Raquel Muscioni ’18 was determined to get a judicial clerkship after graduating from New England Law | Boston—and for good reason. These positions can be an invaluable jumping-off point for any legal career. Keep reading to learn about her unexpected journey and tips for how to get a clerkship.
I never could have predicted my first postgrad experience in a courtroom would be on a tropical island.
But moving to Guam, a U.S. territory in the South Pacific, has given me the opportunity to pursue the legal career I have always dreamed of. As a Judicial Law Clerk for the Supreme Court of Guam, I examine legal issues brought before the Court and collaborate with the justices throughout the research and writing process.
I was drawn to the courtroom early in my academic career while interning at the district attorney’s office as an undergraduate at Duquesne University. I pursued a clerkship after graduating from New England Law | Boston in 2018 because of the inherent value of clerking, especially for an appellate court. It really prepares you for the intricacies of litigation and the judicial system.
My professors who had clerkship experience and mentored me the most throughout law school, Professor Lawrence Friedman and Professor Dina Francesca Haynes, also motivated me to pursue these opportunities. And one law school class in particular truly inspired me: Federal Courts with Superior Court Judge Richard Welch III, because I became even more fascinated with the Judicial Branch and the relationship between state and federal courts. Overall, I knew that a clerkship after law school would afford me a better understanding of the judicial system and enhance my legal research and writing skills.
I applied to clerkships practically everywhere, and I found the Judicial Clerkship Guide created by Vermont Law School particularly helpful, because it had information on applying to several courts across the country. After an intensive application and interview process, I finally got it—a postgraduate clerkship with the Supreme Court of Guam. I moved and started the job in September of 2018.
A day in the life of a judicial law clerk
Clerkships put you right in the middle of the judicial process—which is exactly what I wanted after law school.
Like most people conducting appellate work, I typically spend much of my day at my desk researching and writing. Prior to oral arguments, I am assigned to cases for which I draft bench memoranda for review by the panel of justices. This requires me to read not only the briefs of the parties but also the record on appeal.
After framing the legal issue (or issues) on appeal, I target my research and analyze the trial court decision alongside the relevant legal principles. I then form my recommendation to the Court after assessing each possible outcome.
Then, once oral arguments have concluded, I participate in a panel conference with the justices as they determine what the Court’s decision and reasoning will be. Finally, I am directed to draft the opinion to be reviewed and edited by the authoring Justice.
Preparing for a postgrad clerkship
Because the clerkship involves writing-heavy work, my experience as an Associate Member on the New England Law Review prepared me the most for the job. This was where I first learned to allow my creativity to shine in drafting my own unique legal publications. In my clerkship, creativity comes into play through unpacking and interpreting Guam’s laws.
This can be challenging at times, as the Court often hears matters of “first impression,” since it is a relatively new court. These cases require researching the source of the relevant Guam law and finding persuasive authority from other jurisdictions. My positions as both an Associate Member and Executive Comment & Note Editor on the New England Law Review also prepared me for the editing process of producing judicial opinions, including rounds of edits to the substance and citations of opinions drafted by my co-clerks.
Related: Why You Should Join a Law Review
Additionally, New England Law’s Honors Judicial Internship Program, through which I interned at the Boston Municipal Court, prepared me for the close working relationship with judges and “a look behind the curtain” of the courtroom. This experience led me to a second judicial internship during my 2L summer at the Boston Immigration Court, where I learned to neutrally view both parties’ arguments and write objectively. The skill of viewing a case objectively and writing to that effect is crucial in my current position to ensure that I provide the justices with an unbiased presentation of the case in preparation for oral argument and their subsequent deliberation.
How—and why—you should get a clerkship after law school
Long story short, a judicial clerkship is an invaluable experience that is transferrable to any realm of law.
Not only does a clerkship refine analytical, research, and writing skills, but it is highly marketable for future employment opportunities. It affords you the opportunity to observe advocacy skills and develop an understanding of “good” and “bad” lawyering. Clerkships also allow law school graduates to experience the justice system from a judge’s perspective. This viewpoint will translate well when practicing on the other side of the courtroom in the future.
My advice to students seeking a judicial clerkship after law school is to apply early and often, do your research on specific courts and judges, and stay motivated. I also advise making a list of courts you wish to apply to, gather your application materials, and complete a handful per week. Be geographically flexible too, if possible, because the skill-set acquired from a clerkship will be fundamentally the same wherever you clerk.
Long before you apply, however, it’s advisable to get involved in law school, such as writing for law review and participating in clinics or internships. Prior writing experience, in any capacity, is important when applying to clerkships, so you have a solid foundation of legal writing skills. You should also maintain your grades, use your resources, and network.
Most importantly, do not get discouraged. Applying to clerkships can often feel like a spin of the roulette wheel, but your hard work will pay off in the end. Having a clerkship immediately after law school is an extraordinary opportunity you will not regret.
Where is she now?
Raquel was able to use her postgrad clerkship as a jumping off point, and is now an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate for the United States Air Force.
Learn more about: Judicial internships and clerkships at New England Law.