Stanford Law School has a strong clerkship tradition. Our graduates clerk primarily in the U.S. Courts of Appeals and U.S. District Courts. For the past 42 consecutive years, SLS grads have clerked for justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state courts, most of our graduates clerk at the highest state appellate court level. Students who clerk at some point after graduation represent approximately 30-35% of a typical graduating class.
Whether you intend to enter private practice, public interest, government service, or legal academia, clerkships are a very good way to start your legal career. Clerkships offer an opportunity to work closely with a judge, learn about the inner workings of the judicial system, and hone your legal research and writing skills. They also provide one or two years of practical training and enable you to make valuable professional contacts in the substantive and/or geographical areas in which you hope to practice. In short, a clerkship can be an ideal stepping stone into any legal job.
Our Strong Clerkship Tradition
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What To Expect
Clerking entails a good deal of legal research and writing, though it can also involve administrative responsibilities. It is an excellent opportunity to become familiar with pretrial and trial procedures and to hone legal research, writing and advocacy skills.
There are many benefits to working as a term judicial law clerk or permanent staff attorney. The jobs can be remarkable introductions to a variety of lawyering techniques and styles. The experience can be an invaluable way to see judicial decision-making in action, and to gain exposure to a wide variety of legal specialties. Many legal employers regard this as a gold star on your resume, and the judge you work with can be a terrific reference. For people who are unsure about a permanent job, or who are looking for a public interest or public sector job, a clerkship can keep you clothed and fed while you await bar results and search for a job.
A clerkship, however, is not right for everyone. If you are not interested in legal research and writing, are eager to get started in a job with more permanence, or are more comfortable in a role of more forthright advocacy, you might consider other alternatives.