Judicial clerkships are prestigious post-graduate jobs that last for a term (usually one or two years) and provide an excellent launch pad for positions in esteemed law firms, with the Department of Justice, and as a U.S. Attorney, prosecutor, or public defender - just to name a few.
The basic truth about judicial clerkships? Every judge is different. Every clerkship is different. Your experience as a judicial clerk will depend upon the judge for whom and the court in which you work. However, all clerks enjoy similar end results. Clerkships are so highly regarded within the profession that law firms often give former clerks practice year and salary credits. This is especially true of federal clerkships. Clerks bring valuable knowledge and experience to their post-clerkship employers on "behind the curtain" procedures - knowledge and experience which other graduates may never acquire.
Clerkships are available at both the federal and state levels. Federal court clerks serve judges on Article III courts, as well as administrative or speciality courts formed under Article I.
The best way to secure a clerkship? Plan ahead! Whether you submit one application or fifty, they take time to prepare (for everyone involved), and some of the more sought-after qualifications cannot be earned overnight. Here are a few suggestions for improving your chances of landing a clerkship:
- Establish relationships with law professors and lawyers for whom you work. Judges typically require 2 or 3 letters of recommendation as part of a clerkship application.
- Perfect a writing sample (e.g., open memo, moot court brief, journal note, memo/brief for summer employer with permission).
- Most judges require journal experience. Write-on to a journal after your 1L year, and seek a position on the executive board for your 3L year.
- Prior judicial experience is a big plus. Participate in summer judicial internships, or seek a judicial externship through the clinical program.
- Choose appropriate courses (some suggestions: Con Law I, Con Law II, Evidence, Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Labor Law, Criminal Procedure, Federal Courts, Administrative Law)
- Seek out legal research and writing experience as a teaching or research assistant for a professor.
- Grades are often a determinative factor. Dedicate yourself to achieving the highest GPA possible.
Federal clerkships are the most competitive positions and require exceptional achievement in law school as well as great letters of recommendation. State court clerkships are an excellent opportunity that should not be overlooked. Students will need good grades and excellent recommendations when applying to state court judges, too. Most judges want to see journal experience. Keep in mind that both federal and state court judges can be rather unpredictable in their hiring - each judge will have his or her own particular criteria.
Most federal clerkship hiring occurs after students have at least 3 semesters of law school grades - January/February 2L year and June/July before 3L year. Some judges post openings on the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review ("OSCAR") and some require applications to be submitted online only through OSCAR. Others prefer or allow paper applications. In either case, the CDO's Judicial Celrkship Advisor wil be involved in all federal clerkship applications filed by Georgia Law students or alumni.
As the name implies, the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan does not apply to state court judges. Judicial internship opportunities arise throughout the year, and students are eligible to participate following their 1L academic year. Post-graduate employment opportunities tend to arise during 3L year. The Judicial Job Clerk Fair, held in January, is an excellent opportunity to secure judicial internships and post-graduate employment with Georgia judges. Throughout the year, students should check LawDawgDash for posted openings. Courts often post openings on their websites, so students should bookmark the websites of the courts in which they are interested and check them frequently.