Clerkship Cover Letter Tips

Although each judge will receive a personalized cover letter via the magic of mail merge, it is rather unrealistic to think that you’ll write a completely personal letter to each judge.

Name Drop If You Can

If you have a particular connection to a judge, you should mention it in the cover letter. Did you work closely over the summer with a law firm partner whose childhood best friend happens to be a federal judge?

This is the time to name drop (with permission, of course).

Tell the Judge Why You’re Applying

It’s advisable to offer some rationale for why you are applying for this particular clerkship, in terms of the type of court and the geographic location.

All of the judges in the Middle District of North Carolina, for example, might get a letter about your plans to be a litigator, your desire for hands-on experience in the federal trial courts, and your fond memories of childhood summers spent eating Lexington barbeque with your grandparents.

Or, if your fiancé has just gotten a great postdoc position at Caltech and you want to be a law professor, you should make these facts known to the judges sitting on the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena.

Keep It Simple and Answer Four Questions

The cover letter, while important, is formulaic. This is not your chance to write the great American novel.

You’re simply trying to answer four questions:

  • who are you?
  • what do you want?
  • why do you want it?
  • what information are you enclosing?
The Bottom Line

Keep it simple, and proofread!

How to Make Every Part of Your Clerkship Application Shine

Return to Judicial Clerkships 101.

Have questions on your clerkship cover letter? Leave them in the comments!

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Judicial clerkship cover letter

View this sample cover letter for a judicial clerkship, or download the judicial clerkship cover letter template in Word.

Law clerks like yourself know how to make lots of pieces fall in line—but how are you at putting together your cover letter? To be considered for top judicial clerkship jobs, your cover letter must demonstrate your skills and experience, as well as your passion for working with people. For writing tips, view this sample cover letter for a judicial clerkship, or download the judicial clerkship cover letter template in Word. 

Additionally, you can learn about legal careers and look for law clerk jobs on Monster.

Judicial clerkship cover letter template

Melissa Burns, J.D.
55 Prescott Rd. | Sometown, VA 55555 | (555) 555-5555 |

November 8, 2017

The Hon. Mary Jones
Justice, Supreme Court of Virginia
5 Courthouse Dr.
Sometown, VA 55555

Dear Justice Jones:

I am writing to apply for the judicial clerkship for the Supreme Court of Virginia advertised on Monster.

As a recent honors graduate of XYZ University Law School, I offer a record of achievement both in the classroom as well as through experience as…

  • A judicial intern for The Hon. Walter Jeffries (4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • An active participant in the “Innocence Project” (concurrent with my law school studies)

For the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, I was chosen for a highly competitive judicial internship. I helped with docket management, performed legal research for civil and criminal cases, drafted memoranda for judicial opinions and assisted the judge during appeals and other court proceedings. My work for The Hon. Walter Jeffries cemented my passion for appellate law, and I was described by the judge as…

“…one of the finest judicial interns I’ve ever worked with…demonstrated a discerning intellect and substantive knowledge of the law and applicable standards for case review and appeals…a hard-working individual with a clear passion for and promising future in appellate law…”

The Hon. Walter Jeffries, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Commonwealth of VA

During my yearlong participation in the Innocence Project, I helped investigate and litigate wrongful convictions of inmates throughout the Commonwealth of VA. In this role, I interviewed potential clients and witnesses; reviewed case files and collected records; and drafted pleadings and briefs. One of the cases my team worked on led to the reversal of a wrongfully convicted death row inmate, and also helped change state laws regarding exculpatory evidence.

Since I plan to practice in the area of appellate law, this clerkship would be an invaluable experience and opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of Virginia’s highest court of appeals. If selected, I will be focused on exceeding your expectations and serving the court with excellence and integrity.

I can be reached at (555) 555-5555 or Thank you for your time.


Melissa Burns, J.D.

Enclosures: Résumé, Commonwealth of VA Application, Responses to Supplemental Questions, Sealed Official Transcripts from XYZ University Law School, Reference Sheet, Three Letters of Recommendation

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