American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review - Volume 57


Used by permission.


The journey to the bench is unique for every judge. For most, however, a position on the bench is preceded by law school, the bar exam, and a career as an attorney. Through these experiences, judges are expected to become knowledgeable about the responsibilities and duties that come with their new role. In fact, common-law judiciaries, such as the United States, are built on the assumption that legal practice is the best preparation for being a judge.1 Still, many judges might feel as if they are not fully prepared. Unlike judges in civil-law countries, who undertake specialized coursework in judicial studies from the earliest stages of their careers, judges in the United States typically “[take] the oath, [step] onto the bench, and [proceed] to fill the judicial role as if born in the robe.”2 As one judge put it, “[B]ecoming a federal judge is like being thrown into the water and being told to swim.”3