A law clerk hiring plan that makes the judicial clerkship hiring process more transparent and uniform is being extended for two more years.
The Judiciary’s Federal Law Clerk Hiring Pilot Plan will run through June 2022 after receiving positive reviews from both law school deans and judges, according to a press release by the United States Courts.
“The plan gives us the opportunity to see a larger universe of applicants and ensures that we are better able to evaluate them,” according to Judge Merrick B. Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who also sits on the committee that composed the hiring plan. “It also provides more equal opportunities for students whose parents are not white-collar professionals and hence do not have as good information about the value of clerking or the process of applying.”
Law clerks are responsible for directly assisting judges in legal matters, such as drafting motions and opinion
The hiring process for law clerks is done through an online database, called the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR), that allows candidates to upload their applications and send them to all judges who they are interested in clerking for. Participating judges receive applications and are given 24-hours to review them prior to the interview process. Additionally, the process also delays clerkship hiring of students until after their second year of law school – an important feature that makes the hiring process more efficient.
“By not beginning the hiring process until after a law student’s second year, we can effectively reduce the pressure that clerkship applications would add to the already pressured first year, and give students time to work with professors, write for law journals, and participate in other law school activities,” Garland says.
Supporters of the Pilot Plan argue that it offers a more diverse pool of applicants for clerkship hiring.
“Law school deans have told me that the plan has led to a more diverse pool of applicants and has helped level the playing field, especially as to those law students who enter law school without any background in the law and really shine in their second year of law school,” Garland says.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, all clerkship interviewing has been done remotely with remote audio and video conferencing – which has brought great accessibility to the hiring process for both judges and applicants. Officials say these features will continue to be developed in the future.
“The plan’s use of online applications and remote interviewing has proved essential in conducting clerkship hiring during the pandemic and will help reduce the travel costs that applicants incur with in-person interviewing well beyond the pandemic,” James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, says.