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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Make Your Clerkship Application Shine: Writing Sample

Hand with pencilPutting together a writing sample can be difficult.

What Should I Use?

Reasonable people disagree about:

  • how long the writing sample should be (opinions on ideal length range from 4-5 pages to 25-30)
  • what type of writing it should be (legal brief, seminar paper, journal work, etc.).

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Make Your Clerkship Application Shine: Résumé

PencilsYour clerkship application résumé will be very similar to the one you used when applying for summer jobs or even for law school. The key difference is that your clerkship résumé should further emphasize your writing and research skills.

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Make Your Clerkship Application Shine

PackageSo you’ve decided you want to apply for a clerkship – what now?

The Perfect Clerkship Applicant

Naturally, you’ll want to:

  • attend the best law school in the country
  • get top notch grades
  • and be Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review

Preferably while maintaining a side job as a goodwill ambassador to a remote island nation.

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Judicial Clerkships: Wondering Where to Apply? Consider These 4 Factors

Question markThe perennial question – where should you apply to clerk?

Naturally, it’s impossible to answer with any authority! You’ll need to balance several competing threads to decide what clerkships to apply for:

  • prestige
  • geography
  • preference
  • availability

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How to Get a Federal Judicial Clerkship: Overview

CourthouseOn its face, the federal judicial clerkship application process is relatively straightforward:

  • you identify judges you’re interesting in working for;
  • you send each one an application consisting of your law school transcript, a résumé, a writing sample, and several letters of recommendation; and,
  • each judge reviews the applications, schedules interviews, and selects the clerks for the following year.

Easy, right?

In practice, however, the clerkship process is insanely complicated and full of traps for the unwary. If you decide to apply, you will probably curse the decision more than once, and envy medical students applying to a centralized residency matching system.

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