Citizen Genet wrote:
Putting the last few posts together, would it be accurate to say a lot of people underestimate how much doing legwork for clerkships impacts things? People at the 10% mark at Michigan might need to network into a chambers as much as possible and people outside the top 14 can still get Art. III clerkships if they apply smart and do the right amount of reaching out?
Sort of. It is certainly helpful to meet former clerks. Unfortunately, you are most likely to have a meaningful connection with them if: (a) they are an alum of your school or (b) you worked with them at their firm over 2L summer. Absent one of those two factors, its hard to develop but so much of a connection -- it can at least show the judge that you're interested.
More important is (a) who your recommenders know and (b) how much your recommenders are willing to do for you. The best way to increase your odds at a given clerkship is to have someone that the judge trusts put their reputation on the line for you. But, this is hard to control: (a) you have to impress that recommender and (b) that recommender has to be someone the judge trusts. Now, outside of that, it certainly helps if you have a recommender who is willing to both make calls for you and sing your praises.
What the poster said before about people who don't necessarily have the grades and school getting clerkships is certainly right. But, the biggest factor there is that those things are random. That's why even if your odds at a clerkship are ~1%, it's still worth applying. That said, if you fall outside the typical numbers and if you venture outside the typical judges your school place with, your odds drop dramatically. This is why people need to make a real assessment of their odds before they start holding out for certain judges.
A side note to the question earlier about on-plan hiring. You need to do whatever you can to have recommenders make connections for you. If a recommender knows a judge and thinks you be a good fit, they should be dropping your name when they speak with that judge. Likewise, once your materials are received by chambers (in the intervening week), your recommenders should be calling those judges and trying to convince them to give you a good look.
That said, you should be aware that some on-plan hiring is a bit misleading: many DC circuit judges will have informal lunches and quasi-interviews over the summer and many 2d Circuit judges are only hiring for a 1 year + out during the plan. I recently heard that ~80% of the Harvard clerks clerking on the 2d Circuit in 10-11 were alumni (i.e., 1+ year out).