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Career Center: Making the Judicial Clerkship Work for You

You’ve heard the comments time and time again — a judicial clerkship is a great opportunity you should pursue if given the chance. Besides the prestige of the position, clerkships offer law school graduates a rare glimpse inside the chambers of the country’s brilliant and respected jurists.

While the writing and researching experience is invaluable, there are additional opportunities law clerks should look into before their clerkship ends. Now on to the tips….

As a practical matter, actively update a log of the cases and research projects you worked on throughout your clerkship. This practice will help you keep tabs on the kinds of cases you handled, and help remind you of what you did as a law clerk. If you don’t have a job lined up after your clerkship, you will appreciate this log when preparing for future job interviews. Additionally, you should also consider listing possible writing samples; however, be sure to obtain permission from your judge before using your work product as writing samples.

Be sure to maximize the additional training and CLEs you have access to for free at a major discount. Even if you will eventually be at a large firm that will pay for CLEs and training, don’t pass this up, especially because it’s one of the major perks of a judicial clerkship. Some of these training sessions are not available to non-government employees. Further, you will hit the ground running at your next job as you will get a better understanding of practicing law in court.

In addition to CLEs and training, take advantage of other perks and discounts available to law clerks. Each federal judicial district has different local rules on admittance and practice. Some districts will waive special requirements and fees for current law clerks, and may expedite the process. While law firms typically pay for these fees, you will be doing yourself a huge service by getting your admittance out of the way, especially if you plan on practicing in the same district as your judge.

Master your researching skills on sites like Westlaw and LexisNexis. Not since law school will you have unfettered access to these websites, so take advantage. Familiarize yourself with the tools and sources on Westlaw and LexisNexis and try to develop your researching strategy. As a law clerk, you don’t have to worry about time and billing costs for these websites. You will also save yourself a lot of time checking out sources you know are unhelpful for a research project at your firm.

Don’t forget to keep your professional network active. Keeping within your ethical duties, do go to local bar association events, happy hours, and firm functions. Go to lunch with your former classmates and law professors. Update your LinkedIn account and make connections on a regular basis. Just because you are working for the government and have no need to woo clients or firms does not mean you should stop meeting new contacts. By establishing your network before you need to utilize it, you prevent stressing yourself out when you really need some connections.

Maximize your free time outside of chambers. This point doesn’t even have to directly enhance your career. Want to train for a marathon? Go for it! Become conversational in a new language? Why not? Consider taking a cooking class? Now is the time! If you are planning on the partnership trajectory at a major law firm, now may be your only shot at activities or goals that can be time consuming and non-legal. Do not look back at your clerkship with regrets — with either your life inside or outside the courthouse.

Find additional career resources at the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.