The Columbia Clerkships Diversity Initiative

A Faculty Mentoring Program for the Class of 2024

Academic Term 2021-2022: The Pilot Year

In Fall 2021, with the full support of our Dean and Faculty, OJC launched the Columbia Clerkships Diversity Initiative (Initiative). The Initiative’s purpose is to increase clerkship awareness among, and help increase applications from, and placements of, current law students who may identify as being traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession, and, specifically, as law clerks. Such applicants may include women, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, disability status, veteran status, and/or first-generation professionals. Importantly, OJC seeks to ensure an expansive definition of the meaning of diversity, openness, and inclusion, so as to realize the Initiative’s goals in its broadest terms. 

In the 2021-2022 Academic Year, OJC, with the indefatigable support of faculty mentors, judicial and law clerk alumni, welcomed an inaugural cohort of 34 2Ls into the Initiative.  While only 13 of these students chose to apply after their 2L year, to both state and federal clerkships, 9 have successfully obtained one or more clerkships.  And, importantly, many members of the cohort will continue to apply and interview as 3Ls, with others joining the process post-graduation.

As one inaugural participant stated: “[I] could not recommend [the Initiative] more to 2Ls. I felt much more prepared to apply for a clerkship, importantly because I knew a lot more about what a clerkship even was.”  Yet another said “ I really enjoyed and appreciated the program. The things I found most helpful were the calendar [of events]  and my professor mentor. I also really, really appreciated my alumni mentor and her insights. It was just really helpful to have these connections and people to talk to with questions [as I was going through the process].” And, importantly, one participant said that “[d]espite deciding not to move forward with a clerkship, I am glad I was able to learn more about the process, about what it means to be a clerk, what applying looks like, and to connect with my mentors and use their advice to inform how I am planning my future.”  

The Initiative’s cornerstone feature is 1:1 faculty mentoring to encourage and support promising, diverse candidates as they apply for federal and state court clerkships.  The Initiative cohort also hosted judicial lectures at CLS, and enjoyed courtroom and chamber visits in Spring 2022 to the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  The CDI also connected members with alumni mentors and, importantly, to each other.

 

Academic Year 2022-2023 - Take Two

This year, based on prior participant feedback, the Initiative will be even more focused on creating a curated clerkship research, application and community experience for the CDI Scholars.  The Initiative will be grounded in a weekly, one hour seminar, lead by Dean Saavedra and Director Acquie. The course will span 13-weeks, covering key issues that diverse candidates have expressed interest in learning about, and preparing for, in advance of their clerkship applications, interviews and clerkship positions.  CDI Scholars will be asked to participate by reading clerkship-related materials, and providing reflection pieces about their clerkship aspirations (and concerns).  Guest lectures by faculty, judicial alumni, and alumni law clerks will occur throughout the term. CDI Scholars are also expected to join in at least two half-day trips during the semester to courthouses in New York (Dates TBA).  The seminar will culminate in ensuring that participants are ready to begin their clerkship application process in June 2023.  A final syllabus will be shared in mid-December 2022.

 

Application Process for Class of 2024 (Current 2Ls)

Beginning Thursday, December 1, 2022 through Friday, January 9, 2023, all currently enrolled J.D. students in their second year who are considering applying to clerkships in June 2023 are encouraged to apply to join the CDI.  Applications may be submitted here.  A completed application consists of:

  • A current legal resume;
  • A written statement of interest in clerkships and the Initiative, including a discussion of their self-identity or commitment to diversity (min. 1 page, max. 3 pages);
  • The name of at least 1 (but as many as 3) potential faculty members who could serve as potential mentors (while OJC will make every attempt to match you with one of the faculty mentors you have selected, this may not be possible in all circumstances);  and
  • A legal writing sample (10 pages).

CDI Scholars will be notified of their acceptance to the program prior to the start of the Spring semester.  The final day and time of the seminar will be finalized in consultation with accepted scholars prior to the final add/drop period. If you have any questions, concerns, or technical difficulties, please contact Director Acquie ([email protected]).

Associate Director for Programming and Advising

Dianisbeth Acquie, Esq