Judicial clerks give advice to law students
For most first-year students, and many third-years, finding a job means applying to a firm or maybe becoming a solo practitioner. However, great opportunities lie on the other side of the bench in the form of judicial clerkships. To help spread the word about the possibilities in this field, the Student Liaisons of the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association teamed up with the Center for Career Development to host the Federal Judicial Clerkship Roundtable on Tuesday.
Four current and former federal clerks came to give their thoughts, each with their own unique experience. Jason Marques (JD 07) clerks for the U.S. Middle District of Florida. Also working for the Middle District are Lundi McCarthy, who is soon moving to Washington D.C. to work for the Pentagon, and Janine Toner (JD 04), who now works as a staff attorney, having finished her clerkship. Finally, Michael Dupee (JD 92) is a career clerk with the U.S. Northern District of Florida.
The conversation ranged from the clerks’ backgrounds to their average day, but with the room full of students eager to follow in the footsteps of the clerks, most of the event focused on how to get a clerkship. Dupee said that he was fortunate in getting his first clerkship, the process taking only one week. But after that concluded, he had to spread a wide net to find another. “I sent out 104 packets,” Dupee said, “and I got four responses, and one offer.” After completing that clerkship in Cleveland, he came back to Florida, and after clerking for several more years, was asked to be a career clerk.
Dupee then gave some advice on how students can help set themselves up to be good applicants. Graduating at the top of your class was his first suggestion, but added that it can take more than that to get a highly coveted clerkship.
“If you’re at the top of your class and you have great credentials, there’s still more that you can do,” Dupee said. He added that externing with a judge can be of enormous benefit, not only because you get experience in chambers and build a relationship with a judge, but also because other judges will then have a reliable reference to check.
Even when all those things are judged, Dupee said that there are still a few excellent candidates remaining, and soft factors become important. Things like personal interests and hobbies can sometimes strike an unexpected chord, he said.
Marques said that he could very well owe his clerkship to some personal information he included. When he applied, he listed that he is a fan of the Boston Red Sox, and two of the people who were then working for the judge just happened to be fellow Red Sox fans. “You just never know what kind of thing will stick out and push you over the top,” Marques said.
But McCarthy warned students that they don’t want to be too quirky about the personal information that they include. “We had one applicant who put that he was a bee keeper,” she said, “and he sent a jar of honey with his application.” While that applicant did get an interview, McCarthy said that it was probably only because the judge wanted to satisfy his curiosity by seeing him in person.
Finally, the clerks discussed some of the benefits of clerking. Toner, who worked in private practice for four years before clerking, told students how nice it is not to have the burden of billable hours, and how a clerk can explore a legal problem much more thoroughly. “When you clerk, you can really dig into an issue,” she said.
Students interested in applying for a judicial clerkship should stop by the Office of Career Development, 244 Bruton-Geer Hall, or call 352-273-0860 for more information.