2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

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ClerkGuy2010
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2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:30 pm

Hey everyone,

When I was going through firm and clerkship apps, I got a ton of great info and useful advice from this board (and a few others on the net as well). I've got a bit of free time this week, so I thought I'd try to give back to the community bit and answer any questions that I'm capable of answering regarding clerkship applications, firm applications, interviews, etc.

My "stats," to the extent they're relevant: 2010 grad from a t-20, top 1-2%, LR board, published note, clerking this term for a US CoA judge in a major city, BigLaw (V40 or so) job afterwards in a medium-sized city.

Fire away if you have any questions.

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vanwinkle
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:36 pm

How relevant was your published note in your apps, do you think?

twistedwrister
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby twistedwrister » Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:48 pm

(1) Did you publish in one of your school's journals or in the journal of another school?
(2) How many interviews did you get? When it came to getting interviews, do you think it was really all about your stellar grades / law school combo, or were there any other major factors? I'm sure personality/fit plays a huge role in actually getting a clerkship, but I'm talking about getting the interviews.
(3) Why did you do CoA instead of District Court?

Thanks a bunch.
Last edited by twistedwrister on Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:49 pm

vanwinkle wrote:How relevant was your published note in your apps, do you think?


From what I can tell, this varies a ton from judge to judge. It actually had no effect on the clerkship I ended up accepting, because it wasn't even on my resume when I applied to that judge (he hired pre-hiring plan, and my note hadn't been selected for publication yet when I sent in that app in June of last year). My writing sample was an excerpt from the note, though, and I know the judge liked the sample. This is something you can do if you have a strong scholarly piece that either wasn't selected or hasn't had a chance to be selected yet--excerpt it and send it in as your sample.

Of the judges I applied to later on, and I think a couple of them definitely cared about the published note, since it was one of the first things they or their clerks asked about. I've heard that some of the DC Circuit judges especially really like to see publication. I think it's probably more accurate to say that judges on the more competitive circuits (2nd/9th/DC/maybe 7th) care, since they have the hardest time differentiating between applicants. But even on those circuits, I'm sure there are judges who don't care much at all. Probably the toughest thing about the clerkship process is how opaque it is and how different each judge can be.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:01 pm

twistedwrister wrote:(1) Did you publish in one of your school's journals or in the journal of another school?
(2) How many interviews did you get? When it came to getting interviews, do you think it was really all about your stellar grades / law school combo, or were there any other major factors? I'm sure personality/fit plays a huge role in actually getting a clerkship, but I'm talking about getting the interviews.
(3) Why did you do CoA instead of District Court?

Thanks a bunch.


1) I published in my school's journal--the one I was on the board for.

2) I got 8 CoA interview offers. I didn't take all of them--I only did 3. As for what got me the interviews, it can be a bit random, honestly. The threshold is to have great grades at a good school, which you already know. But that's not enough, simply because there are so many applicants who are immensely qualified. The grades and school will help you get into the pile of the last 50-100 from the 700+ apps, but as for actually getting the interview call, you often need some other factor in your favor. This can be any number of things. The judge I'm clerking for pulled my resume from that final pile because one of his current clerks knew an attorney at one of the firms where I was summering. The clerk called her and I guess basically asked if I was cool or not. Complete luck, but that's how it goes sometimes (especially on the more competitive circuits and cities).

Other things that can help are a geographical connection (mention this in your cover letter), a particularly strong letter of recommendation, or having someone who knows the judge (e.g., former clerk) make a call on your behalf. Call/email former clerks of the judges you're most interested in and politely ask if you could talk to them for a few minutes about their experiences. Don't ask them to make a call on your behalf--there's a 90% chance they're going to make a call regardless, and if you make a good impression, they'll call and tell the judge that you're worth interviewing. This also applies to once you have the interview and are trying to get the offer. I know you just asked about getting interviews, but I'll mention that once I got the interview with my judge, I called up 3 former clerks, and all 3 of them got in touch with the judge after I had talked to them and put in a good word for me.

3) This is a really good question. I actually think D Ct would probably be more fun, and I really considered it. If I'm being totally honest, I probably did CoA because it's more prestigious and will carry more weight on my resume. I figured I had the stats to be at least slightly competitive, and I wanted to go for the weightiest resume line I could. Also, I think I may want to do some appellate work at my firm, so this will be good (necessary even) experience for that.

rynabrius
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby rynabrius » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:12 pm

Is there any way for someone who missed the change to make law review--viz. a transfer student--to make themselves competitive for clerkships anyway? Thanks!

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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:34 pm

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Last edited by Anonymous User on Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:37 pm

What law schools are represented among the clerks ?

Alyosha
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby Alyosha » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:38 pm

How did you figure out which judges hire off-plan?

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks a lot for doing this! Can you tell us if you are on 2/9/DC so we can put your answers in context? Also, how relevant do you think your summer legal jobs were for getting the clerkship?


Yeah, I'm on 2/9/DC. Would rather not say which one specifically, if that's what you were asking.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What law schools are represented among the clerks ?


My judge specifically? I'd rather not say, since that could give away (or at least narrow down) who I'm clerking for. I'll say that my judge doesn't much like to hire HYS people--he's fine with the T-10 generally, but he thinks students at those 3 schools often come in not expecting to work hard.

rynabrius wrote:Is there any way for someone who missed the change to make law review--viz. a transfer student--to make themselves competitive for clerkships anyway? Thanks!


Yes, with many judges (some will not even look at you if you're not on law review).

First, join another journal and get on the board of that journal. Second, max out your grades as much as possible--because you're not on law review, your grades will be expected to be even higher, even though that's not fair. Third, consider moot court. It's not nearly as helpful on your resume as LR, but it will help make up the deficit a bit, so to speak. Finally, publish if you can. More than once, if possible. That will help convey your writing abilities, since you won't have LR to do so.

Alyosha wrote:How did you figure out which judges hire off-plan?


This can be tough. The two best ways are probably 1) word of mouth, and 2) checking the various sites on the internet that contain that information via word of mouth. The best site is probably Law Clerk Addict (http://www.lawclerkaddict.com). Not only are there updates from people mentioning when a judge is looking at apps/interviewing 3L's early, but they also include notations for judges that have hired off-plan in previous years. If your school has a clerkship administrator or advisor, or if you know people from prior class years that applied, ask them as well.

Another way is to call chambers and ask. I'd check on OSCAR first to see whether they have "Do Not Contact Chambers" marked. If not, call them up, tell them you're a 3L, and ask whether you should apply early or wait for the plan. But sometimes they'll say wait for the plan but then look at early 3L apps anyway, so this isn't always super valuable.

twistedwrister
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby twistedwrister » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:25 am

No sure if you're still around, but thanks for your answers. 8 CoA interviews is super impressive, no matter what your stats are. I assume you applied broadly, right? How many of the interviews were off-plan? Also, what were your hours like as a clerk? Thanks again.

cindy1228
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby cindy1228 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:37 am

How did you communicate that you will apply for clerkship with your firm (I assume you had the firm offer after your 2L summer). Did you tell the firm before you applying for clerkship or after you secured the clerkship?

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:31 pm

twistedwrister wrote:No sure if you're still around, but thanks for your answers. 8 CoA interviews is super impressive, no matter what your stats are. I assume you applied broadly, right? How many of the interviews were off-plan? Also, what were your hours like as a clerk? Thanks again.


Two of the interviews were off-plan. I took both of those, then I took one of the six that was on-plan.

I did apply very broadly, although I was also particular in some ways. For instance, I had no desire to work in the midwest, so I didn't apply at all to the 7th circuit. I also don't think I sent more than maybe 1 or 2 apps to the 3rd and 4th circuits. I think it's important to apply broadly if you have that flexibility (e.g., no kids in school), but at the same time, you should be realistic with yourself about where you'd be willing and happy to work. Don't apply to a judge in bumsville Kansas if you know you'd just be unhappy there the entire year. Yeah, it's a prestigious job regardless, but your own personal enjoyment and satisfaction shouldn't be overlooked.

As for my hours, I'm just starting, so I'm not sure I can give you an accurate answer yet. It looks like I'll be working on average 8-6 or so, with some work on Saturdays. Fairly busy, but that's just the way it goes.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How did you communicate that you will apply for clerkship with your firm (I assume you had the firm offer after your 2L summer). Did you tell the firm before you applying for clerkship or after you secured the clerkship?


The firm knew that I was applying as I was doing my applications. They actually let me do a lot of my application stuff at the office--they're big on clerking, and in their minds it was more valuable for me to perfect my apps than to write another memo. This was probably especially true because I worked for the same firm 1L summer, so they already had plenty of work product from me.

As a general rule, it's probably a good idea to communicate with your firm before you apply and see what they think about it. You wouldn't want to get in an interview with a judge, accept an offer on the spot, and then find out that your firm isn't going to hold your offer open while you clerk. But IMO you should seriously question whether you want to work at a firm that discourages you from clerking (at least if you want to litigate).

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thisamericanlife
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby thisamericanlife » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:40 pm

I'm really interested how you decided to turn down interviews. Did you feel confident with the 3 judges? Did you have concrete evidence at least one of the three would accept you, or was it more that if one of the other judges had interviewed you and a offered you a clerkship on the spot you would not have accepted? I am really interested in the balance between applying/interviewing broadly to find a clerkship but not getting in a predicament of a judge offering a clerkship on the spot who is not at the top of your list among interviews.

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sayan
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby sayan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 6:52 pm

ClerkGuy2010 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How did you communicate that you will apply for clerkship with your firm (I assume you had the firm offer after your 2L summer). Did you tell the firm before you applying for clerkship or after you secured the clerkship?


The firm knew that I was applying as I was doing my applications. They actually let me do a lot of my application stuff at the office--they're big on clerking, and in their minds it was more valuable for me to perfect my apps than to write another memo. This was probably especially true because I worked for the same firm 1L summer, so they already had plenty of work product from me.

As a general rule, it's probably a good idea to communicate with your firm before you apply and see what they think about it. You wouldn't want to get in an interview with a judge, accept an offer on the spot, and then find out that your firm isn't going to hold your offer open while you clerk. But IMO you should seriously question whether you want to work at a firm that discourages you from clerking (at least if you want to litigate).


Any suggestions on how to land a 1L firm job?

wordtoyourmother12
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby wordtoyourmother12 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:14 pm

I'm curious as to your sense of the importance of letters of recommendation in this process. I'm sure it varies greatly from judge to judge, but can they make a significant impact?

Also, how important is the identity of the recommender? If it is a heavyweight like Posner versus your average assistant professor who teaches civil procedure, does it matter? Or are judges only concerned with the recommender's familiarity with your work product/character/writing ability, etc.?

Edit: Do you have any advice for those looking into obtaining clerkships with District judges?

aPosseAdEsse
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby aPosseAdEsse » Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
ClerkGuy2010 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How did you communicate that you will apply for clerkship with your firm (I assume you had the firm offer after your 2L summer). Did you tell the firm before you applying for clerkship or after you secured the clerkship?


The firm knew that I was applying as I was doing my applications. They actually let me do a lot of my application stuff at the office--they're big on clerking, and in their minds it was more valuable for me to perfect my apps than to write another memo. This was probably especially true because I worked for the same firm 1L summer, so they already had plenty of work product from me.

As a general rule, it's probably a good idea to communicate with your firm before you apply and see what they think about it. You wouldn't want to get in an interview with a judge, accept an offer on the spot, and then find out that your firm isn't going to hold your offer open while you clerk. But IMO you should seriously question whether you want to work at a firm that discourages you from clerking (at least if you want to litigate).


Any suggestions on how to land a 1L firm job?



+1

Did you have grades already? When did you apply for your 1L summer job? Approx how many apps?
Thanks a ton.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:35 pm

thisamericanlife wrote:I'm really interested how you decided to turn down interviews. Did you feel confident with the 3 judges? Did you have concrete evidence at least one of the three would accept you, or was it more that if one of the other judges had interviewed you and a offered you a clerkship on the spot you would not have accepted? I am really interested in the balance between applying/interviewing broadly to find a clerkship but not getting in a predicament of a judge offering a clerkship on the spot who is not at the top of your list among interviews.


Yeah, this can be a difficult balance to strike. Basically, I got an offer from the first (pre-Plan) judge I interviewed with, and he was probably my top choice out of my entire list of ~150 or whatever it was. But he told me not to accept until around the hiring plan time, because he wanted me to consider all my options. He was funnily stubborn about it--I totally would have accepted on the spot if he had asked, or even allowed me to. I took the 2nd pre-Plan interview because it was fairly close, and I took the one Plan interview because it was a really great judge and I thought it might be just as good as the first one. But after that interview, I didn't feel as good about it as the first judge, so I called him to accept.

Without that sort of concrete evidence, I think I would have taken more interviews. Like you said, it can be risky, as far as getting an offer that's not as appealing and having to decide on the spot. The rule of thumb I would follow (and this is just my advice) is: accept an interview only if you would be willing to accept on the spot, even if that judge is not necessarily one of your very top choices. That's where you make the cut-off, I think--don't take the interview if you aren't prepared to say YES right there (or, at least, YES after a chance to call your wife/family/whatever and run it by them).

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:53 pm

wordtoyourmother12 wrote:I'm curious as to your sense of the importance of letters of recommendation in this process. I'm sure it varies greatly from judge to judge, but can they make a significant impact?

Also, how important is the identity of the recommender? If it is a heavyweight like Posner versus your average assistant professor who teaches civil procedure, does it matter? Or are judges only concerned with the recommender's familiarity with your work product/character/writing ability, etc.?


I think three points probably sum up rec letters: 1) a glowing and detailed letter from someone who knows you well is a massive boost, 2) a simply good letter does basically nothing to hurt or help you (since most every competitive candidate has good-great letters), and 3) a mediocre letter can really hurt your chances.

For the identity of the recommenders, I think it's good to have at least one (out of your 3-4) who is a tenured prof at your school. It doesn't necessarily have to be a Posner, but you probably don't want all 4 letters to be from assistant profs, lecturers, partners, etc. At least for CoA judges, you'd ideally have at least one from someone who has a fancy professor title. Even if they're not famous or a heavyweight, it lends you a certain credibility. Me personally, I had one from a tenured prof, one from a tenure-track prof (I think she's up this year), one from a lecturer, and one from a partner.

Now, as to whether having a heavyweight helps, I think you alluded to the answer. If you have a Posner-type who knows your work product and personality well, that will be a huge, huge boost with most judges. But if you get a letter from one of those guys and it's just generic recommendation letter stuff that's not particularly powerful or specific, I don't think the name alone will do much for you. The judge/clerk reading your app will probably assume that Posner (or whoever) wrote you a letter as one of many, and isn't really wholeheartedly endorsing you. The overarching rule, no matter who writes your letter, is that they need to know you well and really give some nice specific details about why you'd be a good clerk. Think about it like presenting evidence to a jury--it's not enough to just say "Defendant is guilty"; you need to give them the concrete points to show why the Defendant is guilty, so that they can arrive at that conclusion themselves.


wordtoyourmother12 wrote:Edit: Do you have any advice for those looking into obtaining clerkships with District judges?


Three things come to mind. First, include a rec letter from someone who knows your practical work abilities well (e.g., partner at a law firm, writing lecturer with whom you worked closely). This can help with CoA judges too, but I've heard that a lot of district judges care even more about this. Second, consider a more practical-type writing sample, like a memo you wrote at a 2L firm (with permission from the firm and redacted, of course). It's especially good if the memo was written under time pressure, which will be the typical case in a busy district court. Now, some district judges may still want the usual scholarly type Note or whatever, but I hear a lot of them prefer to see something less flowery and more practical.

Third, regional connections are even more important than with CoA judges, except in the major districts (SDNY, CD Cal, etc.). If you went to school at, say, Boston College, I think it'd be pretty much a complete waste of time to send out 300 district-court apps to judges in Kansas, Nevada, Mississippi, etc., unless you have a connection to those states. District judges in those smaller markets are almost always going to hire either: 1) someone who was top of their class from a local, lower-ranked school, or 2) someone from an elite law school who has a past connection to that place. If you're not either of those people, don't bother. Focus on the major districts and the areas where you have connections.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Any suggestions on how to land a 1L firm job?


aPosseAdEsse wrote:+1

Did you have grades already? When did you apply for your 1L summer job? Approx how many apps?
Thanks a ton.


I sent out my apps the first day or two after the NALP date in December. I sent out about 50-60, mostly to firms in the state where I grew up and went to college. I actually didn't have a single grade when a lot of those firms started interviewing, and as a result I got dings from all of them. But once I got my first couple grades, I contacted a few of the firms I was most interested in (one of whom I think had already dinged me, although they hadn't actually contacted me) and gave them the grades. I think all of them waited until I had all of my first-semester grades before they offered me, but the first couple grades at least got them talking to me and giving me interviews.

As for tips generally, the main thing is just to study a lot and get the best grades you can. By 2L, you'll at least have a few other things on the resume that may help (law review, other journal, moot court, etc.), but since you're applying for these jobs after less than 1 semester of law school, you're not going to have much other than grades. And anything you do have probably won't give you much of a boost (to be frank, big law firms do not care about 80% of the stuff on your resume). Also, a lot of firms won't even look at 1L's without a proven regional connection--they know that a lot of 1L's are just applying to get a summer's worth of money, and then they're going to go somewhere else for 2L and full-time eventually. This makes firms very uneasy, as they have absolutely no interest in giving you $30,000+ for a summer's worth of work and you never coming back. Really sell your regional connection if you get an interview. Make them confident that if you work there 1L, there's a good chance that you'll be back 2L because that's the city you want to be in long-term.

ClerkGuy2010
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:32 pm

Going to bump this real quick because I had a real life friend ask a question about clerkship apps that I thought might be relevant to some of you. He asked whether I knew if judges were more receptive to a "generic" cover letter ("Enclosed is my app, including X Y and Z. The end.") or a targeted one.

The answer is that this varies from judge to judge (like just about everything)--and in fact, the variance is critically important here, because some judges won't even look at your application if you send a generic cover letter. Those judges want to know why you want to work for them specifically. I don't think the converse is true--i.e., I don't think any judges who prefer generic cover letters would refuse to look at your app if it was targeted--but many judges do prefer the letter to say basically nothing other than "here's my application." Also, I don't know if this is true, but I've heard a few of the top-5 schools actually advise their clerkship applicants to only send out generic cover letters.

So, how should you decide which type of letter to send to a particular judge? Well, if you're sending out a lot of apps, you're just not going to have the time to send targeted letters to every judge. My advice would be to send generic letters by default. For judges you are particularly interested in, call up a former clerk or two and ask if the judge prefers either type of letter. If you're only sending out a small number of apps, I'd go ahead and do targeted cover letters. The chance and extent to which it'll help you is higher than the chance and extent to which it'll hurt.

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thisamericanlife
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby thisamericanlife » Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:46 pm

You state that you had about 150 judges on your list. How did you rank those judges. I have heard people use factors of geographic, past opinions, prestige, or former clerks to evaluate judges. Beyond those criterion, what else would you consider, and what factors do you think should students give more weight.

nylaw23
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby nylaw23 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:06 am

Do you have any idea how many applications your judge (or a similarly situated judge) receives and how many interviews he typically has? Also, is there a process that he goes through in narrowing down the applicants to interview? I know the cycle has not happened yet, but maybe you have discussed this with either the judge or other law clerks.

Thanks for the insight so far




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