Application Process: Cover Letters
NOTE: Mark the outside of your application packet "Law Clerk Application" to help chamber's staff identify it as quickly as possible.
Your cover letter should be short (no longer than one page) and addressed specifically to the judge or court. It is extremely important to make sure that your cover letter is free of typographical errors and includes the correct spelling and address for the judge or court. Click here for guidelines on how to refer to federal and state judges in the address block and salutation line.
You should tailor your cover letters to the geographic area and type of court (federal vs. state, trial vs. appellate), but your cover letters can otherwise be similar. Obviously, if you have a contact regarding a particular judge or court, you should highlight this information in an individualized way. Although this section includes cover letter guidance, remember that you still have flexibility to be creative and include additional information.
Anatomy of an Effective Cover Letter
Appropriate (i.e., conservative) Letterhead or
City, State & Zip
The Honorable [full name(first and last)]
Full name of the Court
Name of the Courthouse [if applicable]
Dear Judge/Justice [last name]:
Opening Paragraph/Positioning Statement. Include the following basic information: (1) the position you are applying for by year; (2) your status as a WCL student; (3) the name of any contact (former clerk, alumni, professor, etc.); and (4) why you are interested in clerking for the judge or court (two or three sentences). You could emphasize geographic connections to the jurisdiction, plans to practice in the area, or an interest in trial or appellate litigation.
Heart of the Letter. Highlight a few experiences from your resume by discussing the skills (e.g., research, writing, analysis, organization, communication) you developed and, if possible, how these positions/activities increased your interest in obtaining a judicial clerkship. Obviously, if you worked as an extern/intern for a judge, this would be an ideal position to mention. Emphasize relevant honors, awards, and other accomplishments. Remember that the function of a clerkship cover letter is to highlight certain aspects of your resume that demonstrate your qualifications for the clerkship, not to summarize your resume. Be sure to discuss how you will benefit the judge, not just how the clerkship will benefit you.
Closing Paragraph. Include the following information: (1) items you are enclosing in your application packet (e.g., resume, transcript, writing sample, recommendations) and (2) any dates that you will be in the area for potential interviews.
* For certain federal appellate judges, a much shorter cover letter will be appropriate.