By Kathryn Pope, University of Florida Levin College of Law
A judicial internship offers law students an opportunity to work in a judge’s chambers, performing duties such as researching various laws and writing legal memoranda.
Judicial internships are one of the most coveted summer positions because they allow students the opportunity to strengthen legal research and writing skills while learning directly from a judge about court proceedings.
With that being said, students need to demonstrate initiative by researching the application process, speaking with professors who have clerked after law school, talking with students who have completed a judicial internship, and working with career advisors to hone their application materials.
I’ve put together these seven insights of my own to help de-mystify the application process and provide you a good start.
Ask yourself, why do you want to apply?
While this question may appear intuitive, it will help explain your long-term career objectives to your career advisor. For myself, I knew that I wanted to pursue a federal judicial internship opportunity because of my passion for academia, my interest in complex commercial litigation and my enjoyment of Civil Procedure. Also, I knew that judicial interns perform a lot of legal research and writing, which are two areas that I hope to continue strengthening throughout law school.
In asking yourself “why apply,” it may be helpful to write down a short list of courses you’re currently taking in law school that you enjoy and others that you find challenging. This will lead you in the right direction. Here are some other internship tips and considerations to help with your decision, too.
Develop a relationship with your career advisor
This is so important. Judicial internship applications are unlike many other job opportunities. There usually isn’t a direct way to apply for internships on the court’s website. Instead, you often have to compile a cover letter, legal resume, writing sample and your unofficial transcript, and submit all this information by email. And because of the large number of internship applications each chamber receives, most court websites will include a general statement such as “If you’re interested in serving as a judicial intern, please speak with your law school.” I would recommend scheduling an appointment with your career advisor as soon as possible so that you can spend time perfecting your application materials.
Expand your network and pool of references
In addition to contacting your career advisor, I recommend talking to professors who completed a judicial clerkship after law school and any upperclassmen who completed judicial internships during their 1L summers. Not only will this give you a better idea of the expectations of judicial interns but a crucial part of law school is growing your professional network. By showing up to class early and prepared, attending office hours (even if that may be via Zoom) and creating a professional relationship with your professors, you can build your network. You may also be able to use those professors as references on your applications.
Research judges in your preferred geographic region
Once you decide where you would like to intern, conduct preliminary research on various state and federal level judges (whichever you specifically want to apply for) in that region. Once you get a list of judges, read up on each judge’s career history before taking the bench to see which one aligns with your career objectives and areas of interest.
Make sure your legal resume is formatted properly
Your legal resume should be no more than one page and follow standard formatting guidelines. Each law school has clear expectations for how legal resumes should be structured. I would work with your career counselor and look at legal resume templates that your law school provides to make sure you have the proper formatting.
Prepare and keep perfecting a writing sample
Your writing sample is arguably one of the most critical aspects of your application. You must show that you can write clearly and effectively. I recommend using a legal memorandum that you wrote during your legal writing class because it will help demonstrate your ability to perform legal writing well, which will be one of the more important skills to possess for a judicial internship.
Tailor your cover letter to each specific judge
Your cover letter should explain why you want to apply for a judicial internship with a certain judge’s chambers, highlighting what skills you would bring to the office if chosen. This is your first impression and perhaps only opportunity to showcase your strengths and genuine interest in a specific chambers.
I hope that this post helped break down the steps of applying for a judicial internship. I wish you the best of luck throughout the process.