Published on May 24, 2012
These questions have been answered by someone (who preferred to remain anonymous) presently clerking at the Supreme Court.
1. How many people apply for the Judicial Clerkship and how many get through?
A lot of people apply. I remember the last year there was about 120 applicants and around 50-60 persons eventually were selected. They take a VERY long time so patience would serve you well.
Last year although the courts started in July our clerkships started only in mid-August and for some they started as late as November.
2. What are the qualifications required to be a judicial clerk?
You would need a basic LLB degree. Also your College needs to be on the “approved list” by the SC registry. If it is not, then pester your college to get registered. You can do it after LLB, LLM etc.
Try applying to the HC as well as some have a Judicial Clerkship process. It generally takes a long process, so be patient.
3. What is the selection process like?
Till the last year they would take pretty much everyone. Last year they started selecting people, apparently based on CV (not purely rank- but I guess heavily oriented towards that).
If you are not selected the first time around, your name would be on a large panel of persons who they will contact throughout the year when vacancies arise.
4. How did your interview go?
The interview I appeared for comprised of two Hon’ble Judges Justice Bhandari and Justice Kabir and it was mainly about the CV that had been submitted. They asked about internships, some areas of law covered during the internship, then hobbies and about academic interests.
5. How important is doing a judge internship in securing a final clerkship?
Not a pre-requisite. Most of the people I know who are doing it haven’t done an internship with a judge before
6. If someone wants to do an LLM abroad, how better is the clerkship than a law firm job?
If you are lucky you will be assigned to a Judge who will give you a recommendation letter and that generally goes a long way in admissions.
It carries much more weight than a law firm recommendation (unless its an internationally known partner I guess!).
The trend however has been to not give recommendation letters to law-clerks at all or till the end of the clerkship by which time admissions are generally over. So don’t count on it.
7. What is the likelihood of getting a recommendation letter even at the completion of the clerkship?
It depends entirely on the discretion of the Judge to whom you will be assigned. Some will be willing to issue it during the currency of your term, maybe even sit down with you and discuss how it should be written, where you are applying etc. Others will simply not give a letter during the clerkship or at its completion.
8. Any other things which you’d like to add?
As Socrates said: Marry if you find a good wife you will be happy if you find a bad wife, you will be a philosopher.
Sadly my experience has been far from pleasant but I got to read and understand an amazing variety of matters; from murders and rapes to property disputes and rent control matters, mining, service matters, land acquisition etc etc.
This experience is broader than you will get ANYWHERE else in India in the field of litigation.
Other useful links on Judicial Clerkships in India:
Legally India: salary of 25k
Critical Twenties: some suggestions and reflections
LAOT: a former clerk’s perspective