Frequently Asked Questions






About Judges:

How do I choose the judges to whom I will apply?

For a detailed look at researching judges, please consult the Complete Guide to Judicial Clerkships. Generally, applicants will focus on a particular kind of court or area of the country. It is imperative that you consider carefully how competitive you will be in the courts to which you are applying — applicants are far more likely to walk away empty-handed if they aim only at courts that will be a reach for them. Other factors that you will want to consider are how likely a judge is to hire a UVA student (based on past hiring), which judges your recommenders know, and where a judge’s clerks tend to go upon completion of their clerkships.

Should I apply to Senior Judges?

Yes! After some years of service, federal judges have the option of taking senior status. Typically, the caseload of judges on senior status is reduced. Depending on the number of cases they will be hearing, though, senior judges remain eligible to hire at least one law clerk (and often more than one). Most senior judges maintain a full and interesting docket, and in fact use their senior status to avoid types of cases that do not interest them. Indeed, some senior judges travel to desirable locations around the country (often with clerks) to sit “by designation” on other circuits. You should peruse a senior judge’s docket before you apply to him or her, however, because some senior judges do have very light caseloads and may be less interesting for you.

What does a magistrate judge do?

Magistrate judges conduct a wide range of judicial proceedings to expedite the disposition of the civil and criminal caseloads of the United States District Courts. To achieve maximum flexibility in meeting the needs of each court, the actual determination of which duties to assign to magistrate judges are left to the individual courts. Many magistrate judges conduct a wide range of criminal hearings, while others handle strictly civil work, often chunks of complex multi-plaintiff litigation. Magistrate clerkships are fast-paced and an excellent learning opportunity for students interested in spending a lot of time in court, but you should be aware of each judge’s typical docket before you apply.

How do I figure out when judges are hiring?

Judges may all hire on their own timelines, so it is not always possible to be 100% certain about when any given judge is hiring.  With that said, students should make sure to check both OSCAR and CARS before submitting applications because many judges do make their hiring timelines known and do not wish to receive packets at other times.  If information is not available about a particular judge, applicants are encouraged to check with chambers before sending materials.  If you are still uncertain as to when to apply, please check with the Office of Judicial Clerkships.

About CARS:

Why can’t I find the state judge I want to apply to in CARS?

CARS does not have pre-filled information for state trial court judges.  If you wish to apply to one of these judges, you must add him or her by clicking on “Create a Request for a Judge.” You will be directed to a page where you can enter the appropriate information.

I have selected my judges, but my recommenders cannot see my choices. Why?

Once you have made your initial selections, you will need to review your choices via the “All My Requests” link. Once this has been done, you may select the “Submit Your Clerkships for Final Approval” link. Your selections will be available to faculty only after you have submitted them for final approval. 

What do I do if my recommender is not a faculty member and, therefore, cannot access CARS?

There is no means by which non-faculty members can be granted access to CARS. In most cases, these recommenders can create a single letter (with the salutation “Dear Judge”), which can be given directly to the applicant for use in his or her packets. If the recommender prefers to have each letter individually addresses, you will need to create a data document which you can email to the recommender. To do this, click on the “Create Your Own Merge Data” link. You will see a list of all the judges that you have selected on CARS. Check the box next to the judges which you would like to include in the merge document, or check on “Check All” to select them all, and hit the “Create Merge Information” button at the top of the page. This will create a mail merge data sheet for all the judges that you have selected. You should cut and paste this data as a plain text document for use by your recommender. For more information on creating merge data, please see the CARS handbook.

What do I do if I have fewer than four recommenders?

You may leave boxes 2 through 4 as a “?” if you are only having one or two faculty member write a letter of recommendation for a particular judge. 

What do I do if I have more than four recommenders?

If you are using more than four recommenders, you should create a second request for each judge and select the additional recommender(s) in the second application (i.e., on the first request, choose recommenders 1-4 on the drop down menu. On the second request, choose recommenders 5-8 on the drop down). 

How do I submit my application on CARS?

You may not actually apply to judges on CARS.  CARS is merely a tool to get your judge list to your faculty recommenders and their assistants. After entering your judges on CARS, you must still compile paper applications or submit materials via OSCAR.

Which judges should be included on my CARS list?

All of the judges you intend to apply to, regardless of application method, should be included on your CARS list.

When should I submit my judge list on CARS?

Submission of your list for final approval will trigger the mailing of your letters of recommendation.  Therefore, only submit your list for approval when you are within a week or two of sending your application packet to the judges on your list.

Can I submit more than one list of judges on CARS?

Yes.  You may submit any number of lists, up to 100 judges total.  You should submit lists as you are ready to apply to judges.  Out of courtesy to the faculty assistants, please submit your judges in batches rather than one at a time.

About OSCAR:

How can I tell if a judge accepts OSCAR applications?

Any judge who is listed in blue has registered with the OSCAR system (grayed out judges have never registered with OSCAR). If a judge has an available position, a method of application will be noted. Some judges only accept paper applications — this will be indicated with a mailbox next to the name. Judges listed in blue with a globe next to the name accept OSCAR applications. 

The judge I am interested accepts OSCAR applications, but I do not see a spot to apply — why?

Not all judges who accept OSCAR applications will have positions available every year. You may only apply to judges via OSCAR who list available positions on the system. If an OSCAR judge is not hiring, we will note that fact in CARS.

I have created a list of judges, so why can’t my faculty recommenders load their letters of recommendation?

You must create a draft application for each judge in order to trigger the recommendation request. To create a draft application, click on the “clerkship details” tab for each judge and you will see a “build an application” option to the right (this only works if the judge has open positions). At this point, you can trigger a draft application by uploading one document and choosing your recommenders for each judge. You can finalize the rest of the application at any time before the due date. 

I created draft applications, why are my pending recommendation requests still not viewable?

You need to choose recommenders for each judge to whom you are applying. If you have already entered your recommenders under the recommender tab, go into each draft application and make sure that the appropriate recommenders are checked for each judge. Until these boxes are checked, the recommendation requests will not be viewable.

One of my recommenders is not a faculty member. How can I upload his materials to OSCAR?

OSCAR is available to all of your recommenders, whether they are faculty or not.  For non-faculty, please select “add a new recommender” under the recommender tab and enter an email address. OSCAR will send an instructional email to the recommender.

Can I finalize my applications before my letters of recommendation are uploaded?

While your letters of recommendation can be attached after the application is finalized (as long as the recommendation request is pending), it is generally not a good idea to finalize your application until all of the materials are in. Judges often download/print applications as they are finalized, and they are not likely to check back to see if you have added more material. Additionally, while your request is pending, recommenders may make changes to their letters, even after they have been uploaded. Once you finalize the application, the recommenders may not change their uploaded letters, even if they find a mistake (which happens not infrequently).

What if a judge I wish to apply to opts into OSCAR after I have submitted a paper application?

If a judge on your list switched from paper applications to OSCAR applications, you should re-apply to the judge via OSCAR.  Please notify both your recommenders and the clerkship office when this happens so the paper letters can be pulled and the appropriate letters uploaded to your new OSCAR application.

What if an OSCAR judge opens a new opportunity after the deadline?

You may continue to add new OSCAR judges, so long as they were not previously available, at any time. To make sure that your letters are uploaded, please contact both your recommenders and the clerkship office when this happens.

How do I upload my transcript onto OSCAR?

OSCAR does not allow applicants to upload a transcript. When you enter your information on OSCAR, you will be asked to create a grade sheet.

What can I do if I find a mistake in my application after I have finalized it?
OSCAR can reset your application to draft form for you. You may then make any corrections and re-finalize the application. Do NOT withdraw your application. Once you have done this, you may not re-apply to the same judge.

About your application materials:

How should my resume differ from the one I used for OGI?

You can use essentially the same resume format that you used to apply for jobs with firms or public service employers, but make sure to highlight any writing experience you have.

How long should my writing sample be?

Writing samples should be no more than 15 pages in length. Feel free to excerpt 12-15 continuous pages from a longer piece. Some judges require writing samples to be shorter; make sure to note each judge’s specific requirements.

May I use a memo I wrote for my firm this summer?

If you wish to submit work that you did for a firm, government or public-interest employer, you must get permission from the employer first and then indicate conspicuously on the writing sample that you are submitting it with permission. 

Which transcript should I use?

For most applications, you can use your unofficial transcript or a photocopy of your official transcript. Never use a printout of your grades from ISIS.

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