What's the big deal with clerking?

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vincanity1
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What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby vincanity1 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:51 pm

I've noticed that clerking receives a lot of attention both in these forums and in my limited personal experience around the law. I was wondering what about it makes it so attractive to upper echelon students and the like. Do firms fork over your normal salary if you decide to clerk for a year? Also, if they so, wouldn't that adversely affect your standing in terms of billable hours and partnership track?

My apologies for the noobness. I've just never understood why assisting a judge (with the exception of CoA and the SCOTUS) would be so enticing for biglaw types.

Thanks in advance

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Wholigan
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby Wholigan » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:00 pm

Firms like it when you clerk, for the same reason firms like it when you are from a top law school, have latin honors, are on law review, etc, etc. - They use it to market you to their clients. You will always have on your CV that you clerked. That said, most biglaw firms won't defer you for anything less than a District Court clerkship, although some have deferred hires the last couple of years for state clerkships, but this might be a product of ITE and just wanting to defer people.

Secondly, it creates an opportunity to "trade up". If you significantly improved your grades over 2L/3L, and graduated with higher honors than it seemed you were on track for after 1L, you might be able to trade up from a V50 firm to a V10 firm, for example, by applying during the course of your clerkship.

Lastly, clerking is almost a must-have if you ever want academia.

Firms don't pay your salary, but they often will pay a clerkship stipend, and will pay you as a second year associate when you start after the clerkship.

bhan87
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby bhan87 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:02 pm

The advantages of clerking are twofold:

1. Training: Clerking provides a unique opportunity for freshly minted JD's to receive extensive training that they would not otherwise get at a big law firm. This is because, unlike partners at law firms, a judge is highly invested in the quality of your work because the writing you do as a clerk often plays an integral part in the judge's opinion (including literally writing very large portions of it).

2. Exit options: Ex-clerks (particularly federal ones) are some of the most highly sought after attorneys in the market. In many cases, law firms will place clerks into a pay grade equivalent to the number of years they spent clerking (1 year clerking -> enter as a 2nd year associate, 2 year clerking -> 3rd year associate) and there are some prestigious boutique firms that ONLY hire ex-clerks. On top of the greater entering salary, clerks are often given very large hiring bonuses, sometimes equalling the pay of a first year associate. A clerking history would also help your chances at making partner. In some cases, certain legal professions essentially require that you clerk (for instance, you'll be hard pressed to find many professors at T14 schools that don't have clerking experience).

There are very few things you can do after law school that will match the boost you get from clerking.

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RMstratosphere
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby RMstratosphere » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:12 pm

bhan87 wrote:The advantages of clerking are twofold:

1. Training: Clerking provides a unique opportunity for freshly minted JD's to receive extensive training that they would not otherwise get at a big law firm. This is because, unlike partners at law firms, a judge is highly invested in the quality of your work because the writing you do as a clerk often plays an integral part in the judge's opinion (including literally writing very large portions of it).

2. Exit options: Ex-clerks (particularly federal ones) are some of the most highly sought after attorneys in the market. In many cases, law firms will place clerks into a pay grade equivalent to the number of years they spent clerking (1 year clerking -> enter as a 2nd year associate, 2 year clerking -> 3rd year associate) and there are some prestigious boutique firms that ONLY hire ex-clerks. On top of the greater entering salary, clerks are often given very large hiring bonuses, sometimes equalling the pay of a first year associate. A clerking history would also help your chances at making partner. In some cases, certain legal professions essentially require that you clerk (for instance, you'll be hard pressed to find many professors at T14 schools that don't have clerking experience).

There are very few things you can do after law school that will match the boost you get from clerking.


This is a well thought-out answer, but I wanted to add one point to the first item. Firms value the training that clerks receive for at least two reasons: (1) as bhan87 rightly notes, judge's are invested in training clerks and so are quite good at it; and (2) firms expect to operate at a loss on first-year associates given that they're largely inefficient/unproductive and so if someone else (i.e., the judge) will eat that operating expense then the firm stands to do better financially by hiring post-clerks than 2/3Ls.

applejacks
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby applejacks » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:30 pm

Interesting--so if you strike out and can't get biglaw during law school, doing a clerkship is your ticket to biglaw later on?

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vincanity1
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby vincanity1 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:31 pm

First of all, thanks for the in depth responses so far.

Q1: how much does a clerk make? Eg fed district, CoA, and/or scotus?
Q2: I know of a business lawyer from one of the local powerhouse firms here in Miami who decided to spend a year clerking after several years of firm work. Is this also normal and, if so, is it done for the same reasons you guys listed?

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vanwinkle
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:21 pm

applejacks wrote:Interesting--so if you strike out and can't get biglaw during law school, doing a clerkship is your ticket to biglaw later on?

The kind of clerkship that gets you BigLaw is typically competitive enough these days that you'd have to already be competitive enough for BigLaw to get it.

I think it does help with moving up in BigLaw, from what I can tell, though; you might summer at one firm, get a clerkship, and then get a job at a more prestigious firm as a result.

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BruceWayne
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby BruceWayne » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:42 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
applejacks wrote:Interesting--so if you strike out and can't get biglaw during law school, doing a clerkship is your ticket to biglaw later on?

The kind of clerkship that gets you BigLaw is typically competitive enough these days that you'd have to already be competitive enough for BigLaw to get it.

I think it does help with moving up in BigLaw, from what I can tell, though; you might summer at one firm, get a clerkship, and then get a job at a more prestigious firm as a result.


Yeah, but I think what he's asking is if he improves his grades enough to get a fed clerkship after missing biglaw, if the clerkship could get him biglaw. The answer to that is a big yes.

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dood
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby dood » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:54 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote: For me, clerking is the opposite of that, inasmuch as it is something I want to do and enjoy, even though it makes it harder to do something I need to do (pay loans).


me too. this is why i like u.

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thesealocust
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby thesealocust » Mon Jul 25, 2011 8:00 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:To begin with, almost everybody does better 2L year.


At BruceWayne's school, there is a strict and identical curve applied to all graded classes all three years with almost no exceptions. I believe that makes his hypothetical seem more plausible, though I tend to agree with you it's probably a rare case even then.

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vamedic03
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby vamedic03 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:20 pm

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Last edited by vamedic03 on Sat Mar 24, 2012 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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RMstratosphere
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby RMstratosphere » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:51 am

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
RMstratosphere wrote:firms expect to operate at a loss on first-year associates given that they're largely inefficient/unproductive

I have seen this debated a number of times, and have never been fully satisfied that the statement above is correct. Even with massive write-downs, full-costing of overhead, SA expenses, etc., I have to imagine a lot of first years are profitable -- at least if there is enough work for them to bill ~2000 hours or so (not that I am assuming all, or even most, of those 2000 hours would actually be billed to the client or realized via a client payment).

/derail


I appreciate your hesitation with regards to my statement, especially, as you say, if first-years are billing ~2000 hours. My understanding is based on conversations with attorneys about this very subject: "why do firms like clerks?" While that is certainly not rock-solid evidence, I can imagine that with write-downs, overhead, development, etc. even if the firm doesn't take a loss on first-years, they're certainly not making as much profit as they are on other associates. Whether it's negative or a lower positive, I'm not sure.

At any rate, I think it's true that part of the reason firms like to hire clerks is that someone else has invested a year of high-cost, low-reward training into them already.

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Cupidity
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby Cupidity » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:11 am

The reason firms love it, is that you aren't "assisting the judge," you essentially are the judge. Every order or opinion from any court is written by a clerk, the work clerks do is far more challenging and substantive than what first years do, and at a lot of firms, you see more clerks make partner in the long run. Clerkships provide better training than most firms are capable of, and they do it at no cost to the firm.

Anonymous User
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:07 am

What is the value of a clerkship to someone who doesn't want to litigate?

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fanmingrui
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby fanmingrui » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:What is the value of a clerkship to someone who doesn't want to litigate?

Also interested in the responses to this.

luthersloan
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby luthersloan » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:31 am

fanmingrui wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What is the value of a clerkship to someone who doesn't want to litigate?

Also interested in the responses to this.


Conventional wisdom is that it is not very valuable to transactional types, with the possible exception of Delaware chancery.

Citizen Genet
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby Citizen Genet » Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:26 pm

Cupidity wrote:The reason firms love it, is that you aren't "assisting the judge," you essentially are the judge. Every order or opinion from any court is written by a clerk


Sorry for being nit-picky, but I wanted to note that the amount of authoring that a clerk does varies judge to judge and that there are only some who let their clerks write full opinions. Certainly orders are handled primarily by clerks, but anything that is likely for appeal is usually drafted and edited by a judge. She will rely heavily on her clerks for research support and editorial feedback, no question. But opinion writing is often the judges purview.

stormy
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby stormy » Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:42 pm

can you trade up with clerkships? That is, get a crappy low level state clerkship and then transfer up to a federal court of appeals clerkship?

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mths
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Re: What's the big deal with clerking?

Postby mths » Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:44 pm

preftige and a FAT bonus when you go to a firm




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