Every year, Illinois Law graduates land the most highly sought-after positions one can aspire to coming out of law school – judicial clerkships. This year, 13 of our 2017 graduates secured clerkship positions at both the state and federal level. We recently spoke to a few of them - in their own words, the following profiles detail their reasons for pursuing a clerkship, how the College assisted them in the process, and advice they would offer to students considering a clerkship.
(Profiles will be published in two parts - the 2nd part will be forthcoming.)
Clerking for Judge Joseph Goodwin, Southern District of West Virginia, 2017- 2018
"I applied to a clerkship because I believe it is the best way to begin your legal career. You get to work one-on-one with a federal judge ruling on motions, drafting opinions, debating law, etc. You also get to observe trials, oral arguments, and read endless motions and briefs from both sides. These experiences let you improve your writing and analytical skills, as well as see effective lawyering (and not so effective lawyering) which is such a great learning tool."
"I discussed the clerkship application process with several professors before I began applying. They helped me strategize, reviewed some of my application material, and wrote letters of recommendation and/or agreed to be a reference. Career services helped me prepare materials, get in touch with alumni, and coordinate interviews. I also met with other students in my class and the class above who were also interviewing or had secured clerkships to discuss what our interviews were like, things that worked / things that didn’t etc. Alumni were also incredibly helpful. I reached out to a few alums who clerked for a judge I was interviewing with, clerked on the same court, or just generally knew the judge well, and they were always more than happy to get on the phone and talk about their experiences. I really couldn’t have asked for more or better assistance through the process."
"I applied to roughly 60 judges and interviewed with four before receiving an offer. There were times during the process where I felt like I was wasting my time and that it wasn’t going to happen. Obviously, it worked out and was not a waste of my time, so my advice is to be patient and not give up."
Clerking for Judge Michael Kanne of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, 2018-2019
"I discussed the possibility of clerking with one of my mentors, Professor Lash, who gave me some practical advice and encouraged me to pursue the idea further. I began to explore clerkships and was able to participate in an externship for credit through the College of Law with Justice Steigmann of the Illinois Appellate Court. After working in Justice Steigmann’s chambers for a semester, I knew that I wanted to clerk at some point in my legal career. I saw the value of growing under the expertise and mentorship of an accomplished Judge. Additionally, I recognized the unique benefit to a young attorney of working alongside the other clerks."
"Getting started with the clerkship search and application process is daunting in itself. Thankfully, the career services team at Illinois gives some guidance that helped me understand the “lay of the land” with respect to the different courts, judges, and their unique timelines and requirements. Also, the career services team provided a big help when it came to looking through my application materials and helping send out paper-copy applications. Their patience was remarkable."
"I would encourage potential clerkship applicants to develop relationships with your professors. At Illinois, this was not a hard thing to do because of our friendly and engaging faculty. But eventually you will need recommenders who are willing to speak not only to your academic prowess, but also to how nice of a person you would be for a judge to have around his or her chambers."
Clerking for the Honorable Marie Simonelli, New Jersey Appellate Division Court, 2017-2018
"I pursued a clerkship because I'm not entirely sure what type of law I want to practice. Moreover, I am moving back to that specific job market (NJ/NY) after 3 years so a clerkship seemed like the best way to foster connections and gain an understanding of the current conditions and needs of that market."
"Because I was not job searching in the Chicago market, I primarily relied on information provided to me by law clerks who did go to law school on the east coast and my supervising attorney last summer during my clerkship at a New Jersey medical malpractice firm. Once it came to actually sending out the applications and preparing for interviews, Jolynn at our Career Services Department was an absolute lifesaver. She answered all my questions and even if she didn't know an answer to a specific question, she did her best to try to find out for me through other sources. She also helped me logistically coordinate how and when to send out applications and even offered to have a mock interview with me remotely."
"Don't sell yourself short. I fell below the GPA median that New Jersey and New York law schools advised would be needed to get a state clerkship. And if that's also you, rest assured that the right connections and the interview itself will make a huge difference."
Clerking for Chief Justice Karmeier of the Illinois Supreme Court, 2017-2018
"I decided to pursue a clerkship because I would like to pursue a career in litigation and I wanted to gain experience from the other side of the bench."
"I didn't really seek out a lot of help during the process, however, Career Services was always available to answer even the smallest questions. The Judge I am clerking for actually came to campus and Career Services ran the entire interview process, which made for a very smooth and comfortable experience."
"If you are considering a clerkship, you should definitely start looking into it early on. I waited until the last minute to decide to start applying for clerkships and lucked out that this amazing opportunity was still available. Also, don't be afraid to reach out to Career Services and do a mock interview. The interview that I did for my clerkship was completely different than any other interview I have done and a mock interview would have been really helpful."