The Catholic University of America


Generally an application packet will include the following materials: (1) Cover Letter; (2) Résumé; (3) Writing Sample(s); (4) Law School Transcript; and (5) Letters of Recommendation or List of References.

1. Cover Letter. Your cover letter must be well-written and thoughtful. Judges are very concerned with your writing skills, so excellent content and perfect grammar are extremely important. You will want to briefly explain why you want a clerkship or are applying to this particular judge/court; and why the judge should consider you a unique candidate for the position. Ideally, your cover letter will answer these questions in two-three concise paragraphs and reference your résumé for elaboration. Proofread your cover letter very carefully - typographical and grammatical errors will likely be disastrous, almost certainly eliminating you from consideration. Remember - your cover letter is a writing sample!

2. Résumé. Your résumé should be professional…it should also be flawless. Emphasize research experience and good analytical skills, writing experience, interest in the courtroom or judicial procedure, and ties to the jurisdiction.

3. Writing Sample. Your writing sample should be either a scholarly article you have written for a law journal or a law school course, or a more practical sample, such as a legal memorandum you wrote for an employer. It should also be your original work; i.e., not edited by a superior or professor. If you include a piece of writing from an internship or other employment, you must request permission to use it from your employer. If you interned for a judge and plan to use a draft opinion, you should revise the opinion to appear as if it is a memo written by you to the judge. If possible, your sample should include analysis of the law of the jurisdiction where the court to which you are applying sits, or federal law if a federal court. Your sample should be short - no more than 15 pages - so redact sections if necessary to stay within the page limit; type "Sections X & Y Have Been Omitted For Your Convenience" on the front page.

4. Transcript. For hard copy applications, include a photocopy of your official law school transcript. If you know your grades for the most recent semester, but they have not been sent to the registrar for inclusion on your transcript, type an addendum of your grades and attach it to your transcript. For electronic applications, create a PDF version of your transcript. Catholic's Computer Services may be able to assist you with this process.

5. Letters of Recommendation. Obtaining letters of recommendation may be one of the most difficult steps of the application process. Generally, you should have three letters: choose from among law professors and legal employers. Check with each faculty recommender to determine how they would like you to submit a list of judges. Each reference letter must be personally addressed to each judge ("To Whom It May Concern" is not acceptable). Try to make the process as easy as possible for your references by providing the list of judges on a diskette in merge-data file format.

Reference letters can be mailed separately to each judge by each of your references. References may delay sending your letters of recommendation and so it is critical that you follow up to ensure that your letters are sent in a timely fashion. Conversely, you can ask your references to return the letters to you for inclusion with your application packages. Advise your references that you believe this will help ease the administrative burden in chambers upon receipt of your application. Some references will want to return their letters to you in individualized sealed envelopes; this is fine as they can simply be tucked into your application package.

NOTE FOR FEDERAL APPLICATIONS: The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has requested that certain precautions be taken by law student applicants and references to ensure that clerkship-related materials can be easily distinguished from other types of court correspondence. When applying for federal clerkships, you should mark "APPLICATION" in large letters on all transmittal envelopes. Individuals writing recommendation letters are similarly asked to label their envelopes "RECOMMENDATION."

Follow-up Letter. If you have any accomplishments to report after your clerkship applications are mailed, such as your selection to a journal editorial position or a moot court win, you should update your application immediately with a very short letter to each judge announcing the recent accomplishment.


The application process for judicial clerks is decentralized, meaning that you must apply to each individual judge. Federal judges accept applications in one of two ways: (1) hard copy applications sent via U.S. mail; or (2) electronically through the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR),

OSCAR Judges: OSCAR is an internet-based application permitting applicants to file their federal applications online. This year, there are 1300 judges signed up to use the OSCAR system. OSCAR enables the user to personalize both cover letters and letters of recommendation. For more information regarding OSCAR, check the OSCAR user guide available at NOTE: OCPD will upload letters of recommendation on behalf of students to the extent the letters are from faculty (including adjunct) recommenders.

Non-OSCAR Judges: Judges not registered through OSCAR prefer to receive their applications in hard copy via U.S. mail. To determine what each judge requires in terms of an application, you may check the Federal Law Clerk Information System ( or call the individual chambers.