What is a Clerkship?

A judicial clerkship is a position a pre-law student obtains in the chamber of a judge. Clerkships may be state court clerkships or federal court clerkships. Clerkships, which usually last from one to two years, give the pre-law student the opportunity to serve as a judge's personal attorney. Because a judge typically relies heavily on the counsel of their clerks, judicial clerks have a lot of responsibility and the chance to gain extensive knowledge of the judicial system. Here is an overview of clerkships.

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What is a Clerkship?

Clerkships are learning experiences for students studying and training to be attorneys. It gives them a first-hand look at how the legal system is portrayed through the eyes of a judge rather than an attorney. An attorney may become a prosecutor or defense attorney, which are two very distinct and different positions. Working alongside a judge as a clerk allows the clerk to observe both sides of the law. It also gives them learning opportunities that can be extremely valuable when they're starting their legal career. Any questions the judge may have is often relayed to the judicial clerk, making them a valuable asset to the judge.

Benefits of Obtaining a Clerkship

A judicial clerkship is a valuable experience that provides training and growth opportunities regardless of what type of practice or specialty the student may eventually choose, according to U.S. News & World Report. The experience a student gets from a judicial clerkship is more than the student would get from his or her first legal job the entire first year. There are many benefits to obtaining a clerkship.

  • Gain experience to improve legal skills needed as an attorney
  • Teacher good writing and research skills necessary to practice law
  • Opportunity to network with other lawyers and judges
  • Can gain additional understanding of appellate and trial procedures
  • Opportunity to see the law from both sides

Types of Judicial Clerkships

Law students who are interested in becoming law clerks can choose from different types of clerkships in various courts. Here are the most common Federal clerkships available to law students.

  • United States Supreme Court – There are usually four clerks hired annually, and each one serves for one year. Clerks are often hired to work for retires U.S. Supreme Court judges. The Supreme Court justices typically will only hire a clerk who has already worked for another judge for at least a year.
  • United States Courts of Appeals – Different types of cases are heard at the Court of Appeals. There are 13 federal judicial circuits, and each has one court of appeals. Circuit judges working in these courts are allowed to hire three clerks a year for one-year positions. The majority of the cases heard here are administrative law cases.
  • United States District Courts – There are 89 district courts throughout the U.S. Federal judges working in District Courts are allows to hire two clerks, while senior judges can hire one or two, and chief judges can hire three.

Duties of a Law Clerk

The duties of a law clerk may vary depending on the judge and the type of court. In most courts, the clerk's duties include the following.

  • Writing memos and draft opinions
  • Reviewing briefs and pleadings
  • Conduction legal research
  • Editing, proofreading and assembling documents
  • Observing court proceedings
  • Maintaining the chambers' library
  • Assisting with oral arguments and trials
  • Various administrative duties

Becoming an attorney or a judge requires many years of school and training. While these careers offer excellent wages, career opportunities, and growth, they also require a big commitment from the student. Obtaining and serving a clerkship demonstrates full commitment to this career.