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Tips for Communicating with Judges and Recommenders

Judges

Be respectful of a judge’s time. You should not apply to a judge, and most certainly not accept an interview with a judge, unless you are prepared to accept an offer. Make sure to have any conversations with your significant other before you apply. Judges will expect a quick answer to an offer and many will want that answer at the time the offer is made. To ask for additional time to think about an offer may negatively affect your relationship with the judge, should you ultimately accept the offer. To decline an offer (other than because you are accepting a clerkship with another judge) may damage the law school’s relationship with the judge and hurt future Penn Law applicants’ ability to obtain a clerkship with that judge. (The moral of this is that, if you schedule an interview with a judge who is not your top-choice judge, you should try to see whether it is possible to schedule interviews with any judges whom you prefer more before your interview with the non-top-choice judge. Please feel free to ask our advice on how to accomplish this.)

Be sure to thank the judge and staff. After an interview, please take a moment to send a brief email to the judge, clerks and other staff members you met to thank them for the opportunity to interview with them. You can mention an item or two you enjoyed conversing about and reiterate your interest in the clerkship.

Withdraw your applications after accepting an offer. As soon as you accept a clerkship, be sure to withdraw all of your outstanding applications. On OSCAR, it’s a simple process to withdraw them. For your paper applications, a quick phone call to chambers will do.

Recommenders

Stay in touch with your recommenders. Recommenders put in time and effort to write effective letters on your behalf. To keep them informed about your progress is not only appropriate, it may also get them more invested in your search. It helps them help you in your clerkship search.

  • Every few weeks, let them know whom you’ve applied to (send a Symplicity spreadsheet with the judges’ names, courts, emails and phone numbers). Some recommenders also may have advice to share about particular judges, and in such instances you may find it helpful to share a draft list of judges with the recommender before you actually apply.
  • Be mindful when asking them to reach out to judges. Don’t ask for such outreach unless you are sure that you’d happily accept an offer from the judge in question. Also, bear in mind that while recommenders should find such requests helpful (because it may inform their efforts on your behalf) a recommender may not be in a position to commit to contacting a given judge on your behalf. Recommenders have to balance support for several candidates. They also may know the qualifications some judges expect and may not be willing to put forth a candidate who does not have those qualifications. Thus, it is more diplomatic not to ask “will you call Judge X,” and instead to state that you would appreciate any outreach the recommender is willing to make to the highlighted judges. If there is a specific reason that you think you would be a particularly good candidate for a judge or judges on your list, it is helpful to let your recommenders know the reason.
  • Be sure to let your recommenders know of any interview you receive before the interview. That way they will be prepared if a judge calls them. Moreover, knowing you have an interview may cause them to reach out to the judge on your behalf.
  • Let them know right away when you accept an offer! You would not want them to hear the good news from someone else first. (And if they happen to be in touch with the judge for other reasons before they hear your good news, it will seem odd to both the judge and the recommender that you didn’t promptly share the news.)
  • Lastly, a simple thank you in person, via email, or via an old fashioned note is always appreciated.