Before coming to law school, Jessica Oliva ’16 “had no idea what a judicial clerkship was, let alone the work required to apply for one.”
Adding to that uncertainty: Clerkship applications have become increasingly competitive—and more complex. That’s why Career Development Office Director of Operations Eric Stern enlists alums to help him guide students through the thorny process.
Oliva, who will clerk for Chief Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California), credits Stern for giving applicants access to “an incredible amount of resources.”
Helped “immensely” by former clerks Yulia Zeynalova ’12 and Yelena Nam ’15, Oliva says, “Everyone I spoke to provided helpful advice, and I learned how to best tailor my cover letters to stand out.”
This year, 59 Class of 2016 grads landed clerkships. Alums such as Tony LoPresti ’12 helped make it possible. Having clerked for two U.S. Court of Appeals judges, he enjoys soothing the nerves of applicants.
“When I applied for clerkships, the system was more manageable, and you didn’t begin the process until after your 2L year,” LoPresti says. “Now, there’s this unstructured race out of your 1L year to apply. The process is intensive and opaque. It takes a ton of time to do it right, and I’m happy to help.”
Like Oliva, Galen Arkush Ages ’16 knew nothing about clerkships before working as a paralegal at a plaintiffside firm. Noting that many of the firm’s attorneys had clerked, he began exploring the possibility.
Ages, who will clerk for Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California), says, “Taking time to reach out to alums was really worthwhile. It was inspiring to hear them describe how clerking helped launch exciting and meaningful legal careers.”
Ages returned the favor this year by mentoring 2L clerkship applicants— sharing his research on various judges, offering interview tips, and quelling anxiety.
“We have a very special community at Berkeley Law and I want to do anything I can to help our applicants succeed,” he says. “Also, after all the great advice I got from 3Ls and alums, I felt that I had a duty to ‘pay it forward.’ “