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December 2011

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


OSCAR More Popular Than Ever

Judge Participation In OSCAR OSCAR 2005-2011 Applications

In fiscal year 2011, more federal judges, law students, and law school alumni participated in the On-line System for Clerkship Application and Review than ever before in OSCAR's seven-year history.

The 1,564 circuit, district, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges who participate in OSCAR in 2011 represent 69 percent of all federal judges. That's a 4 percent increase in the number of OSCAR-participating judges since 2010 and a substantial increase from the 388 judges who initially signed-on to OSCAR in 2005, when it was still a local court initiative. In 2011, the national program gained 117 new judges, 56 of whom were newly appointed judges.

Most participating judges accept on-line applications; only 19 percent request paper applications. Judges vary in how they use OSCAR. Some use it just to post positions, but only accept paper applications. Others not only post positions on-line, but also screen applications electronically.

Since 2005, the number of applicants in OSCAR has increased 27-fold. In 2011, the number of applicants increased 8 percent, growing to 10,327 over the 9,570 applicants in 2010. A part of that increase may be due to the addition, beginning in 2010, of staff attorney offices offering positions on OSCAR. This year the number of staff attorney offices with OSCAR accounts expanded to 12, up from 9 last year. A greater proportion of law school alumni submit applications for staff attorney positions. Of the 2,531 applications received for staff attorney positions, 66 percent were from law school alumni, up from 61 percent in 2010.

Applicants submitted slightly fewer total applications in 2011, dropping roughly 4 percent from 382,828 in 2010 to 366,389 in 2011. A significant number of applications are received in OSCAR from law school alumni. Over the last three years, alumni applicants have represented 52 percent of the total applicants in 2009, 50 percent in 2010, and 56 percent in 2011.

There were fewer available positions for which applicants might apply in FY 2011: 1,123 in 2010 and 1,048 in 2011. But fewer jobs did not seem to affect the number of applications per applicant. Sixty-eight percent of all applicants submit 25 or fewer applications. Eighty-two percent submitted 50 or fewer. In 2010, 80 percent of all applicants submitted 50 or fewer applications. This still represents a considerable investment of time and effort. In OSCAR, applicants must build each application individually; the program does not allow batching of applications.

This year, to help law school administrators better assist their students in making full use of OSCAR, the Judiciary held a one-day training session attended by representatives from 50 law schools. This training session educated participants in the Judiciary's law clerk hiring practices/policies; provided on-line demonstrations of the system; and delivered train-the-trainer tools for the laws schools to assist their applicants and faculty recommenders. In panel discussions, law school participants shared with their colleagues their own best practices for using OSCAR.

Increased training also has been provided to the courts, along with additional on-line tools, such as a desktop reference guide. As a result, calls to the OSCAR Help Desk dropped 30 percent in 2011—which allowed for a reduction in staffing.

In late 2010, the original Ad Hoc Committee of the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan disbanded, and the OSCAR Working Group assumed the responsibility of maintaining the plan and setting the dates. The OSCAR Working Group met in December to discuss setting the schedule related to interviewing and hiring law clerks. (See page 5.) For 2012, a redesign of the OSCAR website is in the works.