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December 2010

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.

 

OSCAR Comes of Age


Although only six years old, OSCAR has come of age. The federal Judiciary’s Online System for Clerkship Application and Review, or OSCAR, grew in 2010 to include 1,501 federal judges and 98 percent of all law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.

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Judges Participating in OSCAR

Judges Participating in OSCAR

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Number of Applicants Using OSCAR

Number of Applicants Using OSCAR

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Judges' Preferred Application Method

Judges' Preferred Application Method

“I am pleased with how the program has handled its growth,” said Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis (E.D. NY), who chairs the OSCAR Working Group. “I believe that if we continue to listen to our constituents—the judges, applicants, and law schools—OSCAR is here to stay and will continue to grow.”

OSCAR is a single, centralized online resource for notice of available clerkships, clerkship application information, and law clerk employment information—a service for federal judges and those hoping to work for them. “It’s a valuable tool, benefitting judges, applicants, and law schools,” Garaufis said.

Begun in 2005 as a local court initiative, OSCAR had 388 participating judges in its first year. The number has grown each year, growth aided by OSCAR becoming a national program in 2009. In 2010, the judges’ participation level rose 4.25 percent over 2009 to reach 1,501, two-thirds of all federal judges. Participating jurists include circuit, district, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges.

Eighty-two percent of the participating judges now accept online applications. OSCAR features great flexibility as some judges use it to accept and screen applications electronically, while others use it to post positions and accept paper applications.

The numbers of applicants and applications, too, have mushroomed since OSCAR’s start in 2005. There were 4,902 applicants who generated 94,693 applications in the first year, and 9,570 applicants who generated 382,828 applications in 2010. The 2010 figures were down slightly from 2009, when 10,722 applicants generated 401,576 applications.

Although there continues to be a small population of applicants who create large numbers of clerkship applications, this group appears to be diminishing. The single highest number of applications created by one applicant in 2010 was 613, down from a peak figure of 942 in 2008. Most applicants (65 percent) generated fewer than 25 applications in 2010, and 80 percent of all applicants submitted 50 or fewer applications.

“…if we continue to listen to our constituents—the judges, applicants, and law schools—OSCAR is here to stay and will continue to grow.”

—Judge Nicholas Garaufis

There was an even split among 2010 applicants—50 percent were law school alumni and 50 percent were third-year students, a slight change from the 52–48 percent alumni-student ratio in 2009. Students created 72 percent of all the applications in 2010, however.

“Law school participation is critical because they support their applicants in using the system and assist their faculty recommenders,” Garaufis said. “Before OSCAR, many judges received individual application materials from applicants and recommenders as well as bundled materials from law schools, which were extremely difficult to process. Some judges received literally thousands of separate envelopes that needed to be sorted, coordinated, and screened by hand. With OSCAR, judges can receive a complete electronic application.”

The numbers of applicants and applications have mushroomed since OSCAR’s start in 2005.

In 2010, OSCAR expanded to include staff attorney hiring in federal appellate courts. Staff attorney offices were able to create a profile, post a position, and manage candidates’ applications electronically. Applicants have a separate section in OSCAR to search for and apply to staff attorney positions. The staff attorney module was introduced last May, and 10 positions were posted between that month and the end of September. The positions posted by staff attorney offices accepting online applications attracted 2,598 applications.

More expansion is planned. “For 2011, the OSCAR Working Group endorsed a proposal to add a module for pro se, death penalty, and bankruptcy appellate panel law clerk hiring,” Garaufis said. “The transition to the Administrative Office as a national program in 2009 was seamless, and made additional resources available that allowed better web integration, improved program communications, and the development of a formal training program for OSCAR’s users.”