Now that the academic year is in full swing, it is an excellent time to start thinking about your post-graduate plans, especially if you are considering applying for a judicial clerkship. Some federal judges will begin accepting applications from second-year students in January 2021 for clerkships that will start in the fall of 2022. As a result, you should not put off thinking about clerkships until 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 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 Aaron Campbell if you have questions about your qualifications for clerkships.
So if you are persuaded to consider a clerkship, what should you do next?
- Read the “Judicial Clerkships Handbook” on the Judicial Clerkships tab of the CDO Student Portal.
- Watch the on-demand program The Nuts & Bolts of Applying to Judicial Clerkships.
- Meet with clerkship advisor Aaron Campbell. Even if you do not know the type of clerkship in which you are interested, you can explore your options with him and get the process started.
- Consult with members of the faculty clerkship committee (Professor Tobias and Professor Suddarth) and other faculty (your faculty advisor or any other faculty member with whom you have a rapport) 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 may 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/). 2Ls may create a profile and review judge information beginning February 2021. On June 14, 2021 student applications will be released to federal judges that use OSCAR.
- Review the OSCAR Applicant Prep Kit.