Many judges invite law students volunteer in their chambers during summers or the school year to allow students to gain experience in how a chambers works and to assist the judge and clerks with their work. These positions are usually referred to as judicial internships (or externships). At Cornell, students usually take advantage of this opportunity during the summer following the first year of law school. Students may also intern for judges during their second summer or during the term.
Judges seeking law clerks generally view the experience you may have gained as a judicial intern as exceedingly valuable. Applicants who have been judicial interns have the benefit of being “up the curve” on a judge’s expectations and on the role of a law clerk. Judicial interns typically are able to develop their legal research and writing skills, and may wind up with a solid writing sample. In addition, a judicial internship may allow an applicant to develop a strong relationship with a judge, who may be willing to act as a reference or provide recommendations for your judicial clerkship search, in addition to being a valuable mentor.
Note that judges differ in their policies regarding the hiring of former interns. Some judges make it their practice not to hire former interns at all. However, many do hire their former interns and may even have a preference for them. If you have had the experience of being a judicial intern, contact the judge or clerks with whom you worked to find out how your experience as an intern can best be presented in your search for a judicial clerkship.