Anonymous User wrote:
As an alum with both district and circuit clerkships who seriously considered the academic route and spoke to many professor-advisers about it, I agree with this advice in part and disagree in part:
- I agree that being a law professor (or at least, securing a solid placement) is a long shot, even with a top school and top grades.
- My HYS professors told me that committees would not care very much about my district court clerkship (i.e., it would be marginally helpful at best), but would view my Ninth Circuit clerkship very favorably. Obviously, my lack of a SCOTUS clerkship would put me outside the first tier of academic candidates. However, I respectfully disagree with the above-quoted advice to the extent that it implies that a circuit clerkship is completely optional or that it must be "elite" to improve your odds of an academic placement. This is because a number of my professors told me that circuit clerkships were valued by virtually all hiring committees (even if not for a feeder judge) and viewed as a baseline, necessary credential by many committees. I strongly urge you to prioritize securing a circuit clerkship - or at least to discuss with your professor mentors how important they believe it is to clerk at the circuit level before abandoning the prospect of doing so. This is especially true because it does not sound like you are at a T14 school, let alone HYS, so for you it will be all the more important to "signal" hiring committees that you are a sufficiently elite candidate. I'm not saying this because I am elitist - but because the hiring committees are. (In fact, one of the reasons I personally decided against academia is that I was unimpressed by their obsession with credentials, even though I have many of the credentials that they value.)
- I agree that the most relevant criterion for an academic placement - beyond generally having a sterling resume - is publications. You must make time to write these. You may find that you don't have sufficient time during either your clerkship or firm placement, especially if you clerk for an active judge. In this case, you should make use of the postgraduate fellowships available to aspiring law professors, such as the Climenko at HLS and the Bigelow at Chicago. Those types of fellowships are intended to pay you a living stipend (50-65K) while allowing you time to write, usually in exchange for helping to teach the school's LRW classes. However, they are sufficiently competitive that most candidates who are seriously considered already have postgraduate law review publications (i.e., something more than a student note).
Also: why don't you want to clerk? Clerking is a wonderful experience - and honestly, most aspiring law professors tend to enjoy clerking much more than practice. The work you do during a clerkship is relentlessly substantive, and at the appellate level, you are working on the types of cases about which you'd want to write as an academic. If it's about the money - well, going the academic route is going to require some financial sacrifices - see above note about fellowship salaries.
Thanks for the advice/background. I don't really want to clerk for a couple of reasons, including the fact that my firm gives a tiny
clerkship bonus and no credits toward partnership. That means that a year spent clerking could be better spent trying to make partner -- which is all the more valuable if I end up not get an academic position in the future. The money is only part of it (in the end, it's about a $40k difference between what I would make for a year as a clerk and a year as an associate -- not minor at all, but not enough to sway me either way). My only interest in the academic field is teaching legal writing -- no interest whatsoever in teaching in another field (and I think hiring standards are generally lower for legal writing professors). I know that a clerkship is almost a necessity for a legal writing professor, but I feel like it's a bit of overkill if I end up not getting such a position since I don't want to teach any other subjects.