By jessie kornberg • October 31, 2007•Internships and Clerkships
No this is not a post encouraging you to break the rules and apply early. But just because your clerkship application isn't due until the fall of your 3L year doesn't mean you don't need to think about it now. A clerkship application consists of a cover letter, resume, transcript, writing sample and letter of recommendation. They all require forethought. Here are the steps 2Ls need to take now to be well positioned to apply next year:
Transcript: Yes you need strong grades, but that's not all. Try and take challenging classes, i.e. not too many "Law ands." (No judgment here about these courses, but because they are usually small and not subject to grading curves, grades from these courses will be given less weight. In addition, the subjects covered are less likely to be applicable to the work of a judicial clerk than say Employment Law.) Also, try to take a class with a substantial writing requirement-that will lay the ground work for a writing sample and a recommendation. If you clerk you will need to take federal courts. Many wait until after the application process to enroll in the course, but at least consider taking it as a 2L-it will give you a better understanding of the issues federal clerks are dealing with, and give you a background for the kind of writing sample you'll want to generate.
Writing Sample: Ideally a writing sample is 10-20 pages long, involving a constitutional or at least federal issue. Practical documents (i.e. memos, mock opinions, briefs) are best for district courts, while academic writing is more useful in the appellate application process. Be thinking about how you will generate the right sample as you register for classes and consider summer jobs. I did not participate in clinical courses or mock trial, so I had to generate the right kind of piece during my 2L summer.
Recommendations: You need to develop relationships with professors. Getting the top grade in a lecture is not a relationship. Not even if you've asked questions of the professor outside of class. Take a seminar, write a supervised comment, organize lunch for three students and a favorite professor. Choose your professor wisely-look to see if they've clerked, if so for whom. Look for recommenders who have connections with judges. Be up front with these professors. They should have spent enough time talking to you to know that clerking is among your personal goals.
Resume & Cover Letter: OK I lied-you don't actually need to worry about your resume and cover letter yet. I'll be sure to post advice over the summer regarding common pitfalls though, so stayed tuned.