Recently, we published profiles of a handful of our Illinois Law graduates who landed judicial clerkships. This is the second part of the series, where in their own words, graduates 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.
Clerking for the Honorable Theresa Lazar Springmann, United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, 2017-2018
"I pursued a clerkship for a couple different reasons. I want to develop my legal writing skills and also see a broad range of legal issues after law school, and a clerkship provides an opportunity to do so. I also want to see how a judge goes about making a decision, and watch high (and low) quality lawyering in action on a daily basis."
"I received help from several different services, including the Career Services Office at the College of Law. I also discussed the search with College of Law alumni who had previously clerked, as well as mentors at the firm where I summered, Winston & Strawn."
"Be open to various geographic locations and different types of clerkships. Even if the opportunity is outside of the geographical area where you plan to practice, you will still gain transferable skills, a solid resume line, and a chance to experience life in a different part of the country for a year or two (which can be valuable in its own right). Also, be flexible with timing. Many judges prefer candidates with work experience, so it’s perfectly acceptable to wait to pursue the right opportunity."
Clerking for Judge Schmetterer, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 2017-2018
"At the start of the application process, I applied primarily because I was recommended by a former professor and also because everyone is looking for a job. As I did more research and spoke with former clerks, it became clear that a clerkship would be a great opportunity to not only learn substantive law, but also to see what good advocacy looks like on both sides and gain an understanding of how courts go about reaching decisions. Plus, it seems a little more low pressure than immediately trying to bill hours and you can't beat the networking opportunities."
"Everyone involved in the process helped me out immensely. Alex Piller has been helping me polish up my resume for 3 years, and Jolynn Caroline provided me with a ton of great resources, especially with regards to writing cover letters for judicial clerkships and clerkship interview questions. She also connected me with alumni who had clerked for bankruptcy judges in the past. And of course, I would be remiss not to mention Professor Tabb, who recommended me for the opportunity and was kind enough to prepare a letter of recommendation for me."
"Don't feel intimidated by the process! There are a lot of people at the College of Law who are there to help you, even if you feel like you're shooting for the stars with a clerkship. My GPA 1L year was not particularly good. But, with the help of the Career Services team and the strength of the connections I made over the 3 years I've spent at the College of Law (and some GPA rehabilitation), I was fortunate enough to secure a great job opportunity that I didn't think I could."
Lauren (Bacchus) Torre
Clerking for the Honorable Gloria Navarro, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, 2017-2019
"I pursued a clerkship because I wanted to expand my legal knowledge and have the opportunity to work closely with an established and respected mentor in the legal community. I also liked the idea that a clerkship for a judge with a split docket (civil and criminal law) would give me a more in-depth look at different practice areas, because I am not entirely sure what legal field I plan to practice in."
"My career counselor Jolynn Caroline was extremely helpful in the application process. She prepped me for my interview, and helped me organize my letters of recommendation. She was the first person I called after my interview to debrief and discuss the next steps. Her guidance made me feel supported and confident."
"My advice for future students is that relationships matter. If you are hoping to receive a clerkship try and extern for a judge during your first or second summer. You should also set up lunches or coffee dates with various judges in the community to introduce yourself and explain your interest. Knowing the judge you want to work for before your interview is a huge advantage, and the best way to do that is to 'press the flesh.'
"Additionally, reach out to your career counselors, they are a wealth of knowledge! They know students who have clerked before that they will put you in touch with, and they can help you with the OSCAR application portal which is not very user friendly."
Clerking for the Honorable Eric Johnson of the Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas, NV, 2017-2018
"After my second year of law school I was convinced that I wanted to work in litigation. Therefore, I felt that securing a clerkship, at the trial court level, would expose me to a wide breadth of oral and written legal advocacy. But, more importantly, a clerkship offers me the opportunity to hone my legal research and writing skills while giving me a unique perspective on the inner workings of a judge’s chamber. Lastly, one of the biggest benefits of my clerkship is that I will be able to work closely and learn from a well-respected judge in my home jurisdiction of Nevada."
"My career counselor at the time, Professor Rebecca Szajna, was instrumental in helping me secure this clerkship. As an out of state student that hoped to return to Nevada post-graduation, Professor Szanja made sure to meet with me regularly. During our meetings, we discussed a strategy to ensure that I would be employed at graduation. As a result of countless mock interviews with my career counselor and numerous applications, I was able to procure this position within weeks of starting my 3L year."
"Be nice to everyone because sometimes opportunities can be found in the most unexpected of places. For example, I interviewed for this position because I struck up a conversation with the court’s bailiff and he was gracious enough to pass my resume and writing sample along to the judge. Lastly, make sure you are vocal about your interest in clerking with the career center. They are there to help you in any way they can and have an abundance of resources at their disposal."