Ashley Palomaki is a judicial law clerk and judicial assistant at the Colorado Supreme Court. She evaluates petitions for certiorari and writes memos to the justices recommending that they either grant or deny each petition. After her clerkship, she will be an honors attorney fellow with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
I applied for clerkships during the spring of my 2L year. Given the volume of applications that judges receive, there is a certain amount of luck involved with securing a clerkship. To increase my odds, I applied broadly.
Both during and after law school, the Career Development Office routinely sent me emails about job opportunities related to my interests. They also met with me when I had questions, edited my resume, and conducted mock interviews. When I was looking for a job after my clerkship, the Career Development Office emailed me to tell me that the EPA was hiring a fellow in Seattle. My experience as an intern with the EPA in Denver helped me craft a persuasive application. Before my interviews, I met with EPA attorneys that I had previously interned with to learn more about their jobs and ensure that I was prepared.
Colorado Law actively encourages students to clerk after law school and as a result, I received a lot of support. I attended events that the law school organized including a lunch with current students who had accepted clerkships and a panel discussion with professors who had clerked after law school. At each of these events, I received practical advice about how and when to apply. In addition, I met with a legal writing professor who reviewed my application materials.
My tasks require a lot of research, writing, and editing. During law school, activities that helped in particular included journal, moot court, and seminar. As a member of the Environmental Law Review, I wrote a note and then later, as Editor-in-Chief, I edited articles. I also competed in the National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court Competition. The process of writing and editing the brief with my partner is similar to my daily interactions with my co-clerks about pieces of writing. Finally, I wrote a paper for my seminar class. Like the process of writing my note and moot court brief, writing my seminar paper allowed me to think deeply and critically about legal issues, and then clearly and concisely document my analysis and conclusions. All of these experiences make me a better judicial law clerk.
Know what your goals are and be persistent. Meet with as many people as you can to talk with them about your goals and get their suggestions. When you get an interview, be confident in your accomplishments and translate them into skills that will be valuable for the employer while also being humble that you still have much to learn about the law. Also, when applying for clerkships, don’t be afraid to ask your references if they would be willing to make a call on your behalf. If they agree, it makes a big impression.
The faculty at Colorado Law will both challenge and support you. Given the relatively small class sizes, there really is an opportunity to develop relationships with the faculty. If you reach out and establish connections, they will challenge you to be the best lawyer and person you can be while supporting you through job and internship applications, and the daily stress of law school.
In addition, the law school is in a great location, not only for hiking and skiing, but for job and internship opportunities. With multiple federal agencies and nonprofits in the area and relatively few law schools, students can get a lot of exposure to environmental and natural resources work outside the law school. I took advantage of this by interning with the U.S. Department of Justice, the EPA, Earthjustice, and the Environmental Defense Fund during law school. All of these experiences not only helped me understand the type of work I wanted to do but also helped me establish relationships with attorneys.