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Application Materials

Required application materials may vary from judge to judge and court to court.  Check OSCAR (Online System for Clerkship Application and Review) for federal judge application materials and the “Vermont Guide to State Judicial Clerkship Procedures” for state judge application materials (contact OCP for online access). The following is a list of the materials that are generally required. 

  • Resume:  Your judicial clerkship resume should be conservative in style, no more than one to two pages, and error-free. Errors in your resume can be fatal. Your resume should highlight experiences that demonstrate your research and writing skills such as journals and publications, as well as jobs and volunteer positions for which you conducted research and prepared analytical legal memoranda and legal documents. Include  special skills, community service and/or interests, to help the judge get a sense of who you are.  Make sure to have an OCP Director review your resume to ensure it is error-free and highlights the appropriate skills. 
  • Cover Letter:  Your cover letter is very important because it is the first opportunity for the judge to evaluate your writing ability.  Therefore, it is critical that your letter is thoughtfully written and absolutely error-free.  Your letter should not exceed one page, and should indicate the specific hiring cycle you are applying for (including the month and year you are able to begin work).  Make sure to explain why you are interested in the specific court, judge, and/or geographic area, rather than why you are interested in a judicial clerkship generally.  

    The bulk of your letter should focus on your research and writing skills.  Do not stop at conclusory statements such as “I possess excellent research and writing skills.”  You need to demonstrate these skills through specific examples to set your application apart from others.  Make sure to also describe achievements rather than simply stating attributes. 

    Take great care in addressing your cover letters.  Consult the chart below, “Addressing a Judge or Justice” for proper salutations.  
  • Transcript:  Most judges accept unofficial transcripts or “grade sheets,” and applications to federal judges through OSCAR must use the OSCAR Grade Sheet template rather than an actual transcript.  Be very careful to accurately reflect your exact grades and GPA on the grade sheets. 
  • Letters of Recommendation:  Judges often require between two to four letters of recommendation.  Letters should be from a combination of employers and law professors who are familiar with your work, and can speak to your intellectual capabilities and potential as a lawyer.  At least one letter of recommendation should be from a law professor who is familiar with your research, writing, and analytical abilities.  You will work with the Faculty Services Office to facilitate the distribution of faculty letters of recommendation.  To ensure thoughtful letters, it is a good idea to provide each recommender with the following:
    • Your current resume, a summary of your work for the recommender and other accomplishments, a brief description of why you want a clerkship, a transcript, and a writing sample.
    • A list of judges you are applying to, so that the recommender can personalize your letter of recommendation if he or she knows any of the judges.
    • Sufficient time for the recommender to prepare the letter. 
  • Writing Sample:  Almost all judges require a writing sample. Your writing sample should be your best work and your own work (i.e., not significantly edited by another).  It is wise to have a professor review it before you submit it.  A legal memorandum, brief, or analytical article from a journal is best.  Your sample generally should not exceed 8-10 pages (unless otherwise specified by the judge), and should include a cover sheet with your resume header, a brief description of the purpose for which the sample was created, and the citation style you used.  If your sample is an excerpt from a longer piece, make sure to indicate this and provide any critical details the judge may need to understand the sample.  If you are using a sample created for an employer, be sure to obtain the employer’s permission first. 

Addressing a Judge or Justice

Most federal judges and lower state court judges are addressed as “Judge,” while most state appellate judges (state Supreme Court and Court of Appeal) are referred to as “Justice,” although there may be some exceptions. If you are unclear, ask OCP for guidance. Below are some examples of how to address judges and justices:

Federal Court/ Titles

Address on Letter and Envelope

Salutation

Northern District
- Judge
- Magistrate
- Chief Magistrate

The Honorable [Full Name]
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Courthouse
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Judge [Surname]:

Ninth Circuit
- Judge

The Honorable [Full Name]
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
95 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Dear Judge [Surname]:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Northern California
- Judge
- Chief Judge

The Honorable [Full Name]
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California
United States Courthouse 
235 Pine Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

Dear Judge [Surname]:

State Court/ Titles

Address on Letter and Envelope

Salutation

Superior Court of California
- Judge               
- Presiding Judge

The Honorable [Full Name]
Superior Court of California
County of San Francisco
400 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Judge [Surname]:

California Court of Appeal
- Associate Justice
- Presiding Justice

The Honorable [Full Name]
California Court of Appeal
First Appellate District, Division [#]
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Justice [Surname]:

California Supreme Court
- Associate Justice
- Chief Justice

The Honorable [Full Name]
Supreme Court of California
Earl Warren Building
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4797

Dear Justice [Surname]: