Clerkship Applications - OSCAR
Rising 3L students are encouraged to take advantage of the On-Line System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR). OSCAR is a web-based system that enables clerkship applicants to file applications and allows recommenders to file letters of recommendation on-line. Applicants will be able to sort and screen clerkships and designate the OSCAR-participant judges to whom they wish to apply. Judges may sort and screen the applications directed to them.
The ASL administrator for OSCAR may view student applicant information, assist with upload applicant documents, and coordinate the submission of faculty letters if needed. The ASL administrator may be contacted at career services.
Business Law Diversity Clerkship Program; The Business Law Diversity Clerkship Program encourages students to pursue business court clerkship opportunities and to consider careers in the practice of business law. In considering a student's diversity, the Section will give special consideration to individuals who have overcome social or economic disadvantages such as physical disability, financial constraints, or cultural impediments to becoming a law student. Up to nine interns will be given a summer stipend of $6,000 and placed in business court clerkships in the Philadelphia Commerce Court or the Delaware Court of Chancery. Other possible internship locations include New York and Florida. Applications for the 2010 program are available here. Please visit our website for more information.
What is a Judicial Clerkship? A judicial clerkship is a post-graduate position with a judge in which the law clerk works closely with the judge as an assistant handling his/her caseload. A clerkship offers a unique opportunity for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a judges chambers. You will learn first-hand about what a judge looks for in deciding a case, which will be incredibly valuable once you become a practitioner yourself.
Role of a Law Clerk: A law clerk is the Judge’s second-in-command. The law clerk is also the liaison between the judge and the attorneys/litigants. The duties of a clerk include conducting legal research, drafting bench memoranda for pretrial motions and advising the judge on resolution of these issues, and drafting opinions. Law clerks may also be responsible for various administrative and clerical duties.
Types of Clerkships: Clerkships are available on the federal and state level. Possibilities include: U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Appellate, Federal District Court, Federal Magistrate, State Supreme Court, State Appellate, State trial level. Most clerkship positions are temporary in nature. They last a term of one or two years depending on the judge. In some instances, however, judges or courts will employ “career” or “permanent” clerks.
The experience as a clerk varies greatly based on which court you choose, or which court chooses you. Clerkships such as those in the U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Appellate, State Supreme Court, and State Appellate court are all appeals courts. There are no trials that take place. Only appellate arguments are heard. Although these clerkships are prestigious, they are not as practical from a litigation standpoint as most attorneys make most of their appearances at the trial court level.These clerkships are also very slow paced, as the issues are very complex and require much research and analysis. At most, only about two hearings are scheduled each day. This leaves a great deal more time to conduct research and draft opinions.
-- Trial level clerkships, like Federal District Court and State trial level, however, are more fast-paced and involve the nuts and bolts of practice. You will see trials firsthand and learn the rules of evidence in a practical form. Hearings are scheduled throughout the day, especially at the state trial level. There is less time for analytical thinking, but more emphasis on litigation skills and motion practice.
-- Federal Magistrate clerkships are unique in that they are at the Federal trial level, but do not involve many trials. Instead, a federal magistrate is a judge paired with a Federal District court judge and will handle most of the initial motion practice for the Federal District judge. Federal Magistrate judges, unlike other federal judges, are not appointed for life. Rather, they serve a defined limited term, like six or eight years. However, many Federal Magistrate Judges are chosen to serve as Federal Judges based on their experience.
What does a Judge Look For in an Applicant? The short answer is: someone that the judge can get along with for the next year or two. A judge’s chamber is very small. At most there are only about five employees in the chambers between secretaries, court reporters and law clerks. Thus, the personality of the law clerk is critically important. A law clerk should be upbeat, friendly, and courteous.
In addition, other factors that a judge considers include: Law School attended, GPA, writing ability, references, and the geographical location where the applicant intends to settle after the clerkship. Sometimes, one stellar performance in any category may overcome limitations in other categories.
Should You Clerk? If you are interested in litigation and can afford to take a year at a reduced salary, you should absolutely clerk. A judicial clerkship is a fantastic experience. Not only will you be able to see the inner workings of the court room, you will become familiar with the court surroundings and no longer be intimidated by judges and clerks. You will have your judge as a mentor for the rest of your career. Additionally, you will be part of a professional network of the judge’s former law clerks, which will help you advance your career.
Finally, and perhaps most important, a clerkship serves as an excellent experience to add to your resume. Many law firms are impressed by clerkship experience and will often favor those applicants above others. Firms will reward former clerks by offering a clerkship bonus and even credit the clerk a year on the partnership track for the experience. For instance, if an attorney serves a one-year clerkship following graduation from law school, the firm may hire the attorney as a second-year associate following the clerkship.
What You Really Need to Know about Clerkships:
- A clerkship only makes sense if you are interested in Litigation. If you are interested in transactional work, it is not worth your time to lose a year working at a lower clerkship salary when you could be performing transactional work.
- Federal clerkships are very difficult to attain. You are competing against the top 10% at each law school and a judge will usually hire only one clerk per year. If you do not have stellar grades or come from a top 5 ranked law school, securing a federal clerkship will be difficult. Also, remember that a common trend nowadays is to work for a few years and then to apply for clerkships. So you are now also up against applicants who have work experience in addition to impressive resumes. If that is the case, you may be served by being more realistic and applying to state clerkships in the fall of your 3rd year while everyone else is applying to federal clerkships. You may get a jump on those applicants who are applying to state clerkships only as a fall back after being denied a federal clerkship.
- Apply Broadly. As we’ve said, securing a clerkship is very difficult. Apply to as many judges and locations as you can afford. It does not matter how many judges say no as long as you have at least one judge who says yes.
- Any clerkship is a valuable experience, but only the federal clerkships are impressive to employers out of state. So it only makes sense to apply to state clerkships in states in which you intend to practice following the clerkship.
- Only attend the interview if you are ready to accept the position. If a judge makes you an offer, you have, at most, 24 hours to accept. Thus, if you intend to apply to federal and state clerkships, be careful about interviewing for state clerkships before you hear from federal opportunities.
- If you are deciding between two comparable clerkship opportunities, remember that the two most important things in choosing a judge are: (1) Will the judge help you get a job following the clerkship? (2) Will the Judge serve as a reference for you?
- Federal Judiciary Online: This page, maintained by “Internships-USA,” is designed to give students access to the addresses of the federal bench. The addresses of over 2000 members of the federal judiciary are accessible from this site.