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Many law students aspire to become judicial clerks. Aside from the prestige, it can lead to great career opportunities. But clerkships are extremely competitive.  How can you maximize your chances of success? Read on and find out.

The clerkship hiring process is cyclical. Currently, according to the experts, it is in a state of non-regulation.  Practically, that means that the process of applying for clerkships is much less predictable than it was 10 or 20 years ago. That said, the judiciary has not suffered from the same shrinkage of positions that top law firms have, so clerkships are still very desirable. What does this all add up to? A highly competitive landscape for clerkships, that’s what. So if you’re planning to apply to law school, what can you do to make yourself more attractive to judges and more likely to land a clerkship before graduating?

Your preparation begins long before you apply.  Clerkships take into account all of your previous work experience, including internships and jobs.  If you have prior experience in government or in clerical work, that helps.  If you have demonstrated an interest in administrative or criminal law, that helps too. If you are still in school when you apply, include any future positions you have accepted (e.g., “prospective summer associate”).  If you have already graduated from law school and have a job, that can actually be an advantage! Incoming law clerks who have prior federal experience may be eligible to match their highest previous rate of federal pay within the grade for which they qualify. 

Note that not all classes are created equal. Although it’s very important to have strong grades overall if you plan to land a clerkship, it is extra important to have strong grades in classes taught by professors with ties to judges.

Be flexible in where you apply, and when. Many students struggle to find a clerkship because they are too restrictive in where they are willing to live. Be as flexible as possible when it comes to location; there are judges everywhere in America. If you cannot be flexible with your location, for example for family reasons, then at least offer flexibility in terms of timing. One of the unusual things about clerkships is that they hire years in advance, so you might be applying this year for a job three years from now. The more you can hold open future years, the more likely you are to get a position. By the way, this does not just apply to when you are in law school. Even after you graduate, you have anywhere from 3 to 5 years to continue applying to clerkships, which means your flexibility may extend even further than that. Think about it!

Make sure your applications are perfect. There are many things you’re not going to be able to control by the time you’re actually applying: your grades, your work history, your relationships. But there still a lot of things you can control.  Have you checked and double checked for typos? Have you really thought about and personalized your cover letter? People read them! Highlight relevant experience in your resume, particularly if you have more content than fits easily on a single page.

For more info check out these useful posts as well, or contact us.