Judicial Clerkships: I Didn’t Get a Clerkship, Now What?

No Entry SignApplying for a clerkship can be one of the most fraught experiences of law school. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

You’re Not Alone

Plenty of talented, well-qualified people apply for clerkships each year, and come up empty handed.

You Still Have Options

If this happens to you, all is not lost.

  • If you’re really serious about clerking immediately upon graduation, keep applying, Federal courts no longer have strict application deadlines, although there is a pilot program returning for the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. However, deadlines are still mostly rolling and based on the individual hiring practices of each judge. Also be sure to not solely focus on federal clerkships and expand your search to State or international tribunals.
  • Speak with your recommenders and the clerkship office to see if they are aware of judges that have not yet hired and may still be taking applications.
  • If nothing turns up, you have the option to apply as a graduate, rather than as a 3L, which can be very beneficial for federal clerkships. Once you’re outside of the hiring guidelines, you can apply whenever you like. More and more judges are interested in hiring clerks with some work experience, so you can snag a job before the 3L applicants can even submit applications. Is this fair? Probably not, but rules are rules — you may as well use them to your advantage.
The Bottom Line

I personally know many extremely qualified people who didn’t get clerkships when they initially applied. Most of them, in fact, didn’t even get interviews the first time around.

But they persisted — by making connections with professors and mentors, improving their academic credentials, and applying the next year — and they eventually got amazing jobs with fantastic judges.

It’s possible, so don’t throw in the towel if you really want to clerk.

Return to Judicial Clerkships 101.

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