From Law School to Judicial Law Clerk: A Conversation with Megan McHugh, Esq.

By Rachel Allen | Managing Editor

Megan McHugh, Esq. is currently the Principal Law Clerk to the Honorable Richard B. Lowe, III.  I met with Megan in late 2014, with hopes of gaining an inside perspective into the key functions and inner workings of the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.  What I gained from our conversation was much more insightful than a rudimentary introduction into the general legal practices of the Commercial Division.  In addition to learning a great deal about the Commercial Division, I also learned practical information regarding Megan’s role as Law Clerk and obtained valuable advice pertaining to the important lessons to take away from law school.  One of the most memorable statements that Megan made during our conversation was this: “In law school, you learn the skills to find the answers you need.”  This statement resonated with me andbecame a reoccurring theme throughout our conversation about the Commercial Division and her role in it.  Perhaps most significantly, Megan stressed the importance of utilizing certain specific skills that you learn in law school and the professional connections that you build along the way to expand and achieve your goals.  Megan McHugh’s experience working in the Commercial Division is a perfect illustration of this notion and the success that can be accomplished.

Megan graduated from Regent University School of Law in 1999 and is currently the Principal Law Clerk for the Honorable Richard B. Lowe III, who was previously a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice in the Commercial Division and was recently nominated to be the Presiding Justice in the Appellate Term, First Department (where Megan has continued her employment as Justice Lowe’s Principal Law Clerk).  She has held this prominent position for over fifteen years.  During her 1L year, Megan applied for a summer externship position and was randomly assigned as a summer extern to Justice Lowe.  She gained valuable experience during this internship and fostered various professional connections with other court employees, many of whom she stayed connected with throughout the years.

Upon graduating from law school, Megan reached out to Justice Lowe, whom she had stayed in touch with, for employment advice. In a fortuitous turn of events, he was in need of a full-time law clerk.  Justice Lowe immediately recalled Megan’s exceptional performance during her externship and offered her the position on the spot, which she eagerly accepted.  This is a perfect example of how externships, especially within the court system, can enhance a candidate’s chances of obtaining a fulltime employment position in the court system after graduation.  Since the court system (particularly the Commercial Division) is unique in countless respects, any relevant experience within the court system is an excellent way to stand out among other potential candidates.  Megan’s experience is also a great demonstration of how beneficial it can be to maintain professional contacts and connections in the legal field.

The Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of New York State handles complicated commercial cases, which are assigned to specially appointed judges. Essentially functioning as the “right arm” of the judge, a judicial law clerk maintains a position of the utmost confidentiality and prominence.  Some of Megan’s key functions include managing Justice Lowe’s caseload, reviewing litigation documents, briefing Justice Lowe on cases, performing legal research, drafting opinions, conducting court conferences, rendering rulings on discovery and other issues, and assisting with jury trials and preparation.  Megan described the work environment within the court system as a very collegial, tight-knit community.  She also praised the decent working hours, job stability, and inter-office relationships that the court system offers its employees.  After fifteen years of serving as Justice Lowe’s right hand, Megan is still considering her future options.  Although she is extremely content and grateful for her current position, Megan has not ruled out the prospect of going into private practice or even seeking a judicial nomination at some point in her career.  Megan is certain that the professional experience she has gained and relationships that she has cultivated will further advance her career perspectives, regardless of the journey she plans to embark on.

Although Megan admitted that, at times, she was unsure of how to approach some of her internship and employment responsibilities, she was able to get the job done by implementing certain techniques that she learned and perfected in law school, namely her research and writing skills as well as her ability to foster useful professional relationships.  Megan may not have written a manual on how to succeed after graduation, but her experience gave her the ability to build a platform of success through her internship with Justice Lowe, a background of competitive experience through her employment experience in the Commercial Division, and an array of professional connections within the court system – all of which have aided her current success and will certainly continue to build her promising legal future.

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