Judicial Law Clerk Program
Each fall, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP), the NRC's independent trial-level adjudicatory body, selects a handful of highly-qualified applicants to serve as judicial law clerks beginning in September of the following year. Our judicial clerkships are two-year term appointments that begin in early September. Panel law clerks are not assigned permanently to any one judge, but rather they are assigned to cases. This structure allows clerks to work on a variety of projects, issues, and cases and provides clerks with the opportunity to learn a broad range of skills while working closely with a number of legal and technical judges who have varying styles and approaches to ASLBP adjudications. An ASLBP clerkship is particularly well-suited to those who have an interest in regulatory, environmental, and/or energy law.
On this page:
- About the Program
- Work Assignments
- Training and Development
- Salary and Benefits
- When to Apply
- How to Apply
About the Program
Clerking for the ASLBP presents an exciting opportunity to work in an increasingly complex and important area of the law, particularly for applicants with an interest in federal regulatory and administrative law or environmental and energy law. The ASLBP adjudicates a wide range of nuclear matters, including reactor and materials licensing which involve both safety/technical matters and environmental issues. The Panel also presides over NRC enforcement cases. For a discussion of the work and responsibilities of the ASLBP, be sure to read ASLBP Responsibilities.
Working with their three-judge licensing boards, Law clerks are involved with interpreting complex legal and technical issues involving subjects such as reactor safety, radioactive waste disposal, NEPA compliance, and the scope of agency authority and responsibilities. In addition, Panel law clerks aid Licensing Boards in preparing for and conducting oral arguments, pre-hearing conferences, and evidentiary hearings. They are routinely involved in assisting with drafting orders and evidentiary rulings, and they manage documentary materials for the adjudicatory record. They often serve as a primary point of contact for parties appearing before a Board.
The ASLBP Judicial Law Clerk Program also uniquely prepares its law clerks for future employment, whether in the public or private sector, as they gain valuable insight into the administrative process as well as the deliberative decision-making processes of individual judges. Over the past several years, the ASLBP's former law clerks have gone on to associate positions with major private law firms, with other federal agencies, including the NRC, and with non-profit environmental organizations. In addition, at the conclusion of his or her clerkship an ASLBP law clerk remains eligible for federal government honor law/attorney employment opportunities, including the Department of Justice Attorney General's Honors Program and the NRC's Honor Law Graduate Program (HLGP). Many of the Panel's past law clerks have emphasized the impact their experience with ASLBP had on their ability to secure competitive and rewarding post-clerkship employment.
ASLBP law clerks have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and cases, and to serve with a variety of judges. Individual assignments are made by the Chief Counsel, who acts as a “gatekeeper” to help clerks manage their work load, as law clerks are generally assigned to several cases or matters at any given time. Typical assignments include drafting judicial decisions and orders, conducting legal research, preparing legal memoranda, and providing assistance to Licensing Boards during evidentiary hearings. Clerks are often assigned to work on a particular case for an extended period of time and therefore are involved in the development of a case from its earliest stages, including rulings on standing and contention admissibility, discovery disputes and, ultimately, conducting an evidentiary hearing and drafting merits decisions on those evidentiary presentations.
Because Licensing Boards typically conduct hearings and oral arguments at a location in the vicinity of the nuclear facility that is the focus of a particular case, clerks generally have the opportunity for some travel over the course of their service with the Panel. For additional information, see Location of ASLBP Hearings.
Training and Development
In addition to "on the job" training ASLBP law clerks receive while working with various legal and technical judges, clerks can participate in a variety of formal legal and technical training. Because the NRC is located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, law clerks have the opportunity to attend any number of programs sponsored by the American Bar Association or other professional associations, such as the ABA's annual Administrative Law Conference, and various state and District of Columbia Bar Association continuing legal education programs. On the technical side, each year the first year clerks are encouraged to attend a week-long training program conducted at the NRC's Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that provides training in various scientific and engineering fields associated with regulating nuclear materials and facilities. This trip usually includes a tour of a nuclear power plant. Finally, the ASLBP periodically holds Panel Meetings that address pertinent technical and legal developments and our clerks participate in those. See also, the Working at NRC – Training Page.
Qualifications and Evaluations
General Qualifications. To be considered for the Judicial Law Clerk Program, applicants must be either (1) third-year law students who will earn their J.D. by June of the academic year of application; (2) graduate law (LL.M) students in their last year of study; or (3) current judicial law clerks whose clerkship ends no later than September of the year following application. Applicants must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.25 based on a scale of 4.0. Graduate law students and judicial clerks should not have any significant post-J.D. legal employment. Only United States citizens can be admitted to the Judicial Law Clerk Program, and each person selected for the program must undergo a complete security/background investigation and be granted a security clearance. All NRC positions require pre-employment drug testing and are subject to random drug testing.
Evaluations. Due to the nature of law clerk duties, the ASLBP places a premium on: (1) legal analysis and writing skills; (2) law review or comparable journal experience; (3) an interest in administrative/regulatory law and/or environmental law as evidenced by coursework, law school clinical experience or internships/externships; and (4) academic achievements.
Salary and Benefits
Grade and Salary Levels. Using federal grade and salary levels, ASLBP judicial law clerks will typically start at grade GG-11, step 10. Applicants who have previously served as judicial law clerks may enter at a higher grade. After one year of satisfactory job performance, and assuming admission to the Bar of any state or the District of Columbia, an ASLBP law clerk is eligible for a promotion to grade GG-12, step 6. The full performance level for judicial law clerks is GG-12.
Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible to receive a recruitment incentive of 10% of your starting salary. To claim this incentive payment (if eligible), you will be required to furnish official transcripts, and sign a service agreement obligating you to remain with the NRC for a minimum of 12 months. This program is subject to availability of agency funding.
Work Schedules. Judicial law clerks are eligible for various flexible work schedules, including a “Compressed Work Schedule” that allows employees to work eight 9-hour weekdays and one 8-hour weekday per 2-week pay period, with flexible start and end times, and receive one weekday off per pay period.
Benefits. To learn more about health benefits, vacation and sick leave, life insurance, retirement plans, and other NRC benefits, please see the Working at NRC – Pay & Benefits page. ASLBP law clerks may also be eligible for relocation expense reimbursement on a case-by-case basis.
Work/Life Benefits. Judicial law clerks can also take advantage of the many other benefits of working at the NRC, including an on-site fitness center, health center, and child development center, and public transportation subsidies. For more information, please see the NRC Quality of Life page.
When to Apply
Applications will be accepted annually from August 1 through September 30.
How to Apply
Please visit NRC’s Career Opportunities page for additional information.
Applicants should apply for this position directly by sending an e-mail to Molly Bupp, ASLBP Chief Counsel, at Margaret.Bupp@nrc.gov and attaching Word or PDF files with the following information:
- a cover letter detailing your interest in the Judicial Law Clerk Program;
- your resume which must indicate if you are a U.S. Citizen;
- your law school transcript indicating your GPA (explaining your school's grading system, if necessary). Unofficial transcripts will be accepted;
- the names and contact information for, at least three professional references; and
- a legal writing sample demonstrating analysis of legal issues or statutory and regulatory interpretation.
We value our veterans and their unique training and experience. Eligible veterans will receive preference afforded to them by the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 and should submit appropriate documentation of service as part of their application.
The NRC provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process, please notify the Disability Program Coordinator at (301) 415-2294 or TDD 301-415-2100.
The NRC does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor.