The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review
For Some Federal Clerkships – 2015 Term
The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) is a project funded by a grant through the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. OSCAR’s web address is www.oscar.uscourts.gov. For participating federal judges and participating federal Circuit Court staff attorney positions, OSCAR offers an internet-based application system permitting applicants to upload their federal clerkship application materials online. Based on OSCAR’s performance last year, the system was upgraded and improved to allow 2Ls earlier access to the system. As a 2L, you may register on OSCAR and begin applying for available positions now, and under the new system, your applications will be transmitted electronically through OSCAR as soon as they are finalized.
Q. How many judges will be participating in OSCAR this year?
A. All federal judges will be listed initially at least by court and name, but the judges will retain the freedom to decide whether and when to post clerkship information. For those judges who do not post clerkship information, a notation of “no information available” or “not hiring” will be displayed. In recent years, approximately 65% of federal judges input some hiring information via OSCAR. Because of different administrative structures, the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the U.S. Supreme Court never have been included in OSCAR, and that will not change in the immediate future.
Q. What does it mean if I can’t click on a listed judge or Staff Attorney’s Office in OSCAR?
A. If a judge or Staff Attorney’s Office (SAO) is “grayed out,” it means the judge or SAO does not participate in OSCAR. Applicants should apply to clerk for the judge by other means, generally via U.S. Mail.
Q. How do I determine if a participating judge or SAO is hiring?
A. If a judge or SAO has posted an available position, the judge is hiring. If no available position has been posted, check the “expired” postings to determine if hiring is already complete for the term for which you are interested in applying. Also check whether the judge has indicated specifically that he or she is not hiring for the term for which you are interested in applying or only has career law clerks. If none of this information is available, check with the judge’s chambers or with OCPD to determine the best course of action to pursue. The judge may be late in posting a clerkship position for the term in question, or may prefer to accept applications via U.S. Mail.
Q. When filling out my profile, it asks for my class rank. What do I put here?
A. Each summer, the Registrar’s office estimates students’ class percentile rankings and posts them on this website: http://www.wcl.american.edu/registrar/classrank.cfm. You determine your class rank based on the GPA you have earned through the 2013 spring semester. WCL ranks students once per year, so your ranking will be your ranking as of August 2013 until the new rankings are released in June 2014. You will need to update your OSCAR profile at that time before finalizing your applications to ensure that your information is accurate. Failure to do so is considered a violation of WCL’s Honor Code.
Q. How will applicants create cover letters on the system?
A. Applicants will be able to upload individualized cover letters for specific judges (in PDF format only), as well as create general letters for the remaining judges. For general letters, OSCAR will provide mail merge fields to allow applicants to automatically insert each judge’s name and address information. There is a tutorial on OSCAR for how to use the cover letter template feature and you also have access through OSCAR to several tools about using the system: Applicant Quick Reference Guide, video tutorials, and tip sheets.
Q. How do I upload resumes, writing samples, and other documents to the system?
A. All resumes, writing samples, and other documents uploaded to the system (except for cover letters, which may be typed in) must be uploaded as PDFs. To save a document in PDF format, select the “save as PDF” option in Microsoft Word. Check the document after you have uploaded it to ensure that the document is formatted correctly in OSCAR itself.
Q. Why can’t I upload my transcript?
A. Per judges’ requests, OSCAR does not allow you to upload any transcripts directly. Instead, OSCAR provides a Grade Sheet Form that converts the entered grades into a PDF Grade Sheet document for the applicant. The Grade Sheet Form may be viewed as a PDF, so that you may see it just as the judge will see it. You may then edit the form and re-save it if necessary. Judges are aware that these are unofficial transcripts, and you may be asked to provide an official transcript later in the interview or application process. There is a tutorial on OSCAR for how to create a grade sheet. You will have to create separate grade sheets for your law school and undergraduate transcripts (and for any other schools you attended).
Q. What are my responsibilities with respect to letters of recommendation?
A. OCPD is handling the uploading of letters of recommendation from professors and recommenders outside the school. Applicants must “Create” and “Save” applications for the judges they intend to apply to, list their recommenders in the OSCAR system, and then list/choose the recommenders they would like to use for each judge. Applicants should also inform their recommenders that they need to send the general text of their letters of recommendation to OCPD at email@example.com as soon as possible. If these deadlines are met, applicants’ letters will be uploaded as soon as possible thereafter.
Q. How do I determine the status of my letters of recommendation?
A. To determine whether letters of recommendation have been uploaded for a particular application, go to the “My Recommendations” tab in your account, and click on “Status of Clerkship Recommendations.” Completed letters will display a green check mark in the “Complete” column. If you have created and saved your applications for the judges to whom you intend to apply and chose the recommenders for each judge, you should expect your letters to be uploaded shortly thereafter, as long as your letters have all been received by OCPD. If your letters have not yet been received or there is another issue precluding immediate uploading of your letters, you will receive email notification of that fact so that you can follow up with your recommender(s). Please try to leave as much time as you can before any application deadline to ensure that there are no problems with having your letters uploaded. If you have any questions or concerns, contact OCPD or email the WCL OSCAR email account – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. When will participating judges have access to applicants’ uploaded materials for the current application season?
A. Judges will have access to applicants’ materials as soon as students mark a given application as “Final” in OSCAR by selecting the “Finalize” option. Once you finalize an application, you cannot modify it in any way, nor can OCPD, so you should NOT finalize any application until you are completely satisfied with the application and have checked it to make sure that there are no errors in your materials or in your OSCAR applicant profile.
Q. What do I do if I am no longer looking for a clerkship?
A. If you have accepted another position or are no longer seeking a clerkship for any reason, you must withdraw your applications in OSCAR. You can do this either by withdrawing each individual application or by marking yourself “unavailable” as a candidate in the system. To withdraw your applications, click on the “My Applications” tab, then select “Clerkship Applications.” For each application you wish to withdraw, click the “Withdraw” button in the Options column on the far right. To mark yourself unavailable, go into your account and click “yes” next to the button “I am unavailable.” This will result in all your applications being withdrawn for the period, including the application you may have submitted to the court that hired you.
Q. Is there any limit on how many applications I can submit?A. Yes. The new OSCAR version 7.0 limits each applicant to 100 applications at a time on a rolling basis in response to judicial complaints about the volume of applications they receive. As a result, applicants are encouraged to judiciously select the judges to whom they wish to apply. Applicants will be able to monitor their application totals from a new application dashboard in their OSCAR account. Applicants will regain application slots for any positions marked “filled” by a judge or for any positions from which they “withdraw” an application. Applicants can regain slots immediately by withdrawing applications. Note: There is no limit on the number of applications students can submit for staff attorney, pro se clerk, death penalty, and bankruptcy appellate panel law clerk positions.
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