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Moritz Students and graduates are encouraged to consider a state or federal clerkship in their career plans. Securing a clerkship can provide a unique, rewarding, and challenging work experience for a year or two following graduation, and an opportunity to view the law from the rare perspective of judicial decision making. Even in the best economic climate, clerkships are extremely competitive.
Reasons to Clerk
A Unique Experience
The judicial clerkship is different from both the law school experience and the practice of law. You will work on real cases, help make real decisions, and directly affect the lives of others. You have a special chance to learn a large amount of law, refine your legal skills, see what is and is not persuasive to you, and view the competence and various skills and techniques of lawyers, both good and bad, from a unique perspective. Law firms, government honors programs and prestigious fellowship committees all seek students who have had the opportunity to hone their writing and analytical skills, view the law from the bench perspective, and create a network of professional relationships with judges and other judicial clerks.
Have a Mentor
Being a clerk gives you the chance to have a mentor. By working in chambers with an experienced jurist, you will learn how the judge thinks, and you will learn to develop your own sense of judgment. You may eat lunch together and travel to argument together. Judges often socialize extensively with clerks because they have no one else with whom to speak freely concerning cases coming before the court. Even after the clerkship year, many former clerks stay in close contact with their judge, returning to clerk reunions year after year. Some chambers have rotating clerks as well as "life" clerks who often mentor others as well.
Clerking may mean accepting a lower salary than a firm would pay; federal clerkships generally pay. State clerkship pay ranges vary widely. Often the benefit packages in courts are much better than private sector employment. Additionally, there is satisfaction in knowing that your work can make a real difference. In some situations, you can actually influence the law by persuading the judge to understand an issue as you see it and render a decision incorporating your reasoning.
Future Job Prospects
Resume-building alone is not a good reason to clerk. It is better to view the clerkship as a learning experience and a chance to participate in one of the best parts of the legal system. The clerkship credential is, in addition, traditionally important for law school teaching. For firm jobs, there may be some advantage in a tight job market to having clerking the credential. Also, many firms give full credit for the time spent clerking. For example, you would enter the firm as a second-year associate after a one-year clerkship, and as a third-year associate after a two-year clerkship. Some large law firms also offer clerkship bonuses to incoming associates post-clerkship.