The most important things to include on a clerkship cover letter are your specific interests in the advertised clerkship: that is, why the location, the subject matter, or the nature of the court make you a good fit for the position. Experiences you have had that directly relate to the job are also important. Brief biographical information, including your law school, your year in school, and your academic achievements should be included, but should not usually take the spotlight. In almost all cases, the clerkship cover letter is accompanied by a more detailed resume and transcript. The main idea is to spark the judge’s interest, not rehash information contained elsewhere in your application packet.
Law students and young lawyers looking for judicial clerkship positions often fall into the trap of sending but one well-crafted clerkship cover letter to a variety of different employers. While your basic information is of course static, it is important to tailor each letter to the specifics of the job advertised. Ideally, you should write a separate letter for each position. Including some basic information is fine, but the bulk of the material should be directly connected to something about the position at issue.
Geography is a common thing to consider in a clerkship cover letter. Most of the time, students apply for clerkships in a range of jurisdictions. If you grew up in the region where you are now looking to clerk, or if family members live nearby, be sure to mention that. Look for personal connections that will make your interest stand out.
Subject matter works the same way. If the court to which you are applying hears an unusually large number of cases in a given discipline, it is usually a good idea to both acknowledge this trend and somehow connect yourself to it. Trends are often hard to find in small local courts. Regional or federal judges tend to see patterns the longer they are on the bench, however, as parties will often selectively file cases in courts that have historically sided with their line of argument. Including something about the caseload in a federal clerkship cover letter serves two main purposes: it shows that you have done your research and expresses interest in honing your skills in that particular area.
Most career counselors recommend that judicial clerkship applicants keep their cover letters on the short side. Including basic identifying information about your school, your grade point average, and your class rank is a good idea, as these are decisive factors for law clerk selection. Going on to describe all of your extracurricular activities, legal experiences, or classes taken is not usually necessary. This information can weigh down the valuable facts that you want to convey and is often redundant in any event. So long as you include a detailed resume and transcript with your clerkship cover letter, the hiring judge will be able to find any additional information he or she needs to make the decision.