Judicial Clerkship Program Kicks Off

Judicial Clerkship Program Kicks Off
February 05, 2009

As law students are immersed in academic theory and legal methods, they also are contemplating their future careers. To help them broaden their horizons and develop a deeper understanding of how law works within a society, the Law School has a vibrant Judicial Clerkship Program. A series of programs designed to teach students about the value of a judicial clerkship and the nuances of the clerkship application process are well underway.

Navigating the Clerkship Process
The Law School has consistently placed its gradates in federal and state court clerkships, ranging from the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals to the state supreme courts and the chambers of federal magistrate judges. Competition for these coveted spots is intense, and outstanding judges are spread across the country.  Accordingly, students are encouraged to consider a wide range of clerkship opportunities, including those in districts and circuits throughout the U.S., according to Ilene Strauss, Executive Director of Academic Counseling and Judicial Programming. A native New Yorker, Strauss took her own advice and clerked on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas after graduating from law school.

The clerkship process requires care and planning. While students cannot submit applications before September of their third year, they are encouraged to think about their applications much earlier. Since applicants must obtain up to three letters of recommendation, Strauss advises students to consider the idea of a clerkship early in their law school education and to make an effort to get to know their professors during their first two years of classes. Students also need to think ahead about the legal writing sample they will submit to strengthen their application.

The Value of Clerking
With strong backing from Dean Schizer and the faculty, including the faculty clerkship committee co-chaired by Professors Scott Hemphill and Daniel Richman, Strauss believes that Columbia Law School’s clerkship program provides an unparalleled level of support to both current students and alumni. The program includes individual counseling, assistance with the application process, and year-long programming. This year, the Clerkship Office has designed a series of events that introduce the Law School’s students to judges from all levels of the judiciary, both state and federal, as well as to alumni who have clerked.

Why consider clerking in the first place? According to Strauss, a year spent clerking will expose recent law school graduates to a level of research, writing, and legal practice that is hard to achieve in several years in almost any other legal setting. A clerkship can also introduce young lawyers to a mentor for life – their judge.

“No other law experience open to young graduates is likely to offer the same challenges and opportunities as a clerkship,” said Dean Schizer.

Clerkship Program Events
The Spring 2009 Clerkship Programming kicked off in January with “A Clerkship Strategy Session,” a discussion with Strauss about how to compile the strongest clerkship application possible, and “Clerking at the New York Court of Appeals,” with the Honorable Robert Smith ‘68.  Upcoming events include:

February 10: Breakfast with Columbia Law School alumni currently clerking in the tristate area. 8:45 a.m. in Drapkin Lounge.

February 12: “The Nuts and Bolts of Applying for a Clerkship,” featuring the Honorable Anita Brody ‘58 (Eastern District of Pennsylvania). 12:10-1:00 p.m. in JG 103.  

February 24:  “Clerkships:  A View from the Bench,” with the Honorable Theodore McKee (3rdCircuit) and The Honorable Dora Irizarry ‘79 (Eastern District of New York) (co-sponsored by BLSA, LALSA, APALSA, NALSA, and CLWA).

March 3: “How to Be A Great Trial Lawyer,” featuring the Honorable Paul Gardephe ’82 (Southern District of New York) and prominent local trial lawyers. 12:10-1:00 p.m. in JG 103.  

March 11: “Inside the Columbia Law School Clerkship Application Process,” a discussion of the ins and outs of how to apply for a clerkship through the Columbia Clerkship Office. 12:10-1:00 p.m. in JG 101.

April 1: “Clerking For a Federal Magistrate Judge,” featuring the Honorable James Francis (Southern District of New York) and his current law clerk, Sara Froikin ’08. 12:10-1:00 p.m. in JG 105.