Every attorney - whether you clerked or not, whether you appear before judges in your practice or not – can and should be part of the solution to increase diversity, transparency, and accountability in judicial clerkships, the judiciary, and the legal profession. The legal community places an enormous premium on judicial clerkships – where new attorneys spend a year or two working closely with and learning from judges. Legal employers – including law firms and government employers – are incentivized to hire former clerks, both because of clerks’ training and their relationships with judges. Yet inequities abound, throughout the process of considering, researching, and applying for clerkships; interviewing and accepting these coveted positions; and then entering work environments lacking basic workplace protections. The law clerk population is notoriously homogenous, meaning that the upper echelons of the profession, comprised of former clerks, lack diversity as well.
It is particularly important for law clerks to identify judges who will be supportive bosses, considering the outsized influence that a judicial clerkship, and a relationship with a judge, have on future career success. Furthermore, the federal judiciary is exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and workplace protections and judicial accountability mechanisms are inadequate in both federal and state courts, meaning law clerks have limited avenues for redress if they are mistreated by the most powerful members of the profession – judges.
This course explains the characteristics of judicial clerkships that make these workplaces particularly conducive to mistreatment in the worst circumstances and also explores necessary legislative and policy solutions to increase transparency and accountability in the judiciary. This program explains how the lack of diversity in the clerkship pipeline has larger implications for fairness in judicial decision-making and the future face of the legal profession. It also highlights how various stakeholder groups, including law schools, legal employers, bar associations, and members of the judiciary, can improve their messaging, programming, and attitudes toward judicial clerkships in order to help ensure positive clerkship experiences for clerks; accountability for judges; and fairness in judicial decision-making.