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Why Law School Students Seek Judicial Clerkships

Have you considered doing a judicial clerkship? If you graduate next year, you should apply soon if you are interested.

Although the pay is low, around $40,000 per year, the schedules are normally not more than 40 hours per week (which can feel like a vacation after law school), and court clerkships are broadly viewed as resume enhancers. Notice how many prestigious legal resumes list a judicial clerkship. The experience can be valuable preparation for employment as an attorney, professor, or judge. Some view a judicial clerkship as only useful for students who can’t get the job they want upon graduation, because this boost on their resumes might help them get the job they want. However, most in the legal profession seem to view a clerkship as valuable for nearly all law students.

But a court clerkship isn’t for everybody. First, the pay is lower than most legal jobs, which may be a challenge when student loans become due. Second, some students have no interest in a job related to litigation, so a court clerkship may not be as valuable to them as another opportunity—This is especially true for students with interests outside the practice of law.

Also, the competition for court clerkships is high, which means students who—

  • have strong GPAs,
  • serve on law review,
  • are well connected,
  • or attend prestigious schools

—have the best chances at obtaining these positions.

But don’t count yourself out yet. Many judges look for a student from their alma mater, a member of their fraternity or sorority, or other areas in common.

You can also boost your chance of obtaining a clerkship by being willing to move, especially to a rural area where many students are unwilling to live.

Federal court clerkships generally accept applications during the summer or fall a year before the bar exam, but these dates vary for each judge. For information on federal court clerkships, visit this website: https://lawclerks.ao.uscourts.gov.

Application deadlines for state court clerkships are often in the summer a year before taking the bar exam, so students interested in these clerkships should apply now. For information regarding judicial clerkships at your state supreme court and court of appeals, visit your state’s court website. The National Center for State Courts lists clerkship information for many states.

For more information, the Northeastern University School of Law publishes this helpful Judicial Clerkship Handbook. Also, your law school’s career services office probably has useful brochures, clerkship directories, or related information on judicial clerkships.

If you know the deadlines for state judicial clerkships in your state, feel free to post it as a Comment after this post for others in your state.

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