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Judicial Clerkships

A judicial clerkship is a full-time position working for a federal or state judge, usually done the first year after finishing law school. Clerkships may be with an appellate or a trial judge. Law clerks research and draft opinions and orders for the court. They also participate in many phases of the court's decision-making process. Most clerkships are for a one-year term; however, some judges require a two-year commitment.

A judicial clerkship provides direct insight into the judicial process. Law clerks gain practical experience by attending judicial proceedings, performing legal research and providing other assistance to the judge. They also establish a personal relationship with the judge for whom they clerk.

The duties and functions of a judicial law clerk vary by the judge and type of court. In most chambers, law clerks concentrate on legal research and writing. Typically, the broad range of duties assigned to a law clerk includes conducting legal research, preparing memos, drafting orders and opinions, proofreading the judge's orders and opinions, verifying citations, and assisting the judge during courtroom proceedings. Law clerks also are expected to work cooperatively with fellow legal staff and court personnel.

Because each judge functions independently, he or she sets the qualification requirements for law clerks. A judge's specific qualifications for a position are listed in the position announcement. Some judges will stress academic achievements. Others may look to writing skills, personal attributes, prior work experience, or school/community activities.

You should become familiar with the OSCAR website if you want to pursue a federal judicial clerkship. (The deadline to apply for most federal judicial clerkships is in early September of the year before graduation.)

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