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

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:12 am

thisamericanlife wrote: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.


I used geography first. That's probably the easiest way to start creating a hierarchy for the judges, if you have some sort of geographical preference. And most likely you will have some sort of preference. Even if you're applying very broadly and are willing to go anywhere, I'm sure you'd prefer certain locations over others.

After that, I used all three of the other factors you mentioned, plus a couple more. I went to the Westlaw Almanac for the Federal Judiciary and looked at what attorneys had said about the judges. There's a lot of useful insight on there into the judges' personality and character, which can be tough to come by. I was really curious to know how the judges treated the attorneys, especially.

I also considered the age of the judge. This might fall into the category of "things students should give more weight," although it's totally personal preference. I assumed most younger judges would be a bit more energetic than the much older (70+) ones, which meshes better with my personality. Also, I was really interested in clerking for a judge with whom I could maintain a professional and friendly relationship after the clerkship, and of course with an older judge it's more likely that the relationship will end sooner. On the other hand, if you clerk for an older judge who's still active, they will usually be one of the most senior on the circuit, which comes with some advantages as far as case selection and what not. Just something to consider.
Last edited by ClerkGuy2010 on Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:41 am, edited 3 times in total.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:22 am

nylaw23 wrote: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


My judge said he received about 950-1000 apps last year. He did off-plan interviews, and from what I understand he interviewed somewhere between 10-15 for the four spots. I think you'll find similar numbers for a lot of circuit judges, especially those in major cities, although if they interview on-Plan they may have even more interviews. I heard of one circuit judge last year getting like 1700 apps, but I can't imagine that happens too often. Somewhere between 500-1000 is probably the best rule of thumb, depending on the circuit, city, and judge.

I think the process my judge uses is similar to a lot of judges. The clerks make the first run through the apps and basically cut it down to about 5-10% of everything that's come in. This cut is fairly objective--grades, school rank, journal experience, publication, moot court, etc. A strong recommendation can help a lot here too. You can also make the cut here a little bit less objective if you have someone call and flag your app for you--that can get you "in" to the next pile of resumes even with slightly weaker objective credentials.

Once it's down to those apps, the judge looks at them and selects however many he wants to interview, which is almost always 25 or less. At this point, the objective criteria are still very important, but the judge will also be looking for more subjective reasons to interview you, especially whether you seem like you'd be an interesting person who would fit well in chambers. Here again, having someone flag your app for you is huge.

I think that's how most judges do it, but there are definitely exceptions. I know of one circuit judge who actually looks at every single app himself, and he makes the first cut and assigns a score to each applicant. Then his clerks and secretary make the next cut down to who he will interview--kinda backwards, but I guess it works for him.

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

Postby leobowski » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:05 am

I know it didn't matter for your specific judge, but how important do you think it is to be on the LR editorial board, rather than just publishing a case note and saying "F it?"

Also, I see a lot of top 5% talk on lawclerkaddict. Is that probably a good estimator of ending up in the final pile of apps, assuming you have LR editorial board and a school with strong clerkship placement? What about top 10%? :oops:

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:49 pm

leobowski wrote:I know it didn't matter for your specific judge, but how important do you think it is to be on the LR editorial board, rather than just publishing a case note and saying "F it?"

Also, I see a lot of top 5% talk on lawclerkaddict. Is that probably a good estimator of ending up in the final pile of apps, assuming you have LR editorial board and a school with strong clerkship placement? What about top 10%? :oops:


Board can be a nice boost, especially for CoA and the more competitive district judges. No doubt about it. Judges and their clerks aren't necessarily familiar with the specific board positions at every law review, but they all know that board members are generally entrusted with a lot more responsibility and usually have to do much more substantive and difficult edits. Doing global edits on an entire 35,000 word article, for example, reflects editing and writing ability a lot more than the typical work of a staff editor.

That's not to say that just being on law review isn't a great accomplishment--it definitely is. But the problem is that the application process is just so competitive and so many applicants are on law review, you've got to continue to separate yourself at every opportunity.

As for grades, it's really just the higher the better. Most judges aren't going to have a hard cutoff that says they'll look at top 5% but not top 10%, but being top 5% certainly helps. Unless you're applying to a Kozinski-type, don't consider yourself conclusively out just because you're not top 5%.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:12 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
leobowski wrote:I know it didn't matter for your specific judge, but how important do you think it is to be on the LR editorial board, rather than just publishing a case note and saying "F it?"

Also, I see a lot of top 5% talk on lawclerkaddict. Is that probably a good estimator of ending up in the final pile of apps, assuming you have LR editorial board and a school with strong clerkship placement? What about top 10%? :oops:

To offer a somewhat different viewpoint, lack of LR ed. board is close to disqualifying for my judge. I add the "close to" hedge because I assume there have been a few clerks over the years who were hired despite lacking a board position. I don't know exactly why the judge values board service so much, but if I had to guess I would think editing experience, greater familiarity with legal literature, and self-motivation play a role.

From the standpoint of a 2L on LR, you face a choice: to run for board or not. The benefits of not doing so are clear: you gain a ton of free time vis-a-vis serving on the board. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too. When you apply for clerkships, there will be plenty of people who faced that same decision and went the other way. They will have the same grades and recs as you, for the most part, and thus are going to stand a better chance of being hired. This is not to say you lose out on all clerkships if you don't run for the board. Rather, you'll lose out on most of the very competitive ones. At my school, the correlation between COA placement and LR board service was nearly 1:1 (i.e., almost nobody who got COA wasn't on the board).


My school definitely had a much higher ratio of COA clerkships among board members, but we did have several staff editors get COA as well.

And while I won't say that lack of board is "close to disqualifying" for my judge like yours, he definitely values it, and I agree wholeheartedly with what youre saying about the tradeoff.

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

Postby nylaw23 » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:06 pm

How much do you think an applicant's school ranking play in a judge's decision to interview/hire? I ask because I go to a school ranked in the lower part of the top 100 and wonder whether a judge is going to be viewing my application differently than other applicants that attended a top14 school.

Just for context, I am top 2%, on LR board, and did an externship with a federal judge last spring.
Last edited by nylaw23 on Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:18 pm

Is it even worth applying to COA if you have top 5% + LR but don't have any connections?

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

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:49 pm

How do your judges view candidates without LR? Assume otherwise reasonably competitive stats (CCN, top 10-15%, board of secondary journal, good RECs). Is it pretty much disqualifying?

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

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:23 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is it even worth applying to COA if you have top 5% + LR but don't have any connections?

Define "no connections." If you mean no relationships with faculty members, such that you won't have any letters of recommendation (or only very bland ones), then I think the answer to your question is yes. If, on the other hand, you mean that you lack an "in" with a federal judge or your school's top feeder faculty members, then the answer is probably no. Plenty of top 5% + LR people end up with COA interviews even when they lack any particular ties to the judge or the area the court sits in.


I meant #2, but #1 kind of applies to me. I have my 3L year to build relationships with professors. Any advice how to do this? I can't take any seminars.

rcb5142
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby rcb5142 » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:29 pm

Yea I am also interested to know if secondary journal board membership @ T25, top 10% + good soft factors would be screened initially or would get you into the second pile. For either CoA or District Ct.

rcb5142
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Re: 2010 grad/US Court of Appeals clerk taking Q's

Postby rcb5142 » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:59 pm

impressively selective. How does having a district ct on your resume effect CoA channces? Does the school become any less important at that point if you can get a good rec from your judge?

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

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:02 pm

How far into a person's schedule do you look? Is it noticeable if people take less credit hours or fluffier classes their 2L and 3L years?

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

Postby bradley » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:22 pm

How does your judge view moot court? Could it make up for the fact (at least a little bit) that you aren't on ed board of LR?

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

Postby Adjudicator » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:28 pm

Obtaining a federal clerkship position someday is my goal, so I'm really enjoying this thread. There is some really helpful information here.

So, starting at the beginning of law school, what is the plan of action to reach this goal? Something like this?

1. Get awesome grades.
2. Make law review.
3. Publish?
4. Get on law review board?
5. Graduate at the top of the class.

Anything I'm missing so far?

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

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:29 pm

bradley wrote:How does your judge view moot court? Could it make up for the fact (at least a little bit) that you aren't on ed board of LR?


I'm not sure how judges view it, but I had the opportunity to ask several attorneys at a firm that would do well in a contest for "best litigation firm in the country" about the utility of moot court the other day. Their response, uniformly, was bemused and dismissive laughter.

Winning at anything is impressive, and it's certainly an honor and a distinction. But I don't think there are a lot of legal employers out there who fawn over moot court experience. Still, idiosyncrasy is the name of the game in clerkship hiring, so anything you can do to stand out from the herd is a good thing.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:01 am

nylaw23 wrote:How much do you think an applicant's school ranking play in a judge's decision to interview/hire? I ask because I go to a school ranked in the lower part of the top 100 and wonder whether a judge is going to be viewing my application differently than other applicants that attended a top14 school.

Just for context, I am top 2%, on LR board, and did an externship with a federal judge last spring.


I don't think my judge would ever hire someone outside of the top 40-50 schools, but there are other COA judges who will if you're at the very, very top of your class.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is it even worth applying to COA if you have top 5% + LR but don't have any connections?

Define "no connections." If you mean no relationships with faculty members, such that you won't have any letters of recommendation (or only very bland ones), then I think the answer to your question is yes. If, on the other hand, you mean that you lack an "in" with a federal judge or your school's top feeder faculty members, then the answer is probably no. Plenty of top 5% + LR people end up with COA interviews even when they lack any particular ties to the judge or the area the court sits in.


I meant #2, but #1 kind of applies to me. I have my 3L year to build relationships with professors. Any advice how to do this? I can't take any seminars.


Are you not going to be applying for a clerkship right out of school? You don't really have 3L year to build relationships if you want to clerk right after you graduate--you have to apply before you even really start 3L year.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:03 am

Adjudicator wrote:Obtaining a federal clerkship position someday is my goal, so I'm really enjoying this thread. There is some really helpful information here.

So, starting at the beginning of law school, what is the plan of action to reach this goal? Something like this?

1. Get awesome grades.
2. Make law review.
3. Publish?
4. Get on law review board?
5. Graduate at the top of the class.

Anything I'm missing so far?


Do all of those things while remaining a social, interesting person. Actually, I know for a fact that plenty of federal clerks are neither social nor interesting, but it will really help your chances a lot with 98% of judges once you get into the interview.

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

Postby Adjudicator » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:08 am

ClerkGuy2010 wrote:
Adjudicator wrote:Obtaining a federal clerkship position someday is my goal, so I'm really enjoying this thread. There is some really helpful information here.

So, starting at the beginning of law school, what is the plan of action to reach this goal? Something like this?

1. Get awesome grades.
2. Make law review.
3. Publish?
4. Get on law review board?
5. Graduate at the top of the class.

Anything I'm missing so far?


Do all of those things while remaining a social, interesting person. Actually, I know for a fact that plenty of federal clerks are neither social nor interesting, but it will really help your chances a lot with 98% of judges once you get into the interview.


That's going to be hard, since I'm not even a social, interesting person right now. :D But maybe I can start.

Thank you for making this thread; becoming a judicial clerk after school is my dream and your advice in this thread is very helpful. I don't know if I'll even have the grades to be thinking about this, but I'm going to try.

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

Postby madisonian » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:16 am

Thanks for all the great info.

Do judges weigh judicial externships more heavily than they do summer associate gigs?

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

Postby Adjudicator » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:31 am

madisonian wrote:Thanks for all the great info.

Do judges weigh judicial externships more heavily than they do summer associate gigs? What did you do for your 1L and 2L summers? Thanks.


Yeah, I wanted to know this, too, but I forgot to ask. I was thinking of looking for a judicial externship for the 1L summer. Will that help me very much when I'm looking for a clerkship position, assuming that my grades are good enough?

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

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:36 am

I'm going to be working as a Staff Attorney for CoA for the coming term, and am throwing out a few (very few) applications for D. Ct. clerkships for the 2011/12 term. As I assume you've seen a few applications so far, can you give any guidance as to how to list the fact that I have taken the bar relevant to those D. Ct.s' location, but have not yet passed? Any idea whether staff atty. experience is attractive?

Thanks.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm going to be working as a Staff Attorney for CoA for the coming term, and am throwing out a few (very few) applications for D. Ct. clerkships for the 2011/12 term. As I assume you've seen a few applications so far, can you give any guidance as to how to list the fact that I have taken the bar relevant to those D. Ct.s' location, but have not yet passed? Any idea whether staff atty. experience is attractive?

Thanks.


I don't know exactly how attractive, but I do think the staff attorney experience will be at least somewhat attractive. It's relevant work experience, which a lot of applicants don't have. As for taking the bar in those locations, I'm not sure that will matter to a lot of judges (although I know some D Ct judges actually require it), but if you want to list it, the best place would probably be a sentence in your cover letter mentioning that you've taken the bar in that particular jurisdiction.

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

Postby ClerkGuy2010 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:53 pm

madisonian wrote:Thanks for all the great info.

Do judges weigh judicial externships more heavily than they do summer associate gigs?


This is a tough question. Some judges do value prior experience with a judge (whether an externship, internship, or whatever). But there are so many variables: What caliber of law firm are we talking about as an alternative (V5? V20? V50? V100?)? Is the judge for whom you did the externship a judge you're going to apply to for a clerkship (obviously, this is a huge boost for that particular judge)? Is the judge on the same court/in the same courthouse/friends with/etc. a judge that you're going to apply for a clerkship with?

And putting all that aside, it is really tough to turn down summer BigLaw money for a judicial internship/externship, just for the possibility that it will give you some clerkship application boost. Frankly, I'm not sure that's a smart business decision. You never know how much it'll help, and you're turning down a lot of earnings, both from that summer and potentially from a full-time job with that firm. But if you don't have BigLaw as an alternative, especially during your 1L summer, I think it would be very wise to do something with a judge. It certainly won't hurt.

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

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 04, 2010 10:15 am

I guess I'll ask about my clerkship chances. Top 40% at a T40 but a really good grade in Fed Cts. Chances at the fed level or state level?




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