The Ultimate Guide to Applying for Judicial Clerkships

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Judicial clerkships are highly competitive positions that offer invaluable experience for aspiring lawyers. Landing a clerkship can be a challenging process, but with the right preparation and strategy, you can increase your chances of success. In this ultimate guide, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to apply for judicial clerkships and stand out from the competition.

Research and Identify Clerkship Opportunities

The first step in applying for judicial clerkships is to research and identify available opportunities. Start by visiting the websites of the courts you’re interested in and looking for information on their clerkship programs. You can also use online resources like OSCAR (Online System for Clerkship Application and Review) to search for federal clerkships, and state court websites for state clerkships.

When researching clerkships, consider factors like the type of court, the judge’s background and legal philosophy, the location, and the duration of the clerkship. Make a list of the clerkships that align with your interests and career goals, and prioritize them based on your preferences.

Prepare Your Application Materials

Once you’ve identified the clerkships you want to apply for, it’s time to prepare your application materials. Most clerkship applications require the following:

  1. Cover letter
  2. Resume
  3. Writing sample
  4. Transcripts
  5. Letters of recommendation

Your cover letter should be tailored to each specific clerkship and should highlight your qualifications, interests, and reasons for applying. Your resume should be clear, concise, and highlight your relevant experience and achievements.

Your writing sample should be a piece of legal writing that showcases your analytical and writing skills. Choose a sample that is recent, relevant to the clerkship, and your best work. If you have multiple writing samples, consider tailoring your selection to the specific judge or court.

Transcripts and letters of recommendation round out your application package. Make sure to request transcripts and letters of recommendation well in advance of the application deadline to allow sufficient time for processing and submission.

Network and Seek Advice

Networking and seeking advice from others can be valuable in the clerkship application process. Reach out to professors, mentors, and alumni who have completed clerkships to get their insights and advice. They may be able to provide guidance on the application process, suggest specific judges or courts to apply to, or even put in a good word for you with a judge they know.

Attend clerkship information sessions and events hosted by your law school or legal organizations. These events can provide valuable information about the application process and allow you to connect with judges, current clerks, and other applicants.

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Apply Early and Broadly

When it comes to applying for judicial clerkships, it’s important to apply early and broadly. Many judges begin accepting applications and conducting interviews well in advance of the start of the clerkship term, so it’s important to get your application in as early as possible.

It’s also a good idea to apply to a range of clerkships, even if some may be a bit of a reach. Remember, clerkships are highly competitive, and it’s better to have multiple options than to put all your eggs in one basket.

Prepare for Interviews

If you’re selected for an interview, congratulations! This means that your application has stood out from the competition. To prepare for your interview, research the judge and the court, and be prepared to discuss your qualifications, interests, and career goals.

Practice common interview questions with a friend or mentor, and be prepared to discuss your writing sample and any other materials you submitted with your application. Dress professionally and arrive early to allow plenty of time to get situated and calm your nerves.

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Follow Up and Be Persistent

After your interview, be sure to send a thank-you note to the judge and any other court staff you met with. If you don’t hear back right away, don’t be discouraged. The clerkship hiring process can take time, and judges may be interviewing multiple candidates.

If you’re not selected for a clerkship, don’t give up. Consider applying again in the future, and use the experience to refine your application materials and interview skills.


Applying for judicial clerkships can be a challenging process, but with the right preparation and strategy, you can increase your chances of success. By researching clerkship opportunities, preparing strong application materials, networking and seeking advice, applying early and broadly, preparing for interviews, and following up after your interview, you’ll be well on your way to landing your dream clerkship.

Remember, a judicial clerkship is an incredible opportunity to gain hands-on legal experience, work closely with a judge, and set yourself up for a successful career in the law. With persistence and dedication, you can make your clerkship dreams a reality.

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