If you are offered an interview, be prepared to schedule the earliest available interview appointment with the judge. Many judges hire clerks on a "rolling basis," meaning that if a judge likes the first three applicants he or she interviews, the judge would often much rather extend an offer to one of those applicants than interview every other candidate on the list. The applicants who scheduled later interview appointments may be passed over without ever even interviewing with the judge.
Keep in mind that a clerkship with a judge involves a close working relationship. Personal chemistry between employer and employee is usually far more important in this setting than in other employment settings. The judge and clerk need to be comfortable with one another and need to see the other person as someone with whom they would like to spend a year or more of their life. In addition, a judge's clerk is the judge's representative to the public, so the judge wants to be absolutely certain that you are someone who he or she trusts to represent them to the "outside" world.
The interview itself can last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. Often the current clerk or administrative assistant is included in the interview process. Remember that they are interviewing you too. The judge will expect questions from you, so have some prepared. In addition, carefully review every document in your application. Expect questions regarding all of these items. Remember to treat everyone you meet at the courthouse as if they have the power to deny you an offer - because they may.
You may wish to schedule a mock interview with an OCPD Career Advisor to practice an interview with a judge/judicial clerk. In addition, professors can be a valuable source of information about interview format and preparation; many CUA law professors clerked for judges themselves, and are willing to counsel students about clerkships.
Preparing for the Interview
Know your judge! There is nothing worse than being asked about a judge's recent decisions or particular cases in which she or he has been involved and not being prepared to discuss these items. A judge wants to know that you did not randomly select him or her.
Here are a few suggestions for researching judges:
- Begin by doing an online search for judge's most recent cases and decisions. LEXIS is particularly helpful for finding information beyond court opinions. Another option is to use newspaper web sites to search for recent articles about judges; a case or opinion may have made the local news.
- Check courts' web sites; many contain biographical information about judges, as well as recent court opinions and articles.
- Talk to people who may know the judge and/or court; professors, attorneys at your place of work, OCPD Career Advisors, classmates, CUA alumni, family members, friends may all fit this bill.
- Contact previous law clerks who worked for the judge to obtain further insight into what the clerkship would be like. OCPD's Judicial Clerkship handout includes a current list of current and past law clerks in federal and state courts nationwide. In addition, OCPD maintains a list of alumni who have clerked who are willing to do a mock interview with you.
- Even if you don't have an interview yet, show your list of target judges to professors and the other people mentioned above; professors and many others know local judges personally and can make great contacts and offer excellent insight.