Judicial clerkships

A unique and prestigious career path

A judicial clerkship is one of the most prestigious and effective paths to your legal career. The Law School has a longstanding tradition of recent graduates serving as judicial clerks for one or two years in federal and state courts.

The main duties of a judicial clerk include legal research, reviewing cases and preparing them for the judge, assisting the judge during courtroom proceedings, drafting orders and opinions, writing bench memoranda, and general proofreading and cite-checking. Because of your close working relationship, you'll have the opportunity to participate in the judge's decision-making process.

As a judicial clerk, you'll receive unmatched training in legal research and writing under the guidance of the nation's finest legal minds. This experience, along with your insider's view of judicial decision-making, will make you an especially attractive candidate for employers after your clerkship ends. Law firms often provide partnership-track seniority to those who have completed clerkships, some offer signing bonuses, and most will be happy to defer your start at the firm to accommodate your clerkship. In addition, clerkships open doors to careers in the public interest, both at the government and non-profit level, and they are expected if you are interested in an academic career. Many judges on the federal and state appellate bench served as judicial clerks.

In a judicial clerkship, you will gain significant legal knowledge in a variety of areas while you build your professional network. Most judicial clerks find in their judge a mentor, and among their co-clerks friends for life.

If you are a current student or recent alumnus who is interested in a judicial clerkships, please complete the registration form (forthcoming end of spring break) and send it to Prof. Inge Van der Cruysse, who directs the judicial clerkship program. She is your first stop for answers to your questions about judicial clerkships and for counseling, resources, and assistance as you start the application process. You can reach her at ivanderc@indiana.edu.

Wisdom from Hon. Sonja Sotomayor, Associate Justice, US Supreme Court:

Justice Sotomayor called her failure to do a judicial clerkship a "professional mistake," and she strongly urged law students to clerk for a judge. "Clerking will substitute for anywhere from five to 10 years of legal experience," she told them. "You will see more styles of advocacy than you can see in private practice. You'll see what advocates do and figure out what works best and doesn’t work. And you'll get exposed to every facet of legal practice. I thought it meant just going to work in a library and I didn't want to do that."

A clerkship, she added, is a "human exposure to learning." And, she said, most clerks become part of their judge's family "and that mentorship lasts a lifetime."

— "Sotomayor says Congress should not tell judges how to review cases,” Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal, November 19, 2015.