Which Law School Grads Get the Most Judicial Clerkships?

Clerkships can provide a big boost for future legal employment prospects.

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Judges at both the federal and state level say that their clerks play a very important role in their chambers. Judicial clerkships are highly coveted since they have such important career implications. Federal clerkships are the hardest to get, but can be very rewarding for one's legal career. Some law schools have a culture that greatly encourages students to get a clerkship at either the federal or state level.

With that in mind, U.S. News has just published its third annual ranking of law schools that send the largest proportions of their graduates on to judicial clerkships for federal judges. The ranking is sorted by the percentage of the 2009 J.D. graduating class that was employed as clerks by federal judges. Yale Law School, not surprisingly, came out No. 1, Stanford University finished No. 2, Harvard University No. 3, and the University of Washington came in very close behind at No. 4. The following table highlights the top 10 schools:

Law School % Employed in All Judicial Clerkships % Employed in a Judicial Clerkship by an Article III Federal Judge
Yale University 30.6 27
Stanford University 26 24
Harvard University 20.6 18.1
University of Washington 22.8 18
University of Arizona (Rogers) 21 12.3
Duke University 17 12
University of Georgia 14 11
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor 13.6 11
University of Virginia 13 11
University of Pennsylvania 15 10.4


[See the complete judicial clerkship rankings.]

An article for the American Bar Association, "When Opportunity Knocks: The Benefits of Judicial Clerkships 101" by Krisi L. Bergemann, cites a few key reasons why it's a good career move to obtain a clerkship—especially in this highly competitive legal market where high-paying jobs at the "Biglaw" firms are still very hard to get. These clerkship benefits include improved research and writing skills, legal education, courtroom experience, behind-the-scenes learning, and enhanced networking.

Becoming a U.S. Supreme Court clerk remains the most difficult and competitive to obtain. Clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court is viewed by many law school graduates as the ultimate achievement, and it can be the catalyst for a successful legal career.

[See our Best Law Schools rankings.]

As part of our clerkship table, we are also publishing the percentage of the 2009 graduating class that was employed as a clerk by a judge at any level of the judiciary—federal, state, or local. The data, which U.S. News collected directly from each law school in fall 2010 and early 2011, show that some law schools have a culture of sending a relatively large percentage of their graduates to clerkships.

The data also show that some law schools, such as Seton Hall University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—Camden, University of Hawaii—Manoa (Richardson), Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—Newark, University of Idaho, University of Montana, University of South Dakota, and University of Baltimore concentrate on state and local clerkships and put little, if any, emphasis on federal clerks.

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