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Judicial Clerkships

Whether you intend to enter private practice, public interest, government, or academia, serving as a judicial law clerk is an excellent opportunity near the start of your legal career.

Judicial clerkships are full-time jobs that typically last one or two years.  Clerks work closely with judges at all levels of the federal and state court systems.  Duties vary, but most clerkships involve evaluating the parties’ submissions, conducting legal research, recommending outcomes, and drafting judicial opinions.  Clerks experience the inner workings of their judge’s chambers and courthouse, which gives them a unique and valuable understanding of the justice system.  Most former clerks will tell you that their clerkship was one of the best professional experiences of their life.  Law firms often pay bonuses to judicial clerks, and clerking is also an important credential for certain competitive legal jobs.

Cornell Law School has a strong tradition of sending graduates to judicial clerkships in federal and state courts throughout the country.  In addition to students who accept clerkships that begin directly after graduation, many alumni obtain clerkships that begin after one or more years of legal practice in another position.  Around 20% of each graduating class eventually clerks.  The vast majority of our graduates clerk in federal courts, and some graduates choose to do more than one clerkship.

Average percentage of clerks for recent graduating classes.
Clerkships accepted in 2023.
Average percentage of clerks in federal courts.

We provide comprehensive support to all students and alumni applying for clerkships.  Here are some of the defining features of our judicial clerkship program:

  • Unlimited career counseling.  All students and alumni have access to counseling from the Career Development Office throughout their careers, including access to a dedicated clerkships advisor who can provide individualized advice on application materials, timelines, and strategy.
  • Numerous judicial events.  Cornell Law students have many opportunities to interact with judges on campus.  Fifteen judges per year visit Cornell to judge our three moot court competitions.  Two judges per year visit as part of our Distinguished Jurist Lecture Series.  In addition, the Dean of Students Office and the Career Development Office work to support student groups who wish to invite judges to campus as speakers.     
  • Intimate faculty support.  With our low student-to-faculty ratio and ample opportunities for students to interact with professors, our faculty is in a position to provide strong recommendation letters for students.  In addition, a faculty clerkship committee supports students and alumni by encouraging them to clerk, answering questions, and contacting judges for applicants.
  • Unique resources.  We offer many Cornell-specific resources and programs to help students and alumni navigate the application process, including: panels and presentations throughout the year, a weekly newsletter, a website with detailed application advice, lists of judges with Cornell connections, and a database with evaluations from former clerks.  Our Public Interest Fellowship also supports students who spend a summer interning for a judge, which can be a helpful stepping stone to clerking.
  • Tight-knit alumni community.  Our small class size and intimate setting result in a supportive and engaged alumni community.  Many current and former clerks agree to mentor current students, answer questions from applicants, and return to campus for events.  A committee of alumni judges also volunteers to have individual clerkship counseling sessions with current students each year.

Cornell Law School graduates obtain clerkships at all levels of the judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court.  Below are the numbers of all Cornell Law School graduates, including both new graduates and alumni, starting new clerkships in each of the past five calendar years:

Total Clerkships by Year 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Federal Courts 60 51 32 39 50
U.S. Supreme Court 1 1
U.S. Circuit Judges 16 12 14 16 15
U.S. District Judges 34 27 15 17 28
U.S. Magistrate Judges 6 5 2 4 5
Other Federal 3 7 1 2 1
State and Foreign Courts 8 12 12 3 6
Total by Year 68 63 44 42 56


Judicial Clerkships
(607) 254-8885
128 Hughes Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

The Cornell Law School is committed to a policy against discrimination in employment. The facilities of our career-development offices (the Career Services Office, the Office of Public Service, and the Office of Judicial Engagement and Professional Development) may be denied to employers whose behavior contravenes our faculty policy prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, ancestry, sex, gender (including identity or expression), sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, or protected veteran status. We require all employers using our career-development offices to comply with our nondiscrimination policy.

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