Judicial Clerkships: Stepping stone from law school to law firm

Published: April 6th, 2009

Category: News

Successfully completing a judicial clerkship gives recent law school grads the edge when law firms are looking to hire.

That was the message delivered by three judicial clerks who were on campus recently to share their professional experiences and perspectives to interested students.

“Nine out of ten times a law firm will pick the applicant with practical legal experience and you get that working as a judicial clerk,” said Jennifer Deeb a UF College of Law alumna (JD 00) and a clerk for a senior U.S. District judge in Tampa. “As a clerk, you continue to learn about a variety of legal topics ranging from arraignments to social security appeals. This experience will make you more marketable.”

Lundi McCarthy, a clerk for a U.S. Magistrate judge in Ocala told students that another advantage for working as a clerk is the insight you gain into the judicial process which can help you later on in your career.

“As a clerk, you will work closely with the judge. This will provide you with a unique view of how they operate, and that can really help you prepare when you go to try a case,” said McCarthy. “A clerkship is like an LL.M., you just keep learning.”

UF College of Law alumna Amanda Reid-Payne, Ph.D., (JD 04) agreed with McCarthy and added that the contacts you make during your clerkship can also pay huge dividends later on in your career.

“When you take on a clerkship, you join a ‘family,’” said Reid-Payne. “That means forming professional relationships with past clerks who are now serving as attorneys in law firms. The judge will also make sure you are plugged into all the right organizations and associations. It’s a great network.”

Reid-Payne also mentioned that judges are looking for University of Florida law grads and are disappointed more students don’t apply.

“Don’t be intimidated by the clerkship application process,” said Reid-Payne. “Just be prepared and give yourself a chance.

The clerks offered students a glimpse into what judges expect from perspective clerks:

Presentation: Resume and cover letter should void of errors and straight forward. Avoid a “cute” or “cheesy” cover letter.
Florida connection: They want to see that you have a commitment to their community and state.
Grades: Most are looking for applicants that graduated in the top 10 percent of their class.
Early application: Don’t wait for the deadline. Get your application in as soon as possible.
Respectfully candid: Most judges aren’t looking for someone who agrees with them all the time.
Be nice: Sometimes it all comes down to personality.