When you apply for other types of legal positions, there is someone on the other end of the application process who is paid to give your application at least a cursory review. But with clerkships, judges often received hundreds of applications and don’t have a designated hiring staff, so your application may never be read by a judge or clerk.
A call or email from one of your recommenders can help your application get the attention it deserves—even if the judge does not already know the recommender. Recommenders know this, and they may offer to call or email judges on your behalf. They may make this offer when you ask them to draft a letter or when you tell them you are starting to apply to judges.
If a recommender offers to contact judges for you, you should feel free to accept their offer. Out of respect for your recommenders’ time, you should try to limit your request to a reasonable number of judges that you feel are particularly good targets for you. As a rule of thumb, five judges per year usually is reasonable, though some recommenders may offer to contact more. You also should provide contact information for the judges, which you usually can find on Leadership Connect or the relevant court’s website. Please contact Director Rizzi if you would like advice on which judges may be good targets, or if you are unable to find contact information for certain judges.
If you are applying to a large batch of judges at once, especially in the days and weeks leading up to the Law Clerk Hiring Plan opening day, consider also offering to share your full judge list with your recommenders. They may wish to review it to see if there are any judges that they know and would be willing to contact. In addition, some recommenders simply appreciate the opportunity to see which judges will be receiving their letter, especially since some judges will call recommenders to ask for more information.
Please note that some recommenders have a special relationship with certain judges. Declining an offer from such a judge after the recommender advocates for you may damage the relationship between the recommender and the judge. Thus, it is important to discuss with your recommender whether they have such a relationship with any of the judges they have offered to contact. If so, you should try to make sure before applying that you would accept an offer from that judge.
Finally, please keep your recommenders regularly updated on your clerkship application progress. Applying to clerkships is a team effort. Whether they have written a letter, made calls for you, or simply agreed to serve as a reference, your recommenders have vouched for you and are invested in your success. Please let them know of any major developments, positive or negative, especially with judges they have contacted, and even with judges they have not. If you let your recommenders know of pending interviews, they may decide to call or email the judge at that stage to express their enthusiasm. More generally, most recommenders appreciate the opportunity to provide support and encouragement, and they always appreciate hearing about your successes.