
  • Access to a reliable car and the willingness and ability to travel to courthouses as assigned
  • Experience and knowledge in the use of personal computers, including word processing programs such as Microsoft Word and legal research services such as Lexis and Westlaw
  • Demonstrated ability to follow written and oral instructions
  • Demonstrated ability to manage, prioritize, and complete simultaneous assignments from various judges
  • Demonstrated ability to work well independently while maintaining productivity and demonstrating good judgment
  • Demonstrated ability to meet deadlines and otherwise complete assignments in a timely manner
  • Demonstrated ability to work well with others in a professional setting, including judges, managers, court staff, and other law clerks
  • Genuine commitment to serving the full term of the clerkship

    Additional preferred qualifications include:
  • Membership in the Massachusetts Bar and intent to practice law in Massachusetts
  • Substantial legal research and writing experience, including prior experience as a judicial intern for a Probate and Family Court judge
  • Courses in probate and/or family law, research assistant positions, prior work experience in the areas of probate and family law and clinical placements
  • Familiarity with legal research resources beyond Westlaw and Lexis
  • Demonstrated commitment to government or public service
  • The Probate and Family Court invites well-rounded and distinguished recent law school graduates and practicing attorneys to apply for the clerkship positions. Solid academic credentials are important, however, there are no rigid requirements regarding class rank or standing.
  • All law clerks must reside in Massachusetts for the duration of the law clerk term.


Writing Sample Instructions: 

Please draft a response to the fact pattern listed below in the format of a memorandum of law. The writing sample must be typed, double-spaced, and cannot exceed six pages.  Apply Massachusetts statutory and case law to each fact pattern and follow the Blue Book system of citation. The writing sample and the transcript must be emailed by December 16, 2022 to: chris.vogel@jud.state.ma.us.

For 2023 – 2024 Application

Devi and Paxton were married on August 5, 1999, and divorced on July 30, 2014.  Devi and Paxton had three children together: Fabiola, born on January 14, 2002; Elinor, born on August 22, 2003; and Ben, born on October 1, 2008. During the marriage, Devi worked as a psychotherapist at her own practice and Paxton worked as a swim coach at a nearby university. Devi’s mother lived with the parties in Cambridge, Massachusetts and helped care for the children. The parties lived a middle to upper class lifestyle, with Paxton receiving funds from the 1954 Hall-Yoshida Irrevocable Trust each year. Since nursery school, the children have attended private school as they are intellectually gifted.  The parties have travelled internationally with the children and regularly dined at restaurants.

Finding that they were too different to stay together forever, the parties decided to divorce.  The parties worked on the terms of their separation agreement over several months and spent considerable time together negotiating its terms. Pursuant to the divorce judgment, which incorporated and merged the separation agreement, the parties shared legal custody, with Devi having primary physical custody and Paxton having generous parenting time with the children. The terms of the separation agreement provided that (1) “each share equally in the full cost of Fabiola’s tuition”; (2) “Paxton pay the full cost of Elinor’s tuition”; and (3) “Devi pay the full cost of Ben’s tuition”. As child support, the parties agreed that Paxton would pay Devi $1,000 per week. The parties also agreed that the mandatory income distributions to Paxton from the 1954 Hall-Yoshida Irrevocable Trust would not be used to calculate child support in the future.

In the ensuing years, Devi continued to be the primary custodial parent and financial contributor for the children. The children stayed with Devi whenever they were not at school or college.  On July 30, 2021, Paxton filed a complaint for modification seeking to decrease his weekly child support obligation as Fabiola will be emancipated upon her enrollment at West Point on September 7, 2021, and to terminate his contribution toward Elinor’s tuition because the separation agreement did not mean to require him to pay Elinor’s college tuition. On August 5, 2021, Devi accepted service of the complaint for modification and, on August 10, 2021, she filed a counterclaim for modification seeking an increase in child support based upon Paxton’s substantial trust income, continued payment of child support for three children, and Paxton’s payment of Elinor’s college tuition.  Each party submitted a Pre-Trial Memorandum to Judge Kaling, who is scheduled to try the matter over three days in November of 2022. In his memorandum, Paxton raised the issue of relief retroactive to the date of service.

Judge Kaling has come to you seeking advice:

  • What factors should the Court consider relevant to deciding the question of Fabiola’s emancipation?
  • What should the Court do regarding Paxton’s request for retroactive relief?
  • In his Pre-Trial Memorandum, Paxton argues that the provision of the separation agreement relevant to “tuition” is not ambiguous and therefore extrinsic evidence is not permitted. If the language used in the separation agreement could support a reasonable difference of opinion as to the parties’ obligations, is Devi disqualified from testifying to her conversations with Paxton?
  • Can the Court include income from the 1954 Hall-Yoshida Irrevocable Trust when determining child support?
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