Rutgers Law School has an exceptional clerkship tradition, even ranking tops in the nation in state and local clerkships. To further that tradition of excellence, three graduates of the Class of 2016 have been appointed to serial clerkships. Megan Admire, Jaclyn Palmerson, and Melissa Valladares each will begin a series of clerkships with judges in New Jersey appellate courts, New Jersey Supreme Court, and federal courts in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the Fourth Circuit.According to Rebekah Verona, assistant dean at Rutgers Law School’s Center for Career Development in Camden, situated just blocks from federal, bankruptcy, and state courthouses, this strong tradition of clerkships is fueled by Rutgers’ robust community of alumni law clerks, who regularly return to the law school championing the value of the experience. To secure multiple clerkships is remarkable, she says.
“These are highly competitive positions and obtaining just one is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself,” says Verona. “But a second or third clerkship really speak to the student’s commitment to their professional growth.”
Valladares will clerk for the Honorable Lee Solomon of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the Honorable Gregory H. Woods of the Southern District of New York, and the Honorable Roger Gregory of the Fourth Circuit. She says multiple clerkships will offer her the experience to continue learning and to develop lifetime mentor-mentee relationships.
“I have always believed that to be the best at what you do, you should learn from as many other experts in your field as possible,” says Valladares. “Throughout law school, I have developed close relationships with professors who have mentored me academically and professionally. I hope to also develop such relationships with the judges that I will be clerking for. To see how a judge reviews, analyzes, and decides a case is invaluable preparation for being the most effective advocate for my future clients that I can possibly be.”
Admire, who will clerk for the Honorable Michael Haas in the New Jersey Appellate Division and then for the Honorable Thomas O’Neill in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, intends to utilize her writing skills and advance perspective into practice.
“That’s why I think having both an appellate and a trial level clerkship was so important to me,” she says. “At the trial level, it is of course very motion heavy and I will get to see how attorneys argue and write those motions. The appellate clerkship will be more brief and oral argument focused and I hope to gain more insight into how appellate briefs are written and I will also be allowed to sit in on oral arguments with my judge so I will get to see appellate arguments, which is always exciting. Not only do I hope to learn from the judges, but from the attorneys I encounter as well.”
For Palmerson, who will follow her clerkship with the Honorable George S. Leone of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, with a second clerkship with the Honorable Noel L. Hillman, United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey, the decision to clerk will allow her time to grow as an attorney.
“Clerking seemed like the best way to get the time I wanted while getting valuable experience that will make me a more qualified candidate when looking for my next job,” says Palmerson. “Doing two clerkships will give me the time I want and will expose me to different kinds of law. I will be able to see a case at the trial level in district court and the appellate level in the New Jersey Appellate Division. I will also have the privilege of being mentored by two different, but equally exceptional judges.”
Based in New Jersey, Rutgers Law School is situated in a state that offers more than 400 clerkships every year, because in the Garden State the clerkship is a one-year position that cannot be extended. The career development office at Rutgers Law encourages students to explore a variety of clerkships with yearly panels of visiting alumni-law clerks and judges as well as clerkship application workshops. The school also provides one-on-one judicial clerkship counseling in the office and copious online resources to help guide students through the exploration and application processes. In addition, many faculty members support students in the clerkship application process by serving as faculty clerkship advisors.
According to Verona, while the application process for clerkships is worthwhile, it is somewhat complex and time consuming. “To be willing to go through that process two or three times says something about that individual’s level of perseverance and resolve. It’s a testament to the type of student Rutgers attracts and the type of lawyer Rutgers Law produces,” she says. “The contacts, knowledge, skills, and experience clerks acquire are considerable.”
“I don’t think I would have gotten either of my clerkships without the excellent writing program at Rutgers Law,” adds Palmerson. “The law school’s connection to the Camden federal courthouse and the externship program also helped me build my resume to make me a more ideal candidate.”
Admire echoes Palmerson’s praises for Rutgers Law’s legal writing program. “The legal writing training I received here at Rutgers has made me more confident going into my clerkships. I feel very lucky to have these two awesome clerkships lined up, and I know I can do the work because Rutgers taught me how to do it.”
Valladares leaves Rutgers Law School positioned to deliver with gusto on what first motivated her to begin her legal education.
“One of my reasons for attending law school was to be able to positively impact the lives of as many people as possible,” says Valladares. “By clerking at both the state Supreme Court and federal appellate levels, I will be intimately involved in cases that may change or set precedent for thousands of affected parties. I am greatly humbled and honored to have that opportunity.