Judicial Clerkships

A judicial clerkship is an excellent way to bridge the gap between law school and the practice of law. Judicial clerkships exist in most federal, state, international and specialty courts, providing numerous clerkship opportunities for students with varying backgrounds and accomplishments. Regardless of the court level, judicial clerks obtain unparalleled access to and knowledge about the judicial process. When considering clerkships, think about the following array of opportunities:

Federal Court
In the past, Florida State Law students have obtained clerkships at both the circuit court (appellate) and district court (trial) levels.  Generally, federal clerkships are considered by many to be very prestigious, and, as a consequence, the application process for federal clerkships is quite competitive. Most federal judges hire at least one clerk every year. Some judges accept applications for post-graduation clerkships as early as the summer before the third year of law school. Because most judges are looking for at least one clerk each year and some hire very early, it is best to apply by May 1 of your second year. This means that you must decide early which judges you want to apply to, and make provisions for letters of recommendation and transcripts to be sent during January and February of that year.

OSCAR System
The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) is the single, centralized resource for notice of available federal clerkships, clerkship application information and law clerk employment information. Many federal judges have chosen to participate in OSCAR, which means that these judges only want to receive application materials electronically. When using OSCAR, students upload their application materials and designate the judges to whom they want to apply. Federal judges can sort and read application materials online, and can download and print the applications.

If you’re planning to apply for a federal clerkship through OSCAR, be mindful that OSCAR now will be releasing applications to judges from third-year students on Friday, June 28, 2013 at 12:00 Noon (EDT). This is also the date judge may contact third-year applicants to schedule interviews and make clerkship offers. Keep in mind that the Hiring Plan does not cover applicants who have graduated from law school. Judges may accept applications, interview, and hire law school graduates at any time.” 

State Courts
While the application process for some state court clerkships may be less competitive than at the federal level, state court clerkships provide excellent opportunities to gain exposure to the bar in the jurisdiction where you are likely to practice.

Some justices and judges hire permanent clerks, and as a result, only have positions available when their clerks transition to other jobs.  Other judges hire clerks for one- or two-year positions; these judges generally have slots open every year. The best way to determine if a vacancy will be available is to contact the judge's office, but you can always check with the Marshal’s office at each court or postings listed on the court’s Web site. 

Specialty Courts
Specialty Courts, the competitiveness of which varies, provide excellent opportunities to gain practical experience and expertise in a particular area at both the state and federal levels. These opportunities include, among others:  Court of Federal Claims, Tax Court, Bankruptcy Court, Court of International Trade, Alien Terrorist Removal Court, Military Courts (civilian clerks), Court of Veterans Appeals, International Tribunals and Administrative Law Tribunals (state and federal).  Judicial clerks serving these courts generally perform duties similar to judicial clerks at the trial level.

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