When the Center for Judicial Events & Clerkships (CJEC) launched in 2019, Faculty Director Daniel Capra and Assistant Dean Suzanne Endrizzi knew that they wanted to create a vehicle for student leadership recognizing how critical peer engagement is to promoting and fostering a clerkships-oriented culture at the Law School.
At the start of its second year, the CJEC launched its inaugural Peer Clerkship Council (PCC) comprised of six members of the J.D. Class of 2021—Zach Huffman, Alex Jacinto, Kendra Kumor, Corey Matthews, Caroline Schulte, and Saniya Suri—who worked extensively with the CJEC to secure their clerkships.
The inaugural Council was eager to pay it forward and build the foundation for an enduring peer initiative that touched on peer-to-peer informal support through office hours, peer planned programs and workshops and peer developed resources, as well as serving as a crucial bridge for current students to the vast alumni clerk community.
In the fall semester, the PCC primarily focused their efforts on peer engagement and getting the word out that they were a resource for exploring the notion of clerking and 2Ls navigating the planning process.
Toward that end, the Council hosted weekly virtual office hours for 1Ls and 2Ls to come and ask them their perspectives. Those office hours continued into the spring semester and, in April, the PCC is hosting themed hours for 2Ls as they began to prepare their applications to provide insider tips on application materials and strategy.
In November, the Council hosted a panel, “What I Wish I Knew: Looking Ahead to the Spring Semester” during which 2Ls planning to apply for clerkships heard from PCC members about their decision-making and reflection processes, how to approach course selection, and how to network with alumni.
The PCC also sought to develop a partnership with the Office of Professionalism via its 1L House System. The goal was to collaborate in creating a resource to guide 1Ls on how to effectively develop strong relationships with faculty.
Earlier this month, Jordana Confino, director of the Office of Professionalism, circulated the guide via the 1L House System as part of its mandated learning “Building Faculty Relationships” module presented by PCC members Schulte and Huffman. They shared tips and advice for how to start to build, maintain, and develop these critical relationships.
Building Bridges to Alumni Clerks
In the spring semester, the Council also focused its energies on building bridges to the vast alumni clerk community.
First, there was a series of themed virtual coffees with alumni clerks—including first-generation clerks, public interest-oriented clerks, and court-specific clerks from district, circuit, and New Jersey State. Clerk alumni from around the country Zoomed in to talk with current students who are thinking about clerkships as a possible career path. Kumor, who spearheaded this initiative, carefully planned the events to follow the CJEC’s judicial engagement initiatives and build upon the momentum.
And coffee leads to lunch! PCC members Matthews and Suri picked up on Kumor’s initiative and led the Council’s “Virtual Lunch with a Clerk” event at the end of March. This capstone event was kicked off with a panel—”What is a Clerkship and Why Should I Clerk?”—which was moderated by Endrizzi and featured alumni with significant clerkship experience on the federal and state courts.
Immediately after the panel, the attending students had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions with alumni clerks. After each break-out session the larger group reconvened to have informal discussions and an open Q&A. Participating students also had the opportunity to hear and engage with more than 35 former and current judicial clerks.
Through the PCC’s efforts, 50 current and former clerks came back to engage with 1Ls and 2Ls.
“The Peer Clerkship Council has been more impactful than either Dan or I envisioned,” Endrizzi said. “We are awestruck by their boundless energy and enthusiasm.
“I am constantly hearing from students about something a PCC member did to support them,” she continued. “It’s truly amazing.”