This is the third in a series of posts for Vault by Steven Feldman on judicial clerkships.
In my last post, I went through the nuts and bolts of applying for clerkships. Hopefully, your hard work will result in an interview. Here, I go through the most important tips for a successful clerkship interview.
A clerkship interview with a judge is more intense than a typical large law firm interview. This is so for two reasons: first, because judges heavily rely on their law clerks’ judgment and legal analysis skills in crafting opinions, they must quickly determine in an interview whether they can rely on your legal judgment and reasoning skills. Second, because the judge/law clerk relationship is such a close one—a clerk spends a huge amount of time with the judge over the course of a clerkship—a judge must evaluate whether you are someone that they would like to spend a great deal of one-on-one time with over the course of the year.
While clerkship interviews may vary greatly, most interviews have several commonalities. An applicant will usually meet with the judge for about 30 minutes and will then meet with the judges’ clerks for another 20 minutes. And while judges vary in the types of questions they will ask, you must always be thoroughly prepared to discuss everything on your resume and to talk about your background and interests. Moreover, it is equally important that you prepare several thoughtful questions. You should also research the judge before the interview: go to your schools’ clerkship office, Google the judge, read a few of her opinions. Demonstrating during your interview that you’ve done research about the judge will unquestionably help you stand out.
If the interview goes well, you may get an offer on the spot; therefore, it is best not to enter an interview if you aren’t willing to accept right away, even if there is another clerkship you wanted more. You cannot hold a clerkship offer open the way you can during the 2L OCI process—a judge expects an answer either at the moment the offer is extended, or shortly thereafter. Therefore, try to schedule interviews in your order of preference. The interview process can be a long and stressful one, but just relax, enjoy, and try to have a normal conversation. Most judges are very friendly and want you to succeed. If you got the interview, you have already passed the toughest barrier to getting a clerkship. You’re on your way. Good luck!
Steven N. Feldman served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Before clerking, he worked as a litigation associate at a large New York law firm. Steve holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BS from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He can be reached at email@example.com.