The definitive source on every aspect of judicial clerkships, including information about the courts, the range of judicial clerkships, all phases of the application process, and what to do once you have the clerkship of your dreams, has finally arrived. Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships by Debra M. Strauss, Esq. is the book I wish I had had when applying for a clerkship! The Guide’s author, Ms. Strauss, is a fellow Lawyers Conference Member, and has been involved with the ABA for the past fifteen years.
Ms. Strauss is the national expert in the area of judicial clerkships. A graduate of Yale Law School, Ms. Strauss served two clerkship terms for the Honorable Charles L. Brieant, then-Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She served the first directly after law school, and the second years later as a Permanent Law Clerk. In addition to her personal experiences applying for clerkships and acting as a federal court law clerk, Ms. Strauss’ later work experiences make her imminently qualified to author a book about judicial clerkships and the application process.
After practicing at a commercial litigation firm, Ms. Strauss returned to Yale Law School as Director of Judicial Clerkship Counseling and Programs. She established the judicial clerkship program at Yale, which achieved national prominence and resulted in a record number of Yale students obtaining clerkships. She went on to serve as Project Director of the National Judicial Clerkship Study, sponsored by the National Association for Law Placement and the ABA, and authored the report on the 2000 National Judicial Clerkship Study, portions of which were reprinted in the Judges’ Journal (Winter 2000).
Ms. Strauss is currently a professor and consultant, and has published and presented numerous articles and programs on clerkships and the courts. I asked her what prompted her to specialize and devote the majority of her career to the judicial clerkship area, and to write The Guide. She informed me that “the ideas for this book had been forming from my own experiences throughout the years, first as a student at Yale Law School applying for a clerkship myself with virtually no guidance or information, then as a law clerk. Through my subsequent years in private practice, I came to recognize the value of a clerkship in one’s law practice and general career.” Greatly appreciating her role as a Permanent Law Clerk, Ms. Strauss emerged an enthusiastic advocate, and returned to Yale “to spread the word of this remarkable world of clerkships.” The idea for the book stemmed from the continued “void of resource materials to assist law students with this unique and mysterious process.”
I highly recommend Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships not only as an indispensable resource to law students about to embark on the quest for a clerkship, but also to judges as a reference and to attorneys interested in reconnecting with the judicial process and the administration of justice.
I recently had the opportunity to share Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships with numerous judges while attending Judicial Division events at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Seattle, Washington. Many judges were caught by the title, and were very interested in looking at The Guide. All received Behind the Bench favorably. United States Bankruptcy Judge Samuel Bufford of Los Angeles, California noted that Ms. Strauss’ Guide is “an excellent resource for students regarding the types of qualifications and criteria that are important to judges making clerkship decisions.” Judge Bufford went on to comment that his clerkship decisions are also influenced by his connection with an applicant during the interview process, and that The Guide “provides valuable tips to applicants throughout all phases of the application process, including interviewing with judges.”
I also discussed Ms. Strauss’ Guide with Gregory Holiday, Chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Minorities, prior to the ABA Midyear Meeting. After reading information and reviews about The Guide on Ms. Strauss’ website (www.judicialclerkships.com), Mr. Holiday was enthusiastic to connect law students to this valuable resource. “This book is a real treasure chest of information for law students and law graduates alike. It opens the door to a whole realm of potential experience that few law students and law graduates know the value of. While my group continually promotes judicial clerkships, we are simply unable to spread the word as quickly and thoroughly as Ms. Strauss has done.” Brochures for The Guide were made available to law students participating in the Judicial Division’s two-day Judicial Clerkship Program held during the ABA Midyear Meeting.
Additionally, Mr. Holiday commented that the chapter devoted to a discussion of “Minorities, Women and Clerkships” and the appendix containing “Data on Minorities, Women, and Clerkships from the National Judicial Clerkship Study” were particularly relevant additions. Ms. Strauss was kind enough to donate several copies of her book to be awarded at the Minority Outreach Reception hosted by the JD’s Lawyers Conference during the Midyear Meeting. Law students Rosa Chavez of University of Oregon School of Law and Nikhil Chourey of Willamette University College of Law were excited to receive copies of The Guide, and look forward to using The Guide during their clerkships searches.
For more information about Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships and access to numerous other reviews and testimonials about her wonderful book, please consult Ms. Strauss’ website at www.judicialclerkships.com.
* Emily J. Barnhardt is the Publications Chair of the ABA Judicial Lawyers Conference and a Philadephia attorney. This article appeared originally in the Judicial Division Record, Vol. 6, Issue 3, Spring 2003, p. 18, available here. See ABA Judicial Division.
Strauss, Debra M., Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships, Second edition (West Academic Publishing 2017).
Third edition (West Academic Publishing 2023)