Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

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thesealocust
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:07 pm

If you're looking to clerk for the hours, just make sure you know what your judge's / distict's reputation is first. They are not all 9 to 5. At least a few judges are even notorious for making their clerks work big law level hours and beyond.

omg
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby omg » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:07 pm

2. Who is Ted Olsen??

(I only know of a Ted OlsOn.)

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Moxie
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby Moxie » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:25 am

omg wrote:2. Who is Ted Olsen??

(I only know of a Ted OlsOn.)


A quick good search tells me this guy is named Ted Olsen: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/fea ... /tedolsen/

But i'll let you get back to your douchebaggery :roll:

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JetstoRJC
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby JetstoRJC » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:55 pm

As somebody who is leaning towards corporate law, but also very interested in the experience of a clerkship, will a clerkship offer tangible benefits? I have heard from a few people that clerkships aren't worth it for those pursuing corporate law, and guess I am looking for some kind of rationale to justify wanting to do a clerkship anyways.

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thesealocust
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:58 pm

JetstoRJC wrote:As somebody who is leaning towards corporate law, but also very interested in the experience of a clerkship, will a clerkship offer tangible benefits?


No.

That doesn't mean it won't be worth it for the intangibles.

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quakeroats
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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby quakeroats » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:33 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:OP's question is a fair one, and I agree that clerking is not always the right call. But based on my own personal experience, that of many of my friends in biglaw and in clerkships, things I have learned as a SA and from quite a few practitioners, I do think that the experience is worthwhile (and cost-justified) for lots of people.

I base the above on a few considerations. First, clerking is usually a fantastic learning experience in terms of understanding the judicial decisionmaking process, becoming a better writer, understandng what works in an oral argument and what doesn't, and so on. You can learn a lot at law firms too, but I submit that most people learn a lot less in one year at a law firm than they do in a one-year clerkship. In many cases, for instance when a first year associate ends up having to do lots of doc review or similar low-level stuff, the learning gap is huge. I saw a brief exchange above regarding mentoring, and while I agree that you might be able to find an engaged, motivated mentor in biglaw, your odds of doing so are quite low relative to clerkships, where many -- perhaps most -- judges see mentoring as part of their job. It is irrelevant to say that they are not "paid for" mentoring, as they do it anyway, and in my experience enjoy it.

Second, clerkships offer a substantially better qualify of life than biglaw. Most former clerks I know look back on their time as a clerk and say it was the happiest period in their post-law school life. There are several reasons for that, none of which have to do with some kind of subjective investment in making clerkships look desirable. The hours are usually good, particularly in comparison to life at a law firm. Yes, some clerkships have long hours. But for every one of those, there are several dozen or more biglaw jobs that have even worse hours. Comparing a typical clerkship to a typical AmLaw 100 first year associate position, the clerk works far better hours, has a lot less stress, handles far more interesting issues, has more responsibility, and gets guarnteed vacation time -- all without the hassle of being on call 24/7 via a blackberry. Depression and sickness with work is a serious issue among biglaw associates; it is not among law clerks.

The nature of the work is a particularly substantial component of the clerkship advantage. Thanks to innovations like staff law clerk offices, term clerks tend to work on the most interesting issues of the day. They have substantive roles in figuring out how the Affordable Care Act cases are decided; how complex sentencing, regulatory, and constitutional questions are resolved. You might work on similar matters as an associate, but never in the same way, as on anything interesting you will invariably have a number of other associates and partners filtering the work before it gets to you. And, while you might get more direct access to interesting cases when working on pro bono matters, any current associate will tell you that pro bono is only a small fraction of your time. The bread and butter of associate work is doc review, pre-trial discovery, drafting of narrow memoranda, interviews/depo prep, and so on. None of that is terribly exciting, even if the matters happen to involve large companies or high stakes in dollar terms. By comparison, the mainstay of law clerk work is research and writing on cases that go to trial or get appealed.

Third, there is the fact that lots of clerkships do open new doors. I know of several clerks, admittedly at the COA level, who have landed jobs that they could not have gotten without their clerkship. Litigation botiques (which, incidentally, often pay well in excess of the $50k bonus) are one primary example, but other cases involve a clerk trading up from one large firm to another, or from a firm they weren't wild about to DOJ honors. A majority of academic hires clerk first, and aside from the correlation there, clerkships offer a lot more free time to publish, plus access to interesting new ideas for publications via the cases you handle, conversations with your co-clerks, and so on. Even if one does not "trade up," clerks tend to be able to skip some of the worst stuff that comes with being a junior associate (e.g., they may end up doing less doc review), and in some cases may have access to more interesting/substantive work compared to their peers at the firm. I am not claiming that these last two features are universally true, but I have heard of both being the case at DC firms.

There are other reasons to clerk, but those are the big three in my view. Clerkships do not come without a cost, though. As has been described already, 99% of clerkships come with a clear opportunity cost in dollar terms. To me, the hit was worth it.

Whether or not to clerk is an individual decision, and for many people the experience would not be useful or even interesting. Those people should not feel apologetic for not pursuing a clerkship regardless of what other people think. But at the same time, I do think that lots of law students would benefit from a clerkship, personally and professionally.


You make some excellent points, but I think the core of your argument reduces to dissatisfaction with biglaw--as it is or as you imagine it to be. Assuming this (if you disagree with my characterization we can go further into it), it seems like clerking isn't really an answer to your problem any more than taking any job you find more fulfilling than biglaw would be. As an example, perhaps taking a PI or government position first that allows for additional responsibility and better experiences would be more helpful than clerking. I've heard at least one biglaw litigator make the case that getting lots of experience early and outside of biglaw was the best career decision he made. I realize this option isn't a well-worn path. Perhaps if biglaw is one's only way forward and clerkships reduce the otherwise unpalatable stay--and are the easiest way to reduce that stay--they're worth it.

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Re: Is a clerkship worth pursuing?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:20 pm

quakeroats wrote:
You make some excellent points, but I think the core of your argument reduces to dissatisfaction with biglaw--as it is or as you imagine it to be. Assuming this (if you disagree with my characterization we can go further into it), it seems like clerking isn't really an answer to your problem any more than taking any job you find more fulfilling than biglaw would be. As an example, perhaps taking a PI or government position first that allows for additional responsibility and better experiences would be more helpful than clerking. I've heard at least one biglaw litigator make the case that getting lots of experience early and outside of biglaw was the best career decision he made. I realize this option isn't a well-worn path. Perhaps if biglaw is one's only way forward and clerkships reduce the otherwise unpalatable stay--and are the easiest way to reduce that stay--they're worth it.


Good government and public interest jobs are incredibly difficult to secure without a clerkship. Clerking is a virtual prerequisite for many divisions in the DOJ Honors Program, as well as many (if not most) other good honors programs. Clerking is also a virtual prerequisite for many impact litigation fellowships, and it's very helpful for securing most other public interest positions as well. So basically, going straight into a good public interest job is not very likely to be an option unless you clerk first.




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