What is a Judicial Clerkship and Why Should You Consider Applying?

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A judicial clerkship is a prestigious opportunity for recent law school graduates to work closely with a judge, gaining invaluable experience and insight into the legal system. Clerks are essentially legal assistants to judges, performing a wide range of tasks such as researching cases, drafting opinions, and providing general support. If you are a law student or recent graduate considering your next career move, a judicial clerkship is an option worth exploring.

What Does a Judicial Clerkship Entail?

Judicial clerks work directly with judges, assisting them in their daily responsibilities. The specific duties of a clerk may vary depending on the court and the judge, but generally include conducting legal research, preparing bench memoranda, drafting orders and opinions, proofreading and editing the judge’s orders and opinions, assisting with case management, and communicating with attorneys and other court staff.

Clerks have the unique opportunity to observe and participate in the judicial decision-making process, gaining exposure to a wide range of legal issues. This hands-on experience provides valuable insights into the inner workings of the court system and helps clerks develop a deep understanding of the law.

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Benefits of a Judicial Clerkship

Completing a judicial clerkship offers numerous benefits for recent law school graduates. One of the most significant advantages is the opportunity to develop a close working relationship with a judge who can serve as a mentor and provide guidance throughout your career. Clerks also have the chance to strengthen their legal research and writing skills, which are essential for success in any legal career.

In addition to skill development, judicial clerkships provide exposure to a variety of legal issues and cases, allowing clerks to gain a broad understanding of different areas of law. Clerks also have the opportunity to network with other clerks, attorneys, and court staff, building professional relationships that can be valuable throughout their careers.

Perhaps most importantly, a judicial clerkship can be an excellent stepping stone to a successful legal career. The experience and skills gained during a clerkship can make you a more competitive candidate for future job opportunities, whether you plan to work in private practice, government, or academia.

Types of Judicial Clerkships

Judicial clerkships are available at both the federal and state level, as well as in specialty courts. Federal clerkships are positions with judges in the federal court system, including the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, and District Courts. State clerkships, on the other hand, are with judges in state court systems, which vary in structure from state to state.

Specialty court clerkships are available with judges in courts that focus on specific areas of law, such as bankruptcy courts, tax courts, or international trade courts. These clerkships can be particularly appealing for law graduates with an interest in a specific legal specialty.

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Applying for a Judicial Clerkship

The process of applying for a judicial clerkship can be competitive and time-consuming, but the rewards are well worth the effort. To increase your chances of success, it’s important to research judges and courts that interest you and align with your career goals. You’ll need to prepare a strong application package, including a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and transcripts, and secure letters of recommendation from law school professors and employers who can speak to your qualifications.

When applying, it’s essential to apply early and widely, as competition can be fierce. Tailor your applications to each judge and court, highlighting your qualifications and interest in their specific work. If you are selected for an interview, prepare by practicing common questions and researching the judge and court.


A judicial clerkship is an incredibly rewarding experience for law school graduates looking to gain hands-on experience in the legal system. Clerks have the opportunity to work closely with judges, develop their legal skills, and network with other legal professionals. While the application process can be competitive, the benefits of a clerkship can have a lasting impact on your career. If you’re considering your next move after law school, a judicial clerkship is definitely an option worth exploring.

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