Judge Anita B. Brody '58 Calls Clerkships Wise Career Choices


March 4, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Most law school graduates gain valuable experience from judicial clerkships that benefits their careers, said U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody '58 in remarks to law students during a lunchtime presentation at Jerome Greene Hall. She indicated that although it’s highly competitive to land a position with a federal judge, clerkship applicants should not overlook state courts. Nor should they overlook the importance of a strong reference from “a professor who really knows you” or summer employer in helping them secure coveted clerkships.

As a judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 1992, Brody said she received 715 applications last year for three positions. One of the applicants she chose was Brian Ginsberg '07, who returned to campus for her presentation.

“Most of the cases you’ll try in your career will be state cases,” she said, adding that clerks for judges in state courts get to know a lot of people.

“You have a good chance of getting a clerkship even if you’re not on Law Review or a journal editor,” she said. “You’ll be more valuable to a law firm after you finish clerking.”

She advised applicants to consider the possibility of two-year clerkships with judges who offer them, or a second year clerking for a different court, such as an appellate court. She also mentioned the option of working for a law firm prior to applying for a clerkship, a choice that enables those who want to clerk to apply early for them (before students who are graduating apply).

Brody suggested that applicants “do a little research” to determine which clerkships would be the most desirable, depending on their interests. Check the docket of the court you’re considering to see if the court gets the type of cases that interest you, she advised. Reference guides on judges that give lawyers’ evaluations may be helpful as are reviews by former clerks available through law schools they attended.

Political affiliation of district judges really makes no difference in the way they decide cases, she said.

She offered these additional observations about proper etiquette regarding the clerkship application process:

  • Keep your cover letter short but list your recommenders.
  • If you’re asked to submit a writing sample, choose it carefully and make it something short.
  • Prepare questions in advance for your interview and read several of a judge’s opinions so that you’ll be able to discuss them.
  • Don’t call a judge you’re meeting with “Your Honor”; that’s for the courtroom.
  • Treat everyone you meet on the interview politely.
  • Be yourself and enjoy the interview.
  • Write a well-composed thank-you note.