APPLICATION FOR APPOINTMENT AS LAW CLERK
NORTH DAKOTA SUPREME COURT
FROM AUGUST 1, 2019 TO JULY 31, 2020
Second-year law students interested in applying for a one-year appointment as a law clerk to the North Dakota Supreme Court should submit five (5) copies of the following:
- A letter of application addressed to:
The Honorable Lisa Fair McEvers
North Dakota Supreme Court
Judicial Wing, 1st Floor
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505-0530
2. An autobiographical sketch summarizing your life and career from childhood until the present.
3. A curriculum vitae containing the following information:
(1) Applicant’s name, home address, college address, email address, and telephone number.
(2) Secondary schools attended.
(3) Pre-law and law schools attended.
(4) Class standing.
(5) Law review and other legal writings.
(6) Extracurricular activities.
(7) Awards and honors.
(8) Employment record.
(9) Military record.
(10) Three references. It is acceptable to list the same individuals who provide letters of recommendation.
(11) Any other information the applicant believes would bear upon the applicant’s qualifications as a law clerk.
- Undergraduate transcript.
- L.S.A.T. score report.
- Law school application for admission.
- Law school transcript to date of application. [One official transcript and four copies] .
- Three letters of recommendation, including at least one from a member of the law school faculty.
- A writing sample that has been edited only by the applicant.
The current salary is $68,724 per year.
The Court requires an individual selected to serve as a law clerk to be legally authorized to work in the United States and expects the individual to successfully complete law school education, take a bar examination of the applicant’s choice before beginning the clerkship, and commit to completing a full one-year term from August 1, 2019 to July 31, Candidates will be subject to a criminal background check.
APPLICATIONS ARE DUE POSTMARKED NO LATER THAN MONDAY, JULY 9, 2018.
Forwarded on behalf of the Clerkship Committee:
Dear Class of 2020:
The Clerkship Committee anticipates that hiring for post-graduation judicial clerkships for your class will begin in June 2018. That is, we expect the timeline for clerkship hiring for your class to be similar to what it was for the classes of 2018 and 2019. A number of judges have proposed a new plan for hiring clerks that would start the hiring process in June after your 2L year instead of in June after your 1L year. In the past, these hiring plans have been popular with some, but not all judges in the Second and Ninth circuits, and less popular among judges in other circuits. While we are hopeful for the success of the new plan, we are continuing to investigate which judges intend to use the new proposed timeline.
Until we know that the proposed plan has been broadly adopted by the judiciary, we believe that most of you should begin applying as soon as you receive your spring 1L grades. Many judges hire after students have three or more semesters of grades, but the number of available opportunities decreases over time, so we strongly recommend that you be prepared to send out applications over the summer. Since the online platform for submitting clerkship applications, OSCAR, will likely endorse the new plan, you should be prepared to send out paper applications any judge that does not specifically indicate that he or she prefers to receive applications by OSCAR.
To help you strategize and complete applications, the clerkship committee will be hosting a clerkship bootcamp on May 4. We strongly encourage you to attend the bootcamp so please make your travel plans accordingly.
We will keep you informed of any changes to our timeline advice depending on how our friends on the bench respond to the proposed plan.
The Clerkship Committee
Sending a Paper Judicial Clerkship Application?
- Get your application in order. Generally, transcript, writing sample (and preface), resume, and cover letter saved in a pdf either on your computer or an external hard drive. You may also send it firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Make an appointment with email@example.com to reserve the workroom to print and assemble your materials. Please give us an idea of how many you are printing so we can be adequately prepared in terms of time and materials (we provide envelopes, labels and resume paper). Note: it will take a bit longer than you think to stuff all those envelopes, so give yourself plenty of time.
- Put all your addresses, salutations and information in an excel spread sheet so you can do a mail merge. If you haven’t any experience with a mail merge. Click here for an online tutorial.
- Letters of Recommendation. So this can be handled one of two ways. One Bev Owens can print a copy of the letter of recommendation and seal it and it can be included in your packet or, and if time is of the issue, this may be your best bet, indicate in your cover letter that your letters of recommendation (and who they are from) will be forwarded under separate cover. If you need help phrasing this, we are happy to review your resume and cover letter.
- Triple check everything that you are putting in the envelopes. Pro Tip: print off your labels first so that you can be labeling your envelopes while your resume, cover letter, transcript and writing sample print.
On Monday, February 19, one of our amazing 2017 alumni, Katherine Vaky, will be at the CCD Big Table @ 12:15pm to discuss clerkships. Her current clerkship is with Judge Mark Hornak in the Western District of Pennsylvania. She will be following that clerkship working with the Honorable Judge Robert Wilkins with the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. Katie is a great resource to discuss not only the clerkship process, but how to maximize your clerkship experience. Prior to graduation Katie spent her 1L summer at a small firm in Des Moines, IA and her 2L summer at a large firm in Atlanta GA. Hope to see you all Monday!
Dear Class of 2019:
If you are interested in clerking, the time to send out applications is now! A number of judges are actively interviewing so the sooner you can send out your applications, the better. If you have already sent out applications but not yet heard from judges, you should send an updated resume and grade sheet along with a letter reiterating your interest in the clerkship.
You should not wait for either the new class rankings or your letters of recommendation to send out applications. You can note that the class rank for the fall is not yet available. When it becomes available, you can update your applications. If you used our form cover letter, it is carefully worded so that you can send your materials ahead of your references. Judges who are interested in you but still missing a letter are likely to call the reference (many call even if they receive letters). The most important thing is for you to send out your materials before your target judges finish hiring.
As a reminder, we now have master lists of the names and addresses of (nearly) all state and federal judges on Symplicity. Use them to apply broadly.
Best of luck!
The Clerkship Committee
Since you are already accustomed to living on a budget, don’t let compensation get in the way of pursuing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A clerkship may not be your most immediately lucrative option after graduation, but your clerkship will help you make connections that will help throughout your career. The nature of the judicial appointment and election processes naturally mean that judges tend to be extremely connected people! A phone call from the circuit judge for whom I clerked helped me secure my first post-clerkship job as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles! And your career isn’t measured in the year or two of lower compensation while you are clerking. Some clerkships open doors that will make the financial sky-the-limit. And as corny as it may sound, you may end up looking back fondly on the financial challenge. My clerkship salary was supporting me, my husband, and then two-year-old daughter. We couldn’t afford a rental car when our sole car needed repairs. So I rode each day to and from the three-day California bar exam on the back seat of a tandem bike with our daughter behind us in a trailer. It was actually kind of fun, and my husband and I still laugh about the situation. The bottomline: rarely does anyone regret clerking, despite the lesser compensation; but people often regret not clerking!
Don’t dismiss trial court clerkships! I was surprised when my appellate judge stated that she missed the power she had as a trial court judge. What? I took a double take. Did she really mean she had more power as a trial judge? That’s not what I learned in law school, but, yes, she did mean that. She explained that many issues are subject to deferential standards of review. The appellate court has very little to say about those issues. For example, issues reviewed for abuse of discretion must be affirmed so long as the decision was not an abuse of discretion even if the appellate court would not have resolved the issue in the way that the trial court had. These trial court decisions can play a major role in framing the case. I had never thought about the power of the trial court in that way. So I encourage you to consider trial court clerkships. The work is interesting, and there is much more power than meets the eye!
Why do people rave so much about clerkships? Where do you begin to answer that question—Is it the nature of the work? The power to help decide issues? The challenge of acting as a neutral rather than advocate? The list goes on. But I want to focus on the last one today. As a law clerk, your judge will likely ask your opinion as to how the judge should rule. The ultimate decision, of course, belongs to the judge. But your opinion will help guide the judge’s final choice. Guess what—you have received very little hands-on training in serving as a neutral. If you worked at a firm in the summer or externed at a non-profit or participated in a school clinic, you were advocating for a party. You generally knew which result you preferred, and your job was to craft the best argument to support that conclusion. Well, throw that bias away. As a clerk, your job is to help determine the correct result, unconstrained by client preferences. This is far more challenging than it sounds and is one of the first obstacles a new clerk encounters. I cannot think of another position that provides this unique opportunity. This challenge can be quite intimidating in the beginning, but you and your co-clerks will learn to master this challenge during your time in chambers, developing an unspoken understanding of what you have accomplished.
When I think about my clerkships with a federal district court judge in St. Louis and a Ninth Circuit judge in Los Angeles, I think often about the relationships that I created. Not just with the judges, which were both wonderful relationships, although sadly, both judges are now deceased, but also with my co-clerks. Recently, a story in the news prompted me to reach out to my Ninth Circuit co-clerks. Even though that clerkship was 25 years ago, the email that I sent commenting on the news article prompted immediate responses from both co-clerks despite their busy schedules as high-powered attorneys in prestigious T100 law firms. A flurry of emails followed, discussing our now-deceased judge and how she would respond to the news, and urging a reunion of our trio in Los Angeles, should I come to visit. A clerkship may only last for a year or two, but the connections that you make with your judge and your colleagues—those last a lifetime. This result follows in part from the nature of a judicial chambers. It is a small working group: the judge, an assistant and one or more clerks. The work that you do cannot be discussed with anyone but that group. And so you develop a special bond. Next blogpost, I will discuss another reason why the experience fosters such strong connections.
Judicial internships and judicial clerkships are not the same. A judicial clerkship is a post-graduate clerk position (usually a term of 1 – 2 years). A judicial internship is a summer position, that does not lead to a post-graduate position with the judge.
Are summer judicial internships beneficial? Absolutely! 1L summer is the best time to consider a judicial internship. Consider your long term career goals when deciding which judges you should apply to for a summer position. We will help you navigate these decisions and the process. We will help you prepare your application materials. Impress your summer judge and you may find that doors open for post-graduate clerkships with other judges. Apply over winter break.
Are summer judicial internships paid? No. Never. You should simply feel grateful for a great opportunity. However, the 1L summer public interest program at WashULaw does fund summer internships. More information is coming soon. Also, some organizations, like the ABA, will fund a judicial internship.
Many judges still prefer paper applications. Schedule a time to print, sort and prepare your paper applications in the Center for Career Development. We can help you print, proof read, and assemble your cover letter, resume, writing sample, transcripts, letters of recommendation and any additional application materials requested in one packet. We will pay the postage and mail the application for you.
Bev Owens, Assistant Director for Faculty Support, will provide sealed letters of recommendation for paper clerkship applications. Try to allow at least 5 business days for letters of recommendation. However, if it is an emergency, let us know. (If you need to mail the application before the letters of recommendation are completed, Ms. Owens can mail the letters separately).
Schedule a time through Tanya Bishop!
Clerking is not only a fantastic stepping stone to a successful career, but clerking itself can be a rewarding career. Please drop in the CCD on Tuesday (10-24) to meet career clerk Michelle Akinsiku Hayde (2006) from 12:15-1:00 for Attorney Tuesday.
Michelle is career clerk for Judge Staci M. Yandle. She began her legal career as a litigator- first with the Attorney General’s office and then with litigation firms. Since March 2015, Michelle been clerking with the Southern District of Illinois. She completed a temporary clerkship with Judge Rosenstengel from March 2015-August 2015 and then began a clerkship with Judge Yandle in August 2015. In March 2016, Michelle accepted a career clerkship with Judge Yandle and has found clerking to be a wonderful and rewarding position.
The OSCAR Program Office has put together several resources for applicants. Topics covered in the blog posts below include how applicants can manage their documents (resumes, cover letters, writing samples, etc.) within their OSCAR accounts, how to best manage recommenders for applications, and how to utilize the search features to find open positions that fit their needs.
- Information for Applicants: Managing Documents
- Information for Applicants: Managing Recommenders
- Information for Applicants: Searching for Positions
In addition, OSCAR also provides the following helpful resources for applicants:
Now is the time to get ready to apply for clerkships! The faculty and CCD have put together the information that you need to apply in this post. Every judge is looking for something slightly different, so we can’t cover everything here. But if you work through the Clerkship Application Checklist, you’ll be ready to apply to most judges as soon as you have your spring grades. Your goal should be have your application ready to send out as soon as you receive your spring grades since many judges have recently started hiring in early summer.
If you have any questions, you should email Professors Richards, Sachs, Epps, or D’Onfro! We’ll update this blog with FAQs as they come in and we’re always happy to answer individual questions as well. We want you to put together the best application possible.
Resume. You should have a resume that is in good shape from your summer job hunt. Now, just add your summer position(s) and any new honors or activities, such as journal membership. Once you have lined up a job for your 2L summer, add that as well. Unless you have significant pre-law school work experience, keep it to one page. If you’d like an example, this is Prof. D’Onfro’s resume from when she applied for clerkships.
References. You should plan to ask 2-3 people for references. Some positions only require two references, but more competitive judges, especially at the federal circuit level, typically prefer three. Ideally, two of your references will be faculty members from your first-year or upper-level substantive classes. We ask that you fill out the Judicial Clerkship Reference Request Form and include that when you ask faculty for a reference. Once you have confirmed your faculty recommenders, email their names to firstname.lastname@example.org along with copies of your Judicial Clerkship Reference Request Forms.
Cover Letter. You will send a short, generic cover letter to most judges. It should convey the basic information about you, but it isn’t a personal statement about why you want to clerk. And it won’t impress the judge for you to extol your virtues in the letter. Here is a sample of what we recommend. For judges where you have some real connection—most importantly, a personal geographic connection to where the judge sits—you should add a sentence or two explaining that fact. Your goal in including this information is to make the judge realize why you might be particularly interested in clerking in, say, Wyoming—and thus why you’re likely to accept an offer. Bringing in potential clerks for interviews is a lot of work. Some judges care that you intend to stay in their geographic region after clerking so you should mention that where applicable.
Transcripts. Make sure you have a few official undergraduate transcripts on hand for the judges who request them (we only know of a handful of state clerkships that ask for official transcripts, but since these can take a few weeks to get from your prior institutions, get them now). Spend time now making an unofficial law school transcript and getting the data into OSCAR so that you don’t have to do it later.
Writing Sample. Make sure you have something that has not been edited by anyone else. If you’re a 1L, your legal writing assignments are probably your best bet until you have a chance to develop a better writing sample though your summer position, a clinic, moot court, or a seminar paper. Pay attention to what judges on your list are asking for, since some ask for persuasive writing while others prefer law review-style notes. Fortunately, most don’t have a preference.
List of Judges. To maximize your chances of success, apply broadly—a list of 50+ judges is a good start, but you can even go broader than that. We’ve had students in the top half of the class get federal district court clerkships and students in the top quarter get federal court of appeals clerkships, but these aren’t hard cutoffs. If you have strong recommendations and interview well, quite a bit is possible—and, for better or for worse, luck plays a significant role.
Given that, it’s not a good idea to limit your search to a narrow geographic area. Even if you want to practice long-term in, say, San Diego, it isn’t a good strategy to only apply to San Diego-based judges. That will significantly limit your options—and make it a lot less likely you’ll get a clerkship. A clerkship anywhere is a credential that carries value everywhere in the legal profession.
You should also consider state court clerkships, which are often somewhat less competitive than federal clerkships but no less rewarding. We have some excellent resources for researching state court opportunities here.
But don’t stop there! If you love criminal law or crave trial experience, consider federal magistrate clerkships. If you see yourself working in banking, securities, consumer, or commercial law down the road, consider federal bankruptcy clerkships. And don’t overlook the other specialized courts like the Federal Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the various administrative courts. NALP has a great guide covering opportunities with ALJs.
In short, no matter where you are in the class, there is a clerkship for which you’re a viable candidate. Make an appointment with one of us to discuss your best strategy if you are not sure.
Once you have a list, fill out the State and/or Federal Judicial Clerkship Applications Spreadsheet and send it to email@example.com. June 15, 2017 is the deadline for priority handling of applications over the summer. All other requests will be processed in the order they are received. You can make changes to this spreadsheet after you submit it, but please be considerate of the administrative staff.
Applying for a judicial clerkship? Want to stand out in your interview? Take the time to learn about the judge’s case load by pulling and reviewing their dockets. Your familiarity with their current cases will give you relevant subjects to discuss during the interview. Also, be sure to demonstrate your passion for the legal profession by brushing up on hot topics, current legal issues, and the latest legal news. Check out Bloomberg Law’s Judicial Clerkship Resource page for access to all of these resources.