Even as you unwind from the end of your 1L or 2L year, it is too not early to start thinking about your post-graduate plans, especially if you are thinking about applying for a judicial clerkship. Some federal judges began accepting applications from rising second-year students on July 1 of this year for clerkships that will start in the fall of 2018, so you should not put off thinking about clerkships until you return next semester.
Why should you apply to be a clerk? Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor has said that her one serious regret about her wonderful career was that she decided not to clerk. She went on to observe that “[y]ou learn more in one year of clerking than you learn in eight years of practice.” A clerkship is not only a unique professional experience and an important credential, but it also often results in a relationship with a judge that will have enduring personal and professional value. Further, many large law firms offer benefits such as deferred offers, bonuses, and seniority credit to attorneys who clerk.
Who should apply to be a clerk? While many believe that only those at the top of the class should bother to apply for clerkships, the range of courts and clerkships, and the qualities that judges seek, mean that there are clerkship opportunities for those who are interested and motivated regardless of class rank. Talk to the CDO clerkship advisor Valerie L’Herrou if you have questions about your qualifications for clerkships.
So if you are persuaded to consider a clerkship, what should you do next?
- Watch the “Nuts and Bolts of Applying to Judicial Clerkships” video.
- Read the “Judicial Clerkships Handbook” on the CDO’s Judicial Clerkship website.
- Email clerkship advisor Valerie L’Herrou. Even if you do not know the type of clerkship in which you are interested, you can explore your options with her and get the process started.
- Consult with faculty (your faculty advisor or any other faculty member with whom you have a rapport) and the CDO about the courts and judges to which you should consider applying.
- Reach out to potential recommenders. These may be faculty with whom you have a connection, for whom you are doing research, or in whose class you did particularly well. You might also consider your summer supervisor from a law-related experience. Most students have two faculty recommenders, and a third employer recommender for those judges who require it.
- Start creating your profile on OSCAR, the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (https://oscar.uscourts.gov/). You may create a profile and review judge information beginning July 1, though most judges will likely post their clerkship positions in later summer and throughout the fall.
- Watch this OSCAR video with real law clerks and staff attorneys sharing their experiences (OSCAR profile and password required).
- Attend the clerkship information sessions that will be offered this fall.
- Check out our Judicial Clerkships website for more information, including sample cover letters, résumés, timelines, and forms to help you with the process.
What are my chances of being successful? For the class of 2015, University of Richmond School of Law ranked 20th nationally for state court clerkships. And for federal clerkships, our three year average puts us 32nd nationally — ahead of Georgetown, GW, Emory, and Illinois.