So You Wanna Be a Judicial Clerk ...
If you're a 3L, then the last year of law school can seem like a waste of time ... that is, unless you are applying for a clerkship. Then, it feels like you never have enough time. Take it from someone who spent weekends printing out cover letters and resumes, and sending them to district and circuit courts from New York to Guam.
I did get a clerkship, and it was the best legal job I've ever had (sorry FindLaw -- you're a close second). The experience you get clerking is irreplaceable, and probably the most insightful of your legal education, and later career.
Since Above the Law recently posted about clerkship application timing and deadlines, I was inspired to share some tips on how you can add clerkship to your resume.
1. Be Adventurous
This may be the last time that you can apply for a job anywhere. Once you're a lawyer you'll have different bar exams and licensing requirements in each state, remember? Take this time to be adventurous and apply for a clerkship in a state you never expected you would live.
2. State v. Federal
As someone who wanted to litigate, I was hoping for a district court clerkship, but instead was offered a clerkship for a justice on a state supreme court. While federal clerkships have an aura of prestige, (which you certainly can't argue with at the appellate level), clerking for the highest court of a state is
pretty f$#king cool not without merits. This is where "the magic happens" and you're involved with actually shaping law. Don't be snooty, and apply for some state supreme courts, shooting for states that you have a link to such as states you lived in, or went to school.
3. Check Everything Twice
When sending out hundreds of letters in a mail merge there are bound to be difficulties. Make sure that every letter is addressed properly, and that you change people and court names in the bodies of the letters. Everything. Must. Be. Perfect.
4. Get Those Grades
I'm not going to lie, you're going to need some grades to back up a clerkship application. Your grades from your first year are
determinative important, so don't just start thinking about your grades as a 3L, start as a 1L.
5. Stand Out
In addition to grades, you'll need something else to help you stand out from the other applicants. Things such as journal experience, publishing a note, or outstanding achievement in moot court will all help your clerkship application stand apart from the rest.
Whenever asked, I always suggest that law students apply for clerkships. It was one of the best legal experiences I had, and I still use what I learned in my clerking days, today.
Do you have any tips for getting a judicial clerkship to add? Tell us how by tweeting us @FindLawLP.
Editor's note, November 22, 2016: This article was first published in November, 2013. It has since been updated.
- Didn't Get That Judicial Clerkship? How About Congressional Law Clerk (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- What Code of Silence? Former US Supreme Court Clerk Tells All (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- Let the Judicial Hiring Free-for-All Begin (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)