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Scheduling Interviews

Once you hear from a judge, things will move quickly.  Judges often expect very quick responses to their offers; some have even been known to extend offers at the interview and to expect an answer then and there. It is important to be prepared for what may become a pressured decision making process. We encourage you to reach out to any member of the Clerkship Committee and Chris Fritton if you need advice.

As discussed in Devising a Judicial Clerkships Application Strategy before applying to a judge you will have researched the judge, court, and location, and you will have concluded that, based on what you know from this basic research, you would happily accept a clerkship with that judge. Once a judge offers you an interview,  deepen your research about that particular judge. Talk with people who know what this judge is like including fellow students, mentors from a summer job, Penn alums or others who have clerked for this judge, or who have clerked for a judge in the same courthouse, and your faculty recommenders.

The work environment for clerking is different from most other employment settings, as you will be working in a relatively closed environment with a small number of colleagues. The tone and culture of your workplace is heavily influenced by the judge and his or her personality and expectations. This makes it all the more important to learn about these less tangible but important aspects of your work experience.

Tips to keep in mind:

  • If you receive multiple invitations to interview, you should try (diplomatically) to schedule the interviews with your most-preferred judges earlier than those with other judges.
  • Once you get one interview call other judges in the same area to whom you’ve applied to let them know you will be traveling to that location. Knowing you will be in the area may cause a judge to offer you an interview.
  • Expect to meet with judge’s staff  and clerks before talking with the judge. In many cases the staff and clerks have a good deal of say in the decision-making process. They are meeting with you not as a confidante but rather as an evaluator.

A word about harassment in the workplace - The vast majority of clerkships provide wonderful work experiences, but even the judiciary is not immune from bad actors. We want to emphasize that you should not hesitate to withdraw your application or, if given an offer, to decline the offer, if during your research or during or after your interview you develop cause for concern about the workplace experience in a particular judge’s chambers.  And in the event that you encounter harassment or other abuse, either during the application process or in a clerkship itself, please remember that that Penn Law stands ready to be a resource to you. In addition, in the federal courts, the Office of Judicial Integrity has information on reporting harassment and the contacts for several circuit courts for reporting harassment are here. Many state courts have comparable processes as well.

Preparing for Interviews

Be prepared for your interview!  

  • Contact Penn grads and other contacts who clerked for the judge or on the same court or in the same courthouse.  Contact information for former Penn Law clerks and interview surveys can be found in Researching Judges.
  • Read some of the judge’s opinions.
  • Gather information about the judge’s interests and be prepared to speak about them. Bring out any ties you may have to the judge — undergraduate school, law school, interest in the same legal field (e.g. he or she was a prosecutor before going on the bench).
  • Be prepared for classic interview questions (see below),  Expect open ended questions that allow you to display your thoughtfulness and maturity. 
  • Use the question “do you have any questions for me” wisely (see below).  
  • Avoid answers that focus on why the clerkship would be good for you. You need to spend every moment in the interview trying to sell your candidacy.
  • Keep your answers short and have a conversation. Dialogue is more interesting than monologue. Follow the lead of your judge’s interviewing style. If she’s formal and business like, act the same. If he’s relaxed and informal, relax yourself (but not too much).
  • Many judges like to discuss a substantive area of the law. They usually pick something you purport to know about. Go through your resume and remind yourself of your note topic, moot court topic, college theses and any other major writing.
  • Questions like “what was your favorite class” are opportunities for you to steer the conversation to an area of strength. 
  • Resumes are often museums of items that you have forgotten are there. Go through each line and make sure that you have at least a 2-3 sentence comment on each one.
  • Set Google alerts
  • Listen to oral arguments
  • Review confirmation hearings materials
  • Review Prof. Yoo’s A Highly Opinionated View of How to Prepare for Clerkship Interviews

Lastly, find out during the interview what the judge’s timetable is for making a final decision.  Sometimes the judge will ask you not to accept another job without calling first. This is not an offer, nor will it necessarily lead to an offer, although it sometimes does. If you agree to phone the first judge, and are then offered a clerkship by a second judge, you should honor your agreement to call the first judge before accepting the second. Should this happen, you can allay any concern of the subsequent judge that you are not truly interested by explaining your interest in honoring your commitment to call the first judge before accepting the second judge’s offer.

Financial Support for Interview Travel

Financial support for travel to interviews is available for current students based on financial need.

  • For car, bus, or train travel, the school will reimburse up to $90 for each trip.
  • For interviews that require air travel and overnight accommodations, the school will reimburse up to 80% of the total travel and accommodations costs.
  • We expect that students will use less expensive means of travel whenever feasible, and will reserve trips in advance to keep costs to a minimum.
  • Funding will not be available for any interviews with federal judges which do not comply with the Federal Law Clerking Hiring Plan.

To submit a request for reimbursement, please click here. Please check with Chris Fritton to see if you qualify before submitting this request and with any questions.