I Didn’t Get a Clerkship! Now What?

Fairuz AbdullahToday, we’re thrilled to welcome back Fairuz Abdullah, Associate Director for Public Interest and Clerkship Programs at UC-Hastings School of Law. In Fairuz’s first post, she talked about what the future holds for 2L applicants. Now she’s back to address a question on many minds — what should you do if you didn’t immediately get a clerkship offer when the window opened for 2L applicants?

Without further ado, here’s Fairuz.

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What Does the Future Look Like for Rising 2L Judicial Clerkship Applicants?

Fairuz AbdullahAs long-time readers of The Girl’s Guide know, we’re huge proponents of judicial clerkships. But the world has gotten a lot more complex since most of our original clerkship content was published. The hiring plan is a mess, and no one’s quite sure what’s going on.

That’s why we’re so thrilled to have Fairuz Abdullah, Associate Director for Public Interest and Clerkship Programs at UC-Hastings School of Law, here to talk about 2L clerkship hiring!

Without further ado, here’s Fairuz.

Since the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan crashed and burned earlier this year, there is uncertainty about what judges will do starting today when rising 2Ls can begin submitting applications to judges through the Online System of Application and Review, better known as OSCAR.

Word on the street is that judges will most likely be sipping Mai Tais on a beach during the August vacation season rather than reviewing clerkship applications from 2Ls.

However, judges have posted quite a few openings with 2016 start dates which means that regardless of whether they are expecting it or not, they will receive applications from 2Ls.

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Things I Learned from My Judge

JudgeWhen I started work as a law clerk, I assumed I’d learn about trial practice and explore some new areas of law. That turned out to be true.

What I didn’t realize was that I’d get some really great life advice along the way.

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Judicial Clerkships: Is Clerking Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Supreme Court hallwayIn general, clerking is a great job!

One NALP study found that a remarkable 97% of judicial clerks would still opt to clerk, if they could go back in time and make the choice again.

It is important to understand, however, that there are potential downsides, as with any situation where a small number of people work closely together!

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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.

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Judicial Clerkships: What Actually Happens at a Clerkship Interview?

Exploding BombAfter the chaos of setting up your interview schedule, going to the actual interviews should be rather relaxing!

Or not. Judges can be intimidating people.

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Judicial Clerkships: What You Need to Know About Scheduling Clerkship Interviews

Do NOT Answer the Phone

ArrowsThe most critical piece of advice for managing your interview schedule is simple: do not answer the phone!

Let all of your calls go to voicemail, at least temporarily. If you are a competitive candidate and have applied to fast-moving locations, it would not be uncommon to receive between five and ten calls in the first few minutes judges are allowed to schedule interviews under the Guidelines.

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Judicial Clerkship Interviews: What You Need to Know

Old Phone

Ring, Ring, Ring…

If all goes well, one morning your phone will start ringing with judges who would like to meet you.

Plan Ahead to Optimize Your Results

While receiving calls is certainly exciting, it can also be stressful, especially if you’ve applied in more than one geographic area.

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Make Your Clerkship Application Shine: Letters of Recommendation

The Ideal Recommender

Letter AThe most desirable recommender is someone who:

  • knows you well on a personal level
  • thinks that you are nice, intelligent, and hard-working
  • can write a convincing letter on your behalf

In a perfect world, this person would also be a rock star professor with amazing connections, but you’ll have to take what you can get!

Who Should I Ask?

Most judges ask for three letters of recommendation and prefer at least two of the three be from law school professors. The final letter could be from a professional reference, or from another professor, perhaps an adjunct.

But I Don’t Know Any of My Professors!

You may be concerned that you don’t have any obvious recommenders. This is a common problem in law school, where relationships between professors and students are often formal and somewhat distant.

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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.

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