Welcome to the Howard University School of Law Judicial Resources website. This is the location to find information about obtaining state and federal judicial clerkships.
The institution of law clerking began over one hundred years ago when Horace Gray, then the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, (later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court), first employed a legal assistant. A judicial clerkship is typically a one or two-year position in the chambers of a judge and judges typically place an enormous amount of reliance on the counsel of their clerks. A judicial clerk — sometimes called law clerk, serves, in essence, as a judge’s attorney. Howard University School of Law has a long and proud tradition of involvement with the judiciary, both in providing clerks and judges.
Benefits of Clerking
There are several benefits of clerking, such as: a judicial clerkship allows a lawyer to view the system of justice from the perspective of the judiciary; a great responsibility and an unparalleled opportunity for learning; the opportunity to witness, and take part in, the judicial decision making process and it’s an enormously enjoyable way to spend a year or two at the beginning of your career.
Types of Clerkships
A judicial clerkship is an intensive period of post-graduate education. There are wide varieties of courts — state and federal, trial and appellate and specialty — and the work can vary widely as well.
The Judicial Clerkship Handbook
The Howard University State and Federal Judicial Clerkship Handbook is the School of Law’s guide to the judicial clerkship application process.
Important links include:
- OSCAR (the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review)
- Vermont Law School’s Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Hiring Procedures. (For the password to the Vermont Guide, please contact Neil Dennis in the Office of Career Services.)
- Above the Law a legal tabloid that posts many articles about judicial clerkships.
Information about Judges
In-depth research will help you make a more informed decision on which judges to apply to for clerkships. Resources are plentiful and you need to consult a variety of them to attain the necessary information. The following resources are quite useful. (See the Office of Career Services for a more complete directory):
- Howard University School of Law Alumni in the Judiciary
- www.uscourts.gov (links to court websites and general information)
- http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships/judicial-vacancies (federal judicial vacancies)
- http://www.uscourts.gov/judges-judgeships (federal judiciary home page with information on salary, job description, length of term, etc.)
- https://oscar.symplicity.com (online application system)
- National Center for State Courts
- Just the Beginning Foundation which provides information on minority judges, including biographies and information on clerkship and internship opportunities for minorities
- Directory of Minority Judges (provides geographical listings of African-American, Asian/Pacific Island, Hispanic, Native American, and Tribal Court Judges) — located in the Law Library at Ref. KF8700.A19 B53
Judicial Clerkship Research Resources
Library Guide compiled by Ms. Santos, Howard University School of Law Library, Assistant Director for Public Services. This Guide recommends resources to support your research when applying for a judicial clerkship. It includes print directories and their locations in the Law Library, as well as useful internet sites with information about courts, judges, procedures and tips from judicial clerks.
Judicial Clerkship Application Process
The application process begins the summer prior to your third year of law school. For state clerkships, application deadlines vary widely. Please refer to the Vermont Law School’s Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures for specific information. (For the password to the Vermont Guide, please see Neil Dennis in the Office of Career Services.)
The Faculty Judicial Clerkship Committee is comprised of Professor Patricia Worthy (Chair), Professor Rhea Ballard-Thrower, and Professor Matthew Bruckner. They are here to help and can offer guidance and advice. Professor Ballard-Thrower serves as the liaison between the students, faculty and the Career Services and Law School Services Departments. She can be reached in Law Library Room 130 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and 202-806-8011.
Students and Graduates Information
Clarification was needed for third year student-applicants and faculty as to the Law School’s policy on the limitation of paper-applications and non-OSCAR electronic application filings for judicial clerkships.
Moreover, due to the recent trend in federal hiring of law clerks that are second and third year law firm associates, a policy was needed to accommodate our graduates. Therefore, the faculty Judicial Clerkship Committee, with the Dean’s approval (due to the obvious financial implications), adopted the following policies on these application filings that are to be used during the judicial clerkship application process:
Third-year students that are applying to state court judges are limited to 100 letters of recommendation. Therefore, if a student has two recommenders they are limited to 50 judges. If they have three recommenders they are limited to 33 judges. This 100-letter limitation is an aggregate number. Therefore, if a student applies to non-OSCAR judges (which are federal judges that are not following the OSCAR application deadline of a Labor Day-filing, but are still using the OSCAR application process off-cycle), they are still restricted to the original 100-letter limitation.
The student may seek a waiver from Ms. Donnice Butler , who because of resource constraints, is in the best position to determine whether the Office of Faculty Services Center can accommodate a student’s request to exceed the 100-letter limitation.
Any waiver may not exceed more than 25 letters- that could be 8 judges for three recommenders, or 12 judges for two recommenders. The student making the request, must also notify and get the approval of their respective faculty-recommenders, in that the faculty members will be required to sign the additional letters. If time permits, Ms. Donnice Butler will also notify the individual faculty members, via e-mail, of the additional letters needing their signature. Note, however, that there is no limitation as to judges and recommendation letters if the student is only applying to OSCAR judges and, therefore, their applications (resume, cover letter, transcript, writing sample and letters of recommendation) are being uploaded to the OSCAR system pursuant to the designated filing deadline.
Even in those instances where students are making paper applications, the student-applicant is still required to attend at least one of the training workshops conducted by the Judicial Clerkship Committee. Without the necessary training, the student will be unable to use the law school’s administrative support services. Therefore, it would be extremely helpful if individual faculty members withheld their consent to be a recommender until they confirm with the student-applicant that he or she has attended the necessary training session.
A waiver of this mandatory requirement will be granted sparingly and will necessitate the student demonstrating an extreme hardship. Moreover, a waiver can only be granted by one of the two Chairs of the Judicial Clerkship Committee (Ballard-Thrower and Worthy). However, because the state clerkship application is a rolling-one, the student must also advise Ms. Donnice Butler so that the Office of Faculty Services Center can properly allocate the workload.
Students need to be mindful of those periods in the academic calendar when administrative support staff is busy with other law school responsibilities (i.e., final exams).
Third-year law students that have decided to apply only to non-OSCAR judges, and, therefore, are applying off-cycle, are still required to attend one of the mandatory OSCAR training workshops (usually held in February).
Due to administrative support constraints, these students are, by necessity, required to have their letter-of-recommendation efforts completed by March 31st. This requires that the individual student must select their judges, obtain a faculty member’s commitment to serve as a recommender, and have the faculty member prepare and sign the respective letters no later than March 31st. Again, these students fall within the 100-letter limitation as described in paragraph 1 above.
Howard University School of Law graduates may utilize the law school’s administrative services, the Office of Faculty Services Center, but under different conditions. If the graduate is presently clerking they are limited to 20 judges and no more than two faculty-recommenders, or 13 judges if they intend to have three faculty-recommenders. This limitation applies to the combined applications of OSCAR, non-OSCAR, and state judges.
Howard University School of Law graduates that are applying for a judicial clerkship for the first time are limited to 10 judges and no more than two faculty-recommenders or 6 judges if they intend to have three faculty-recommenders. Again, this limitation applies to the combined applications of OSCAR, non-OSCAR, and state judges. Faculty members are encouraged to support HUSL graduates. However, because of resource limitations, they are cautioned not to modify any of the conditions contained herein. If a graduate inquires, please refer them to the Howard University School of Law website, the section on Judicial Clerkships, which will contain the information as described in this paragraph.