Applying to Federal Clerkships

by Vault Careers | March 10, 2009

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In general, federal appellate clerkships are considered more prestigious than federal district clerkships; appellate judges are permitted three clerks, district judges, two, and trial magistrates, one. "If you want to be an academic, then appellate is best," says a clerk. "But if you want to be a litigator, district is the way to go. You can see the litigation from the judge's side, which is a very rare thing." While state judges also take on clerks, "it's not as good, because they normally specialize in one kind of case, while federal judges get everything."

Judges want much the same thing as firms do: "good grades, good recommendations. Some judges like clerks with varied work experience. Membership in a journal is important, because you will generally be doing research and writing as a clerk." The application process is "pretty easy. A resume and cover letter, two or three recommendations, and a five to 10 page writing sample." Judges can get "between 5000 and 10,000 applications for a handful of slots." One clerk cautions that "if you didn't go to a name school, it's much harder to get an interview. If you got a fellowship, make sure you put that on the very top of your resume." Clerks recommend that you send in resumes "early, so they get looked at early. This year will be kind of chaotic, so send them in now."

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