COA clerkship interview

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Anonymous User
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COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:54 am

Landed an interview. Would love to hear stories from current/former COA clerks or interviewers about their experiences, challenging questions asked, how the process worked, etc.

Also would be great to know what kinds of questions I should ask the Judge/clerks. I plan to look up some of the Judge's opinions, of course, and see if I can glean anything about the Judge's interests, area of expertise, etc. Also figured it would be good to ask questions about the job that I can't answer myself with publicly available information (e.g., how work gets split up, the Judge's day-to-day, etc.).

Anything else you all asked the Judge that you thought he/she received well and responded to enthusiastically? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous User
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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Landed an interview. Would love to hear stories from current/former COA clerks or interviewers about their experiences, challenging questions asked, how the process worked, etc.

Also would be great to know what kinds of questions I should ask the Judge/clerks. I plan to look up some of the Judge's opinions, of course, and see if I can glean anything about the Judge's interests, area of expertise, etc. Also figured it would be good to ask questions about the job that I can't answer myself with publicly available information (e.g., how work gets split up, the Judge's day-to-day, etc.).

Anything else you all asked the Judge that you thought he/she received well and responded to enthusiastically? Thanks in advance.


The best advice is to find one of the judge's former clerks and talk to them. If there isn't one who is an alumni of your school, search around to see if you can find one who went to the same undergrad or worked at the same firm. Every judge is different and interviews can be radically different.

As to questions to ask, basic ones include: work flow in chambers, work flow during sittings, opinion writing, dissent writing, en banc process, etc.

Myself
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Postby Myself » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:40 pm

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Last edited by Myself on Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

madame defarge
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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby madame defarge » Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:25 pm

You should be keeping up with legal current events by reading blogs like Scotusblog and Volokh Conspiracy. Know some recent Supreme Court decisions you can talk about. Think of which justices you agree/disagree with most often and why. Also think of which SCOTUS opinions are your favorite/least favorite and why. The clerks or judge may ask you about your thoughts on Obamacare, so be prepared on that.

You should know your writing sample backwards and forwards and be prepared to defend it. Show-off clerks might ask you a statutory interpretation question (happened to me!) or give you a hypo to work through. It can be a grueling experience, so make sure you are well rested before hand.

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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 12:11 am

madame defarge wrote:You should be keeping up with legal current events by reading blogs like Scotusblog and Volokh Conspiracy. Know some recent Supreme Court decisions you can talk about. Think of which justices you agree/disagree with most often and why. Also think of which SCOTUS opinions are your favorite/least favorite and why. The clerks or judge may ask you about your thoughts on Obamacare, so be prepared on that.

You should know your writing sample backwards and forwards and be prepared to defend it. Show-off clerks might ask you a statutory interpretation question (happened to me!) or give you a hypo to work through. It can be a grueling experience, so make sure you are well rested before hand.


OP here. Great advice, thank you.

Did you end up clerking? I know it varies by judge, but any idea what one's chances are at landing the position if they've secured an interview?

madame defarge
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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby madame defarge » Sun Jun 24, 2012 1:22 am

I clerked for a well-known semi-feeder judge on 2/9/DC and interviewed many potential clerks. In our chambers, an interview was a presumptive offer. In other words, we loved you on paper, so all you had to prove was that you were reasonably personable and had some interest in the law. You'd think this would be easy enough to demonstrate, but we had numerous interviewees who had zero social skills (hate to use the term "aspie" but can't think of a better one) or zero substantive knowledge about the law despite their glowing grades and recommendations. So these poor law students with breathtaking resumes and near-perfect transcripts left emptyhanded.

As long as you present yourself well and can answer legal questions intelligently, your chances at an offer are very high. Judges don't want to waste their time interviewing 50 people for 4 spots. On-the-spot exploding offers are fairly common--be prepared to say yes if things go well. Good luck!

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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 24, 2012 1:25 am

well assuming everyone's on an playing field then it would obviously be 1:[# of interviewees] ... Having interviewed with a few federal judges, I really believe grades don't matter once you get the interview and it comes down to whether you're a good fit for that particular judge. It's a personality contest at this point because the judge wants someone that he/she and the other clerks will have a good rapport with. it's really close quarters in chambers....

I began trying to get a fed clerkship w/ two pretty awkward interviews (and even though I had solid numbers I knew the minute I left both that I'd be dinged, which I was... within a few days).. Then I really clicked with the judge in my third and final interview... I got that job and I know I was no where near the most "qualified." Just go in and be yourself and hope for the best... don't over-prepare or you'll just sound scripted

The "who's your fav SCOTUS judge and why?" seems to be a recurring question. I got asked it once and I know some friends who were asked it by other judges. In two interviews I was asked for some specific "skill" I possess that would, in my mind, make me a good clerk. Then I got some weird legal theory stuff. It can be anything really. glglgl

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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:28 am

OP, you mentioned looking up some of the judge's prior opinions. That might help you identify a few areas of law that the judge particularly likes, but you could also just ask -- it's an easy conversation to have, and a good way to figure out if you have common ground.

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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:09 pm

madame defarge wrote:You'd think this would be easy enough to demonstrate, but we had numerous interviewees who had zero social skills (hate to use the term "aspie" but can't think of a better one) or zero substantive knowledge about the law despite their glowing grades and recommendations. So these poor law students with breathtaking resumes and near-perfect transcripts left emptyhanded.


Do you really believe this? I get the point about social awkwardness, but I also think it's possible for very smart individuals with plenty of substantive knowledge to either a) not be great at answering questions on the spot or b) not happen to know the answer to a particular question asked by an interviewer. These are things to be minimized by interview prep, for sure, but I think it's a bit much to claim these people actually don't know the substantive law. Surely you or one of your co-clerks has been turned down by at least one federal judge before; I doubt it's because you or they know nothing.

Anonymous User
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Re: COA clerkship interview

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:26 pm

OP here. Appreciate all the suggestions. According to one of the clerks, the interview should be extremely chill. Lots of small talk. Lots of "why'd you go to law school?" and "why this particular clerkship?"

Assuming I don't have an attack of awkwardness, maybe I can do this . . .




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