As long as you are flexible about what type of clerkship you look for, clerking is open to many students. While the majority of federal and state Supreme Court clerks from UConn are in the top quintile of their class and serve on law review, many students who clerk for state appellate courts, bankruptcy courts, magistrate judges, and others are not. Students with grades below the top quintile have also on occasion obtained highly sought-after clerkships generally due to other qualifications, such as work experience, excellence in a particular subject area, or contacts forged while completing a judicial externship or internship. More commonly, students with grades in the upper half of the class have been successful in obtaining state appellate and other clerkships as well as non-Article III federal clerkships. Many judges care about the entire package reflected in a students’ application, including prior work experience, demonstrated excellence in a particular area, a commitment to the region, and interpersonal skills, to name just some factors. In particular, judges on courts with specialized jurisdiction, such as federal bankruptcy courts, look for a genuine interest and knowledge in the area of law practiced in the court.
Most students historically have clerked right after graduation from law school. Recently, however, judges have become more interested in candidates with one to three years of work experience. In particular, many Federal judges are hiring clerks who either complete another clerkship first or spend some years in practice. Similarly, judges in areas with heavy corporate dockets often look for clerks with some experience in the area of law. This means that students who prefer to begin a job immediately or are unsuccessful in an initial attempt to secure a clerkship should consider the possibility of applying or re-applying to clerk once they have a few years of work experience. Clerking can be a great way to make a career transition (from private to public sector, for example) two to five years after law school graduation.