What Is a Judicial Clerkship?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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A judicial clerkship is one of the most coveted judicial positions available to law students and recent graduates. Also known as a law clerk, an individual working under a judicial clerkship helps a judge manage her caseload and facilitates communication between the judge and her peers or lawyers trying cases in her courtroom. A federal clerkship may differ from a judicial clerkship taking place on the state or city level. Due to the limited number of judges compared to the volume of applicants, competition for a judicial clerkship is usually high. Working as a law clerk can also improve an individuals job prospects in the legal community.

In general, a law clerk acts as a judge's assistant. Clerks may be asked to conduct research on scientific or historical facts presented in certain cases. Attorneys submitting questions, documents, or evidence typically do so through the judge's clerk. Drafting memorandums to lawyers or other judges is another common duty associated with a judicial clerkship. Law clerks also participate in the writing or proofreading of the legal opinion issued by a judge after she rules on a case.


Certain courts specialize in specific cases like taxes, bankruptcy, or international trade. Federal courts may address legal issues that state or local courts do not, such as appeals or disputes between individuals and the government. Local courts handle cases related to family matters, property issues, criminal acts committed within the state or municipality, and small claims issues between citizens of the state or municipality. Consequently, individuals applying for a judicial clerkship should do so at the judicial branch most likely to address cases related to the type of law they seek to practice. This gives the law clerk extra exposure and experience in his future field.

The competitiveness associated with attaining a judicial clerkship requires applicants with strong academic and personal achievements. Considerable emphasis is placed on an applicant's academic record and writing abilities to ensure that he is capable of performing the tasks associated with the judicial clerkship he is applying for. Judges review a candidate's extracurricular activities and personal accomplishments to gain better understanding of his personality and level of motivation. Finally, an applicant for a judicial clerkship may have to write an essay that further allows a judge to determine whether there is ideological and personal compatibility.

The highly sought-after nature of a judicial clerkship makes attaining one an achievement of note in the legal community and enhances a law clerk's resume. Clerks improve as researchers and writers during the time they spend in the position. Working intimately with a judge and lawyers also provides an opportunity for networking and building personal relationships within the legal community.


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