Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:34 pm

I keep reading on here about how the competition for federal clerkships are at an all time high and basically impossible to get. I also see the stats (not sure if they are accurate or where they are from) that there were 450,000 applications for 1,200 spots or something along those lines. While those seem outrageous considering there is only 45,000 or so law students graduating each year, I'll take it as fact.

I am a T6 transfer who struck out at OCI for various reasons. Still, I am on secondary journal and expect to be top 10% at my new school. (Most transfers do very well, for a ton of reasons and I was #1 at my T1). I always hear "if you didn't have the grades for biglaw you don't have the grades for fed clerk, although I think transfers are a unique situation.

Anyways, if I get up to top 10%, or higher, secondary journal, no clue about 2l summer job, and prof LOR's lined up (at least from 1L), are my chances really that low? I realize they are competitive, probably now more than ever, but should I really just focus on other things rather than gearing up for a clerkship? I don't mean banking on it, obviously, but is all hope really lost even with these credentials?

(Just trying to get a real answer here. As we all know, career services, clerkship department, whatever, can give massive false hope and are just straight up wrong about stuff)

User avatar
180orbust
Posts: 88
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:45 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby 180orbust » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:22 am

Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...

User avatar
Teoeo
Posts: 801
Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:21 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Teoeo » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:24 am

180orbust wrote:Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...


I disagree with this post. If someone gets the grades to XFER they will probably continue to do very well wherever they go.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:I keep reading on here about how the competition for federal clerkships are at an all time high and basically impossible to get. I also see the stats (not sure if they are accurate or where they are from) that there were 450,000 applications for 1,200 spots or something along those lines. While those seem outrageous considering there is only 45,000 or so law students graduating each year, I'll take it as fact.


You're not only competing with graduating law students, but practicing lawyers. Remember, some judges prefer to hire clerks with some experience.

I do think you have a shot. I'm in a similar boat as you(T1, top 5% struck out at OCI and hoping to clerk) I was hurt by the fact that the market I was targeting had probably 10-15 SA spots, but luckily I got a summer associate spot at a mid-level firm. Anyways, besides what other posters suggest, make sure you land something for this summer. One other possible route to consider is interning with a judge who hires former interns, or at least would give strong recommendations to other judges who have openings. I'm not sure how you can find that info out besides reaching out to current clerks or judges, or maybe career services. On TLS, it seems like there is a mixed consensus whether judges hire interns, but based on conversations I've had with federal judges in my market, it can happen if a 2L intern really impresses the judge, and is otherwise qualified for the position, he or she has a shot at getting a clerkship offer.

User avatar
180orbust
Posts: 88
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 2:45 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby 180orbust » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:51 am

Teoeo wrote:
180orbust wrote:Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...


I disagree with this post. If someone gets the grades to XFER they will probably continue to do very well wherever they go.

Why do you think it is probable that a T1 transfer will be top 10% at a T6?

UCLAtransfer
Posts: 334
Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:36 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby UCLAtransfer » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:58 am

180orbust wrote:Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...


Also disagree. I was just outside top 10% at my low T2 and as a 3L at UCLA I am now well w/in the top 10% of my class. All the transfers that I know of have done similarly well after transferring. I think it is at least in part that those who "get" law school exams will do pretty well regardless of the school. Also, it definitely has something to do with the relaxed 2L-3L curve relative to 1L.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:07 am

OP-

Being a transfer, I think it will be important that you are well within the general "cutoffs" for your school in order to clerk. I.e., if top 15% w/secondary are normally able to snag Dist. Ct. clerkships, then you will probably want to be a little better off, such at top 10% (just to account for your transfer status being at least a little bit of a negative).

Also, I think it is pretty key that you line something decent up for your 2L summer. Even among transfers I have seen with good grades, having a good/somewhat prestigious 2L position has meant the difference between getting a clerkship and getting shut out.

Good luck!

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:22 am

1) transfers usually do well at their new school in the t6 because their new school's upper-level curve is traditionally decidedly easier than it is for 1L. CLS's goes from B/B+ 1L year to A-/B+ for lectures and A-/A for seminars. Life is hard.
2) getting "a clerkship" and getting a good clerkship are totally different things. getting a circuit court or state court in a flyover state with a population under 1mil is a bit different than SDNY. since the feeder judges are out for you, look to your home market, if it's more reasonable.
3) how much pull is your 1L recommender going to have, really? the best recommenders are known professors who have relationships with judges and whose opinion, when they go to bat for you, actually means something. there are some in your new school, although many seem to require you do supervised research/note under them.
4) the reason the number of clerk applications is so high is because no one ever applies to just one judge, duh.

User avatar
ggocat
Posts: 1662
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:51 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby ggocat » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:22 am

Those stats would give you a shot. You should apply and see what happens. Get ready to start with off-plan judges as soon as you get your grades for this semester.

Also consider state supreme(s). They often pay less and are not viewed as highly as district court, but discretionary review is awesome. (Plus, if you want to clerk for a federal judge afterward, you'll likely start $10k-$12K higher on the federal scale compared to someone without a year's clerkship experience).

User avatar
ggocat
Posts: 1662
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:51 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby ggocat » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:17 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
ggocat wrote:Get ready to start with off-plan judges as soon as you get your grades for this semester.

Seems a bit early, doesn't it? I'm not sure any judges really get underway unil spring at the earliest--although there might be a few exceptions in the 5th and 11th Circuits. And even once spring arrives, really only a few of the feeders are hiring.

I remember seeing OSCAR postings in January/February for some off-plan circuit and district judges in the 5th and 11th Circuits. But by "start," I should have said "start the process"--revise writing sample and resume and approach professors. As you suggested, off-plan hiring starts to pick up a few months later in April/May. Those months can go by quick. It pays to be ready early in the process.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:39 pm

180orbust wrote:Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...


Without completely derailing this thread (although I am sure it will because this argument always gets so heated), this is the constant battle between transfers and bitter kids that got in the first time around. It just is impossible for them to understand that LSAT is not a perfect predictor of law school success or raw intelligence. Fact is, there isn't any data to prove either way and there never will be. However, anecdotal evidence on TLS and from other transfers is almost always positive. I know of at least 20-25 transfers either here or RL that have done just as well at their t14 transfer as their t2, t3, t4. As for specific t1-t6, ToTransferOrNot was at the top of his class in Wisconsin and has absolutely killed it at Chicago - I think the dude is like 1st in his class. I have also heard that at Michigan 299 of the 300 transfers they have taken in the last 10 years or whatever have graduated with honors.

Part of this is presumably because of the higher curve, part because those students in the middle don't try as hard, generally 2L and 3L's aren't as grade and study crazy as 1L's (particularly those who did not do well) and transfers have a reason to try harder than ever with a blank slate gpa. Another part of is undoubtedly the ability to write law school exams that some have and some don't. At any rate, I'd be weary of either conclusion (that you can get top 5% or that you definitely won't because everyone is so much smarter). All of the evidence so far seems to be pointing towards doing well and i have yet to hear of even one transfer who did shitty at their new school. That being said, maybe they just don't want to admit or just don't get on TLS.

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:45 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:06 pm

Re: the shitstorm transfer grades thing:

First, I just want to make sure to emphasize that the anon person who brought me up was not me.

Anyway: Yes, transfers often do very well (at Chicago, three of the transfers in my class ended up top 5% after 2L, with quite a few more just below the cut-off). No, it doesn't make sense to assume you will get top 10% at the new school. There are more transfers than there are slots in the top 10%.

On to the actual topic:

But... another thing to point out: not having a 2L SA gig will itself hurt you in the clerkship search. And, as a transfer on a secondary (I'm an editor on the secondary, to be precise,) I didn't really sweep up in the clerkship search. Though I withdrew from the search before on-plan judges would have made interview calls, I struck out entirely with mail-in judges (who would have had no way to know that I was off the market). I don't know if I would have received any calls from the OSCAR judges - I somehow doubt that they went back through the OSCAR list to ensure people hadn't withdrawn in the one-week period between the date applications were received, and the date on-plan judges could make contacts for interviews.

So, long story short: yes, they really are that rare/impossible/etc. I got lucky as hell, and snagged a CoA clerkship, but that clerkship is one that is done entirely outside of the normal process.

One other transfer in my class ended up with a district court clerkship.

TBF, the way clerkship hiring is going (i.e., a great many judges are only hiring through the alumni market now,) the only people who should feel "safe" are top 5% at YH on the LR editorial board. Many, many people on UChicagos editorial board struck out this year.

So, yeah, I wouldn't plan on this. And certainly don't plan on it if you can't get REALLY strong recommendations lined up from profs at the new school.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:50 pm

ToTransferOrNot wrote:Re: the shitstorm transfer grades thing:

First, I just want to make sure to emphasize that the anon person who brought me up was not me.

Anyway: Yes, transfers often do very well (at Chicago, three of the transfers in my class ended up top 5% after 2L, with quite a few more just below the cut-off). No, it doesn't make sense to assume you will get top 10% at the new school. There are more transfers than there are slots in the top 10%.

On to the actual topic:

But... another thing to point out: not having a 2L SA gig will itself hurt you in the clerkship search. And, as a transfer on a secondary (I'm an editor on the secondary, to be precise,) I didn't really sweep up in the clerkship search. Though I withdrew from the search before on-plan judges would have made interview calls, I struck out entirely with mail-in judges (who would have had no way to know that I was off the market). I don't know if I would have received any calls from the OSCAR judges - I somehow doubt that they went back through the OSCAR list to ensure people hadn't withdrawn in the one-week period between the date applications were received, and the date on-plan judges could make contacts for interviews.

So, long story short: yes, they really are that rare/impossible/etc. I got lucky as hell, and snagged a CoA clerkship, but that clerkship is one that is done entirely outside of the normal process.

One other transfer in my class ended up with a district court clerkship.

TBF, the way clerkship hiring is going (i.e., a great many judges are only hiring through the alumni market now,) the only people who should feel "safe" are top 5% at YH on the LR editorial board. Many, many people on UChicagos editorial board struck out this year.

So, yeah, I wouldn't plan on this. And certainly don't plan on it if you can't get REALLY strong recommendations lined up from profs at the new school.


OP here- this seems like a pretty grim assessment. I am considering just saying forget it after reading this (coupled with the numbers I've seen) but I am just not sure there is anything more beneficial that I could spend my time doing. With no 2L SA, there's really nothing I can do to break into big law. Any type of honors program is just as competitive as these clerkships, which apparently just aren't out there/are impossible to get. It's a sad reality but at least I am finding out now.

(Is it really a good idea to just drop out halfway through, even if top grades from a top school? It seems like a likely scenario as I don't see much upside to finishing after this)

User avatar
XxSpyKEx
Posts: 1741
Joined: Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:48 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:28 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:If you are willing to look further & wider, there are opportunities out there. One of the main things that screws top students up is the notion that they deserve a feeder clerkship or that they can't be bothered to look at clerkships outside of NYC/Boston/DC/SF/Chicago. When people self-limit their options in that way, they reap what they sow. Likewise when people don't take the time to really research the judges, network with alumni, and develop relationships with professors. Millenials can be a pretty entitled bunch, and the clerkship hiring process really brings this out in some (but surely nowhere near all) people.



This sounds a lot like what the CSO preached at my school (i.e. apply broad and outside major markets). I think in the past (i.e. before ITE) this was credited. It was far from unheard of for someone at median at my school to lock up a fed clerkship a few years back, but it would typically be in a location like middle of nowhere Utah. But nowadays, it's a whole other ball game. I applied to these middle of nowhere district court judges, and out of the ones that actually sent rejection letters, they typically said that they had around 300 applications for one spot (i.e. in locations like the middle of nowhere Mississippi – locations like SDNY were more like 2,000 applications per spot). It’s a really competitive process right now. What sucks about it, though, is that when things pick back up the prestige level of a clerkship that you get now will be a lot lower in the future, even though it’s uber competitive now (i.e. it seems like that middle of nowhere Utah district court clerkship will be looked at as something that some median student could have gotten a couple years from now, when in fact it is something that you had to have good grades + LR for now).

I guess one thing to keep in mind, OP, is that you really can’t bank on a clerkship because the whole process is really arbitrary and completely crazy. I mean there are 2 days on the hiring plan when something like 85% of interviews through OSCAR applications (for 3Ls) are conducted and offers are made and accepted. So you figure if any given judge interviews 20-30 students across those 2 days for his one spot, and even if you can somehow manage to make it to 5 interviews in that time frame (which is a lot considering the distance of travel for various locations that you might get calls for), then your odds are still really bad (i.e. you have 5 interviews with judges that are interviewing 20-30 people). Now there’s still the other 15% or so judges that hire after the hiring plan where things are a lot less crazy, but it’s still not something you can plan on ITE. I mean sure, if you are top 2% at a t14, on LR, AND have good faculty support, you might have a decent shot. But if you have all that, you have a decent shot getting biglaw through 3L recruiting (and a decent shot at other opportunities, such as federal gvt). But this is definitely not something you can realistically plan for as a transfer student (i.e. there is definitely a level of arbitrariness/luck in terms of grades, and top 2% basically requires straight As, which almost all A or higher grades (and not A-s) at most schools). (Not to mention LR is really tough to get as a transfer.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:03 am

Not the above poster, but to add on what I know - The district court judge I worked for this past summer had 400 applications for one position. This is in a mid-sized city in the Mountain area by the way, and I'm pretty sure the vast majority of those people had no ties whatsoever to the Mountain region. (They were just spamming what they considered would be easier markets, like everyone else did...)

I think federal clerkships EVERYWHERE are extremely competitive to get, not just those in the major markets.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:08 pm

While I certainly trust the assessment of these posters and I am sure that it is the kind of information the OP was looking for, isn't it a bid odd that everyone who is saying that it is basically impossible to get a clerkship, has a clerkship?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:While I certainly trust the assessment of these posters and I am sure that it is the kind of information the OP was looking for, isn't it a bid odd that everyone who is saying that it is basically impossible to get a clerkship, has a clerkship?


They're also top 5% at their T6 school with law review or an editorial position on a secondary journal. And they've also pointed out that they saw many people with similar stats strike out.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:While I certainly trust the assessment of these posters and I am sure that it is the kind of information the OP was looking for, isn't it a bid odd that everyone who is saying that it is basically impossible to get a clerkship, has a clerkship?


They're also top 5% at their T6 school with law review or an editorial position on a secondary journal. And they've also pointed out that they saw many people with similar stats strike out.


Fair enough.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:39 pm

To what extent would a judicial internship during the academic year help out the application?

User avatar
ggocat
Posts: 1662
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:51 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby ggocat » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:42 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:I don't know of any judge that interviews 20-30 for each slot. Do you? I have heard of two judges who interview 20-30 for four spots, but that's a very different ratio. Several other judges I know of have a much, much lower ratio, too (e.g., 2 or 3 to 1).

A district judge outside a big city interviewed 16 for 1 spot this year. It just depends on the judge. Some judges have a habit of hiring the first person they interview for each spot.

User avatar
ggocat
Posts: 1662
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:51 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby ggocat » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To what extent would a judicial internship during the academic year help out the application?

Depends on the judge; some like to see it, others don't have a preference. I think it's a plus because it gives you something to talk about during the interview, and it may suggest that you really want to clerk rather than just hide out for a year or two from ITE.

User avatar
lishi
Posts: 996
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:53 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby lishi » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:07 am

Please stop abusing the anonymous feature. Ex: "fair enough" is not a comment that requires your anonymity. If the same people keep at it, the mods have no problem exposing them

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:14 am

People have been discussing clerkships in "flyover" zones, which got me curious (I don't know if G.T.L. can speak to this specific question):

To what extent do regional "ties" help with the clerkship search? Coming from one of HYS, but being from one of those "flyover" zones, I'm wondering if judges are at all looking for folks who want to stay in the area after finishing their clerkship. My guess is that it might be a slight boost, albeit insignificant, but was curious to hear folks' thoughts.

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:04 am

180orbust wrote:Dear T6 Transfer,

Have you noticed that 90% of your new classmates are also smart/hardworking enough to possibly get #1 at your old T1? I think 10% is pretty optimistic. Not to be mean or anything, but you do seem very concerned about keeping things "real." That said, if you can pull top 10%, then, from what I hear, you should have a decent shot at a clerkship, especially if you are willing to travel to remote areas and form relationship with influential professors at your new T6 school.

Best of luck...



I'd love to see the kids at the 30% to 90% mark of their class at a T6 class that would be able to swing #1 at a T1 school... This statement is pretty fucking dumb if you ask me. If the kid was number one at his T1, I'll be willing to bet that he continues to do very well at the T6...

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Are clerkships really that rare/impossible/etc.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:People have been discussing clerkships in "flyover" zones, which got me curious (I don't know if G.T.L. can speak to this specific question):

To what extent do regional "ties" help with the clerkship search? Coming from one of HYS, but being from one of those "flyover" zones, I'm wondering if judges are at all looking for folks who want to stay in the area after finishing their clerkship. My guess is that it might be a slight boost, albeit insignificant, but was curious to hear folks' thoughts.

In a similar position. Sure, it *can* help, but it really depends on the individual judge. If the "flyover" area you're targeting is narrow enough, you can find out most of the individual judges' preferences and hiring habits by asking around. If you're working at a firm in the area, there are probably former clerks there who can give you lots of great information and advice.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.