Make Your Clerkship Application Shine: Cover Letter

MapAlthough each judge will receive a personalized cover letter via the magic of mail merge, it is rather unrealistic to think that you’ll write a completely personal letter to each judge.

Name Drop If You Can

If you have a particular connection to a judge, you should mention it in the cover letter. Did you work closely over the summer with a law firm partner whose childhood best friend happens to be a federal judge?

This is the time to name drop (with permission, of course).

Tell the Judge Why You’re Applying

It’s advisable to offer some rationale for why you are applying for this particular clerkship, in terms of the type of court and the geographic location.

All of the judges in the Middle District of North Carolina, for example, might get a letter about your plans to be a litigator, your desire for hands-on experience in the federal trial courts, and your fond memories of childhood summers spent eating Lexington barbeque with your grandparents.

Or, if your fiancé has just gotten a great postdoc position at Caltech and you want to be a law professor, you should make these facts known to the judges sitting on the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena.

Keep It Simple and Answer Four Questions

The cover letter, while important, is formulaic. This is not your chance to write the great American novel.

You’re simply trying to answer four questions:

  • who are you?
  • what do you want?
  • why do you want it?
  • what information are you enclosing?
The Bottom Line

Keep it simple, and proofread!

How to Make Every Part of Your Clerkship Application Shine

Return to Judicial Clerkships 101.

Have questions on your clerkship cover letter? Leave them in the comments!

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