what exactly does a clerkship entail?

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Frathard
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what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Frathard » Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:02 pm

I did a quick google search but didn't find what I was looking for. In simple terms can someone describe to me what a typical workday is like for someone clerking for a judge?


What are the hours?
What is the typical pay? (If any)
Level of job satisfaction?
What does clerking usually lateral into?
How hard is it to get these jobs?
Typical duties

Thanks.

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Ragged
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Ragged » Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:07 pm

Interested in this too.

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ggocat
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby ggocat » Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:30 pm

Everything GTLRev said is correct, but I'll add two cents.

Also, read here for more info on federal clerkships: --LinkRemoved--. Some of your questions are answered in detail.

Frathard wrote:What are the hours?

Depends on the judge, but generally 40-50 HPW. You have a certain number of projects to complete, not hours to bill. So the number of hours you actually work may depend on how efficient and thorough you are.

Frathard wrote:What is the typical pay? (If any)

Check the link above for locality pay for federal clerks. Note that you generlaly get a bump to a higher pay grade if you stay longer than a year.

State clerkships vary wildly. The lowest full-time position I saw was about $27K, but someone I know in a state clerkship makes $80K (new grad with no post-grad legal experience). If I had to guess at a median, it would be in the $40k-$50k range. This data is a little old and only has states' highest appellate courts: --LinkRemoved--.

Frathard wrote:Level of job satisfaction?

What GTLRev said.

Frathard wrote:How hard is it to get these jobs?

Depends on the type of court and location. Graduates from most schools work in federal and state courts, though few graduates from schools outside the top schools work for U.S. circuit judges.
Frathard wrote:Typical duties

Depends on the judge and court. Generally speaking, advise judge(s) on how a case should be disposed of and prepare draft opinions. See aso the link posted above. The duties for federal and state are generally the same.

Interested Observer
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Interested Observer » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:08 pm

I externed with a judge at a highly desired district court for 9 months. Over that time, I grew close to her two clerks (more so than the judge) and was privy to their job duties. I'll answer your questions based on my experience working with these two clerks.

What are the hours?

A LOT. This wasn't a 9-5 or even a 9-6 job. The clerks generally would get in around 10 and sometimes work until 9/10 at night. (On days with morning calenders, they would have to get there earlier.) Also, they worked most weekends (from home usually but occasionally did come into the office). Both clerks had young children and indicated to me that they full intended on taking, at least a year off, after working this clerkship.

What is the level of pay?

No idea.

Level of job satisfaction?

It seemed pretty high. One of the clerks had already done a COA clerkship and this was her second clerkship. The other clerk was straight from law school. (Both had gone to my law school.) They both enjoyed the intellectual challenge and enjoyed the work. The 1st year clerk said to me that there is no better learning experience than working a clerkship. She said that she had learned more in two months working for this judge than she had in her whole three years at law school. She further said that she feels more prepared to take on legal practice (she has a job lined up with a top big firm). The 2nd year clerk indicated the same level of satisfaction.

I also believe that their satisfaction was heightened because both knew that it was only for a year. They complained about the hours but were able to push through because they knew that it was only temporary and that what they were learning in this year was unmatched to anywhere else they could be.

As an extern, I have to say that I learned more about litigation than I had anywhere else. The biggest lesson is that you can truly figure anything out with the right resources.

What does clerking lateral into?

Like I said above, the 1st year clerk had a big firm job lined up w/ a top firm. The 2nd year clerk (the one who had done a COA clerkship first) did not have a firm job lined up but because she didn't intend to work at a firm. She wanted to take a break and spend time with her kid before continuing legal practice. She told me that she wanted to work with a Federal Public Defender (which she could almost certainly get w/ her credentials).

How hard is it get these jobs?

I worked at the Central District of California -- it is extremely difficult to get. Both clerks were in the top 5% (I think they estimated b/c I'm sure our school doesn't reveal that information) at UCLA/USC.

Typical duties?

Typically, we were preparing for Mondays. Mondays was the civil calender where motions were heard. The clerks (and the externs) would help prepare "tentatives." Essentially, make a ruling on motions (generally, motions to dismiss, summary judgment, motions in limine, etc.). These are the more intensive type motions and require going through, not only the moving papers, but doing independent research to ensure that the law cited is corrected and the cases are truly on point.

We also handled habeas petitions from prisoners. There are other "smaller" things to take care of -- like jurisdiction checks (checking new cases to see whether federal jurisdiction is proper). When there's a trial, the clerks were involved with doing jury instruction research and things, but did not actually get involved much during the trial. There are a bunch of other evidentiary things that need to be taken care of prior to trials as well. (We had one pro se defendant case where the Court had to be more involved than it normally is.)

If there are any other questions, I can try to answer them based on what I saw and/or what I had talked to the clerks about.

Frathard
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Frathard » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:44 pm

Wow thanks a ton for the detailed answers.

Are most clerkships done during law school or post graduation?

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ggocat
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby ggocat » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:11 pm

Frathard wrote:Are most clerkships done during law school or post graduation?

Although terminology differs across generations and geography, generally you "intern" for a judge during law school (unpaid) and "clerk" for a judge after graduating (paid... although some judges have unpaid, full-time, post-grad "law clerks").

It would be difficult to estimate whether there are more judicial interns or judicial law clerks. But you can do one or the other or both. Internships are less competitive.

Interested Observer
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Interested Observer » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:12 pm

Frathard wrote:Wow thanks a ton for the detailed answers.

Are most clerkships done during law school or post graduation?



I think it's necessary to get our terminology straight here. Many people have different ways of saying things and it might be making things confusing.

Usually (i think?), when people say "clerk" for a judge or "clerkship," it refers to a post law school position. Most clerks tend to do this immediately after graduating law school. However, there are some clerks who go into clerkships after a number of years already in practice. (It's not unheard of for a lawyer who is being considered as a possible appointee to the bench but who has no experience clerking to actually clerk for a judge prior to taking his appointment.)

Any time a current law student works for a judge, it is probably an "externship" or "internship." The difference between the two isn't really important, but I think the technical difference lies in the fact that an externship is done for school credit, while an internship is just an internship -- and almost always unpaid (when working for a judge, that is). Some law students won't honor this distinction and say they've "clerked" for a judge when in actuality they have interned/externed. I think part of the reason for failing to see a distinction between being a "clerk" or an "intern/extern" is the fact that many law firms will call their interns "law clerks" -- it all makes it very confusing.

So, for my purposes, when you "clerk" for a judge, this is a post-graduation type deal where you're actually being paid by the Court to be the judge's aide. As mentioned above, no two clerkships will ever really be similar since the role of a clerk is dependent upon the judge and the way the judge wants to do things. For example, some COA Judges will actually write their own opinions and will have their clerks just research and write memoranda, whereas other judges will have their clerks write the opinions and the judge will edit it after.

If you're in law school (or were in law school) when you work for a judge, you're likely an intern/extern. Your responsibilities significantly differ than a clerk's. For the most part, you're the aide to the clerk(s).

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DelDad
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby DelDad » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:07 pm

For DE Court of Chancery:

What are the hours?
8 or 8:30 to 6 or 6:30 M-F

What is the typical pay? (If any)
about $48,000 :( This is slightly lower than the pay scale for federal clerks, which is in the neighborhood of about $55,000, IIRC.

Level of job satisfaction?
Extremely high. High levels of responsibility, sophisticated law and great interactions with a great judge from day 1.

What does clerking usually lateral into?
From this court, Biglaw, mostly New York.

How hard is it to get these jobs?
The NY firms are recruiting, even ITE.

Typical duties
researching, drafting, editing, debating, acting as a sounding board, helping to prepare the courtroom for a hearing, attending court.

The Court of Chancery handles mostly corporate and alternative entities cases, but it also gets a good amount of smaller equitable matters that include guardianship cases and requests for injunctions. My judge occasionally fills in for a conflicted or absent justice on the Delaware Supreme Court, so I have even gotten to work a few constitutional/criminal matters.

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SteelReserve
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby SteelReserve » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:46 pm

I will comment on the substantive duties of a judicial law clerk at the trial level. I won't talk hours and satisfaction because those apparently vary to a substantial degree. For instance, one of the commenters here said the clerks work upwards of 10 or more hours per day and often weekends.

I interned in federal district court with a respected judge who did all his homework and was well prepared and the clerks never, never, worked more than 9 to 5. But I suppose the point here is that it depends on the judge and what level court, so I will only say that the hours worked will vary depending on level of court, location, and judge.

When I interned in federal court, the clerks did all the legal research, wrote legal memos, but for the most part drafted judicial opinions. This means the clerk puts the plaintiff's/defense's legal briefs, certifications and attachments on his desk. He reviews the brief which has the legal argument, then reviews the facts as attached on the certifications. He then does whatever Lexis or Westlaw case law/statutory research is needed to verify the law cited in the briefs, then beings drafting a judicial opinion which the judge reviews, rewrites, etc, until it is done.

In so doing, he types up a general procedural statement "plaintiff claims...defense argues...this is an appeal of..." Then, he writes a summary of the facts of the case with citations to the proper exhibits. In my opinion this is most tedious part of clerking and is in some ways tantamount to the "doc review" that people fear. Then, he sets forth a statement of the law. Then, he applies that law to the facts (the more interesting part).

That is the primary duty of a clerk. Other duties include answering and handling the phones, sitting in court when the judge is at trial or hearing oral arguments so he can help out with miscellaneous legal issues, and just generally helping the judge with miscellaneous tasks.

I am clerking next year, at the state level, where my responsibilities will be largely the same except I will write more "bench memos" than judicial opinions. My opinion of clerking is mixed. I did it mainly because it was the best job available, and I consider myself blessed to have a job at graduation because the vast majority of my peers don't.

On the one hand, I am excited because my judge is great, it's a "prestigious" division which offers some heady work, and I will meet great lawyers at the trial level, while having some interaction with them. On the other hand, legal research for the most part bores me and I hate the lack of communication in clerking, eg arguing in court, talking with other lawyers, etc. The majority of the work is sitting at the computer doing the legal legwork. If you aim to be a "court room" attorney, clerking will help you in the long run, but it will be the exact opposite of being a court room attorney. It's paperwork, like most of litigation.

I hope that gives you a good idea of what clerking is like.

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Cavalier
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Re: what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Postby Cavalier » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:40 pm

what exactly does a clerkship entail?

Ghostwriting.




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