A judicial clerkship provides direct insight into the judicial process and is a valuable and enriching experience. A clerkship is a continuation of one's legal education, providing the recent law graduate with many of the tools necessary for a successful legal career. A law clerk gains practical experience by:
- Attending judicial proceedings
- Performing legal research
- Drafting memoranda
- 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. Many former law clerks find the prestige and experience associated with service as a judicial law clerk broadens their future employment opportunities.
It is important for students to note that some federal and state court judges begin hiring as early as fall or spring of 2L year, so it is never too early to begin thinking about and researching judicial clerkship opportunities. Judges throughout the country have also begun hiring experienced attorneys in recent years, and therefore there are many opportunities year-round for alumni who wish to pursue a judicial clerkship.
The New Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan And How It May Affect You
In February 2018, a group of federal judges announced a new law clerk hiring plan. While the parameters and timing of the new hiring process have been laid out, the potential effects are still largely unclear. The classes of 2020 and 2021 are the classes immediately affected by the new hiring plan.
A New Plan
Since the breakdown of the last federal clerkship hiring plan in 2014, there has been no coordinated effort among federal judges to organize clerkship hiring procedures. In response to concerns from law school faculty and deans, the Chief Judges of the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Seventh, Ninth and DC Circuits developed a new two-year pilot Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan, which was announced through OSCAR in February of 2018.
Here's an Overview of the Plan:
For students who entered law school in 2017 (graduating class of 2020)
Judges will not seek or accept formal or informal clerkship applications, seek or accept formal or informal recommendations, conduct formal or informal interviews, or make formal or informal offers before June 17, 2019.
For students who enter law school in 2018 (graduating class of 2021)
Judges will not seek or accept formal or informal clerkship applications, seek or accept formal or informal recommendations, conduct formal or informal interviews, or make formal or informal offers before June 15, 2020.
A judge who makes a clerkship offer will keep it open for at least 48 hours, during which time the applicant will be free to interview with other judges.
This is a two-year pilot plan. Participating judges will reconsider their participation after June 2020.
OSCAR Access Dates
To compliment the two-year pilot Law Clerk Hiring Plan established by the Ad Hoc Committee on Law Clerk Hiring, access to OSCAR will be as follows:
Class of 2020
Students will gain access to OSCAR on February 6, 2019 to register for an account, upload documents, search for clerkship positions, and build online applications. The system will store these applications and release them to judges on June 17, 2019.
Class of 2021
Students will gain access to OSCAR on February 5, 2020 to register for an account, upload documents, search for clerkship positions, and build online applications. The system will store these applications and release them to judges on June 15, 2020.
Which Judges are Participating?
The new federal law clerk hiring plan is completely voluntary: individual judges or groups of judges may choose to participate but are not required to do so. As of now, the DC Circuit, First Circuit ("majority" of judges), Second Circuit, Third Circuit, Seventh Circuit, Ninth Circuit, District of Connecticut, and District of Massachusetts will participate. It is unclear at this time whether the district, magistrate, and bankruptcy court judges within the above circuits will also be signing on. We expect judges in other circuits will also elect to participate in the new hiring plan in the coming months. We will continue to keep you updated on the judges who sign on and any other developments related to the new plan.
Choosing a Clerkship
There are hundreds of judicial clerkships available each year in federal and state court. With regards to subject matter, the caseload in federal court will involve issues dealing with federal constitutional and statutory law. A number of general common law cases arising under diversity jurisdiction will also form part of a federal judge's docket. State courts, in contrast to federal courts, tend to have a broader variety of cases. A state court clerk may research issues ranging from child custody or involuntary manslaughter to water rights and contracts.
Federal Court Clerkships: Federal judicial clerkship opportunities include 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, United States Court of Veterans Appeals and United States Court of International Trade. The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) is helpful in researching judges who are hiring clerks (however, not all federal judges participate on OSCAR).
State Court Clerkships: State court clerkship opportunities include Highest State Courts, Intermediate Appellate Courts and Trial Courts. For more information on applying to state court clerkships, please see the Vermont Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures available online and in the Career Development Office Resource Room. For online login information, please contact the Career Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-284-2668.
List of Judicial Clerkship Directories/Sites
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida: List of active civil, criminal, probate and family circuit court judges of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida located in Miami. Click on "Judges' Directory" to view judges.
Florida State Court Jobs: Provides information on available positions throughout the Florida state court system.
Insight and Inside Information for Select State Court Clerkships: This NALP guide provides specific information about state court clerkships and should be read in conjunction with the Vermont Guide to State Judicial Clerkships listed below.
The National Center for State Courts: Site dedicated to information about state courts. Links to employment opportunities at state courts around the country are available at www.ncsc.org/Education-and-Careers/Jobs.aspx.
OSCAR Online Judicial Database: Allows prospective applicants to search for available clerkships.
State of Florida Third District Court of Appeals: List of active judges in the Third District Court of Appeals, located in Miami. Click on "Judges" link on the left hand side of the page for the list.
United States District Court, S.D.FL: List of active Senior District, District and Magistrate Judges in the Southern District of Florida. These judges sit in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach.
Vermont Guide to State Judicial Clerkships: 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. For login information, please contact email@example.com or call 305-284-2668.
For More Information
For students interested in working as a judicial law clerk after graduation, please contact the Karen Warren, Director of Judicial Clerkships, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (305) 284-2668