Judicial Clerkship Program

What are Judicial Clerkships?

Judicial clerkships are postgraduate, full-time jobs which typically last one or two years. Clerks work for judges at all levels of the state and federal court systems, from trial courts to the courts of last resort. Duties vary according to the particular judge’s needs, but nearly all clerkships involve reading the parties’ submissions, conducting legal research, and writing memoranda or draft opinions for the judge’s review. Clerks often watch hearings, trials, oral arguments and mediations. Clerks see the inner workings of their judge’s chambers and the court house in which they work, which gives them a unique and valuable glimpse into the justice system.

  • The College of Law strongly encourages students and alumni to consider judicial clerkships because these positions offer a close study of litigation, dispute resolution, and civic engagement. Moreover, many law clerks develop meaningful professional relationships with the judges for whom they clerk.
  • The Judicial Clerkship Program prepares students for the work they will perform as judicial clerks. Students and alumni have secured clerkships at a number of federal and state courts, including the US Court of Appeals, the US District Court, the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and courts of last resort, appellate courts, and trial courts in states throughout the country.
  • Throughout the school year, the Office of Career Services hosts events to introduce students to clerkships and explain the application process. The College of Law also regularly hosts judges and court commentators for special events through, for example, the Institute for the Judiciary, Politics and the Mediathe Supreme Court Preview, and the Advocacy Program.
  • Judges also visit classes, allowing students to learn directly from them. Many students who are interested in post-graduate clerkships also participate in the College’s Externship Program.
  • Click here to access our Judicial Clerkship Guide to learn more about these great positions.
  • We also recommend to students interested in federal clerkships to create an account with OSCAR to learn more about becoming a federal law clerk or staff attorney.
  • For students interested in State court clerkships, we recommend you review the Guide to State Judicial Clerkships by the Vermont Law School. Email us at lawcareer@syr.edu for the Username and Password, or find it on 12Twenty.

Application Timing

The Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan, a hiring timeline and agreement which some federal judges follow, governs the hiring of first and second-year students.

Visit this web page to view the details of the plan. Below is a summary of the plan:

Participating judges agree that they will not consider candidates or make offers until mid-June in the summer following a student’s second year of law school. OSCAR is the gatekeeper for the plan because applications from second-year students will not be released by OSCAR until the plan opening day in mid-June. Second-year students will be allowed view-only OSCAR access during the spring semester of their second year.

Note that this is a voluntary plan: individual judges or groups of judges may choose to participate but judges are not required to do so. The roster of participating jurisdictions is being kept current on NALP’s website, here, so please refer to that page for participation information. Many judges in other jurisdictions will also voluntarily participate.

Other judges do not wish to participate in the plan. They may use the OSCAR system to notify candidates of their intentions, however, they will ask candidates to apply via paper or email before the plan opening day in mid-June.

Almanac of the Federal Judiciary

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary serves as a great resource for examining the characteristics of federal judges. Users can search by keyword, judge’s name, district, court, or address. In addition to providing standard contact information, such as age, education, and other biographical details, the Almanac provides a wide range of insights specifically crafted to aid attorneys unfamiliar with a judge’s courtroom practices.

Judge profiles often feature Lawyers Evaluations from attorneys who have practiced before the judge, summaries of Noteworthy Rulings that highlight cases of media interest or those eventually adjudicated by SCOTUS, and details on Civil and Criminal Practices and Procedures, offering insights into the functioning of a judge’s courtroom. While primarily aimed at practicing attorneys, understanding a judge’s operating style can significantly inform job applications or interview preparation.

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary is accessible from anywhere within the university network, as it recognizes the user’s IP address when connected to the university internet.

Faculty Clerkship Committee