Interviewing for a clerkship is not like interviewing for a job with another legal employer. In general, judges offer interviews only to the candidates who are being seriously considered. If you've been offered an interview, it means that your academic and technical qualifications are acceptable. The interview will be used to assess other qualifications.
Once you've been offered an interview, you should find out all you can about that judge. Use Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw to find opinions, and talk to former clerks. Google the judge to find out to what committees the judge belongs, what articles or speeches the judge has written, and to what judicial philosophy the judge subscribes.
The interview may seem informal, almost conversational. It can last from a few minutes to over an hour. You'll probably interview with everyone in the chambers-the judge, the judge's administrative assistant or secretary, and the current clerks. The judge will rely heavily on the comments and evaluations of staff, so don't do or say anything that you would not want the judge to hear about. Judges will consider many qualities, including your communications skills, your ability to make reasoned decisions, your personality, and your ability to work both independently and as part of a team. You may also be asked about your non-legal activities and hobbies.
Two questions that you should always be prepared to answer are “Why this judge?” and “Why this court?” While this is a good opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of and interest in the geographic area, that is not enough. You should have specific reasons that you are interested in the particular judge and particular court with which you are interviewing.
Depending on the judge and the court, you may be asked substantive legal questions. These can be things related to your note or other publication, research that you have conducted, current legal events or cases in the news, or the judge’s own published opinions. As with any interview, be prepared to talk in depth about every item on your resume, including any publications. Know the judge and his or her recent opinions in enough depth to discuss them. Do not be afraid to take a position or volunteer an opinion – the judge is likely looking for you to demonstrate both your substantive legal knowledge and your reasoning skills.
If you have landed an interview for a judicial clerkship, whether it is an initial screening or a full interview, make an appointment with CPD to do a mock judicial interview. Interviewing with a judge is a highly personal and highly competitive process. Practicing a judicial-style interview will ensure that you are comfortable and confident, and hopefully ultimately successful.
You will be expected to pay your own travel expenses to judicial interviews. While some judges may offer you the opportunity to interview over the phone, it is always best to make an impression in person and demonstrate that you are dedicated enough to make the effort to travel. CPD has some funds available to give students small grants to help defray travel costs for interviews. Contact Shawn after you have scheduled interviews and made your travel arrangements for more information.
For general information about interviews, read our Interviewing page.
Thank You Notes
After an interview, write a thank you note to the judge that day. If you interviewed with the judge's administrative assistant and/or current clerks, write thank you notes to them too. Thank you notes can be typed in business letter format or handwritten. Consider your audience and determine which you think is most appropriate. Don't use e-mail; it is never appropriate for a judicial interview. Make reference in the note to a topic or topics that you covered in your conversation with the judge. Reiterate your interest in the position and volunteer to provide more information at the judge’s request. Try to present the same friendly, respectful, accommodating manner that you (hopefully) presented in the interview.