If you are considering clerking, you likely already know some of the benefits of being a judicial clerk – it provides an amazing insight into the judicial process, you will develop a strong mentoring relationship with your judge, create a wonderful network of attorneys and other judges, and hone your research and writing skills. Clerking is one of the most prestigious jobs a new graduate can obtain, and it is often overlooked by students who are focused on finding an immediate career with a law firm. Most law firms value clerkship experiences, and many major firms offer clerkship bonuses to associates with such experience. There are even law firms in Missouri who generally hire ONLY prior clerks.
Where do I start?
First, you should consider your qualifications. Realistically, most Federal appellate courts will consider Mizzou graduates only if their GPA is in the 90.0+ range. Federal District Courts are similarly competitive, but may be open to a slightly broader range of applicants. In addition to academic achievement, judges generally prefer students who participated in Law Review and moot court, and have had other experiences that demonstrate their excellence.
When deciding where to apply, you should also consider state supreme courts and appellate courts, which typically consider an even broader range of applicants. While arguably not as prestigious as Federal clerkships, these nonetheless provide many of the same benefits. Don’t be afraid to consider courts outside of Missouri, particularly in less populous areas of the country.
Once you determine where you might apply, it is time to create your list of potential judges. Don’t make the mistake of under-applying – if you really want to clerk, you should send applications anywhere you would reasonably consider clerking (even if that means Idaho and Alaska)! The Career Development Office can assist you in creating that list, and we can provide the names of prior clerks in many courts across the country.
How do I apply?
The application process is quite complicated and can be very individualized. You should make an appointment to see Kate Busch, firstname.lastname@example.org, in Career Development to get started. For most applications to Federal courts, you will need to assemble a cover letter, resume, writing sample, transcript, and three letters of recommendation. State courts typically prefer names of references as opposed to actual letters of recommendation, but that varies with each judge. There have been some recent changes surrounding the hiring processes for Federal judges, so please talk to Kate for information related to each judge.
When do I apply?
The ideal time to begin preparing for a judicial clerkship is the spring semester of your 1L year. You will have your first semester grades, which will give you an idea of which options to consider. You will also be making choices that will impact your qualifications, including decisions related to Law Review, moot court, summer jobs, and 2L class selections. Kate Busch or any member of the faculty clerkship committee can talk with you regarding these choices.
The application process for Federal courts can begin as early as January of your 2L year, and continues through early September of your 3L year. State courts typically look at applications during the summer before your 3L year. Most clerkship opportunities are filled one year in advance of the starting date. Thus, it is important to start thinking about clerkships early! Judges want to be in a position to select the best and the brightest students early in their law school careers.
Make an appointment with Kate Busch in Career Development to talk about your individual plan to obtain a clerkship! Also, don’t forget to attend the OSCAR forum on April 8 – we will cover the basics of OSCAR (The Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan)
Check out these resources for applying to clerkships:
NALP (National Association for Legal Career Professionals): http://www.nalp.org/