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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlight on Judicial Clerkships

Judicial clerkship positions are an excellent opportunity for recent law school graduates to extend their legal education and gain invaluable practical skills by working for a judge on the state or federal court level. The following is a brief overview of judicial clerkships and the application process.

What is a judicial clerkship?
Judicial clerkships are typically one- to two-year post graduate positions working for a judge in federal and state courts of general and limited jurisdiction, at both the trial and appellate levels. By working closely with a judge, clerks gain valuable behind-the-scenes perspective while being exposed to a wide range of issues and cases.

What are the job responsibilities?
While some job duties vary depending on the judge and court, a judicial clerkship is largely a research and writing position. Clerks perform research, prepare issue or case summaries, draft internal documents, observe oral arguments, and sit in on conferences. Judicial law clerks will also have the opportunity to discuss cases with the judge and draft opinions.

What does a judge look for in a judicial clerkship candidate?

Hiring criteria can vary from judge to judge. In general, an application for a judicial clerkship should reflect the candidate's strengths in research, writing, and analytical and communication skills. Judges also look for candidates who show good judgment, leadership, and the ability to work with a team. Judicial clerkships with federal or state supreme court judges are more competitive than other clerkship positions and are based largely on academic credentials and law review experience.

What is the application process?
The usual application for a clerkship consists of a cover letter, resume, official law school transcript, letters of reference from law school faculty and legal employers, and a legal writing sample. Procedures vary by judge, court, and state.

For Federal Judicial Clerkships:  OSCAR is the central online resource for federal law clerk and appellate court staff attorney hiring. The web-based system allows applicants to file complete applications and recommenders to file letters of recommendation online. While many federal judges now use this system to post openings and collect applications, others still require applicants to apply directly. BNA's Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges, and Courts (available in the CSO) provides information on federal and state court structures as well as the contact information for judges at all levels.

For State Judicial Clerkships: The Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures provides information on clerkship opportunities and procedures in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Contact the CSO for username and password information.

When are the deadlines for judicial clerkships?
Federal judges are not supposed to accept applications from graduating students until the Tuesday after Labor Day of the candidate's final year of law school. However, students are encouraged to contact federal judges directly to confirm clerkship openings and deadlines. State judges have various deadlines, some as early as the May before the candidate's final year of law school. For this reason, students interested applying for a judicial clerkship should begin preparations the spring semester of their 2L Day or 3L Evening year.

Are there opportunities to work for a judge as a law student?

Absolutely. New England Law offers two judicial internship opportunities for students: the Honors Judicial Internship Program and the Summer Internship Program. Click here for more information. Students may also contact judges and courts directly using the BNA's Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges, and Courts (available in the CSO).  For a list of court websites by state, visit the National Center for State Courts website.

Interested in learning more about the judicial clerkship experience?
Judicial Clerkship Information Session
Tuesday, April 12th, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Cherry Room

Sponsored by the Faculty Judicial Clerkship Committee

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