District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:41 pm

How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?


In my experience, law students vastly overestimate the difficulty of landing a district court clerkship. 50% of clerks have strong credentials (Your Top 10% at T14 and above); 40% have medium credentials (people like me); and 10% have weak credentials (e.g., top 25% at Tier 3).

If you want a smooth clerkship recruiting process, or if you want to clerk for a reputable district court judge, you gotta have strong credentials. If you want any clerkship, however, and are flexible with location and duration, you can snag a district court clerkship with either weak or medium credentials. People who fall into the latter two categories usually have some connection to the judge, got lucky based on a last-minute opening, work for a newly confirmed judge, or some combination. I've even met an undistinguished Tier 4 grad clerk for a Court of Appeals judge because (1) they both graduated from the same private high school and (2) he was referred to the judge because his father was the judge's dentist. These are obviously more the exception than the rule.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?


In my experience, law students vastly overestimate the difficulty of landing a district court clerkship. 50% of clerks have strong credentials (Your Top 10% at T14 and above); 40% have medium credentials (people like me); and 10% have weak credentials (e.g., top 25% at Tier 3).

If you want a smooth clerkship recruiting process, or if you want to clerk for a reputable district court judge, you gotta have strong credentials. If you want any clerkship, however, and are flexible with location and duration, you can snag a district court clerkship with either weak or medium credentials. People who fall into the latter two categories usually have some connection to the judge, got lucky based on a last-minute opening, work for a newly confirmed judge, or some combination. I've even met an undistinguished Tier 4 grad clerk for a Court of Appeals judge because (1) they both graduated from the same private high school and (2) he was referred to the judge because his father was the judge's dentist. These are obviously more the exception than the rule.


I was curious because I'm an URM with somewhat decent connections to two district judges and top 25% grades from a T10 and I got shut out of clerkships straight out of law school. I will be working in litigation at a V50 starting this fall and I'm considering whether it's worth it to clerk after a year at a firm.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?


In my experience, law students vastly overestimate the difficulty of landing a district court clerkship. 50% of clerks have strong credentials (Your Top 10% at T14 and above); 40% have medium credentials (people like me); and 10% have weak credentials (e.g., top 25% at Tier 3).

If you want a smooth clerkship recruiting process, or if you want to clerk for a reputable district court judge, you gotta have strong credentials. If you want any clerkship, however, and are flexible with location and duration, you can snag a district court clerkship with either weak or medium credentials. People who fall into the latter two categories usually have some connection to the judge, got lucky based on a last-minute opening, work for a newly confirmed judge, or some combination. I've even met an undistinguished Tier 4 grad clerk for a Court of Appeals judge because (1) they both graduated from the same private high school and (2) he was referred to the judge because his father was the judge's dentist. These are obviously more the exception than the rule.


I was curious because I'm an URM with somewhat decent connections to two district judges and top 25% grades from a T10 and I got shut out of clerkships straight out of law school. I will be working in litigation at a V50 starting this fall and I'm considering whether it's worth it to clerk after a year at a firm.


good luck. whether it's worth it or not is hard to generalize; it all depends on your current life situation, finances, and so on.

what do you mean by decent connections? it's one thing if you know the judge through bar association networking events. it's another if the judge had previously hired your older sister as a law clerk. also--another thing about connections--it's more than just about knowing someone. you have to bring something to the table. being known is useless unless you're (1) known to be really smart or (2) known to bring something unique to the table. an URM with a tough upbringing who knows a judge who escaped a war-torn country may have a good shot despite not having the typical T14 top 10%. on the other hand, being a vanilla law student won't do you any good; judges meet law students all the time.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby sherpaorlawschool » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:04 pm

Do you think being a graduate helped you become more competitive as a clerkship applicant? Does having more than one year of experience help more or are people who are between one year out and three or four years out treated about the same?

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:08 pm

Just to jump in here re: V50 guy who got shut out of clerkships.

If you're set on doing a clerkship after a year or two of practice, go for it. It'll make you that much more attractive as a candidate, especially for district court judges, many of whom have been drifting towards a preference for clerks w/ experience.

Your grades should put you in the running. My own experience was somewhat similar to yours. I got shut out of clerkships when I applied in the fall of my 3L year (HYS). At the time, my grades were probably around top 30-35%. No LR (though on board of secondary journal), and while my recs were strong, none of my recommenders had personal connections to judges on my list. Ended up w/ 3 interviews in big coastal cities, but none of them panned out.

Had a pretty good 3L fall and applied again as an alum for 2013-14 clerkships. Got an offer from a district court judge in SDNY/EDNY/CD Cal.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:13 pm

sherpaorlawschool wrote:Do you think being a graduate helped you become more competitive as a clerkship applicant? Does having more than one year of experience help more or are people who are between one year out and three or four years out treated about the same?


i think it did help, although not dramatically so. having 0 to 1 year of experience doesn't help all that much when it comes to substance (i was doing doc review). where it helps the most is it allows you to apply and start whenever you want. it's the flexibility, along with the idea that you're a tiny bit more seasoned than a new law grad.

for those who have several years of experience, it's a bit different. you have the advantages of the person i described above, plus you likely have a better grasp of the intricacies of litigation. in fact, i knew one judge who would always hire at least one clerk who was a mid-level associate, and she'd handle the most complicated cases in the judge's docket. if you're a year out of law school, you probably wouldn't be hired for that position.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?


In my experience, law students vastly overestimate the difficulty of landing a district court clerkship. 50% of clerks have strong credentials (Your Top 10% at T14 and above); 40% have medium credentials (people like me); and 10% have weak credentials (e.g., top 25% at Tier 3).

If you want a smooth clerkship recruiting process, or if you want to clerk for a reputable district court judge, you gotta have strong credentials. If you want any clerkship, however, and are flexible with location and duration, you can snag a district court clerkship with either weak or medium credentials. People who fall into the latter two categories usually have some connection to the judge, got lucky based on a last-minute opening, work for a newly confirmed judge, or some combination. I've even met an undistinguished Tier 4 grad clerk for a Court of Appeals judge because (1) they both graduated from the same private high school and (2) he was referred to the judge because his father was the judge's dentist. These are obviously more the exception than the rule.



There is just no way 10% of district court clerks were top 25% at a TTT.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:Law school courses that you recommend for federal trial practice.


as you'd expect, i think it's helpful to take as many trial ad classes as you can. clinics that allow you to make appearances in court as a law student help too. one commonly overlooked law school experience is to extern for a district court so you get a chance to see how real lawyers try cases.


Thank you so much for answering questions!

Do you think an externship with a magistrate judge is as valuable as one with a district judge?

Do you think summering at a firm viewed very favorably by the judges would help with clerkship chances with the same judges?

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How the hell did you get an Art III clerkship with top 1/3 grades?


In my experience, law students vastly overestimate the difficulty of landing a district court clerkship. 50% of clerks have strong credentials (Your Top 10% at T14 and above); 40% have medium credentials (people like me); and 10% have weak credentials (e.g., top 25% at Tier 3).

If you want a smooth clerkship recruiting process, or if you want to clerk for a reputable district court judge, you gotta have strong credentials. If you want any clerkship, however, and are flexible with location and duration, you can snag a district court clerkship with either weak or medium credentials. People who fall into the latter two categories usually have some connection to the judge, got lucky based on a last-minute opening, work for a newly confirmed judge, or some combination. I've even met an undistinguished Tier 4 grad clerk for a Court of Appeals judge because (1) they both graduated from the same private high school and (2) he was referred to the judge because his father was the judge's dentist. These are obviously more the exception than the rule.



There is just no way 10% of district court clerks were top 25% at a TTT.


i guess my 10% figure is based off anecdotal evidence. my point is, even if your numbers are not competitive based on what you read here, it's still possible to land a district court clerkship. it's more likely than people here like to believe.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thank you so much for answering questions!

Do you think an externship with a magistrate judge is as valuable as one with a district judge?

Do you think summering at a firm viewed very favorably by the judges would help with clerkship chances with the same judges?


if it's an externship, they'll be viewed equally. the one benefit of doing an a3 externship is that you'll probably have a better chance of working on an actual opinion.

i think summering at a reputable firm would help, especially if the firm has many associates who had formerly clerked for the judge. but as part of your application, a "good firm" includes a large range of different firms. judges don't make as narrow distinctions as law students.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:42 pm

For the record, I don't think it is uncommon to be at a top 20 school and not in the top 10% of your class and land a clerkship. Many factors can help -- timing, alumni connections, strength of your resume, knowing the current clerk, etc. From personal experience, I also think it is easier to get a clerkship with a judge who doesn't hire on plan.

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Re: District Court clerk, former v20 associate taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For the record, I don't think it is uncommon to be at a top 20 school and not in the top 10% of your class and land a clerkship. Many factors can help -- timing, alumni connections, strength of your resume, knowing the current clerk, etc. From personal experience, I also think it is easier to get a clerkship with a judge who doesn't hire on plan.


(OP here) true. the problem with the law student perspective is that they tend to see only one segment of the pool. everyone they know who is going to clerk at the district court level is in the top 5% and on law review. so students end up believing things like "you go duke and you're only in the top 25%? clerking is IMPOSSIBLE." of course, it's probably good that students think this way because credentials is the only thing you can control about the process. everything else is pretty random.

one guy i know ended up with a clerkship because a senior partner who he interviewed with during OCI (he turned down the offer) ended up getting nominated to the bench. the partner remembered my friend and called him up to ask if he wanted to clerk. this guy was a median student at my school. it's an interesting story but as far as helping a student figure out application strategy, it's completely useless. and also, i know it's anecdotal evidence, but as a clerk, you get to meet lots of other clerks (both in your district and in your circuit) and you start to see some patterns among those who are there.

qualifier: strong academic credentials are often required to clerk for judges who sit in big cities like new york, LA, chicago, etc. but not always. and of course, this applies only to district court clerkships. appellate clerkships are a completely different game.




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