Ms. JD Staff

My First Year as…a District Court Law Clerk

This is the fourth "My First Year..." post. Each month we feature interviews with women as they begin putting their JDs to work in a variety of fields all over the country.  Today we bring you the interview of a federal district court clerk.

How did you decide to pursue this position--was this something you envisioned yourself doing when you applied to law school, or was this something you learned about in school or during your summer?

I had not planned on clerking, I had always envisioned going directly into private practice.  But after hearing the complaints of recent grads that they spent their first year in private practice doing boring things like doc review, I thought clerking would be a great way to short circuit that year: take a pay cut, but get to work on a huge volume and array of cases that I would never get exposure to in my first year at a firm.  Clerking also offered a great way to break into a different city where my school didn’t have strong ties to firms in the area.

Is there anything you could have done in law school (or the summers between law school) that would have better prepared you for your position?

Take more procedure classes!  Specifically civil procedure. And, I wish I had done more of the Lexis and West Law classes.   I blew most of them off, and now wish I hadn’t.  I am very glad I was on a journal, being forced to use the blue book past my first year writing class definitely helped.

What advice would you give to someone looking find a position like yours and succeed in it?

Chambers are flooded with applications, and it is a fine line to walk making sure your application stands out from the rest, but not too far from the rest.  Paper that reeks of cologne or perfume (or worse, cigarette smoke) is not a good idea. Those applications are destined for the recycle bin. 

Put something interesting about yourself in your application and try to be specific; think about who you would want to be stuck in a small office with all day – the kid with a 4.0 but put nothing interesting down or enjoys hiking/running/reading/or some other generic hobby or the 3.7 who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro or did the NY and Boston marathon or started a book club in law school? 

It seems obvious to say “make sure there are no mistakes,” but trust me, make sure someone with a very critical eye reviews everything you send to chambers.  Don’t assume your own eagle eye caught everything.

Being pleasant and interesting in the interview seems obvious too, but again…  If your school does mock interviews, sign up, do not assume you don’t need the help.  Being able to say something intelligent about the court, judge, and possibly even the clerks is mandatory.

As for succeeding at it, be prepared to work some long hours.  Be prepared to be overwhelmed and get used to juggling a lot of things all at once.  Continue being pleasant and interesting, and very respectful to EVERYONE in the courthouse.

Like this post? Check out our previous posts:

My First Year as . . . a Federal Court of Appeals Law Clerk

My First Year as . . . an Associate at a Small Law Firm

My First Year . . . as a Biglaw Associate in Boston

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