The Honorable Clerkship
Bill and Chet: Whether you should spend a year or two clerking for a judge after law school depends entirely upon what you expect to get out of a clerkship.
A clerkship may make you more appealing to some firms. Indeed, it is common to give associates who have clerked "credit" for the year or two of their clerkships. Usually, this means an adjustment of compensation, so if you join a firm after a one-year clerkship, you will often be compensated as a second-year associate.
Promises may also be made that time spent clerking "counts for partnership," but remember that a law firm will make you a partner only when it is good and ready. Enforcing that type of promise may prove problematic. In the short term, your time spent clerking may set you back a bit on the path to partnership; over the longer term, the experience may well make you a better lawyer.
As a practical matter, a clerkship will probably not improve your job prospects. Typically, judges seek clerks with very strong academic credentials. These are the same people who have little trouble in collecting offers from law firms. So don't view clerking as an activity that will dramatically improve your marketability.
Clerking for a trial judge provides an introduction to litigation that you can never get in your law school's trial practice course. You see how the process works, what makes a lawyer effective and what mistakes to avoid. Appellate clerkships are somewhat more limited, isolated and cerebral in character, but they can do much to hone your analytical skills and introduce you to the appellate process.
~ Much of how you feel about a clerkship will depend upon the qualities of your judge. Some judges will discuss cases extensively with their clerks, and take an interest in your career. Others are more aloof. What type of judge you are in for can be discovered fairly easily by checking with former clerks.
If possible, don't decline to clerk simply because you can't wait to get your career rolling with a law firm. You will have the rest of your life to work in a law firm. The first year or so out of law school can be a good time to broaden your experiences.