State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

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abenson25
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 2:18 pm

State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby abenson25 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:36 pm

I am looking for some opinions. I am going to preface this with am an evening student at Duquense University in Pittsburgh. I have two small children at home and stay home with them during the day, so the evening was my only option and moving was not option, so Duquesne was it. I am in my second year right now, and am looking into an externship for the summer. I am in the top 10% of my class, have a Masters degree in Forensic Science and am hoping to clerk this summer. I have someone offering to help with a federal district court clerkship and another person offering help getting an externship with the State Supreme Court. I am not sure which would be the better option. I know the federal court is better, but since the state clerkship would be with the Supreme Court for the state, I am unsure. Just looking for general opinions on the two. Thanks!!

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ggocat
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby ggocat » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:00 pm

(First, as a matter of clarity, it is generally understood that an "internship" or "externship" is undertaken while in school whereas a "clerkship" is post-graduate employment. From the context of the OP, it sounds like you're talking about internships/externships only.)

If either option could lead to full-time employment, that option is clearly "better."

Other than that, I do not think there is a "better" option based on the information provided (federal district vs. state supreme in PA). If you can do both at different times while in law school, that's a good option because you will be able to see the differences between procedure and decision-making at each type of court (trial vs. appellate, federal vs. state).

Some people will say federal is more prestigious. But I do not think a "generic" federal judicial internship is necessarily more prestigious than state supreme court. I doubt it will matter to employers.

Some additional factors you may wish to consider if you must choose between the two options:
1. How much contact you will have with the judge.
2. Whether the judge will write a recommendation letter.
3. How well you "click" with the judge and his or her staff.

There are also generalities for appellate vs. trial work. Appellate internships often involve a lot of research and writing, whereas trial internship may include a lot of observation in court (not always the case, but sometimes). Appellate work generally has you working on fewer issues for a longer period of time; it's a slower pace. Trial work is a faster pace, so you may be exposed to more issues/topics. Trial judges have "discretion" to decide many issues. This is powerful and is interesting to observe in action. Appellate judges must follow "standards of review." Knowing how appellate judges will review issues on appeal may help you phrase issues in a different manner.

anongoodnurse
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby anongoodnurse » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:15 pm

(First, as a matter of clarity, it is generally understood that an "internship" or "externship" is undertaken while in school whereas a "clerkship" is post-graduate employment. From the context of the OP, it sounds like you're talking about internships/externships only.)

If either option could lead to full-time employment, that option is clearly "better."

Other than that, I do not think there is a "better" option based on the information provided (federal district vs. state supreme in PA). If you can do both at different times while in law school, that's a good option because you will be able to see the differences between procedure and decision-making at each type of court (trial vs. appellate, federal vs. state).

Some people will say federal is more prestigious. But I do not think a "generic" federal judicial internship is necessarily more prestigious than state supreme court. I doubt it will matter to employers.

Some additional factors you may wish to consider if you must choose between the two options:
1. How much contact you will have with the judge.
2. Whether the judge will write a recommendation letter.
3. How well you "click" with the judge and his or her staff.

There are also generalities for appellate vs. trial work. Appellate internships often involve a lot of research and writing, whereas trial internship may include a lot of observation in court (not always the case, but sometimes). Appellate work generally has you working on fewer issues for a longer period of time; it's a slower pace. Trial work is a faster pace, so you may be exposed to more issues/topics. Trial judges have "discretion" to decide many issues. This is powerful and is interesting to observe in action. Appellate judges must follow "standards of review." Knowing how appellate judges will review issues on appeal may help you phrase issues in a different manner.


This. The main benefit of the externship lies in the possibility of post-grad employment, either as a clerk or a practicing attorney. Which externship opportunity is better along those lines will depend entirely on the particular circumstances of each judge (calls, rec letters, policy re: hiring externs, etc.).

Though I will say that if you are talking a post-grad clerkship, it's hard to say whether a USDC or a SSC clerkship is better. Setting aside a few uber-prestigious state supreme courts (NY COA, Delaware chancery), I gnerally think that the hierarchy goes:

Competitive DC (SDNY, CD Cal, ND Cal, DDC, maybe D Mass, maybe ND Ill)
Another DC in the market in question -- this probably includes "periphery" DC, like D Conn or EDNY or DNJ or ED Va
The SSC in the market in question
Flyover DC
SSC not in the market in question

abenson25
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby abenson25 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:26 pm

ggocat wrote:(First, as a matter of clarity, it is generally understood that an "internship" or "externship" is undertaken while in school whereas a "clerkship" is post-graduate employment. From the context of the OP, it sounds like you're talking about internships/externships only.)

If either option could lead to full-time employment, that option is clearly "better."

Other than that, I do not think there is a "better" option based on the information provided (federal district vs. state supreme in PA). If you can do both at different times while in law school, that's a good option because you will be able to see the differences between procedure and decision-making at each type of court (trial vs. appellate, federal vs. state).

Some people will say federal is more prestigious. But I do not think a "generic" federal judicial internship is necessarily more prestigious than state supreme court. I doubt it will matter to employers.

Some additional factors you may wish to consider if you must choose between the two options:
1. How much contact you will have with the judge.
2. Whether the judge will write a recommendation letter.
3. How well you "click" with the judge and his or her staff.

There are also generalities for appellate vs. trial work. Appellate internships often involve a lot of research and writing, whereas trial internship may include a lot of observation in court (not always the case, but sometimes). Appellate work generally has you working on fewer issues for a longer period of time; it's a slower pace. Trial work is a faster pace, so you may be exposed to more issues/topics. Trial judges have "discretion" to decide many issues. This is powerful and is interesting to observe in action. Appellate judges must follow "standards of review." Knowing how appellate judges will review issues on appeal may help you phrase issues in a different manner.


Thanks! And thanks for the language clarification! I meant to write externship each time, but my brain must have been processing clerk since I was also reading on another website about clerkships after graduation...oops!

CanadianWolf
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:34 pm

Since you are a stay at home parent with two small children, location must be an important consideration. Where are each of these opportunities located ?

abenson25
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 2:18 pm

Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby abenson25 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:40 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Since you are a stay at home parent with two small children, location must be an important consideration. Where are each of these opportunities located ?


Both are in downtown Pittsburgh, which is ideal for me!

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YourCaptain
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby YourCaptain » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:50 pm

a better consideration is what kind of experience you want. getting more substantive work will make the summer better. i know some people who had d.ct judges that just made them research all day, others got to sit during trial. weigh what youll get

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Unitas
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby Unitas » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:28 pm

YourCaptain wrote:a better consideration is what kind of experience you want. getting more substantive work will make the summer better. i know some people who had d.ct judges that just made them research all day, others got to sit during trial. weigh what youll get


Note sure if you meant it this way or not but you do realize the former is almost always better than the latter right? Especially if the former involved research and writing which it likely would.

Sitting in court was a waste of time for me in a District Court. The only benefit it had was afterwards talking about it with the judge.

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YourCaptain
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby YourCaptain » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:44 pm

Unitas wrote:
YourCaptain wrote:a better consideration is what kind of experience you want. getting more substantive work will make the summer better. i know some people who had d.ct judges that just made them research all day, others got to sit during trial. weigh what youll get


Note sure if you meant it this way or not but you do realize the former is almost always better than the latter right? Especially if the former involved research and writing which it likely would.

Sitting in court was a waste of time for me in a District Court. The only benefit it had was afterwards talking about it with the judge.


sitting during trial, getting face time with the judge during discussion in chambers afterward, and helping draft opinions is much better than researching things and forwarding memos about your efforts. my facetime with my judge was very helpful later for 2l employment

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YourCaptain
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Re: State Supreme Court vs. Federal District Court Clerkship

Postby YourCaptain » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:08 am

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
YourCaptain wrote:sitting during trial, getting face time with the judge during discussion in chambers afterward, and helping draft opinions is much better than researching things and forwarding memos about your efforts. my facetime with my judge was very helpful later for 2l employment

This does not strike me as quite right. Many aspects of an internship/externship can be valuable in the 2L job search -- particularly those that help you (1) improve your research & writing skills and (2) identify an area of law you are interested in & effectively communicate why that area is one you want to focus on going forward.

"Face time" with the judge, while nice, is not necessary for either. Sure, sometimes discussions with the judge will aid in one of these objectives -- or another of like kind. But your post makes it seem like that time has some special quality about it that has a big, independent impact on 2L job stuff. Not so. Many discussions between judges and clerks/interns have no legal substance. And nobody is going to hire you just because you spent X hours, rather than X/2 hours, talking to the judge you interned for.


youre right; i wasnt trying to say that it was determinative for 2l employment (though it helped; my judge referenced specific discussions in calls w/ firms that called for reference) but it's just more enjoyable overall, at least it was for me instead of researching some specific fed practice provision or standard of review.




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