Judge Milan Smith Jr.(center) meets with Loyola Law School students.

Loyola's Federal Clerkship Program Helps Students Successfully Navigate Process

Sitting in a stately meeting room in the lobby of the Richard H. Chambers Courthouse in Pasadena, CA, Ali Mojibi ’09 discussed what drove him to secure three clerkships in as many years. “The opportunity to talk to a judge before he’s made up his mind” is a major attraction, he says. “To see that whole process is really incredible.

Mojibi, who co-taught the Clerkship & Advanced Legal Writing Seminar that debuted in summer 2011, secured three successive clerkships -- the most recent with Judge Sharon Post at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Previously, he clerked for Judge Ferdinand Fernandez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Before that, Mojibi clerked for Judge R. Gary Klausner ’67 on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Federal clerkships attract the top students from every law school in the country, especially on the Ninth Circuit. “Many of the justices on the Supreme Court hire clerks from the Ninth Circuit, and there are very well-known judges here,” said Mojibi.

Professor Laurie Levenson, who oversees Loyola’s Federal Clerkship Committee, says this competition makes “our students’ accomplishments even more amazing if you look at the numbers.”

And the numbers are striking. During the 2010-2011 academic year, 16 students secured clerkships for the 2011-2012 academic year, with another student securing an advance clerkship for 2012-2013 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Fifty-Five percent of the Law School’s applicants obtain clerkships, which ranks Loyola among the highest placement rate of any southern California law school. In 2011, Loyola graduates held more clerkships than both UCLA and USC in the Central District of California.

Preparation is a main factor in Loyola’s success. Few schools have a support system in place like Loyola’s to ensure each student will not only be a successful applicant, but a successful clerk. The on-campus network consists of Levenson and the entire faculty clerkship board, faculty assistant Linda Wysocky and Brooke Loesby, assistant director of the Office of Career Services. They work with applicants every step of the way to prepare cover letters, resumes and recommendations, as well as hone their interview skills and remind them of important deadlines. They even assist students in mailing their application packets. 

Loyola’s alumni provide a nationwide network that is equally valuable. Every summer, applicants attend a speed-interview session at Levenson’s home, giving current students a chance to interact with alumni who are current and former clerks. “The applicant gets a taste of what it’s like to be interviewed, and we get to know them and have a mental note of each person,” said Mojibi. 

Each student is then paired with an alum who helps them find the best judicial match for their career interests and personality. “There’s nothing like having an insider to give you good tips,” Mojibi explains. That was exactly the idea behind Mojibi’s summer clerkship seminar, which is designed to provide prospective clerks with the requisite training for the many memoranda they will be drafting for judicial review. “It’s very different from writing in the role of an advocate,” he says. 

Mojibi acknowledges that the application process can at times seem overwhelming, and he praises Loyola students for their perseverance. “Self-belief and motivation are really important, and that’s where Professor Levenson has shined. She has really communicated to students that this is something they have to fight for,” he says.

What’s Mojibi’s parting advice for students? “I know many people who got clerkships after trying for one or two years,” he says. “If you get rejected, you cannot get discouraged. The only way to ensure that it’s impossible is not to apply.”