Clerkship Interviews

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Anonymous User
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Clerkship Interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:05 pm

Can anyone give insight into what a clerkship interview is like? I am interested in a Federal District clerkship.

I would love to know the structure of an interview, the types of questions asked, advice on how to prepare, etc.

Also, how long does it take to hear back after an interview? I would guess this varies widely.

Thanks!

TheProsecutor
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby TheProsecutor » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:08 pm

They can differ wildly. My appellate clerk interviews were much less substantive than my Federal District Court interview where they judge asked me a bunch of questions related to a case hypothetical.

dixon02
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby dixon02 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:21 pm

TheProsecutor wrote:They can differ wildly. My appellate clerk interviews were much less substantive than my Federal District Court interview where they judge asked me a bunch of questions related to a case hypothetical.


This is what I've heard from everyone as well. Best way to find out is to talk to the clerkship adviser or office at your school and ask them to put you in touch with alum who interviewed with or (preferably) clerked for that judge. At UVA, our clerkship office also publishes surveys that people fill out after they return from an interview with a judge. Don't know if your school has a similar resource, but you should ask.

Tyrion Lannister
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby Tyrion Lannister » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:22 pm

TheProsecutor wrote:They can differ wildly. My appellate clerk interviews were much less substantive than my Federal District Court interview where they judge asked me a bunch of questions related to a case hypothetical.


I agree that they can differ wildly depending on the judge. If you get an interview, your best bet would be to check with a former clerk, ideally an alum of your law school, to get a sense of what to expect.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:40 pm

FWIW, I went through 4 district court clerkship interviews before finally landing one. The first three were on The Plan, whereas the fourth was off-plan (applied as an alum). Not a single judge asked me about substantive legal questions. All of them were "getting to know you" type questions.

Turnaround on my on-plan interviews was quite fast. One week at the latest. My off-plan judge took almost a month to get back to me, but that's not so unusual for off-plan hiring.

EDITED: For horrendous subject/verb agreement. Apologies.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

anon168
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby anon168 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:FWIW, I went through 4 district court clerkship interviews before finally landing one. The first three was on The Plan, whereas the fourth was off-plan (applied as an alum). Not a single judge asked me about substantive legal questions. All of them were "getting to know you" type questions.

Turnaround on my on-plan interviews were quite fast. One week at the latest. My off-plan judge took almost a month to get back to me, but that's not so unusual for off-plan hiring.


Judges -- be they district or appellate -- lead lonely (albeit powerful) lives. Their only real interaction with the "real" world is through their clerks.

So most judges will use the interview less to determine whether you are brilliant (because if you weren't you probably wouldn't have an interview to begin with) and more to determine whether you are the type of person he enjoys being around. In other words, can you carry on a conversation with him/her about your hobbies or interests, or his interests? Do you lead an interesting life? Can you make him laugh?

This will sound weird, but consider it like trying to pick up a girl at a bar, but without the sexual innuendos. You're trying to get the judge to go out with you -- for a year (or two).

Also, while the bulk of what matters is your actual tete-a-tete with the judge, be advised that the moment you enter the courthouse you are on "interview". So what does that mean? Be nice to the Marshals, be nice to the judges courtroom deputy (if you meet him/her), and most definitely be your nicest to the judge's judicial assistant -- treat him/her like she's the Queen of England.

Myself
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.

Postby Myself » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:11 am

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Last edited by Myself on Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:37 am

anon168 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:FWIW, I went through 4 district court clerkship interviews before finally landing one. The first three was on The Plan, whereas the fourth was off-plan (applied as an alum). Not a single judge asked me about substantive legal questions. All of them were "getting to know you" type questions.

Turnaround on my on-plan interviews were quite fast. One week at the latest. My off-plan judge took almost a month to get back to me, but that's not so unusual for off-plan hiring.


Judges -- be they district or appellate -- lead lonely (albeit powerful) lives. Their only real interaction with the "real" world is through their clerks.

So most judges will use the interview less to determine whether you are brilliant (because if you weren't you probably wouldn't have an interview to begin with) and more to determine whether you are the type of person he enjoys being around. In other words, can you carry on a conversation with him/her about your hobbies or interests, or his interests? Do you lead an interesting life? Can you make him laugh?

This will sound weird, but consider it like trying to pick up a girl at a bar, but without the sexual innuendos. You're trying to get the judge to go out with you -- for a year (or two).

Also, while the bulk of what matters is your actual tete-a-tete with the judge, be advised that the moment you enter the courthouse you are on "interview". So what does that mean? Be nice to the Marshals, be nice to the judges courtroom deputy (if you meet him/her), and most definitely be your nicest to the judge's judicial assistant -- treat him/her like she's the Queen of England.


I think this is part of it, but I think in many chambers the clerks are responsible for testing your intellectual mettle. Just to contribute my anecdotal $0.02, the clerks seemed to do more of the academic legwork than the judge in many of my interviews. This is from the handful of COA interviews I had, so the above poster may be more relevant for OP's inquiry -- but to contribute the general discussion, only one of the judges I interviewed with asked legal analysis-type questions. For the other interviews, the clerks handled what I'd like to consider impromptu moot court in interview form -- handling a rapidfire series of questions re: some part of the law that you might have worked with or well-known standards of law (e.g., what do you think about the Court's decision in X, and how do you think it could be improved?). I have no idea if this is actually true (as I haven't started my clerkship yet), but I feel like the clerks report back to the judge to provide feedback on the intellectual side, and the judge makes his/her own call on the fit of the clerk w/r/t chambers.

But I might be wrong on this -- again, completely anecdotal. The hiring process for each chambers in a single courthouse could vary tremendously, so your experience may be different. But good luck!

P.S.: My post above is not a model of grammatical precision or coherence. 12 hours of bar studying can really fry your brain.

Anonymous User
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 17, 2012 1:11 am

My interview went like this:
So, you did a lot of externships (3). Tell me about those.
So, that one (the last one) required a lot of organization, right?
So, why do you want to work here?

Took about 15 minutes. I felt like I nailed the questions, especially the last one, so we ended up talking about the differences between the East and West coast, football, and the judge's kids.

lolwat
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Re: Clerkship Interviews

Postby lolwat » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:14 am

I agree with "differs wildly." I think anon168 has it right for most judges, but you'll want to check as many resources as you can in case the judge you're interviewing with doesn't fall into "most judges."

Sometimes you will meet only with the judge, sometimes you will meet with the judges and clerks at the same time, sometimes you will meet with just the judge, and then just the clerks. The clerks are generally the ones asking you more about substantive stuff and work experience on your resume, the judge might ask a couple of questions about your resume that (s)he wasn't clear about, but will be focusing mostly on whether (s)he wants to spend a year of his/her life with you.

But do know your writing sample, if something substantive comes up, more often than not it will be something related to that.




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