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Law Clerk Interview Questions

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  1. How do you think being a law clerk at an appellate court will enhance your legal career? See answer
  2. Of the past Supreme Court justices, who is your favorite and why? See answer
  3. I see you’ve worked in the anti-trust advocacy field. How do you ensure that you’re evaluating a case fairly and impartially? See answer
  4. What has been your favorite/least favorite case studied and why? See answer
  5. Describe a situation in which you used your research skills to add value to a case report. See answer
  6. Tell me about your experience in explaining complex legal terms to those without law backgrounds.
  7. What makes you a good fit for this law clerk position?
  8. You’re given several tasks, each requiring a quick turnaround. How do you manage your time?
  9. Miscommunication among court staff has caused an issue. Tell me about your strategy to resolve it.
  10. Describe the software you used frequently in your previous position as a law clerk.
  11. An attorney criticizes your job performance. How do you handle it?
  12. Tell me about a recent case that you liked.
  13. Discuss an interpretation of law made by a justice of the supreme court that caught your attention.
  14. What are the administrative support duties you performed in your last job?
  15. Law clerks enable legal professionals to make informed decisions. How do you avoid mistakes when researching cases and analyzing issues?
  16. Do you have any personal qualities that enhance your performance as a law clerk? If so, describe them.
  17. Tell me about what motivates you to be a law clerk.
  18. Impartiality is essential for this position. How do you remain impartial?
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6 Law Clerk Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

Tell me about your experiences in explaining complex legal terms to those without law backgrounds.

A:

Your law clerk will be an important support for the court and should be able to take on the communication role between legal specialists and those who come to court seeking resolution to their cases. As such, your candidate should have both the strong legal background necessary to understand the complexities of court proceedings and the communication skills allowing them to thoroughly explain the circumstances to those who don’t possess an understanding of the law. What to look for in an answer:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to explain complex issues in layman’s terms
  • Excellent grasp of legal terms and proceedings
Example:

“During my work at a previous law firm, I explained complex legal proceedings to clients, many of whom didn’t have legal backgrounds, which is an experience that I believe will enhance my ability in a law clerk position.”

Q:

How do you think being a law clerk at an appellate court will enhance your legal career?

A:

Not all legal professionals choose to undertake clerkships, but those who do should have a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve from the experience. Many law clerks go on to work in the justice system, later becoming judges. While there’s no single correct answer to this question, you should be looking for candidates who have a clear understanding of the role that a law clerk plays in a legal professional’s career and how they would personally benefit from taking on the position. What to look for in an answer:

  • Understands a law clerk’s role in a legal career
  • Clear explanation for why they’re pursuing this path
  • Strong communication skills
Example:

“In the future, I hope to become a circuit court judge, and I understand that being a law clerk is a chance for me to familiarize myself with the proceedings of the appellate court.”

Q:

Of the past Supreme Court justices, who is your favorite and why?

A:

This is more of a technical question outside of the details of cases studied in law school, though your candidates should feel free to invoke examples of cases to explain their choice of Supreme Court justice. In particular, even though Supreme Court justices are appointed by different presidents and thus may exhibit party affiliations, your candidate should approach this question from the perspective of how the justice interprets rule of law and not by their party or political affiliations. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to name a Supreme Court justice
  • Has clear explanation for choosing justice
  • Understands the need to remain impartial
Example:

“My favorite Supreme Court justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I admire her courage to break traditional interpretations of the law in cases like her dissenting opinion to Bush v. Gore.”

Q:

I see you’ve worked in the anti-trust advocacy field. How do you ensure that you’re evaluating a case fairly and impartially?

A:

Members of the justice system necessarily need to remain impartial throughout court proceedings in order to ensure that all cases are treated justly, fairly and based on the evidence presented to the court. Your candidates will all have unique experiences that have inspired them to undertake clerkships, but it’s imperative that these experiences not sway them to favor one group of people or certain types of cases over others. What to look for in an answer:

  • Explains how past experience can help widen their knowledge of law
  • Clear explanation for how they’ll remain impartial
  • Strong communication skills
Example:

“Although I’ve worked in an anti-trust advocacy group before, this experience only added to my understanding of the complexities of the field and taught me to be even more cautious about remaining impartial when approaching cases.”

Q:

What has been your favorite/least favorite case studied and why?

A:

Your candidate will likely have been through a rigorous law education, during which he or she will have studied dozens of legal cases. Their response to this question will allow you to understand their approach to distilling legal scriptures. While all candidates will necessarily have experiences that inform how they approach different cases, it’s important that they’re able to clearly articulate the legal underpinnings that lead to their conclusions about case results. What to look for in an answer:

  • Identifies a favorite/least favorite case
  • Explains why they agree or disagree with the majority opinion
  • Clear, logical reasoning
Example:

"My favorite case is Brown v. Board of Education. I believe this case is one of the key instances in modern legal history in which freedom and equality for all have been exhibited through the courts.”

Q:

Describe a situation in which you used your research skills to add value to a case report.

A:

Law clerks research cases, analyze issues and make reports. An employer can use this question to learn about a candidate's ability to add value during case preparation. A skilled law clerk candidate should demonstrate suitable skills for the role. A candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Research and communication skills
  • Ability to be a self-starter
  • On-the-job experience in contributing to case preparation
An example answer to this question can look like this:
Example:

"While developing the issue statement on a case, I found a major precedent that seemed to have been overlooked when the case had been heard in a lower court. I documented it immediately. That was an amazing experience because I helped the judge make an informed decision and indirectly contributed to new case law."

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