Justin Kerner '10 Rallies VLS Alum for New Clerkship Mentoring Program
Justin Kerner '10 serves as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Mary L. Cooper of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and teaches at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) as an adjunct professor. Starting next fall, he will clerk for the Honorable Robert E. Cowen of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Over this past summer, Kerner organized a group of VLS graduates who had experience clerking in either state or federal courts. These alumni make themselves available to current VLS students who are interested in the clerkship process.
In a recent interview, Kerner talked about clerkships and his newly-formed clerkship mentor group:
1. What are the benefits of clerking?
Clerkships offer unique opportunities to learn and develop practical skills. Judicial law clerks develop a sense of "how judges think"--that is, how judges approach and resolve legal issues. That understanding is invaluable. They also develop a sense of personal style, insofar as they observe motion and trial practice.
2. What exactly does clerking entail?
A judicial law clerk's responsibilities vary both by court and by judge. Typical responsibilities include (but by no means are limited to) drafting opinions and orders, preparing jury instructions, preparing judges in advance of oral argument, and keeping abreast of newly-issued appellate and high court opinions.
3. What does your group do to mentor students in the clerkship application process?
Our approach varies by student. Generally, however, we: (1) review students''application materials; (2) educate students about the appropriate time for and method of applying; (3) help students to target particular judges and courts; and (4) prepare students for interviews by reviewing common questions and mistakes.
4. You have given a speech on "Applying for Judicial Clerkships - Common Pitfalls". What advice do you have for 1Ls and 2Ls to prepare them for the clerkship application process?
Each judge looks for different traits. That said, students who are interested in pursuing judicial clerkships should strive to publish at least one article before the end of their 2L year. Publication is the best objective measure of strong research and writing skills, and a published article serves as a strong writing sample.
First- and second-year law students should also focus on networking. If students want to work in a particular region, they should involve themselves in the local county bar association and participate in community outreach programs. Those activities provide a means for meeting the local judges and for meeting local attorneys who may later serve as references.
Students interested in clerking should also seek out judicial externships. Villanova Law does a great job of placing students in local state trial courts, at the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and in federal courts in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
5. How can VLS alumni who clerked get involved as mentors, and students as mentees?
Alumni who wish to get involved as clerkship mentors should e-mail me at email@example.com. Students should initially contact either Professor Tuan Samahon or Jennifer Henfey, Director of Career Strategy and Advancement.
6. What is one "must take" course at Villanova Law?
My "must take" classes emphasize skills over theory. My favorite class was Professor Sirico's "Advanced Legal Writing". I still refer to my notes when drafting bench memoranda, opinions, and professional correspondence. I also feel strongly that students should participate in one of the law school's clinical programs. Clinical students work in a quasi-collaborative environment while interviewing, strategizing with, and advocating on behalf of indigent clients. Dveera Segal and Michael Campbell, who work in the Civil Justice Clinic, helped to shape my career.
Kerner is from Hillsborough, NJ. He earned an undergraduate degree in business from TCNJ, where he met his now wife, Dawn Gerber. Justin and Dawn married in 2004, while Dawn was earning her law degree from Villanova. Justin and Dawn live in Cherry Hill, NJ with their two year-old son, Jackson. Jackson keeps them focused on the important things in life: Blue's Clues, snacks, and puppies.
Story written by Dana Gittleman '12