The Texas Tech University School of Law encourages all of its students to consider pursuing a judicial clerkship. Many Tech professors and alumni have served as clerks to federal and state judges around the country. The faculty at the Judicial Clerkship Committee and the Career Services Office hope this web site and the listed Internet links will help you decide if a clerkship is for you, and if it is, what steps you should take to improve your chances of securing a clerkship.
What is a Judicial Clerkship?
A judicial clerkship is typically a one- or two-year position in the chambers of a judge. A judicial clerk -- sometimes called law clerk, clerk, or briefing attorney -- serves, essentially, as a judge's attorney-assistant, and judges typically rely a great deal on the counsel of their clerks. Clerks therefore have great responsibility and an unparalleled opportunity for learning. A judicial clerkship can be a valuable stepping-stone for one's career. Judicial clerks can learn a great deal from closely working with a distinguished member of the legal profession.
What will I gain from a Judicial Clerkship?
Usually a judge develops an affinity for his or her clerks, and eagerly serves as a mentor thereafter. A law clerk gains a unique and invaluable perspective on the law and judicial decision-making process that ordinarily takes years of practice to develop. Not surprisingly, employers place a premium on that experience and perspective.
What will I do as a Judicial Clerk?
A judicial clerkship is an intensive period of post-graduate education. There are a wide variety of courts, and the work varies widely as well. Typically, clerks read briefs, attend court proceedings, write bench memoranda analyzing parties' arguments, advise the judge on the disposition of a case, and draft opinions. Consequently, a clerk benefits by thoroughly learning specific areas of the law, free from the pressures of advocacy and billable hours. As clerks learn to prepare their judges, their written and verbal communication skills become much clearer and more concise. Moreover, good and bad advocacy becomes readily apparent after pouring over mountains of briefs and attending oral arguments. Procedure becomes second nature, rather than being ingrained after costly mistakes.
How do I find a Judicial Clerkship?
Searching for a clerkship is sometimes an overwhelming, confusing and complicated enterprise. It need not be. You simply need to ask yourself the right questions: To which judges should I apply? And to how many? To begin, you need to gather enough information to organize your search.
Some students seek out particular judges; others want to clerk in a particular court or geographic location. Clerkships with well-known judges tend to be highly competitive. On the other hand, if intending to establish a geographic connection to a particular city, you might focus your search on both federal and state judges in that area. With respect to post-clerkship employment, a clerkship in the geographic area you intend to practice could provide the open door and connections to begin your career there. The key is to remain flexible and open-minded because numerous clerkship opportunities may become available, including those with bankruptcy judges and federal magistrates as well.
In finding a clerkship, class standing is a factor, but not the only factor. Nevertheless, you should be realistic in focusing your search to those clerkships for which you will be most competitive. This usually depends upon a number of factors such as the courts' geography, jurisdiction, and level of review.
Will I Enjoy Being a Judicial Clerk?
A judicial clerkship is, almost invariably, an enormously enjoyable way to spend a year or two as a newly-minted lawyer. Talk to people who have clerked; you will rarely hear a complaint. Rather, many former clerks will say that clerking was the most interesting job of their career. Moreover, many former clerks view their co-clerks, judge, and the judicial staff as a chambers family, with whom they remain personally close for years after the clerkship has ended. Even if you don't anticipate being a litigator, or even if you don't envision yourself practicing law, you should consider a clerkship as an end in itself. Work that is both intellectually challenging and of enormous public consequence is rare to come by in any field, and at any stage of one's career.
Judicial Clerkship Resources
- Federal Law Clerk Information System
Searchable and comprehensive, but rarely updated, database of available federal clerkships. The user can search by court (from magistrate to circuit court) and federal circuit.
- Contact information for each judge and that judge's requirements can be found here
Includes critical dates for law clerk hiring plan.
- Senate Judiciary Nominations Central Web Page
Lists the latest nominations for all federal benches.
- Duke University School of Law
Duke's career services page on judicial clerkships briefly describes the selection process and the steps a student should take when deciding whether a clerkship is best suited to one's interests.
- University of Michigan Law School
Probably the most comprehensive Web site for information on judicial clerkships at all levels, it lists names of current nominees and their status and the addresses for confirmed nominations. The Judicial Clerkship Handbook provided by the University of Michigan Law School also provides a wealth of information for anyone considering applying for a clerkship. The handbook can be obtained through this Web site.
- Baylor Law School
Provides information on Texas state court positions.