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Law Clerk Hiring Standards


To qualify for the position of law clerk on the personal staff of a federal judge, a person must be a law school graduate (or be certified as having completed all law school studies and requirements and merely awaiting conferment of degree) from a law school of recognized standing, and have demonstrated one of the following accomplishments or proficiencies:

  1. Standing within the upper third of the law school class from a law school on the approved list of either the American Bar Association or the Association of American Law Schools;
  2. Experience on the editorial board of a law review of such a school;
  3. Graduation from such a school with an LLM degree; or
  4. Proficiency in legal studies that, in the opinion of the appointing judge, is the equivalent of one of the above. Some examples of criteria that are considered to be acceptable as equivalent include, but are not limited to:
    1. Publication of a noteworthy article in a law school student publication or other scholarly publication;
    2. Special high-level honors for academic excellence in law school, such as election to the Order of the Coif;
    3. Winning of a moot court competition or membership on a moot court team that represents the law school in competition with other law schools;
    4. Participation in the legal aid or other law school clinical program sanctioned by the law school;* or
    5. Summer experience as a law clerk to a state or local judge or law clerk experience on a continuing basis in a private firm while attending school (i.e., working one's way through college).*

(*To receive credit, participation and experience could not have been for academic credit.)

Legal Work Experience

Legal work experience is progressively responsible experience in the practice of law, in legal research, legal administration, or equivalent experience received after graduation from law school. Major or substantial legal activities while on military duty may be credited, on a month-for-month basis whether before or after graduation, but not to exceed one year if before graduation from law school.

The table below shows the number of years of legal work experience required to qualify for appointment as a law clerk at the applicable JSP grade levels. Please note that appointment to JSP-12 or above requires that the candidate be a member of the bar of a state, territory, or federal court of general jurisdiction.






(*For JSP-14, two of the three required years of legal work experience must have been served in the federal judiciary as a chambers law clerk, staff attorney, pro se law clerk, bankruptcy appellate panel law clerk, or death penalty law clerk.)

Updated July 30, 2020