Judicial Clerkships

A judicial clerkship is a highly regarded post-graduate job that lasts for a term (usually one or two years) and provides an excellent launch pad for competitive positions in both the private and public sectors. A judicial clerkship provides direct insight into the judicial process and is a valuable and enriching experience.

In fact, a clerkship is often considered a continuation of one's legal education, providing a recent law graduate with many of the tools necessary for a successful legal career The duties of a judicial clerk vary somewhat depending on the judge and the type of court in which he/she sits. Typical tasks, however, include:

  • reviewing pleadings and briefs
  • conducting legal research
  • writing memoranda, and drafting opinions and orders
  • editing, proofreading, and providing oral briefings to the Judge
  • observing court proceedings
  • providing other assistance to the Judge

Law clerks also are exposed to the methods and customs of practitioners, including the quality of their written work and oral advocacy skills. Many former law clerks find that the prestige and experience associated with service as a judicial law clerk broadens their future employment opportunities

OCPD Judicial Clerkship and Judicial Internship Guides


It is important for students to note that some federal and state court judges begin hiring as early as the 2L year, so it is never too early to begin thinking about and researching judicial clerkship opportunities. Judges throughout the country also hire experienced attorneys, therefore, there are many opportunities year-round for alumni who wish to pursue a judicial clerkship.



Choosing a Clerkship

There are hundreds of judicial clerkships available each year in federal and state court. Federal courts hear cases that involve matters of federal constitutional or statutory law, general common law cases arising under diversity jurisdiction, cases where the United States is a party, and cases involving bankruptcy, copyright, patent, and maritime law.  State courts, in contrast to federal courts, tend to have a broader variety of cases. Most criminal cases are heard in state court because most crimes are violations of state or local law. In addition to criminal cases, state courts also handle matters involving family law (including divorce and custody), trusts and estates, personal injury, contract disputes, and real estate disputes.

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  • Federal Court Clerkships

    Federal clerkships are generally considered the most competitive positions and require exceptional achievement in law school as well as great letters of recommendation. There are federal clerkship opportunities in the United States Courts of Appeal, United States District Courts (District and Magistrate Judges), United States Bankruptcy Courts, Administrative Law Judges, and specialty courts such as United States Claims Court, United States Tax Court, United States Court of Military Appeals, and United States Court of Veterans.

    Application Timing

    Understanding when to apply to individual federal judges can be a challenge. Judges do not articulate their preferences at the same time, so this information is not available all at once. The best resource for ascertaining when and where to apply is the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR): https://oscar.uscourts.gov/.  OSCAR is a web-based system for federal law clerk and appellate staff attorney recruitment. Applicants can research judges’ and staff attorney offices’ hiring practices and preferences, and timelines, and apply online to clerkship and staff attorney positions.

    In 2018, a federal law clerk hiring plan was adopted.  The Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan (“Plan”) is a hiring timeline and agreement some federal judges follow, which governs the hiring of second year law students. Participating judges agree that they will not consider candidates or make offers until mid-June in the summer following a student’s second year of law school.

    • The Plan is voluntary and it can be challenging to determine which judges follow it. Judges have the option in their OSCAR profile to indicate their hiring practices and preferences (which can include whether they follow the Plan).
    • OSCAR follows the Plan and judges who only accept applications via OSCAR by default follow the Plan.
    • Second year students are able to gain access to OSCAR early in their spring semester to create a profile, search for clerkship openings, and to build online applications. Applications from second year students will not be released by OSCAR until the Plan’s opening date in June of their 2L summer.
    • For more information on the Plan and OSCAR access dates for your class year, please visit: https://oscar.uscourts.gov/federal_law_clerk_hiring_pilot.

  • State Court Clerkships

    There are valuable clerkship opportunities in state supreme courts, state intermediate appellate courts, and state trial courts. A state court clerkship will provide you with a greater understating of state procedural and substantive law, and as most litigation is conducted in state court, unparalleled exposure into the litigation process. If you plan to work in the geographic location where you are clerking, the state court clerkship should be enormously valuable.

    Application Timing

    Deadlines for state clerkship applications are idiosyncratic. Each state has its own application procedures for its trial and appellate courts. Some state courts may accept applications as early as winter of your second year, and others as late as fall of your third year or even later.

    The Vermont Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures (https://secure.vermontlaw.edu/career/guides/ is an excellent resource for state court clerkship applications. It is a comprehensive guide to the procedures for applying for state court judicial clerkships at all levels in all 50 states and some U.S. territories. The site is password protected.  To obtain the login information, please contact the Office of Career and Professional Development at ocpd@law.miami.edu or 305-284-2668.

  • List of Judicial Clerkship Directories/Sites

For More Information

For students interested in working as a judicial law clerk after graduation, please contact Jorge Alejandro Galavis, Associate Director, Career Services jgalavis@law.miami.edu.