Judicial Clerkships

Judicial clerkships are a superb way to start a legal career. They provide law school graduates with many benefits, including the opportunity for a mentorship with a judge, exposure to, and a greater understanding of courtroom procedures, increased knowledge of state and/or federal laws, exposure to effective (and ineffective) oral arguments and written court pleadings. BYU Law School has established a Clerkship Committee to aid students in their efforts to obtain a clerkship. Numerous other resources are also available to enhance the ability of students to find a well-matched clerkship.

Types of Clerkships

Federal Court Clerkships (1-2 years)

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Circuit Court
  • U.S. District Court
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  • Delaware Court of Chancery
  • Other Specialty Courts
  • Administrative Law Judges

State Court Clerkships (1-2 years)

  • Appellate Court
  • Trial Court
  • Administrative Law Judges

 

Federal Circuit Court and District Court Clerkships

Clerkships with judges at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are among the most prestigious, followed closely by clerkships with judges in the U.S. District Courts.

 

Timeline for Applications

  • OSCAR:  Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (also known as OSCAR https://oscar.uscourts.gov/) opens in early February of a student’s 2L year.  Applications are released in June to participating judges. Information on the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan can be found here: https://oscar.uscourts.gov/federal_law_clerk_hiring_pilot.
  • Individual Judges: Not every judge follows the OSCAR timeline. Students should check directly with the court or judge in which they are interested for an application timeline. Judges who do not follow the OCSAR timeline accept applications earlier and interview earlier than the OSCAR timeline.
  • Typical Application Materials: See Tips for Success in Finding a Clerkship.
  • Interview Timing: Relatively soon after applications are released in OSCAR (for judges following the OSCAR timeline) or soon after applications are submitted to other judges.
  • Clerkship Offers: Typically, soon after interview is completed.
  • Accepting Offers: Shortly (often as soon as 24 hours) after offer is made. The norm is to accept the first offer received from a judge and not to leverage an offer from one judge to obtain an offer from another judge.

 

Sources for Clerkship Listing

  • OSCAR https://oscar.uscourts.gov/:  OSCAR is a web-based system for federal law clerk and appellate staff attorney recruitment. It contains information about who is hiring and takes and processes the requested application materials and related letters of recommendation.
  • U.S. Courts (www.uscourts.gov): Offers general information about the federal U.S. Courts, including; publications, directories, news, and information. Some judges do not post their clerkship openings in OSCAR. Students can search in U.S. Courts by selecting Careers and then selecting Search Judiciary Jobs and then inserting Law Clerk in the search by job title or keyword box. Some postings may be duplicates of OSCAR. The postings in U.S. Courts can be browsed by state, circuit, district, etc.

 

Other Sources of Information

  • Clerkship Committee: Members of the clerkship committee are ready, willing, and able to help all students seeking clerkships.
  • Professors, Alumni and Law Students: Professors and alumni who have clerked for a judge and law students who have accepted offers to clerk for a judge can provide a wealth of information for students seeking clerkships.
  • BYU Law School Judicial Law Clerks: A list of BYU Law school graduates who have served as judicial clerks can be found in the Linx Resource Library under Judicial Clerkships: Judicial Law Clerks 2010-present.
  • The Federal Judicial Center (FJC) (www.fjc.gov): The FJC website contains the Federal Judges Biographical Database, which can be used to create customized lists of judges based on multiple categories, including nominating president, type of court, dates of service and demographic groups.

 

Other Federal Court Clerkships

The federal court system has numerous courts and clerkship positions, and many of these clerkships have served as a steppingstone for various legal careers. Specialty courts also provide opportunities to develop expertise in specialized legal practices.

 

Sources for Clerkship Listing

  • U.S. Tax Court Law Clerk Program (https://www.ustaxcourt.gov/law_clerk_program.html: The U.S. Tax Court Law Clerk Program website contains information on working as a law clerk in the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, D.C. The link to Judges who are currently recruiting clerks can be found under the “Application Procedure” title.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (https://www.armfor.uscourts.gov/newcaaf/home.htm): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty and others who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military J​_ustice. Posted clerkships can be found under the “Employment” link in the sidebar.
  • U.S. Department of Justice – Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) (https://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-immigration-court-listing): The EOIR website provides information on the Immigration Court at large plus the states which have immigration courts and their contact information including address, judges, etc.

 

State Court Clerkships

Many states offer clerkships at both appellate and trial court levels. These opportunities allow the clerk to gain experience and inside knowledge of the state court system as well as make helpful and important network connections. You may want to consider seeking a clerkship in the state where you ultimately want to practice.

 

Timeline for Applications

  • Applications: Judges will post information on when they are accepting applications, what application materials they would like to receive and the clerkship timeframe.  Typically, clerkships start in August, September, or January.
  • Typical Application Materials: See What a Clerkship Application Looks Like from the Tips for Success in Finding a Clerkship.
  • Interview Timing: Relatively soon after application submitted to judge.
  • Clerkship Offers: Typically, soon after interview is completed.
  • Accepting Offers: Shortly (often as soon as 24 hours) after offer is made. The norm is to accept the first offer received from a judge and not to leverage an offer from one judge to obtain an offer from another judge.

 

Sources for Job Listing

 

Tips for Success in Finding a Clerkship

Finding a clerkship can require significant time and effort, but the benefits a clerkship provides are well worth the effort. Having knowledge of the application timeline, materials required for a clerkship application and working with the clerkship committee on interview preparation will contribute to the student being a successful candidate.

Be prepared to fund your own travel to your judge’s office for the interview. Historically, almost all clerkship interviews occurred in the judge’s offices. While the 2020 summer brought online interviews into vogue, be aware that this may change.

What A Clerkship Application Looks Like

Cover Letter:  A semi-targeted cover letter is the most effective means to clear the hurdle of getting an interview for a clerkship. Prepare your cover letter based on the research of the judge that you are applying to.

Resume: A professional and fully vetted resume is critical. Your Career Advisor and one or more members of the Judicial Clerkship Committee can help with a resume review.

BYU Law Transcript: Be prepared with all other application materials so that as soon as your newest transcript is available, your applications can be submitted. Some judges may also require an undergraduate transcript.

Writing Sample: Your writing sample should showcase you as a skilled writer and editor.

  • Best:  Academic research
  • Supplemental: Briefs and other legal materials

Letters of Recommendation: Two to three letters of recommendation will be required.

  • Best:  Law professors
  • Supplemental: Judges (if you have externed at a court) or a supervisor from legal job or internship)

 

Successful Preparation to Obtain a Clerkship

Start Early: Begin during your 1L year to lay the groundwork for your clerkship applications.

  • Develop relationships with professors. A professor will not be willing to submit a letter of recommendation for a student seeking a clerkship if the professor does not have a relationship with that student. Working with a professor as a research assistant or teaching assistant is an excellent way to build a relationship. Some professors require you to work on projects with them as a determining factor on whether they will provide a letter of recommendation.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Clerkship positions are very competitive, and while you should reach for the highest possible clerkship in your area of interest, you should also do your research to find a position that will be the best fit for you.

Select Your Target Judges:

  • For federal court clerkships, throw a wide net and apply to less competitive markets. The value and prestige of federal court clerkships follow you regardless of the location.
  • For state court clerkships, target states in which you are most likely to practice and/or have great connections. The value and prestige of state court clerkships tend to be most relevant in specific geographic markets.
  • Target judges who have hired BYU law school graduates.  Here is a link to the list of BYU law school graduates who have obtained clerkships (Judicial Law Clerks 2010-present) in Linx.

Consider a Second Clerkship:  Obtaining one clerkship will often make you more competitive for a subsequent, more prestigious, clerkship the following year. After securing an offer for your first clerkship, continue to apply to more prestigious clerkships for the following year.

Do Your Research: Use available resources to learn about clerkships in general and about specific judges.

  • Talk to one or more members of the Clerkship Committee. They will help you through the application process. The better they know you, the more they can help you.
  • Reach out to current students and alumni who are planning to do, or who have done clerkships. They are a good source of information about judges and what they look for in their clerks.
  • Use the Judicial Clerkship Resources in Linx.

Apply Broadly: Every state has awesome opportunities and you never know where your application might be accepted.

Vet Your Resume: Vet your resume with Karen Andrews and/or another member of the Clerkship Committee.

Target Your Cover Letter: Do your research – and then apply that research to prepare a targeted cover letter.

Prepare for Your Interview:

  • Arrange mock interviews with the Clerkship Committee and your Career Advisor.
  • Members of the Clerkship Committee expect to provide mock interviews to every BYU Law student who receives an invitation to interview for a judicial clerkship of any kind.
  • As soon as you are notified of an invitation to interview for a judicial clerkship, notify the Clerkship Committee and arrange for a mock interview.

The BYU Law School Clerkship committee presently includes: Professors Brook Gotberg (chair), Dane Thorley, Brigham Daniels and Lucy Williams, Dean Shannon Grandy and Karen Andrews. The mission of this committee is to assist students in obtaining clerkships. Members of this committee can help the applicant in numerous ways, including help with the decision on which courts and judges to target, preparation of application materials, and preparing for interviews.