The most basic reason why recently barred lawyers and law students apply for clerkship is that they can learn more than they could while in any other legal job. Unlike first-year Biglaw associates who are mostly assigned duties of placing stickers on trial exhibits and document review, clerks are more involved in real cases. Clerks can even influence the outcomes of judicial cases through drafting bench memoranda and case determining opinions. The experience and lessons learned while clerking can be of tremendous advantage to law students’ legal careers. Apart from experience, clerking can improve the resumes of law students.
Law firms are particularly enthusiastic about attorneys who clerked. Most law firms perceive law students who clerked to be better attorneys and even go as far as touting them to their clients. Another advantage of clerking is that law firms highly value insights from judges that the attorneys may have clerked for. This is especially true if the clerking had been done in a court that the law firm frequently appears. Law students who have not yet landed a post-graduation post with an employer of their choice can apply for a clerkship and automatically reset their recruiting calendar. While clerking, the students have more time to network and attend interviews in their ideal legal firms.
With the experience gained while clerking, law students can have access to jobs that are not usually available to newly minted law grads. That whole year of experience comes in handy when applying for jobs. Clerking students also have the opportunity to cultivate a lifelong mentor (the judge), which can be very advantageous to any law professional. This may not automatically happen for every clerking law student. The possibility of having a mentor who is right at the pinnacle of the law profession is appealing.
However, it would be less useful for a law student, who will eventually end up in non-litigation or corporate law, to apply for a clerkship. Law students have two types of clerkship in which they can venture. Non-federal clerkship can be prestigious but will not be considered by high-end boutiques that prefer clerkships. On the other hand, a federal clerkship will be generally less prestigious but can be great for the resume.