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If you are invited to interview, respond to the judge immediately.  Most judges require a personal interview, although a few may permit telephone or video interviews.  Remember, you are responsible for the associated costs for travel, and neither judges nor the law school will be able to reimburse you for those expenses. 

Interviews may vary in length from 15 minutes to two hours, and the format will differ depending on the judge.  Interviews can range from informal, personal conversations to intense formal examinations with hypothetical questions.

As with any other interview, this is your time to shine, and show the judge (and his or her staff) that you are a good fit with their office and the right candidate for the job.  For general interview tips, see the OCP’s “Interview Skills” handout (available on USFLawlink.com under Resources). Here are some specific pointers for clerkship interviews. 

Before the Interview

  • Do your research!  Research the judge so that you are familiar with his or her opinions, dissents, and personal history. Try to anticipate areas that the judge may be interested in discussing.
  • Prepare thoughtful questions for the judge.  For instance, ask about the selection process, timetable, nature of the judge’s docket, scope of the law clerk’s responsibilities and time spent on each.
  • Talk to others.  Talk to faculty, former clerks and externs with knowledge about the judge. 
  • Bring materials.  Bring extra copies of your application materials, and any documents the judge may ask for at the interview.

During the Interview

  • Familiarity with your materials.  Be familiar with your resume, cover letter and writing sample, as the judge may ask specific questions about your materials.
  • Opinions and current events.  Be prepared to answer questions about your favorite class or area of law, as well as legal issues you feel strongly about, and recent or noteworthy opinions that have been widely publicized or are from the judge’s court.
  • Self-awareness.  Your answers should express a genuine, enthusiastic interest in the specific clerkship and should show that you have done your research on the judge and court.  Expect questions about how the clerkship fits into your short and long-term career goals. 
  • Interacting with court staff.  Be courteous to all clerks/staff, as they have input.  The interview might include other members of the judge’s staff.  Judges are often sensitive to a candidate’s ability to get along with the rest of the staff because of the close personal working relationships in most chambers.  Prove to the judge that he or she can have confidence in your professionalism in interacting with staff, counsel, litigants and the public.
  • Accepting the position.  Be prepared to accept the position.  Many judges, federal judges in particular, will make offers on the spot.

After the Interview 

Immediately following the interview, send a tailored thank you letter that references something specific that came up during your discussion and reiterates your enthusiasm for the position. 

There is an expectation that if you are offered a position in a judge’s chambers you will accept that position.  Once you accept, withdraw all other outstanding applications, preferably by phone.  DO NOT later withdraw your acceptance in favor of an offer from another judge.

Thank your references, and inform them about the results of your application.  Please also inform the OCP about your experience.