Racial/Ethnic Representation of Class of 2019 Judicial Clerks

NALP Bulletin, February 2021

As noted in an October 2017 Bulletin column by NALP's Judy Collins, long-term trends in the racial composition of judicial clerks show that despite modest improvements over time, graduates of color have historically been underrepresented in clerkships. The latest data for the Class of 2019 reveal that these disparities continue to persist for new law graduates, according to NALP's Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Graduates, Class of 2019.

Chart 1 depicts the overall racial/ethnic representation of the Class of 2019 as it compares to the percentage of graduates employed in all judicial clerkships, federal clerkships, state clerkships, and local clerkships. Across all judicial clerkship types, graduates of color were underrepresented; however, these disparities were greatest at the federal clerkship level, where just 21% of clerks were graduates of color despite graduates of color comprising nearly one-third of the Class of 2019 overall. The narrowest gap existed at the local clerkship level, where the representation of graduates of color was about seven percentage points below the overall class composition. Conversely, white graduates were overrepresented across all clerkship types, but especially at the federal level where white graduates obtained over 79% of all federal clerkships, despite making up only 67% of the class overall.

Data for Native American or Alaska Native, and for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates were not broken out separately by level of clerkship due to the relatively small number of graduates employed in clerkships, at just five and seven, respectively. Overall, Native American or Alaska Native graduates, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates, each obtained 0.2% of all judicial clerkships taken by the Class of 2019.

Chart 2 presents another aspect of these data by illustrating the percentage of graduates employed in clerkships by the type of clerkship and race/ethnicity. Overall, 11.5% of employed Class of 2019 graduates were judicial clerks. However, just 8.5% of employed graduates of color were judicial clerks, with percentages ranging from 7.5% of Latinx graduates to 9.4% of Black graduates. White graduates were employed in clerkships at a higher rate (13.0%) compared to the class overall and graduates of color.

While Black graduates were employed in clerkships at a greater percentage as compared to Asian and Latinx graduates, this is primarily due to their higher rate of employment in state clerkships with levels on par with the class as a whole. At the federal clerkship level, Black graduates had the lowest level of employment when compared to Asian, Latinx, and white graduates. At just 2.1%, Black graduates were employed in federal clerkships at nearly half the rate of graduates overall (4.1%).

Asian graduates were underrepresented across the board in federal, state, and local clerkships; however, a higher percentage of Asian graduates were employed in federal clerkships (3.0%) in comparison to Black (2.1%), Latinx (2.8%), and all graduates of color (2.7%). Compared to Asian, Black, and white graduates, Latinx graduates had the lowest rate of employment in judicial clerkships (7.5%), which can be attributed to deficits at both the federal and state clerkship levels.

In conclusion, graduates of color continue to be underrepresented at all levels of judicial clerkships, especially at the federal level. The representation of Black graduates within federal clerkships is particularly low in comparison to the overall composition of the Class of 2019.

Additional data on judicial clerkship employment for the Class of 2019 are included in Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Graduates, Class of 2019 — available now in the NALP Bookstore.



Chart 1. Racial/Ethnic Representation of Judicial Clerks Obtained by the Class of 2019 as Compared to the Class Overall


Note: A small percentage of other and unknown level of government clerkship types are not shown separately, but are included in overall clerkship percentages. Graduates of color includes Asian, Black or African American, Latinx, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and multiracial graduates. Data for some racial groups are not shown separately due to the relatively small number of graduates employed in judicial clerkships.
Source: NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey, Class of 2019.


Chart 2. Percentage of Class of 2019 Graduates Employed in Judicial Clerkships by Type of Clerkship and Race/Ethnicity


Note: A small percentage of other and unknown level of government clerkship types are not shown separately, but are included in the overall clerkship percentages. Graduates of color includes Asian, Black or African American, Latinx, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and multiracial graduates. Data for some racial groups are not shown separately due to the relatively small number of graduates employed in judicial clerkships.
Source: NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey, Class of 2019.

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