Clerkship Recommendations

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Anonymous User
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Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:09 pm

I'm curious about people's approach to getting clerkship recommendations. Do those of you planning on applying to clerkships just plan on taking small classes, visiting office hours often, potentially doing research with professors you'd like a rec from? Or is getting a top grade in a larger class a sufficient basis from which to request a recommendation? Finally, do recommendations from non-faculty professors (visiting practitioners etc.) weigh differently from faculty members?

I'm a 2L with a resume competitive for Art III clerkships but fear my recommendations will be my weak point.

Appreciate any feedback.

johndhi
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby johndhi » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:15 pm

Pretty sure the "sufficient basis from which to request a recommendation" is created by having balls and walking up and asking for it. Taking small/repeat classes, speaking up in class and RAing would certainly improve the quality of a letter, but in my experience all of my professors have been willing to write for me, including one in which I got an A-. From what I've heard, even more important than the substance of the letter is getting people to call judges for you to get your application looked at in the first place; the things you mentioned would probably help with that.

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:23 pm

Obviously, profs that gave you an A (or maybe an A- if it was a 1l class). Ask profs that you have a relationship with and are well-liked by. Try to get one from a prof who taught a small class that was heavy on legal research/writing so that they can write about why you would make a good clerk. Outside of that, I think its good to get one from a prof who taught you civ pro, fed courts, and/or other relevant classes. Id try and avoid visiting practitioners, unless of course they're a former distinguished judge.

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:11 pm

Sorry to say but as a 2L you might be a bit late to the party for recommenders. You should be talking with your 1L professors, both about questions related to class material, but also asking them for help/advice with career strategy, clerkships, etc. You should take multiple classes with the same professors. You should aim for small classes, seminars, etc. You should RA/TA for your professors if possible.

In my experience just dropping by professors' offices and chatting with them is the best way to establish a relationship. "Hey, I saw you clerked for Judge so-and-so. I'm really interested in clerking, I was wondering if you could tell me a little about that." Etc. You would be surprised how many professors were over-eager to talk to me about their clerkships, their jobs before they became professors, some forthcoming article of theirs, etc.

It's probably possible for you to establish this sort of relationship with some of your professors for on-plan hiring in September, but if you're looking to apply off-plan it may be a little late. Off-plan is getting ramped up right now.

traydeuce
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby traydeuce » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:14 am

I emailed profs questions about what we cover. They were never really questions in the sense of trying to understand, for the purposes of the exam, what the law was, but rather, arguments about the law, e.g. "dear prof, I don't agree with you that Scalia's use of certain extratextual resources is inconsistent with his textualism because..." Then we go back and forth and they think you're interesting and bright, hopefully. I spent maybe 25 minutes with my most enthusiastic recommender (the one who placed dozens of calls to judges for me) in office hours, and I've been inside the other really enthusiastic recommender's office for all of 5 minutes (though I RA'd for them and talked about that ad nauseam via email), and the third is a judge and I've never been to his chambers, though we talked a lot after class about my paper. I'm not saying you should all run out and start disingenuously emailing your con law prof questions about representation reinforcement in an effort to make him think you're a really smart guy, but I am saying that you can sometimes have lengthier, more interesting conversations in writing than in office hours, and that if there isn't something that really interests you about your coursework with a prospective recommender enough to talk about, he probably won't write a very enthusiastic recommendation and you may lack the degree of nerdiness it takes to get a clerkship/enjoy clerking.

And don't use 1L profs, generally.

johndhi
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby johndhi » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:03 pm

traydeuce wrote:And don't use 1L profs, generally.


Why is this?

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Citizen Genet » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:26 pm

johndhi wrote:
traydeuce wrote:And don't use 1L profs, generally.


Why is this?


I disagree there should be a general rule discouraging use of 1L profs. I think what treyduece may be getting at is the fact that many people will approach those professors for LoR since 1L classes tend to have bigger classes and students tend to go in for office hours more frequently. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong or if there is something else.) So it might be easy for you to overestimate your value with a specific professor.

I don't think that is that big of a concern. If you have a good relationship with a professor, he can say positive things. Just calibrate your expectations based on the fact that a the professor may have other students contacting him for recs. This also goes out the window if you RA'd, TA'd, took another class from the professor, sought advice on your note or other paper, etc.

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:30 pm

traydeuce wrote:I emailed profs questions about what we cover. They were never really questions in the sense of trying to understand, for the purposes of the exam, what the law was, but rather, arguments about the law, e.g. "dear prof, I don't agree with you that Scalia's use of certain extratextual resources is inconsistent with his textualism because..." Then we go back and forth and they think you're interesting and bright, hopefully. I spent maybe 25 minutes with my most enthusiastic recommender (the one who placed dozens of calls to judges for me) in office hours, and I've been inside the other really enthusiastic recommender's office for all of 5 minutes (though I RA'd for them and talked about that ad nauseam via email), and the third is a judge and I've never been to his chambers, though we talked a lot after class about my paper. I'm not saying you should all run out and start disingenuously emailing your con law prof questions about representation reinforcement in an effort to make him think you're a really smart guy, but I am saying that you can sometimes have lengthier, more interesting conversations in writing than in office hours, and that if there isn't something that really interests you about your coursework with a prospective recommender enough to talk about, he probably won't write a very enthusiastic recommendation and you may lack the degree of nerdiness it takes to get a clerkship/enjoy clerking.

And don't use 1L profs, generally.
Gah, this is horrible. Professors with whom I am close actively expressed their dislike for students like this.

It's one thing to ask a question about something in class, and then get into a philosophical discussion about the answer. But to email your professors right off the bat and start expounding on your disagreement with their opinion about extratextual resources? That just screams brown-nosing and I have to think it turns most professors off. Just be a normal human being. Normal humans who don't already have a relationship with someone don't start one by firing off lengthy emails about their philosophical disagreements. It just reeks of desperation in my opinion and runs the serious risk of making professors think you are no different from the average, self-absorbed law student. Surely there are some super-nerdy professors for whom this is a good strategy, but on the whole, in my experience, professors tend to be relatively normal and would dislike this strategy. Take that for what you will.

Also, I strongly disagree with the notion that you need to have this degree of nerdiness to enjoy clerking.

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:36 pm

Gah, this is horrible. Professors with whom I am close actively expressed their dislike for students like this.


What was the approach you took?

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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Gah, this is horrible. Professors with whom I am close actively expressed their dislike for students like this.


What was the approach you took?
this sums it up pretty well:
Anonymous User wrote:You should be talking with your 1L professors, both about questions related to class material, but also asking them for help/advice with career strategy, clerkships, etc. You should take multiple classes with the same professors. You should aim for small classes, seminars, etc. You should RA/TA for your professors if possible.

In my experience just dropping by professors' offices and chatting with them is the best way to establish a relationship. "Hey, I saw you clerked for Judge so-and-so. I'm really interested in clerking, I was wondering if you could tell me a little about that." Etc. You would be surprised how many professors were over-eager to talk to me about their clerkships, their jobs before they became professors, some forthcoming article of theirs, etc.
I would add that asking pertinent questions about class topics is helpful. And perhaps I was too harsh on treyduce above. It's not bad to engage a professor in a philosophical dialogue about some class topic. But I think blasting a long email to a professor jumping right into your disagreement with what they taught in class or with Kennedy's opinion in Lawrence is a bit over-eager. And of course this varies by professor. You obviously need to gauge whether the prof is someone who is ultra-nerdy and only concerned with intricate legal theories, or if they are a normal person and will gladly chat with you about their clerkships, prior jobs, your goals, etc..

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:47 pm

Thanks, that was really helpful. I suppose once you've stopped by office hours a couple of times, an email espousing an opinion on a class discussion would be more appropriate?

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Tangerine Gleam
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Tangerine Gleam » Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:46 am

Assuming there's a relationship to work off of, I've heard many people say that asking in person is best, but I can't help but worry that doing so would put the professor on the spot in a potentially uncomfortable way.

Is this concern unfounded? A byproduct of growing up with email? While I'm sure approaches differ based on the nature of the relationship, I'm curious to hear what other clerkship applicants have done.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:58 pm

Tangerine Gleam wrote:Assuming there's a relationship to work off of, I've heard many people say that asking in person is best, but I can't help but worry that doing so would put the professor on the spot in a potentially uncomfortable way.

Is this concern unfounded? A byproduct of growing up with email? While I'm sure approaches differ based on the nature of the relationship, I'm curious to hear what other clerkship applicants have done.

Do not ask via email. Professors have fielded requests for recommendations before; they know how to say "no."

First, if you are genuinely worried a professor might say no, perhaps that professor is a bad person to ask because he or she will not be able to write you the kind of glowing recommendation necessary.
Second, if you are just worried about putting them on the spot, even if you're sure they'll say yes, you could email them saying something like: "I want to ask you a question about clerkship recommendations. Is there a time you're going to be in your office today?" This will let them know exactly what you are after--so they can prepare a reason to say "no," if that's what they want to do--but will avoid the social awkwardness of asking for something consequential and personal via email.

But IME, Professors are used to this kind of thing and are well-versed at how to say "no" gracefully when put on the spot.

traydeuce
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby traydeuce » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:25 pm

I think I largely asked over email during the summer, and that worked out, but I knew they'd say yes. It's probably not the best way to go.

johndhi
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Re: Clerkship Recommendations

Postby johndhi » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:34 pm

Tangerine Gleam wrote:Assuming there's a relationship to work off of, I've heard many people say that asking in person is best, but I can't help but worry that doing so would put the professor on the spot in a potentially uncomfortable way.

Is this concern unfounded? A byproduct of growing up with email? While I'm sure approaches differ based on the nature of the relationship, I'm curious to hear what other clerkship applicants have done.


Yeah, it's unfounded. But not for the reason you or the other guy state, in my opinion. I think it's unfounded because they so rarely will say "no" that you basically don't need to worry about it. It's their job to help their students out, and usually they like and want to do it. They'll tell you if it will be hard to do because they don't have that much information about you; the response here is to send them the information they need!

I feel you re the "byproduct of growing up with email." One thing I've found with lawyers, generally, is that they don't like to talk candidly over email; I think this is less a generational thing and more fear of getting burned by some kind of e-discovery! In person and on the phone is king. Plus I think it's good for the profession.




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