January 05, 2015

About the Program

About The Judicial Clerkship Program

Purpose of JCP

Few people of color have had the distinction and privilege of having served as a law clerk to a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years, the problem of the negligible number of minorities serving as judicial clerks has been spotlighted throughout the legal profession and beyond. As the USA Today article "Corps of Clerks Lacking in Diversity" reported in March 1998, it is an unfortunate trend throughout the judiciary that has persisted despite advances in opportunities for minorities in many other aspects of the legal profession. This realization is troubling, particularly for the American Bar Association because it is a glaring contradiction to the ABA’s Goal III to promote the full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities.

Many law schools have also recognized the ominous nature of this trend. Without fair access to judicial clerkships, both law schools and their graduates lose significant opportunities. For recent law school graduates, serving as a judicial law clerk is a mark of distinction and honor that advances their career opportunities throughout the legal profession. Former law clerks generally have an advantage when pursuing careers in academia, in government as high level appointees, as litigators in prestigious areas of the private sector, and in securing appointments to the bench.

The Program

The Program debuted February 15-17, 2001, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in San Diego, California. The program is designed to:

  • allow judges, law students, and former law clerks to develop close personal working relationships
  • improve students’ analytical, legal research and writing skills
  • enhance a new lawyer’s career opportunities
  • Permits a new lawyer to participate in the process of shaping the law

The Process

Membership in the ABA Judicial Clerkship Program will require the selected law schools to:

  1. Commit to pay the annual participation fee for the next three years;
  2. For each year of membership in the program, commit to send law students who have a demonstrated knowledge of and involvement with racial and ethnic minority communities. Schools will also receive the option for additional students to attend at a per capita registration fee; and,
  3. Select the students that will participate. Each school can determine its own method for selection of participating students. We suggest consideration of students who may not already be likely candidates for clerkships or may not even be considering clerkships. Each participating school should strive to select a racially and ethnically diverse group of students to participate in the program.

The number of students allowed to participate will be contingent upon the number of judges participating. The participants will work in teams of at least one judge, one former law clerk, and four to six students from other law schools.

Judges from around the nation have agreed to participate in the Program. Article III judges and state supreme court justices will receive preference in selection of judges. Each judge will be asked to make a commitment to strive to hire at least two minority judicial law clerks over the next five years. The minority judicial law clerks they hire need not have participated in this Program.

Read the article ABA Judicial Clerkship Program Inspired by Brown's Call for Opportunity