New law school grads covet judicial clerkships for their positive career implications. Federal clerkships are typically the hardest to get, but state and local clerkships can give new grads' careers a boost, too. Judges at federal, state and local courts consistently say that their clerks perform vital functions in their chambers.
Given the high level of competition among those applying for the few spots that open up each year, a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship is known as far and away the hardest to obtain. Clerking for the Supreme Court is viewed by many law school graduates as the ultimate achievement, and it can be the catalyst for a highly successful legal career and in some cases, result in a big signing bonus at a law firm. The culture at many law schools greatly encourages graduates to get a clerkship at the federal, state or local level.
Judicial clerkships can also provide newly minted J.D.s with important advantages in today's tough legal market for new attorneys. According to the Judicial Clerkship Handbook from Chicago-Kent College of Law:
"A clerkship allows a lawyer to view the system of justice from the perspective of the judiciary at the beginning of one's career. To witness, and take part in, the judicial decision making process and the writing of court opinions, is simply an invaluable asset to anyone interested in understanding the law thoroughly and becoming an effective legal advocate. A judicial clerkship can be a valuable steppingstone for one's career. You will be working closely with a distinguished member of the legal profession, from whom you can learn a great deal. Usually a judge develops a great deal of affinity for his or her clerks, and is eager to serve as a mentor for years to come. Further, few employers -- firms, government, public interest, and the academy -- are insensible to the educational benefit and the perspective gained from the clerkship experience. Many large law firms offer monetary bonuses to individuals who have previously clerked."
With that in mind, U.S. News has just published two exclusive clerkship lists of law schools using data from our 2015 Best Law Schools rankings for the 2012 J.D. graduating class.
The first list shows which ranked law schools have the largest proportion of their employed 2012 graduates working at judicial clerkships with federal judges. The second list shows which ranked law schools have the largest proportion of their employed 2012 graduates working at clerkships with judges at the state and local levels.
The federal clerkship ratings have Yale Law School, not surprisingly, first by a significant margin, with 36.3 percent of employed graduates holding clerkships, followed by Stanford University at 29.1 percent and Harvard University at 18.5 percent.
In the state and local level clerkship list, the law school at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Camden came out on top, with 42 percent holding clerkships. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Newark came in a second with 33.2 percent, and Seton Hall University, also in New Jersey, came in a very close No. 3 at 33.1 percent. Unranked schools were not considered for this report.
Federal Judicial Clerkship Rankings
School (name) (state)
2015 Best Law Schools rank
Percent of 2012 employed J.D. grads with federal judicial clerkships
Percent of 2012 employed J.D. grads with state and local judicial clerkships
Yale University (CT)
Stanford University (CA)
Harvard University (MA)
Duke University (NC)
Columbia University (NY)
Cornell University (NY)
Emory University (GA)
State and Local Judicial Clerkship Rankings
2015 Best Law Schools rank
Percent 2012 employed J.D. grads with federal judicial clerkships
Percent 2012 employed J.D. grads with state and local judicial clerkships
Howard University (DC)
*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of all law schools. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.