April 04, 2019

Judicial Clerkship Program

The 21st annual Judicial Clerkship Program, presented by the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and the ABA Judicial Division, was held virtually during the ABA Midyear Meeting Feb. 18-20.  The program was sponsored by LexisNexis.

About the Judicial Clerkship Program

The Judicial Clerkship Program (JCP) introduces law students from diverse backgrounds from around the country to judges and law clerks. The program informs and educates the students as to the life-long benefits of a judicial clerkship. The program also encourages judges to consider students of color that they otherwise may not have considered for a judicial clerkship. This three-day program allows the law students to explore legal issues, perform legal research, prepare legal memoranda or briefs and defend their positions to their colleagues and the judges and Pipeline members. We have found that law students who otherwise might not consider a judicial clerkship and judges, who may not ordinarily recruit clerks from certain schools, modify their views and expectations. Law students interact with the members of the legal profession in structured and informal settings.  

The JCP is a joint effort of the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, the ABA Judicial Division with the generous in-kind support from LexisNexis

Learn More: Judicial Clerkship Program Brochure

History and Purpose of the Judicial Clerkship Program

Few people of color have had the distinction and privilege of having served as a law clerk to a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years, the problem of the negligible number of minorities serving as judicial clerks has been spotlighted throughout the legal profession and beyond. As the USA Today article "Corps of Clerks Lacking in Diversity" reported in March 1998, it is an unfortunate trend throughout the judiciary that has persisted despite advances in opportunities for minorities in many other aspects of the legal profession. This realization is troubling, particularly for the American Bar Association because it is a glaring contradiction to the ABA’s Goal III to promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities.

Many law schools have also recognized the ominous nature of this trend. Without fair access to judicial clerkships, both law schools and their graduates lose significant opportunities. For recent law school graduates, serving as a judicial law clerk is a mark of distinction and honor that advances their career opportunities throughout the legal profession. Former law clerks generally have an advantage when pursuing careers in academia, in government as high level appointees, as litigators in prestigious areas of the private sector, and in securing appointments to the bench.

Read more about history and founding of the JCP: ABA Judicial Clerkship Program Inspired by Brown's Call for Opportunity

The Program

The 2021 Program was held virtually on February 18-20, 2021 during the ABA Midyear. The program is designed to:

  • allow judges, law students, and former law clerks to develop close personal working relationships
  • improve students’ analytical, legal research and writing skills
  • enhance a new lawyer’s career opportunities
  • Permits a new lawyer to participate in the process of shaping the law

The Process

Membership in the ABA Judicial Clerkship Program will require the selected law schools to:

  1. Commit to pay the annual participation fee for the next three years;
  2. For each year of membership in the program, commit to send law students who have a demonstrated knowledge of and involvement with racial and ethnic minority communities. Schools will also receive the option for additional students to attend at a per capita registration fee; and,
  3. Select the students that will participate. Each school can determine its own method for selection of participating students. We suggest consideration of students who may not already be likely candidates for clerkships or may not even be considering clerkships. Each participating school should strive to select a racially and ethnically diverse group of students to participate in the program.

The number of students allowed to participate will be contingent upon the number of judges participating. The participants will work in teams of at least one judge, one former law clerk, and four to six students from other law schools.

Judges from around the nation have agreed to participate in the Program. Article III judges and state supreme court justices will receive preference in selection of judges. Each judge will be asked to make a commitment to strive to hire at least two minority judicial law clerks over the next five years. The minority judicial law clerks they hire need not have participated in this Program.

Hear from Past JCP Participants and Judges


Other ABA Clerkship Collaborations

The ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline's Judicial Clerkship program works in collaboration with the other clerkship programs: 

Diversity Clerkship Program, ABA Section of Business Law

Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, ABA Section of Litigation

Support Law Students of Color through LOSF

The ABA awards an annual Legal Opportunity Scholarship to first-year law students. The mission of the program is to encourage racial and ethnic minority students to apply to law school and to provide financial assistance to attend and complete law school. The ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship grants 10 - 20 incoming diverse law students with $15,000 of financial aid over their three years in law school. Since its inception, more than 350 students from across the country have received the ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship.

Learn more on the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund webpage. 

JCP Previous Programs

2020 Austin, TX
2019 Las Vegas, NV
2018 Chicago, IL
2017 Miami, FL
2016 San Diego, CA
2015 Houston, TX
2014 Chicago, IL
2013 Dallas, TX
2012 New Orleans, LA
2011 Atlanta, GA
2010 Orlando, FL
2009 Boston, MA
2008 Los Angeles, CA
2007 Miami, FL
2006 Chicago, IL
2005: Salt Lake City, UT
2004: San Antonio, TX
2003: Seattle, WA
2002: Philadelphia, PA
2001: San Diego, CA

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