Designated Hitters, Pinch Hitters, and Bat Boys: Judges Dealing with Judgment and Inexperience, Career Clerks or Term Clerks

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


career clerk, term clerk, judgment, experience, writer, instructions, chambers, interns, externs


This paper explores the relationship of the law clerk to the judge and why judges decide to make their term clerks career clerks or switch from career clerks back to term clerks. In exploring this issue, 26 judges were interviewed and provided a broad set of reasons both to have a career clerk or to stick with term clerks. The decision to hire a career clerk rests on serendipitous events while the choice to switch back to term clerks is deliberate. In the game of baseball the manager in the World Series has to change tactics when considering how to use the designated hitter. The district judge hiring law clerks has to consider how that person is to be used, as a designated hitter, a pinch hitter or a bat boy. Experience, wisdom, judgment, maturity, and even humility -- aspirational qualities for judges -- are not often found in new law clerks. Delegating the judge's responsibilities to such a person creates risks for the system.


Originally submitted as a theses in fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.) degree. Then subsequently revised as a law review article in Law and Contemporary Problems.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judges, Law clerks, Judicial process, Mentoring in the professions