A judicial clerkship is designed to show students how the law translates into real world action. Not only does it enhance legal writing and research skills, but it confers a prestige and network that opens doors at top firms – and beyond.
Julie Ketover, a contributor at U.S. News & World Report, recently discussed some of the benefits of a clerkship and how students can best position themselves to secure one.
Benefits of a Clerkship
A number of law grads cite judicial clerkships as the experience that led them to decide what area of the law they wanted to eventually practice.
In a blog post for Carlton Fields, associate Nick Brown says that clerkships gave him the opportunity to see a wide variety of cases from criminal to family law.
“Working on a tremendous range of cases helped me determine firsthand what I might want to work on long term and gave me real, broad experience,” he says. “By the time I left my clerkship, I had dabbled in nearly every area of law that a state court can address.”
Additionally, Ketover says that clerkships offer students valuable mentorship from judges that often evolve into life-long bonds.
For Brown, he says his clerkship experience enabled him to directly work with judges rather than through attorneys – an important difference.
“While there is also much to be gained by starting out in private practice, there you learn from attorneys who tell you what will matter to judges,” he says. “With a clerkship, you have the amazing opportunity to skip the middleman and learn directly from the judge.”
Ketover says these relationships are resources that students can tap into anytime in their career. She also notes that clerkships serve as impressive credentials that follow you throughout your professional life.
Talk to Recent Clerks
One of the best ways to understand the benefits of a clerkship is to talk to those who went through it. Ketover advises applicants to reach out to law students who are currently clerking or former clerks to hear about their experiences.
“Consider questions such as: What does the day-to-day life of a clerk look like? How have the experiences of your clerkship supported you in your legal career? What have been the most valuable takeaways from your clerkship experience?” Ketover writes.
Keep Your Grades Up
Clerkships generally require that applicants maintain stellar academic portfolios. As an undergraduate, applicants should boast strong grades if they hope to secure clerkships after law school.
“Clerkship opportunities abound, but the better your grades at the higher-ranked schools, the better your chances of securing more prestigious federal court clerkships,” Ketover writes.
Choose The Right Law School
Any law school can prepare you for clerkships. According to Ketover, attending a prestigious law school can open the doors to federal, appellate, and Supreme Court clerkships.
“Prestigious clerkship opportunities are far more accessible to graduates of top-tier law schools who have performed well at those schools,” Ketover writes. “This isn’t to say that you cannot get a federal court clerkship at a lower-ranked school; it is simply harder.”