To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

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Anonymous User
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Re: To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Clerking for one year ends up costing you about $50k, after taxes and bonuses are considered. (Assuming a clerkship in your eventual market. If you clerk in flyover land, your salary will be lower than it would be in a major market, but the salary difference doesn't account for the COL difference. However, I'm also not factoring in greater interest accumulating on your loans.)

If that's worth checking boxes and getting experience to you, then go for it. As a current clerk, I don't believe my one year here will make up for the skill development I've missed from skipping a year at my firm. People rigorously debate the experience angle, and perhaps the fact that I'm not going into a general litigation practice plays a role, but it's no sure thing that you learn more in a clerkship year than you learn in a year at the firm. It's true that the skills you acquire as a first-year are fairly mundane - but they are skills you need to learn, and you don't get all of it during your year on the other side of the bench.


If it weren't for the fierce competition for clerking and the perception that the successful people in the legal field have that on their resume, I just wouldn't even care. If I'm not going to be at a competitive court or the court in my practice region, then it seems like it may not even matter that much.

Assuming I'm right that clerking at a random circuit won't do much, especially considering where I'll be working post-graduation is a litigation shop, the only benefit of clerking seems to be as a way to avoid unemployment if I get no-offered.

Aside from that, being that I just want to work at a firm and be a good litigator, it seems like this rat race amounts to a credential pissing match.

Or am I mistaken? And if so, why in the hell is the clerking game so competitive?

azntwice
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Re: To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

Postby azntwice » Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:34 pm

if your goals are just to get a job and be an attorney, clerking may not matter that much esp if you want to do transactional law. however, it's a plus for firms in their advertising campaigns, it's a plus for you if you can advise on a certain judge or court, and you'll gain a big network of people who can recommend you for jobs or let you know about a special opportunity. clerking is more of a big deal for people who want to go into academia, as at some law schools it's practically a requirement that you have clerked for SCOTUS to be eligible to apply for a faculty position.

Anonymous User
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Re: To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:55 pm

Clerking is a near-prequisite for the following:

1.) Academia (though you can probably substitute a PhD)
2.) Most really high profile federal jobs (OLC, SG, and that may be it)
3.) Many -- though by no means all -- USAO
4.) Most DC appellate groups (though you could probably work your way into these after several years of doing gen lit at the same firm)
5.) Some very high end firms (Susman, Barlit, Keker, Munger)
6.) Making partner in few biglaw gen lit or securities lit groups -- these are few and far between, but they do exist

Anonymous User
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Re: To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:47 am

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Clerking is a near-prequisite for the following:

1.) Academia (though you can probably substitute a PhD)
2.) Most really high profile federal jobs (OLC, SG, and that may be it)
3.) Many -- though by no means all -- USAO
4.) Most DC appellate groups (though you could probably work your way into these after several years of doing gen lit at the same firm)
5.) Some very high end firms (Susman, Barlit, Keker, Munger)
6.) Making partner in few biglaw gen lit or securities lit groups -- these are few and far between, but they do exist

You left out other benefits. Most former clerks I have spoken to say their clerkship was the best year in their professional life. If you enjoy working on difficult, interesting legal problems, clerking can be a lot of fun. And you tend to work with interesting people who will go on to do all kinds of interesting things. The hours are usually great, too. Put differently, it does not make sense to assess clerking merely from a "what will it get me job-wise" perspective.


What circuit are you on where 60% of your cases aren't completely frivolous criminal/immigration crap, and 25% of your cases aren't completely frivolous commercial crap? I'd say perhaps 15% of the cases I've seen were cases that required me to spend more than an hour of time before I could draft an opinion.

Edit: Also, with respect to what first-years do: At least at the firm I'm heading to, the legal questions that people have been grappling with in their first-year memos have been a lot more interesting - and unsettled - than the vast majority of things I've seen. More in-depth research, more at stake, etc. etc. etc. And I'm on one of the top circuits.

traydeuce
Posts: 680
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Re: To clerk or not: most competitive out of reach

Postby traydeuce » Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:32 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Clerking is a near-prequisite for the following:

1.) Academia (though you can probably substitute a PhD)
2.) Most really high profile federal jobs (OLC, SG, and that may be it)
3.) Many -- though by no means all -- USAO
4.) Most DC appellate groups (though you could probably work your way into these after several years of doing gen lit at the same firm)
5.) Some very high end firms (Susman, Barlit, Keker, Munger)
6.) Making partner in few biglaw gen lit or securities lit groups -- these are few and far between, but they do exist

You left out other benefits. Most former clerks I have spoken to say their clerkship was the best year in their professional life. If you enjoy working on difficult, interesting legal problems, clerking can be a lot of fun. And you tend to work with interesting people who will go on to do all kinds of interesting things. The hours are usually great, too. Put differently, it does not make sense to assess clerking merely from a "what will it get me job-wise" perspective.


What circuit are you on where 60% of your cases aren't completely frivolous criminal/immigration crap, and 25% of your cases aren't completely frivolous commercial crap? I'd say perhaps 15% of the cases I've seen were cases that required me to spend more than an hour of time before I could draft an opinion.

Edit: Also, with respect to what first-years do: At least at the firm I'm heading to, the legal questions that people have been grappling with in their first-year memos have been a lot more interesting - and unsettled - than the vast majority of things I've seen. More in-depth research, more at stake, etc. etc. etc. And I'm on one of the top circuits.

I cannot speak to your experience, but everything -- literally everything -- you say above is contrary to what I have seen and heard.

First, there are some pretty frivolous appeals in every circuit. But where I clerked, most of those went to the staff attorneys. The few that made it through to merits panels were a very small share of the overall pool. True, COA clerks do not have a steady diet of vexing, front-page cases. But most of the cases I worked on posed at least one genuine, worthwhile question. The handful that did not still took a lot more than an hour to prepare for.


Having spent my law school career interning in COA chambers and now clerking on yet another circuit, my sense is that these are both real experiences that one can have. A great deal depends on (a) the size and duties of your circuit's staff attorney office, (b) what your circuit's caseload happens to look like, (c) merits panel screening, (d) the commitment of your individual judge to quality control. In one circuit where I worked, anything that wasn't a motion got to a merits panel, and anything that got to a merits panel got a bench memo from a clerk or intern, with the result that clerks were basically churning out form bench memos rejecting defendants' appeals from sentencing on substantive reasonableness grounds. And of course, if you combine a less robust staff attorney office with a docket that tends towards crim, immigration, and crimmigration, you end up doing a ton of very routinized work because a lot of these cases raise identical issues. Or, if you have a robust staff attorneys' office that writes unpublished merits decisions but your judge insists that clerks heavily scrutinize the work of the staff attorneys' office or write their own opinions, you get the same result; some judges even insist that clerks play a pretty heavy role in denial/grants of COA's. Somewhere in the middle you have circuits, e.g. the 6th, where clerks are spending the majority of their time writing unpublished opinions, but the really easy cases are sent to staff attorneys. And at the other extreme you have circuits like the D.C. Circuit, the Eighth, and I believe the Tenth, where clerks spend virtually all their time writing opinions that are important enough to get published in the Federal Reporter.




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