Rising 3Ls, Now is the Time to Prepare your Application Materials for Judicial Clerkships

A judicial clerkship can be an excellent way to start off a legal career.  Whether in state or federal court, district or appellate court, clerkships will not only provide invaluable learning experiences, but will open doors and provide job opportunities, even several years down the line.  Read on for some tips.

For those of you considering applying for clerkships, now is the time to take the necessary steps to get your application materials ready, and, in some cases, now is the time to apply.  There are several judges here in Utah, both state and federal judges, who are accepting applications now and intend on making their hiring decisions this summer for August 2013 clerkships. 

You can do several things to research judges and determine when and how to apply.  First, use The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) for researching federal judges.  You should take note, however, that not all federal judges use OSCAR or have the most updated hiring information on this website.  Some federal judges still prefer to post their hiring needs on www.uscourts.gov/careers .  Another valuable on-line tool available to S.J. Quinney law students is the BYU Judicial Clerk Database, which has gathered the hiring needs of all judges (state and federal) in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, along with the federal judges in California.  This is a password protected database and the password information is located in the documents section of Symplicity.  Finally, the Vermont Judicial Clerkship Handbook (http://forms .vermontlaw.edu/career/guides/index.cfm) is another password protected database that provides information on state-level clerkships across the nation.  As with the BYU database, the password to the Vermont Judicial Clerkship Handbook is available to S.J. Quinney law students on Symplicity. 

 If you haven’t already, now is the time to write and fine-tune your cover letters, resume and writing sample.  I am available to look over and edit your cover letters and resume and offer any advice that I can.  However, one of the most important steps in the judicial clerkship application process is up to you:  seeking out and obtaining letters of recommendation.  Judges will want to see letters from people who can write about your research and writing ability, your work ethic, and your personality.  Usually this means law professors, judges with whom you have worked for during externships, and/or former employers. 

You should approach your potential references as early as possible to give them time to write a letter of recommendation.  Many of our law school professors, as well as other judges and legal employers, understand the importance of the letter of recommendation in the judicial clerkship process and are happy to help.  But remember, this is a time-consuming process and you are essentially asking your recommender for a favor.  Be polite, tactful and professional in requesting a letter of recommendation.  Although times have changed and email has become an acceptable method of requesting a letter of recommendation, you should still use formal and courteous language in requesting this favor.  Remember, how you ask for a letter of recommendation may be reflected in the letter of recommendation itself.  And remember, professors, judges and former employers are busy professionals.  Always give them plenty of time when possible. 

For more information on letters of recommendation, see the document by the same name on Symplicity and check out OSCAR Quick Reference Guide for Recommenders, which can be found on the Resources tab once you log on to OSCAR. 

We here in the Professional Development Office are hopeful that many of you will consider applying for these excellent opportunities and are here to help you navigate through the process and perfect your application materials.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work first for a federal district court judge and then an appellate court judge and I cannot emphasize enough how much of a valuable experience these clerkships were in my legal career.   If you have any questions about clerkships, I’m here.  Stop by or email me. 

Megan Green, Career Counselor, megan.green@law.utah.edu, 801-587-8317