Clerkships: state vs. federal?

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Anonymous User
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Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:48 pm

I have a 2L SA job nailed down that I'm happy with, but I do want to find out a bit more about clerking.

First off, do top firms (V30) care about clerks for state judges, or are they only looking for federal clerks? Do firms generally defer start dates, give bonuses, and credit the associate year for state clerks?

Second, generally what are the requirements for being competitive for state clerkships, in Los Angeles or San Francisco, for example? From what I understand, getting a district clerkships from a T10 is still going to require top 10% or better grades and preference for LR, if not a secondary journal at a minimum (and publications).

Are the career benefits similar, but to a lesser degree, for state versus federal clerkships?

lolwat
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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby lolwat » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:02 pm

I can't answer all of them, but from what I understand:

1. State highest-Court clerkships are often looked upon about as favorably as a federal clerkship. From looking at judicial clerkship sections of big law firms, the bonuses usually go to "state supreme court or federal clerkships" but nothing less than that.
2. The competitiveness for these clerkships are likely approximately the same as fed d.ct. ones. So, NY Court of Appeals would likely be just as difficult as many d.ct. clerkships (though probably not as competitive as SDNY, but purely speculating).
3. California Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges do not hire term clerks. The one justice that did left the bench. They occasionally have some staff-attorney-like term positions but I think budget/hiring freeze killed that.
Last edited by lolwat on Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:04 pm

To the extent V30 firms are recruiting law clerks, they are generally looking for federal appellate clerks. That said, several of the V30 firms will defer start dates, give a clerkship bonus, and credit a year towards partnership for a clerkship at the highest court of a state.

The competition for state court clerkships varies greatly from state to state. Some state supreme courts are as selective in the clerkship recruiting process as federal appellate judges. In those courts, it is nearly impossible to get a clerkship without being in the top 5 to ten percent of your class and having a position (preferably an executive position) of the law review board. In other states, there is much less competition; however, in many of those states the state supreme court typically hires most clerks from local law schools.

One thing to be aware of if you're considering applying to state and federal courts is that many state courts begin hiring before "on plan" federal judges are allowed to start reviewing applications. Obviously, starting early allows these courts to hire highly competitive candidates without having to worry about them being snatched up by a federal judge. Because of this, you may want to decide whether you want to apply state or federal before the application cycle begins.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

anongoodnurse
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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby anongoodnurse » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:08 pm

If you're talking state supreme courts, there is too much variance to generalize hiring standards. Some are probably much less competitive than the average federal district court; some are probably only a notch below; and some are probably on par with the most competitive federal district courts -- the NY COA and the Delaware Chancery come to mind. In general, I suspect that top quarter from a lower top 10 school would be competitive.

As for firm credit, this is out of my league, but I've heard that some firms only give you credit if it's the state in which you're practicing, some don't even do that, and some don't distinguish between clerkships. Obviously, ask your firm.

As far as LA or SF specifically, the California courts mostly use staff attorneys, so you're probably SOL there unless you know someone.

As far as compensation, this will vary widely from state to state, but as a general rule, salaries are going to range from lower to much lower than a federal clerkship. Benefits will range from roughly the same as federal employment to really, really crappy.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:10 pm

Other than experience, what would be the benefit for me to go to a "bottom rung" district clerkship over just starting to litigate at the firm?

This seems like another race for the competitive students and I'm failing to identify the great benefit that accrues for one that already has a SA and wants to be a practitioner.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:14 pm

Also, if one is looking at district courts on the lower end of the prestige/competition scale, what are the general requirements?

Transfer into a T10, top firm SA for this next summer, secondary journal. What do I need to be competitive for *a* district court clerkship? Are we still talking 10% and publications? Are publications a big deal?

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby traydeuce » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:24 pm

You don't need a single publication, even to be a COA clerk. It would help a bit if you're the eic of your secondary or an articles editor - something that shows you're a good bluebooker. You don't NEED to be top 10%, but you really, really want to be. And as always, the deciding factor in your clerkship search will likely be something people spend way too little time thinking about - whether your recommenders are willing to call judges for you, whether you make smart choices in telling them who to call, and whether your recommenders have judicial friends.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:39 pm

Does location of the district clerkship matter that much? If I want to practice in a certain area of the country, obviously working for a judge in that area is ideal. But if I can only find something in the middle of nowhere and it is a district court, nowhere near where I'll work, is it still preferable over not taking the clerkship?

And again, in my (OP) situation, what really is the benefit to taking a non-prestigious clerkship, out of the area I want to work over just starting with the firm assuming I get the permanent offer at the end of the summer?

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby anongoodnurse » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:43 pm

Also, if one is looking at district courts on the lower end of the prestige/competition scale, what are the general requirements?


"Top 10 school" is so broad that it's meaningless. In order of ease, I'd probably classify the schools as follows:

Yale: You can land a flyover DC clerkship as long as your grades aren't downright crappy.
Harvard and Stanford: Probably need to be in the top 40% or so -- top third will have no problem, median students might.
Columbia, Chicago, NYU: Top 20%. Maybe at the tail end of the top quarter can sneak in with good recs and journal credentials.
Michigan, Virginia, Penn, Boalt: Probably top 15%, if not a touch higher. You don't need to be top 10%, but you need to look like you are right on the cusp of it.

Other than experience, what would be the benefit for me to go to a "bottom rung" district clerkship over just starting to litigate at the firm?


There are some jobs where an Article III clerkship is a prerequisite. Some USAO have this as a de facto hiring requirement, it can be difficult at some lit (and especially appellate lit) departments at big firms to make partner without a clerkship (I actually knew a 6th year associate who was told to go clerk for a year to fix this "problem"; he did and came back in as a partner), and of course it is very, very difficult to get an academic job without a clerkship (really a COA clerkship, but you usually do see a smattering of DC clerks on a law school faculty website).

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:06 pm

anongoodnurse wrote:
Also, if one is looking at district courts on the lower end of the prestige/competition scale, what are the general requirements?


"Top 10 school" is so broad that it's meaningless. In order of ease, I'd probably classify the schools as follows:

Yale: You can land a flyover DC clerkship as long as your grades aren't downright crappy.
Harvard and Stanford: Probably need to be in the top 40% or so -- top third will have no problem, median students might.
Columbia, Chicago, NYU: Top 20%. Maybe at the tail end of the top quarter can sneak in with good recs and journal credentials.
Michigan, Virginia, Penn, Boalt: Probably top 15%, if not a touch higher. You don't need to be top 10%, but you need to look like you are right on the cusp of it.


When thinking of district courts, remember that location matters much more than at the appellate level. Judge Thomas (9th Cir.) may be in Billings, but the cases he hears are from all over the 9th circuit, but if you're at a D.Ct. in Montana, you'll be hearing much less interesting cases. In contrast, the Western District of Texas includes Austin, where the cases will be interesting, but also includes Waco, where the case load will be much different.

The point is that even though many people tend to categorize into flyover and non-flyover districts, remember that the location within the district matters both as to competitiveness and experience. D.Cts in St. Louis, Inianapolis, etc. may be fly-over, but they'll still have an interesting case load.

Lastly, it's still harder to get these positions than that stated above. Especially with district courts, having some tie is more important than grads. If you have ties to the area, the stats listed above may get you a clerkship, but if you are simply resume bombing, those stats won't get your application noticed.

traydeuce
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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby traydeuce » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:11 pm

^^ Some fun Indian law in places like Montana. And places with fewer urban areas can have way less dull criminal crap eating up the caseload.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:29 pm

I don't want to start a whole new thread so I hope it's okay if I ask this here and other people find it helpful:

Obviously there's going to be a range, but does anyone know or can point me in the direction of a resource for salaries of state court and Article III clerkships? And I'm assuming those jobs can also qualify for IBR and PSLF? Thanks.

/threadjack off

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:15 pm

Quite a few grads (~10) at my T2, most on LR, are clerking at the state COA. Another one or two I think are doing state Sup Ct. Only one is doing a D. Ct...

Anonymous User wrote:Other than experience, what would be the benefit for me to go to a "bottom rung" district clerkship over just starting to litigate at the firm?

This seems like another race for the competitive students and I'm failing to identify the great benefit that accrues for one that already has a SA and wants to be a practitioner.

According to a D.Ct clerk from my school: Your opinion will be valued significantly more at the firm --> more substantive assignments --> less doc review type work, for example.

I am not competitive for a clerkship, but if I were, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Beyond the credential, it would allow me to start at my firm with far greater confidence in my abilities than I would have otherwise. I can only imagine what a year or two spent doing legal research and writing opinions does for your writing and legal analysis skills, especially compared to your peers who came straight out of law school. I tend to think that law school, with its 3hrs exams, does not prepare one very well for the sort of lengthy, thorough and sophisticated legal analysis that I imagine is required at biglaw litigation for example. With the experience of clerkship under my belt, any anxiety I carry about taking too long to write a memo, or producing subpar work product would be essentially gone. But that's just me.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 5:28 pm

OP again:

What is the difference in applying for clerkships after a few years of practice versus as a 3L? Is it going to be more relationship based, whereas I'll be coming from a solid V30 litigation group, with a T10 JD, and can use the relationships of the firm to get a clerkship?

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 5:34 pm

What is the difference in applying for clerkships after a few years of practice versus as a 3L? Is it going to be more relationship based, whereas I'll be coming from a solid V30 litigation group, with a T10 JD, and can use the relationships of the firm to get a clerkship?


My experience is that the main difference is that you are applying to a different subset of judges (i.e., the ones that want/require a few years of post-law-school experience vs. the ones that hire students). You are also competing against a much smaller pool of applicants, and the hiring process is really a year-round sort of deal.

It is unlikely that you could use a firm relationship to get a clerkship -- in fact, I'd be very reluctant to let your firm know you're looking until you've accepted an offer.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby traydeuce » Wed Sep 28, 2011 5:42 pm

Clerkships, in reply to a comment a few comments up, can make you far more confident in your writing skills, or they can just make you feel more insecure about them. At all my COA internships I was always really unnerved by how talented the clerks were. Something like 20 bench memos and 3 opinions in through two summers, I feel a little better about my writing than before my first internship, but not much, and I don't expect my upcoming clerkship to magically make me better (though perhaps my judge will work with me - he's hyper-involved). My research... I don't know if I ever got that good at that either. I got maniacally thorough, but as far as going out and finding stuff on a point, I still struggle. I tend to just comb through hundreds of citing references of a case or a statute, looking for useful language.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:51 pm

traydeuce wrote:Clerkships, in reply to a comment a few comments up, can make you far more confident in your writing skills, or they can just make you feel more insecure about them. At all my COA internships I was always really unnerved by how talented the clerks were. Something like 20 bench memos and 3 opinions in through two summers, I feel a little better about my writing than before my first internship, but not much, and I don't expect my upcoming clerkship to magically make me better (though perhaps my judge will work with me - he's hyper-involved). My research... I don't know if I ever got that good at that either. I got maniacally thorough, but as far as going out and finding stuff on a point, I still struggle. I tend to just comb through hundreds of citing references of a case or a statute, looking for useful language.

You got vastly better than you know. And I would rather experience this learning curve in an environment where my tenure is a fixed term than at a firm where my tenure depends on these skills. I'd rather show my most inexperienced work to other clerks and the judge than to a partner who will have input in my annual reviews.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:58 pm

Any information on state trial court clerkships? Specifically in CA. I'm medianish at my T10 with no big law prospects... hoping this is a realistic alternative, but not optimistic.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Any information on state trial court clerkships? Specifically in CA. I'm medianish at my T10 with no big law prospects... hoping this is a realistic alternative, but not optimistic.


No CA courts have clerkships anymore, really. Only a few trial courts did, but with the budget, they're all gone. I know this all too well: I had an offer to come back a CA court where I externed as a clerk but the position is now gone.

Actually, I just learned the other day the CA Supreme Court takes some post-grad clerks for their central staff, but it's rare and extremely competitive.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Miller32 » Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:13 pm

Does anyone know anything about Indiana state or federal clerkships? Competitiveness? Whether judges are on or off-plan?

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby YourCaptain » Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:When thinking of district courts, remember that location matters much more than at the appellate level. Judge Thomas (9th Cir.) may be in Billings, but the cases he hears are from all over the 9th circuit, but if you're at a D.Ct. in Montana, you'll be hearing much less interesting cases. In contrast, the Western District of Texas includes Austin, where the cases will be interesting, but also includes Waco, where the case load will be much different.


That's pretty subjective.

If you're talking about some complex securities law, then yes, you're not going to see any of that. You're probably going to see a lot of interesting criminal work - especially drug conspiracies.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby ggocat » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:24 am

Anonymous User wrote:Obviously there's going to be a range, but does anyone know or can point me in the direction of a resource for salaries of state court and Article III clerkships? And I'm assuming those jobs can also qualify for IBR and PSLF? Thanks.

State
http://www.law.virginia.edu/pdf/judclerkguide2010.pdf
--LinkRemoved--

Neither contains perfect information (some outdated, some just wrong).

Federal
--LinkRemoved--

Yes, all jobs qualify for IBR; you can google to find out about loan forgiveness.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:21 am

YourCaptain wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:When thinking of district courts, remember that location matters much more than at the appellate level. Judge Thomas (9th Cir.) may be in Billings, but the cases he hears are from all over the 9th circuit, but if you're at a D.Ct. in Montana, you'll be hearing much less interesting cases. In contrast, the Western District of Texas includes Austin, where the cases will be interesting, but also includes Waco, where the case load will be much different.


That's pretty subjective.

If you're talking about some complex securities law, then yes, you're not going to see any of that. You're probably going to see a lot of interesting criminal work - especially drug conspiracies.


Every non-white-collar criminal case is exactly the same.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:14 am

Does anyone know anything about Indiana state or federal clerkships? Competitiveness? Whether judges are on or off-plan?


I know of one. PM me.

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Re: Clerkships: state vs. federal?

Postby Miller32 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 4:39 pm

PMed you. Thanks.




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