“There is no better way to train as a young lawyer than to face a challenging docket that demands efficiency and—above all—fairness and accuracy, with a senior lawyer guiding you to success. With this beginning, I’ve never lost sight of the fact that law is a learned profession, not just a job.”
—Professor Joe Miller discussing his time as a Federal Judicial Clerk
What is a judicial clerk?
As a clerk, you work directly with a courtroom judge. State appellate court and all federal clerks spend most of their time performing legal research and writing, verifying citations, and drafting court documents; some help with procedural issues as well. State trial court clerks spend most of their time in the courtroom observing, tending to and managing jurors, witnesses, and evidence, and performing administrative duties.
A clerkship is a great way to serve the public while building the skills and connections that will propel your career. For complete information on clerkships, view the Judicial Clerkship Manual.
When to apply
For Federal positions, Lewis & Clark Law School supports the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. Under the plan, students apply no sooner than noon (EST) on June 28 of their 2L summer. Some judges will not consider applications received outside the hiring plan. HOWEVER, please note that the Hiring Plan may soon be dissolved completely. Many federal judges have decided to abandon the plan and are accepting applications from students immediately. For assistance in determining the new application dates, please see the Career & Professional Development Center staff. Even under the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan, law school graduates may apply at any time.
The Oregon Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Tax Court traditionally hire in April of a student’s second to last year, but other states vary. In their second to last year, students should consult the Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures* for the application dates of states they are interested in; most states hire during the summer before or fall of a student’s final year of law school. Many state trial courts will hire later.
How to prepare
- Do the best you can in classes. Consider taking Federal Courts and Advanced Legal Research.
- Get involved: most judges like to see law review or moot court experience, and many like to see clinic or an internship or externship with a court or public interest organization.
- Find great recommenders: you will need 2-3; get to know your professors and get to know people you work with as an intern, extern, or volunteer.
- Write as if your job depends on it: you will need a 5 to 15 page writing sample, so keep applying in mind while meeting the writing requirements for graduation.
- Talk to people: start planning early by talking to Career & Professional Development and requesting a faculty clerkship advisor to work with. You can also get to know graduates who have clerked, are currently in clerkship positions, or those who are now judges.
Mechanics of applying
You apply for most federal clerkships online through OSCAR, though you will need to use mail for some. Your state clerkships applications will be almost exclusively by mail.
For tips on starting your OSCAR applications, check out the Overview of the OSCAR Application Process.
Getting recommendations from outside recommenders
Supply your outside recommenders with a copy of your judge spreadsheet, this is particularly important if you are applying to numerous judges via postal mail. If your outside recommenders have troubles with OSCAR, Chris Lombard, email@example.com, can upload their letters.
Additional recommendation tips
- You can request recommendations early, even before you select your judges. Just make sure your recommenders receive spreadsheets of your judges once you select them.
- In OSCAR, recommendations are added application by application, so you must (1) your recommenders cannot upload anything until you add them to an application and (2) if you add more applications after your recommenders upload letters, they will have to log in again and upload to your new applications. More information is in the Overview of the OSCAR Application Process.
- Judicial Clerkship Manual
- OSCAR: apply to federal clerkships
- OSCAR - Applicant Quick Reference Guide
- Recommender spreadsheet template: supply to your recommenders
- Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan: federal application timing
- Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures*: state application timing
- Federal Administrative Law Judge Law Clerk Hiring Information
- Faculty Clerkship Advisors
Information on judges
- Multnomah Bar Association Judicial Profiles: Bios of Oregon Supreme Court Justices and Oregon Court of Appeals and Multnomah County Judges.
- Northwest Consortium Judicial Clerkship Database*: hiring practices of western judges.
- Federal Magistrate Judges Association
- Federal Court Information
- Federal Judicial Center Biographies
- Administrative Law Judges (see resources in the Career Services Library)
*login information available from CPDC.
**use your lclark.edu email login