I started along the yellow brick road to clerkdom back in March - and starting early was the best decision I made the entire spring semester. For those that are off to a late start, or even those that started as early as I did, here are a few helpful pointers that I've been picking up along side this winding road.
1) You cannot completely rely on the Federal Law Clerk Information System for judges' information. To be sure, the vast majority of judges do post openings for clerks on this site. However, as a current clerk in Lexington, Kentucky told me recently, the best method of finding out if a judge is hiring clerks (if not posted, of course) is to call the judge's chambers and speak to the judge's secretary. I've obtained to date hiring information from nearly 20 judges that do not post on the Information System.
A word to the wise: when in doubt, call the judge's chambers. It can only help.
2) OSCAR is every bit as efficient, economical, and helpful as the LSDAS. OSCAR essentially is a database on which you can upload cover letter(s), resume, writing sample(s), letter(s) of recommendation, transcript(s), and anything else that judges are requesting as part of the application materials. The best part: it's free. And registration takes little more than 30 seconds.
3) To travel down this road, you need a personal assistant. And a supply closet. Let me give you several for instances. Some judges use OSCAR. Some judges don't. And for those that do, "thank you." You have instantly saved me over $100.00 in postage costs. Problem: I now have to explain to my professors how to use OSCAR and what "upload" means.
Some judges want 2 letters of recommendation. Some want three. Some only want 1. Some don't want any at all. Some judges want your undergrad transcript and others do not.
Some judges want all your application materials in one package. Others don't mind if faculty and/or employers send their recommendations separately, but be sure to label the envelope "RECOMMENDATION."
Most judges want a writing sample. But others don't. Some only want a sample that pertains to constitutional or federal substantive issues. Some judges don't want a sample longer than 10 pages. Others want an unedited law review note. So be prepared to have up to three samples handy.
Some judges are accepting applications prior to the Labor Day time table. Others adhere to the informal plan quite strictly.
I'm sure I've missed a few headache-causing issues in my diatribe. You can consider the candid, sporadic nature of my thoughts a reflection of my mental state while on this clerkdom route. If you have anything to add, please do so. I'm sure it will help make the process a lot easier for all of us who are currently going, or will be going, through this royal mess.
If only it weren't so freakin' worth it.