Is clerking worth it?

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2010 6:08 am

PSLaplace wrote:Curious hair-splitter here - what is the tier list for federal CoA clerkships?

I know the 2nd, 9th, and DC Circuits are generally the most competitive. Are the rest of them roughly equally competitive (though I'd imagine the 7th is ahead of the others)? And what about the Federal Circuit?



Unlike law schools or firms, there is no real comprehensive ranking for clerkships. (Unless you want to rank feeder judges by the number they've sent to SCOTUS in the past X years, but very few people need to worry about choosing between those judges). The common wisdom would have DC > 2/9 > 7/4/1 > the rest. But this is really rough and it depends a lot more on the individual judge. For example, Judge Boudin on the 1st Circuit is more competitive than most of the judges on the 2d and 9th.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 7:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:
PSLaplace wrote:Curious hair-splitter here - what is the tier list for federal CoA clerkships?

I know the 2nd, 9th, and DC Circuits are generally the most competitive. Are the rest of them roughly equally competitive (though I'd imagine the 7th is ahead of the others)? And what about the Federal Circuit?



Unlike law schools or firms, there is no real comprehensive ranking for clerkships. (Unless you want to rank feeder judges by the number they've sent to SCOTUS in the past X years, but very few people need to worry about choosing between those judges). The common wisdom would have DC > 2/9 > 7/4/1 > the rest. But this is really rough and it depends a lot more on the individual judge. For example, Judge Boudin on the 1st Circuit is more competitive than most of the judges on the 2d and 9th.


You can still hobble together a pretty accurate list:

1) Feeder judges (from 'judges who send 75% of their clerks to the supreme court down to 'judges who send a person or two every few yers')
2) DC/2nd/9th (obviously depending on your interests and practice area, but all three definitely take clerks with objectively stronger criteria than other circuits, though except for feeder judges on DC/2/9 not as strong as feeders in other circuits
3) Other circuits that aren't really weird locations
4) Really weird locations

Now the caveat is that list will be quite accurate in terms of ranking needed to get the clerkship (some real 'flyover' CoA clerkship take top quarter types instead of top 5% types, but the 'problem' is that they often won't consider you without ties to that flyover region, so it's not like a SAFETY APPELLATE CLERKSHIP or anything like that). But outside of feeder judges, the difficulty in getting it doesn't necessarily correlate to any real world difference. Firms are likely to be the same bonus no matter where you clerked, etc. But clearly if you want to practice in DC, clerking for the DC circuit is going to put you in a better place for firm hiring, making contacts, etc. But if you're goal is BIG TENNESSEE LAW, the 9th circuit - while harder to obtain - likely isn't going to position you better than a clerkship with a local federal CoA judge.

To further highlight the absurdity, decorum in many or most cases dictates that clerkship hiring uses exploding offers that you sort of have to accept. Which means if you apply to 90 clerkships, you'd better be willing to do any of them, because once you have an offer the established custom is to accept it, if not on the spot then within hours.

But there are exceptions to that, and caveats and quirks all over the place. One thing to realize is how intensely personal any clerkship experience is - there's no hiring committee, there's just a federal judge who interviews and hires just a few people every year taken from the absolute best legal minds (so long as law school performance is an indicator of that, lol).

To OP and others: Glad you took my comments in good humor. TLS will always be a mix of people who have no damn clue and people who are beginning to have at least a little bit of a damn clue, but we're all on the same side here ;D

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby TTH » Sat May 01, 2010 9:35 am

Haven't there been some cases in the recession where people deferred firm offers to clerk, then found their spot was gone when they tried to start at the firm? How should this play into the decision to pursue a clerkship ITE?

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 9:42 am

TipTravHoot wrote:Haven't there been some cases in the recession where people deferred firm offers to clerk, then found their spot was gone when they tried to start at the firm? How should this play into the decision to pursue a clerkship ITE?


The post-clerkship relationship with firms has, by anecdote, grown more icey - but not markedly so. My understanding is that post-clerkship used to be a fairly thriving market for clerks to hop on board another firm, and that market (like every other market) has contracted somewhat. But the key is that it isn't the clerkship that makes things harder, it's the economy. Plenty of non-clerkship grads are being deferred / revoked, if anything the firms are probably trying to treat their clerks better. There's a huge universal understanding of the appeal, utility, and prestige of clerkships.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby D Brooks » Sat May 01, 2010 10:09 am

Mr. Pablo wrote:You're a prestige whore? What the fuck are you thinking if you are considering money in the pursuit of prestige? Sure, you are missing out on the possibility of making a little extra money, but the status is worth it, right?
Stop with the dumbfuckery. A federal CoA clerkship is an invaluable learning experience and career opportunity; there are not many people who have that credential. To be a working member of our judicial system at nearly its highest level is an honor and distinction, to shun it for a few thousand dollars would expose you as an ambulance-chasing schmuck.

/not trying to be a dick, but really.


Did you not see my post was titled as a question?
D Brooks wrote:Simply put, does the learning/networking experience and prestige the clerkship provides make up for the money one could have made in biglaw that year?


I wasn't saying it wasn't worth it, I was asking if it was. Don't be an ass. Ass.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sat May 01, 2010 10:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a little surprised with the focus on COA clerkships. Though I'm doing COA, the difference in prestige is not that big, and district courts are probably better learning experiences for anyone who wants to litigate. District court clerkships are still extremely hard to get. I would definitely not pass up either experience. I'm thinking of applying for a district clerkship for the following year.


Yeah, I don't really get to "COA or bust" mentality. Two 3Ls I know actually deliberately only applied to D. Court clerkships even though they probably could have gotten COA clerkships (both Top 3% at a T6) because they wanted to clerk on a trial court.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 10:30 am

imchuckbass58 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a little surprised with the focus on COA clerkships. Though I'm doing COA, the difference in prestige is not that big, and district courts are probably better learning experiences for anyone who wants to litigate. District court clerkships are still extremely hard to get. I would definitely not pass up either experience. I'm thinking of applying for a district clerkship for the following year.


Yeah, I don't really get to "COA or bust" mentality. Two 3Ls I know actually deliberately only applied to D. Court clerkships even though they probably could have gotten COA clerkships (both Top 3% at a T6) because they wanted to clerk on a trial court.


Everyone knows CoA is harder to get. For better or for worse, the entire legal world (far beyond the 'industry') places enormous weight on trying and succeeding to do things which are hard. LSAT, uGPA, law school grades, class taken, clerkships, type of firm, selective governmental agencies, etc. It never ends. The caveat is that there is obviously a rough correlation between "that which is hard to obtain" and "that which is desirable" - but the legal world turns it into a massive positive feedback loop.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Aeroplane » Sat May 01, 2010 10:37 am

Just a minor point when talking about how "competitive" clerkships are, whether District or COA: my understanding is that hiring can be quirky and judges often have idiosyncratic preferences within the pool of top students. Impressive credentials are a prerequisite, but it's not like law school admissions where you can predict your results at specific schools with near-certainty based on your numbers.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sat May 01, 2010 10:42 am

disco_barred wrote:Everyone knows CoA is harder to get. For better or for worse, the entire legal world (far beyond the 'industry') places enormous weight on trying and succeeding to do things which are hard. LSAT, uGPA, law school grades, class taken, clerkships, type of firm, selective governmental agencies, etc. It never ends. The caveat is that there is obviously a rough correlation between "that which is hard to obtain" and "that which is desirable" - but the legal world turns it into a massive positive feedback loop.


It's not even like all COA clerkships are harder to get though.

Generally, of course you're right. But getting, say, a Rakoff, Swain or Wood clerkship on the SDNY (or other top judges on the SDNY, EDNY, NDCA, NDIL, etc.) is probably significantly harder than getting a COA clerkship with most judges on the 6th, 8th or 11th circuits, for example.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2010 11:02 am

Aeroplane wrote:Just a minor point when talking about how "competitive" clerkships are, whether District or COA: my understanding is that hiring can be quirky and judges often have idiosyncratic preferences within the pool of top students. Impressive credentials are a prerequisite, but it's not like law school admissions where you can predict your results at specific schools with near-certainty based on your numbers.


Yes this is true. You can only predict at a very general level where you will end up. Because of the way the process works, you will usually take the first offer you get, and there's no way to know who that will be. And as you noted judges are all looking for different things.


disco_barred wrote:
imchuckbass58 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a little surprised with the focus on COA clerkships. Though I'm doing COA, the difference in prestige is not that big, and district courts are probably better learning experiences for anyone who wants to litigate. District court clerkships are still extremely hard to get. I would definitely not pass up either experience. I'm thinking of applying for a district clerkship for the following year.


Yeah, I don't really get to "COA or bust" mentality. Two 3Ls I know actually deliberately only applied to D. Court clerkships even though they probably could have gotten COA clerkships (both Top 3% at a T6) because they wanted to clerk on a trial court.


Everyone knows CoA is harder to get. For better or for worse, the entire legal world (far beyond the 'industry') places enormous weight on trying and succeeding to do things which are hard. LSAT, uGPA, law school grades, class taken, clerkships, type of firm, selective governmental agencies, etc. It never ends. The caveat is that there is obviously a rough correlation between "that which is hard to obtain" and "that which is desirable" - but the legal world turns it into a massive positive feedback loop.


Sure on average COA clerkships are harder to get than districts, but you're really splitting hairs here. The difference in qualification between the average clerk for a good district judge in a popular area and the average COA clerk is not as big as you seem to think. I think there is more room at the bottom, so to speak, in district clerkships, in that people without insane grades have a better shot of sneaking into a district clerkship somewhere whereas the COAs are pretty rigid in that regard. But in terms of resume, an average COA is not much better than a good district judge. (And this is coming from a future COA clerk.)

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 11:05 am

Anonymous User wrote:Sure on average COA clerkships are harder to get than districts, but you're really splitting hairs here. The difference in qualification between the average clerk for a good district judge in a popular area and the average COA clerk is not as big as you seem to think. I think there is more room at the bottom, so to speak, in district clerkships, in that people without insane grades have a better shot of sneaking into a district clerkship somewhere whereas the COAs are pretty rigid in that regard. But in terms of resume, an average COA is not much better than a good district judge. (And this is coming from a future COA clerk.)


I definitely agree largely in spirit with what you are saying. I think UVA is the only school with data published online, but if you cruise over there the numbers kind of jump out at you.

CoA average GPA: 3.7 (better than top 10%, worse than top 5%)
District court average GPA: 3.5 (just better than top 25%)

Obviously it's a general gloss, and there are easier CoA clerkships to land and harder district court clerkships to land. And I absolutely agree with you, based on my research (dumb 1L here) that the resume difference isn't that substantial. But the data are the data, neh? My premise in the earlier post was "CoA is harder to get" - and the fact that there are more district court clerks and there is a wide disparity between them in terms of grade credentials suggests that, for the general gloss I was referring to, my point was accurate.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2010 11:19 am

disco_barred wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sure on average COA clerkships are harder to get than districts, but you're really splitting hairs here. The difference in qualification between the average clerk for a good district judge in a popular area and the average COA clerk is not as big as you seem to think. I think there is more room at the bottom, so to speak, in district clerkships, in that people without insane grades have a better shot of sneaking into a district clerkship somewhere whereas the COAs are pretty rigid in that regard. But in terms of resume, an average COA is not much better than a good district judge. (And this is coming from a future COA clerk.)


I definitely agree largely in spirit with what you are saying. I think UVA is the only school with data published online, but if you cruise over there the numbers kind of jump out at you.

CoA average GPA: 3.7 (better than top 10%, worse than top 5%)
District court average GPA: 3.5 (just better than top 25%)

Obviously it's a general gloss, and there are easier CoA clerkships to land and harder district court clerkships to land. And I absolutely agree with you, based on my research (dumb 1L here) that the resume difference isn't that substantial. But the data are the data, neh? My premise in the earlier post was "CoA is harder to get" - and the fact that there are more district court clerks and there is a wide disparity between them in terms of grade credentials suggests that, for the general gloss I was referring to, my point was accurate.



Sure, there is some difference, but when I saw the application process firsthand, I remember thinking that the numbers don't really give you an accurate picture of what it's like. For instance, a know a few people at my school (CCN) who wanted district clerkships in popular but non-NY/DC/LA areas. They were law review, top 5-10%. They got clerkships where they wanted, but they also got rejected from several, and were mostly competing against similarly qualified people. This leads me to conclude that the district clerkships in those areas are mostly populated by top 5-10% law review people from top 10 schools.

I think what influences the numbers is in part what I described earlier, there are a fair number of district judges who just care a lot less about grades, and will take people with 3.2s, etc. There really aren't many COA judges like that, and if you don't have a 3.6+, you don't really have much of a chance.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sat May 01, 2010 11:26 am

disco_barred wrote:I definitely agree largely in spirit with what you are saying. I think UVA is the only school with data published online, but if you cruise over there the numbers kind of jump out at you.

CoA average GPA: 3.7 (better than top 10%, worse than top 5%)
District court average GPA: 3.5 (just better than top 25%)



That's actually really interesting information - cool that UVA posts that.

Just out of curiosity, disco, are your percentile estimates (top 10%, top 25%, etc.) based on the 1L curve, or is the UVA curve the same for all three years? At CLS I know the 2L/3L curve is considerably more lenient than the 1L curve, so a GPA that corresponds to top 10% 1L year might actually be more like top 20% by graduation (and top 25% more like just above median).

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Blindmelon » Sat May 01, 2010 11:26 am

disco_barred wrote:
D Brooks wrote:I wouldn't clerk if it wasn't a federal CoA.

Where is TTT-LS? Anyone who is actually clerking this upcoming fall have any opinions.


Comments like these are hillarious. If you're a 0L or a 1L, there's no reason why you should know the ins and outs of clerkships, so I don't mean to be too critical. But this is basically what you need to do to have a fighting (>50%) chance at landing a CoA clerkship:

T4-T20 or so: Be within the top handful of students at your school

T14: Be in the top 5% of the class

HYS: Not certain, but probably still to 10-20%

You can speculate, you can fantasize, you can pretend, you can plan. There's nothing wrong with any of that. But the level of competition involved in getting a Federal Court of Appeals Clerkship makes it play like theatre of the absurd for a 0L on the internet to start a post saying basically "LOLOOLOLOLOllOLOL CKELKING DOESNT PAY GOOD ROFL WUTS WITH THAT RITE? I WOULDNT DO THAT SHIT UNLESS IT WERE AN APPALET COURT FUCKIN' TTT DISTRICT COURTS WHO DO THEY THINK I AM?"

Nothing is harder to accomplish, better for your resume, better for your job prospects, better for you education, better for your network, more prestigious, more entertaining, better for your professional development, sexier, etc. than a Federal Court of Appeals Clerkship. It's the ultimate realistic accomplishment.

But yeah man, you're too cool. I mean, whatever. Guys in your high school clerked for federal judges all the time. It was no big deal.


Current favorite poster on TLS.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 11:33 am

Re: Blindmelon - My one and only goal ;D

Re: anon - Fair enough. It's semantics at this point, I think we're fundamentally on the same page.

When you applied (not to turn this into another questions thread, but it's relevant) did you apply to district courts and CoA together, or did you only apply to CoA?

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby TTT-LS » Sat May 01, 2010 11:41 am

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Last edited by TTT-LS on Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby cigrainger » Sat May 01, 2010 11:44 am

So I see that COA or bust seems ridiculous, but given the possibility of exploding offers... what if, for example, you have an interview with a district judge before a COA judge, and the district judge gives you an offer? Is this situation plausible? Obviously you'd have to take the district judge's offer, but it seems like it would suck not knowing what could have been.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby TTT-LS » Sat May 01, 2010 11:52 am

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Cavalier » Sat May 01, 2010 11:53 am

For anyone who is interested, UVA's data is here: --LinkRemoved--

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby cigrainger » Sat May 01, 2010 12:21 pm

TTT-LS wrote:
cigrainger wrote:So I see that COA or bust seems ridiculous, but given the possibility of exploding offers... what if, for example, you have an interview with a district judge before a COA judge, and the district judge gives you an offer? Is this situation plausible? Obviously you'd have to take the district judge's offer, but it seems like it would suck not knowing what could have been.

Very plausible--happens every fall. You could ask for a half day to consider the first judge's offer, though many judges will insist on an immediate answer or one within an hour. Judges are competitive with one another and once they see someone they want, they're unlikely to let other judges have a shot at the applicant. That said, you could always accept the first offer, go on the second interview, explain what happened, and see if the second judge would hire you for year n+1. This happens a lot in the fall.


Ah, makes sense. It's a few years off, and I know every 0L (or I thought every 0L, before this thread) wants to shoot for a clerkship, but I figure its never too early to start learning about the process. Thanks!

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2010 12:26 pm

One of you mentioned that an applicant would need to be top 10-20% from HYS to land a clerkship. How does this play out at S or Y where rankings are unknown and grades are not letter grades? Do you need a certain number of high passes?

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby 270910 » Sat May 01, 2010 12:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One of you mentioned that an applicant would need to be top 10-20% from HYS to land a clerkship. How does this play out at S or Y where rankings are unknown and grades are not letter grades? Do you need a certain number of high passes?


1) I said that, and I said CoA clerkship - not any clerkship. All three schools place so many clerks that certainly district court clerkships (and probably some CoA) come from deeper in the class.

2) In order to get a clerkship, you have to impress two people: First, a law professor (well, more like three), second and more importantly, a federal judge. Law professors are going to be impressed most easily by writing kick ass exams and papers in their class combined with a resume demonstrating you do it in other classes as well. Obviously being an RA can help too. Just because they give different kinds of marks doesn't make them dumb. When it comes to the CoA judge, the same applies - believe it or not, they can read. If they get 40 applications from Harvard, it won't be hard to figure out who has the most and who has the least high marks, and the recommendation letters will bare that out to some extent. The moral of the story is: you don't need letters, GPAs, rankings, and percentiles to be able to say "probably have to be top 10-20% to land CoA from YHS". Law school pass/fail grading systems are really a piss-poor means of obscuring success to somebody (i.e. any employer) who wants to figure things out, it chiefly just makes everyone in the bottom and middle of the class look very simmilar.

3) Yale places soooooooooo many clerks that I wouldn't be surprised if it's more like top 30% or even 40% to be competitive there, but I honestly don't know how their CoA/D court balance breaks down. But the evidence suggests that for clerkships Y > HS. It might be the most obvious realm of Yale shining.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2010 12:39 pm

disco_barred wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:One of you mentioned that an applicant would need to be top 10-20% from HYS to land a clerkship. How does this play out at S or Y where rankings are unknown and grades are not letter grades? Do you need a certain number of high passes?


1) I said that, and I said CoA clerkship - not any clerkship. All three schools place so many clerks that certainly district court clerkships (and probably some CoA) come from deeper in the class.

2) In order to get a clerkship, you have to impress two people: First, a law professor (well, more like three), second and more importantly, a federal judge. Law professors are going to be impressed most easily by writing kick ass exams and papers in their class combined with a resume demonstrating you do it in other classes as well. Obviously being an RA can help too. Just because they give different kinds of marks doesn't make them dumb. When it comes to the CoA judge, the same applies - believe it or not, they can read. If they get 40 applications from Harvard, it won't be hard to figure out who has the most and who has the least high marks, and the recommendation letters will bare that out to some extent. The moral of the story is: you don't need letters, GPAs, rankings, and percentiles to be able to say "probably have to be top 10-20% to land CoA from YHS". Law school pass/fail grading systems are really a piss-poor means of obscuring success to somebody (i.e. any employer) who wants to figure things out, it chiefly just makes everyone in the bottom and middle of the class look very simmilar.

3) Yale places soooooooooo many clerks that I wouldn't be surprised if it's more like top 30% or even 40% to be competitive there, but I honestly don't know how their CoA/D court balance breaks down. But the evidence suggests that for clerkships Y > HS. It might be the most obvious realm of Yale shining.


Awesome. Thank you.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sat May 01, 2010 12:47 pm

Aeroplane wrote:Just a minor point when talking about how "competitive" clerkships are, whether District or COA: my understanding is that hiring can be quirky and judges often have idiosyncratic preferences within the pool of top students. Impressive credentials are a prerequisite, but it's not like law school admissions where you can predict your results at specific schools with near-certainty based on your numbers.


Also, one big idiosyncratic preference is political ideology. Some judges don't care and will take smart kids no matter what, and others are pretty centrist and take people from both sides of the aisle, but you can bet Calabresi isn't taking anyone with FedSoc on their resume, and that Sutton isn't taking tons of ACS people.

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Re: Is clerking worth it?

Postby Aeroplane » Sat May 01, 2010 12:53 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:
Aeroplane wrote:Just a minor point when talking about how "competitive" clerkships are, whether District or COA: my understanding is that hiring can be quirky and judges often have idiosyncratic preferences within the pool of top students. Impressive credentials are a prerequisite, but it's not like law school admissions where you can predict your results at specific schools with near-certainty based on your numbers.


Also, one big idiosyncratic preference is political ideology. Some judges don't care and will take smart kids no matter what, and others are pretty centrist and take people from both sides of the aisle, but you can bet Calabresi isn't taking anyone with FedSoc on their resume, and that Sutton isn't taking tons of ACS people.

On that topic, two things I've heard (I don't know firsthand if true or not):
1) If you apply for a 2nd clerkship after doing one, the political ideology of your first judge, especially if extreme in one direction, may automatically turn some judges off from even considering your application.
2) Scalia makes it a point to have one liberal clerk every term.




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