There is broad consensus that judicial clerkships are not only a prestigious way for new law grads to begin their legal careers but that they also provide new lawyers with a great way to build their legal skills. In short, doing a clerkship will help you become a better lawyer faster and this is the most important reason to consider doing a clerkship.
Despite the strong benefits of that come from clerking, many students who could be strong candidates decide not to pursue these highly coveted positions because they may be “leaving money on the table” by accepting a clerkship rather than a higher paid job in a law firm. While that is undoubtedly true when comparing judicial clerkship salaries to BigLaw salaries, the gap narrows when comparing judicial clerkship salaries to smaller firm salaries. For example, based on Denver Law’s Class of 2014 entry-level salary data the median small firm salary was $60,000 while the median judicial clerkship salary was $50,000. And, some clerkships come close to the small firm median (e.g. Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals) while federal clerkships exceed the median.
It is also important to note that prospective employers like to hire judicial clerks. In fact, at least for federal clerkships, many larger firms offer signing bonuses to incentivize their newer lawyers to clerk and/or to attract former clerks to their firms. This article from The National Law Journal notes that clerkship bonuses range from $2500 up to $75,000.