Law students have always coveted federal clerkships, leading to fierce competition for a very small number of positions. According to recent statistics, however, the sheer number of applications makes it nearly impossible. Applications increased 66% increase last year, resulting in 400,000 applications for 1,244 federal clerkships.
With those kinds of odds, some students might not even consider applying. But like many other sought after positions, you must take a strategic approach to your application.
Networking like crazy is one option. There may be an alumni or professor who knows a federal judge and can write a meaningful letter of recommendation. If you have a law clerk position, someone might know someone, etc. Asking around might be a long shot, but if a federal clerkship is your dream job, pull out all the stops. In this economy, the old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who know,” is more relevant then ever.
Another option is to apply for positions that are not as sought after. Judges who do not receive as many applications are more likely to read every single one.
Lastly, craft your application in a way that makes you stand out. That does not always work, but you never know when something unique on your resume can catch a judge’s eye.
Those are tough odds, but if you are going to apply, do whatever you can to improve your slim chances.