The Future of Federal Law Clerk Hiring

47 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2015 Last revised: 20 Oct 2015

See all articles by Aaron L. Nielson

Aaron L. Nielson

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: 2014


The market for federal law clerks has been upended. Beginning in 2003, the Federal Judges Law Clerk Hiring Plan was implemented to regulate clerkship hiring. According to the Plan, a judge could not interview or hire a potential law clerk before the beginning of the applicant’s third year of law school. The Plan, however, never worked well, constantly got worse, and has now officially collapsed. Across the country, clerkship hiring once again regularly occurs during the second year of law school.

This Article addresses the rise and inevitable fall of the Plan. In particular, it submits that the Plan never had a realistic chance of success because coordinated action in a competitive market is difficult to maintain, especially without an effective enforcement mechanism to punish noncompliance. Here, the Plan collapsed because its enforcement mechanism was far too weak. And the reason why the Plan did not have a more effective enforcement mechanism was no accident: any mechanism that could work would require judges to give up too much.

Against that backdrop, this Article explains what clerkship hiring will likely look like in the future. Importantly, given the steep costs of an effective enforcement mechanism, this Article contends that it is unlikely that a new hiring plan will be adopted. This is especially true because modern trends are already beginning to mitigate the concerns associated with an unregulated clerkship market.

Keywords: Law clerk, Clerkship, Federal clerkship, Clerkship hiring, Federal judges law clerk hiring plan, Law student hiring, Federal law clerk, Law student interview, Clerkship interview, How do I become a federal law clerk, Tips on getting a federal law clerkship

Suggested Citation

Nielson, Aaron, The Future of Federal Law Clerk Hiring (2014). Marquette Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 1, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Aaron Nielson (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics