What It Is
In Fall 2020, Columbia Law School’s inaugural Anti-Racism Steering Committee (Steering Committee) asked the Office of Judicial Clerkships (OJC) how to best support its efforts to enhance faculty mentoring of and advocacy for clerkships-interested students of color.
In response, OJC and the Faculty Clerkships & Judicial Relations Committee (Clerkships Committee) looked at the available data on clerkships and diversity at Columbia Law School (CLS). On average, less than 30% of CLS alumni and students who obtained clerkships identified as students of color and/or with or from another traditionally underrepresented group. How did this small cohort succeed? A common denominator soon emerged: the role of a strong, committed faculty sponsor/mentor.
So, to address the gap for these traditionally underrepresented students, OJC and the Clerkships Committee developed the Columbia Clerkships Diversity Initiative (Initiative). Its cornerstone feature is 1:1 faculty mentoring to encourage promising, diverse candidates into federal and state court clerkships.
Why It Matters
Increasing law clerk diversity matters to our students, prospective students, alumni, and the judiciary. Indeed, 2020 was a banner year for new initiatives here at CLS around clerkships and diversity. For example, the Columbia Law Women’s Association and the Latinx Law Students Association established inaugural judicial clerkships chairs. OJC has also conducted or co-hosted additional programs and/or judicial lectures with the Black Law Students Association, Empowering Women of Color, the Muslim Law Students Association, Outlaws and QTPOC+. Its Clerkships Peer Mentor Program was also tailored to match students of color interested in clerkships to alumni law clerks of color.
To ensure that our courts reflect our communities, diversifying law clerk ranks matters. Clerkships can open doors to law firms, practice areas, and professional opportunities, including judgeships and government service, that simply cannot be otherwise opened.
How to Get Involved
If you’re an alum or employer looking to help or interested in working with us, please contact Dean Saavedra
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To increase the clerkship diversity pipeline for the Class of 2023 by providing women, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, or members of other underrepresented groups with faculty mentorship, supplemental academic support and skill-based training opportunities.
- OJC seeks to ensure an expansive definition of the meaning of diversity, openness, and inclusion, and seeks to realize it in the broadest terms—including gender expression and sexual orientation, disability status, veteran status, and members of other underrepresented groups.
All members of the Class of 2023 are eligible to participate in the Initiative. OJC will accept applications beginning Monday, June 21st, ending on Friday, June 25th at 4 pm EST. An application includes:
- A written statement of interest in clerkships and the program, including a discussion of their self-identity or commitment to diversity (min. 1 page);
- The name of a potential faculty member or two who could serve as mentors (you must obtain prior consent from the Faculty of your intent to name them to OJC); and
- A legal writing sample.
In this initial year, OJC anticipates accepting ~20 participants in the Initiative. The Initiative may expand in future years, depending on the pilot's success.
The selected student cohort will have monthly meetings with OJC to focus on preparation for clerkships, including discussions with alumni law clerks and judges, and with exploration of post-clerkship careers. Peer support will be a key feature of the program. In addition, OJC will work with the Writing Center and its Fellows to provide specific support to the cohort in preparation of their clerkships. Ideally, OJC would be able to launch a judicial clerkship learning boot camp or workshop in the cohort’s 3L year, in advance of their clerkships.