What is a staff law clerk?

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confused3L
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What is a staff law clerk?

Postby confused3L » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:39 pm

I have seen several postings on symplicity for staff law clerks for different courts. What do these positions entail? How are they any different than judicial clerks? Would it be appropriate to say that the relationship between judicial clerks and staff law clerks (or staff attorneys) the same as associates and staff attorneys in law firms? Any input on this would be helpful. Thanks!

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General Tso
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby General Tso » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:43 pm

my summer firm position is called "law clerk"...I basically do all of the research, drafting, etc. that an attorney would but then hand it over to an attorney to sign.

confused3L
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby confused3L » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:50 pm

same here... however, the positions that I am talking about are post-grad and are generally for one or two year appointments...

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General Tso
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby General Tso » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:51 pm

confused3L wrote:same here... however, the positions that I am talking about are post-grad and are generally for one or two year appointments...


a lot of firms are bringing in part time and unpaid attorneys...could be something like that

edit: sorry reading fail...I dont know much about clerkships sorry

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thesealocust
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby thesealocust » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:53 pm

edit: n/m
Last edited by thesealocust on Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Aqualibrium
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Aqualibrium » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:58 pm

Whoops :!:
Last edited by Aqualibrium on Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TTT-LS
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby TTT-LS » Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:47 pm

Staff law clerks, in the clerkship context, are just like term clerks working for individual judges in most respects. The main respect in which they differ is the fact that staff clerks are not assigned to any particular judge. Instead, they work for a centralized office that often handles pro se, habeas, and similar matters. Staff law clerks also often are assigned to judges temporarily when extra manpower is needed on a complex case. The hiring process for staff law clerks is sometimes done via on-campus interviews during 3L fall (i.e., in rough sync with the federal law clerk hiring plan). IIRC, the 3d, 4th, and 7th Circuits all have staff clerk offices. Others may too.
Last edited by TTT-LS on Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

confused3L
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby confused3L » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:16 pm

So TTT-LS, considering that federal judicial clerkship positions (assigned to one judge) are quite competitive in ITE, would taking a position as a staff law clerk be a good alternative? Do these people have similar options that judicial clerks have? I guess what I am asking about is more in terms of prestige... How do firms view these people once their one or two year appointments are up?

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:08 pm

Viewed less favorably than term clerks.

In this market, they will be every bit as competitive as term clerk positions.

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 21, 2010 10:15 am

Sorry if this isn't as informative as possible - I'm trying to maintain anonymity.

I will be working as a staff attorney for a federal court of appeals for the next year. It seems like a pretty laid back position. There are ~20-30 attorneys in the office, who all seem to get along quite well. A large percentage are career staff attorneys, and those positions are almost immediately snapped up by term staff attorneys when they open up.

It's basically a clerkship, but with a focus on specific areas of caselaw (non-capital federal habeas, immigration, and a few other areas, as well as anything file with the circuit pro se) and with less individual contact with the judges for whom I'll work. I'm hoping that it will help me get a term clerkship in my city afterwards, but regardless I'm confident that I'll come out on the other side in a better position to practice law as my desired focus is something for which I'll have a lot of exposure.

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saintsfan200
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby saintsfan200 » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:51 pm

Anyone have an idea on what it takes to become a career clerk (at any government level)? I heard such positions are rare.

Does it take a federal clerkship after law school?

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:53 pm

In this market, they will be every bit as competitive as term clerk positions.


What are you talking about? That's not true.

Black-Blue
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Black-Blue » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:16 am

General Tso wrote:my summer firm position is called "law clerk"...I basically do all of the research, drafting, etc. that an attorney would but then hand it over to an attorney to sign.

Law clerk has a different meaning in private firms compared to courts. In private firms, law clerk is typically the title for interns of the lower rank (whereas interns of the higher rank are summer associates, student associates, temporary associate, etc.)

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saintsfan200
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby saintsfan200 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:37 pm

Black-Blue wrote:
General Tso wrote:my summer firm position is called "law clerk"...I basically do all of the research, drafting, etc. that an attorney would but then hand it over to an attorney to sign.

Law clerk has a different meaning in private firms compared to courts. In private firms, law clerk is typically the title for interns of the lower rank (whereas interns of the higher rank are summer associates, student associates, temporary associate, etc.)


I figured there was a difference. Perhaps this was the wrong thread to ask then.

Nonetheless, anyone have any info on career clerks? From everything I've read about clerking, I'm pretty interested in such positions. Is common for people who are trying for a career clerk position to bounce around from clerkship to clerkship? I would imagined having connections to a judge would be a prerequisite. Do many get "hired on" after a clerkship- maybe at another level through a judge to judge relationship?

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:17 pm

Federal law authorizes staff for judges. Every federal judges gets something like 1 courtroom clerk and then 3 (at the district court level) and 5 (I think) at the appellate court level staff members. Again, I may be a bit off on the numbers, but most federal judges use their staff allotment to hire 1 full-time staff secretary and then 2 clerks (district court) or 4 (CoA).

But there is a lot of leeway. Some judges hire fewer. And the positions themselves rotate however the judge wants. A judge I worked for hired clerks on 2 year terms, many (most) others hire for 1 year terms.

Sometimes a judge will hire a career clerk. That person typically takes the position of both the secretary and a clerk.

I worked for a district court judge once. The judge had 3 clerks. 2 were on 2 year rotations that were off-set (so 1 switched every year). The third was a career clerk. They ostensibly split the case load 40 / 40 / 20 between the clerks and the career clerk, and the career clerk also handled the phones and secretarial duty in the judge's chambers.

I never talked to the career clerk much about how the person got the job, but I'm pretty sure it was a post-firm life style kind of choice. Clerks work a lot, but not nearly law firm hours.

Anyway, career clerk is - like so many jobs - not a real career path you pick, execute a plan, and achieve. Obviously it's not impossible, but it isn't like getting a big firm job where you check the right boxes and then it happens.

There are also permanent clerks working for the court who rotate to judges with pressing needs, help out with pro-se litigants, and other matters. I know much less about them.

(anon due to fairly sensitive nature of disclosing the workings of one particular judge's chambers)

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saintsfan200
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby saintsfan200 » Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:43 pm

Awesome, thanks for the info!

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A'nold
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby A'nold » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:54 pm

Don't these career clerks try to become judges eventually....? :?

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ggocat
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby ggocat » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:17 pm

A'nold wrote:Don't these career clerks try to become judges eventually....? :?

It is not common for them to become judges. It might be a reasonable goal for a career clerk for a federal district judge to be appointed as a federal magistrate judge (because federal district judges select magistrates). But generally career clerks in both state and federal are not connected; they don't often run in the crowd that would help them get appointed or elected. They don't get reputations outside of chambers. Most judges were successful litigators.

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dood
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby dood » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:21 pm

the amount of accurate information on this thread amazes me. everything above is true. to add my $0.02 - i hear (from the CoA clerks in my judges chambers) that the exit options arent good - i.e. a big law firm isnt going to pick u up and give u a $50K clerking bonus.

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:03 pm

A'nold wrote:Don't these career clerks try to become judges eventually....? :?


No. A career clerk is much less a 'permenant clerk' and much more a clerk / secretary hybrid, as I pointed out above. The career clerk I knew had much more in common with an administrative career trajectory than a fascinating, never-ending legal trajectory. I think people have the generally misguided notion that a career clerk is like a Super Prestigious Almost Judge clerk, but as I tried to point out in my last anon that couldn't be further from the truth. They do less substantive work, not more, they just don't have a termination date stamped on their forehead the moment they walk in the door.

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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby BeautifulSW » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:43 pm

The New Mexico state court system employs perhaps three dozen permanent staff attorneys and perhaps a dozen clerks at all levels. I know about this because, for the last eight years, I've been one such staff attorney. I get a decent (for N. Mex.) salary, full benefits package, and usually a forty hour week.

These jobs pay better than the usual range for state attorneys and those of us who manage to nail one down tend not to go anywhere.

A better deal is to get a federal position as a permanent law clerk. Those opportunities really are scarce because they pay pretty well indeed and can lead to appointment as a federal magistrate. Now THAT is a sweet gig!

Most, but not all, of the state level staff attorneys are hired because they are known to the judges and have a good reputation in the Bar and the community.

It is a very strange job and not one for which law school prepares you. What makes it so odd is the relationship the staff attorney has with his or her judges. I can't really explain it except to say that the staff attorney has the sometimes uncomfortable duty to tell a judge that he's dead wrong even where the judge hasn't asked that particular question.

All I can say is, a staff attorney has just one irreducible requirement. You have to be right ninety-five percent of the time or you will soon be seen as being useless.

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ggocat
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby ggocat » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:No. A career clerk is much less a 'permenant clerk' and much more a clerk / secretary hybrid, as I pointed out above. The career clerk I knew had much more in common with an administrative career trajectory than a fascinating, never-ending legal trajectory. I think people have the generally misguided notion that a career clerk is like a Super Prestigious Almost Judge clerk, but as I tried to point out in my last anon that couldn't be further from the truth. They do less substantive work, not more, they just don't have a termination date stamped on their forehead the moment they walk in the door.

Just want to point out that this poster's experience does not necessarily translate to every federal judge's chambers. I've known many federal career clerks who did not do administrative work. The judge always had a secretary and/or court deputy (not talking about the marshals here) who handled admin work. Some states also have many career clerk positions (aka staff attorney, chambers attorney, etc.) who work on the higher quality and complex cases.

Anonymous Loser
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous Loser » Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sorry if this isn't as informative as possible - I'm trying to maintain anonymity.

I will be working as a staff attorney for a federal court of appeals for the next year. It seems like a pretty laid back position. There are ~20-30 attorneys in the office, who all seem to get along quite well. A large percentage are career staff attorneys, and those positions are almost immediately snapped up by term staff attorneys when they open up.

It's basically a clerkship, but with a focus on specific areas of caselaw (non-capital federal habeas, immigration, and a few other areas, as well as anything file with the circuit pro se) and with less individual contact with the judges for whom I'll work. I'm hoping that it will help me get a term clerkship in my city afterwards, but regardless I'm confident that I'll come out on the other side in a better position to practice law as my desired focus is something for which I'll have a lot of exposure.


I know you are trying to maintain anonymity, but I am curious about the bolded. Can you elaborate on your post-clerkship plans? I mean, I know that there are probably only a handful of lawyers out there who really understand the ins-and-outs of the AEDPA, but beyond this, I am sort of at a loss when it comes to figuring out what you will be exposed to that is so closely related to your future goals. I'm not doubting you at all, just curious.

Anonymous User
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:46 pm

Bump on this thread. Any thoughts on a staff attorney position for a CoA for one year? Taking the one year staff attorney position to eventually help get a District Court or CoA term clerkship?

lolwat
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Re: What is a staff law clerk?

Postby lolwat » Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:29 pm

For general information: From what I recall, all CoAs have a staff attorney office, it's just a matter of how many attorneys work there and whether they hire 3L/grads. 9th Cir. requires 2 years of post graduate legal work, for example. 11th Cir. seems to accept applications year-round and have positions starting in all sorts of times. Others use OSCAR for their openings the same way judges do for clerkships. UVA has a site with information on these as well as application periods for them. I also recall some article by either NALP or someone else about these. I'd suggest googling them.

Unfortunately I don't know first or second hand what the exit options are or whether they help get a term clerkship later on. But since you're working in the judiciary (sort of) and with people that have regular communication with the judges, I can't see how it wouldn't help at least a little bit. I interviewed with one last year and could tell you a tiny bit (as best as I can recall), but I'm not sure if it would be too much help, at least in answering the particular question about clerkships later on.




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