Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273147
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:51 pm

Hi all. So I've done pretty well through 1.5 years of law school; I'm currently closer to a 4.0 to a 3.9. I based on historical data, that probably puts me in the top 3-5% of my class, but we do not get exact class ranks at my T20.

I've secured summer employment at a very strong corporate firm, and I'm looking to do either M&A or Antitrust work related to M&A. I have no aspirations of ever sitting on the bench personally, my end goal is to be a corporate partner at the firm I'm starting at. Mentors and professors keep telling me that I should be applying for clerkships, but I cannot shake the suspicion they think it's the proper path because it's what they all did. But I don't want to work in academia. Likewise, many of my classmates are getting ready to apply too, but most of them say it's because they want to be litigators and they think the court experience / hearing arguments will be invaluable. But I don't want to litigate.

Are there other reasons for clerking that I'm missing?

Will it actually increase chances at partnership even if all I end up doing is deal work?

Do I do it just because "I can" as a hedge against future career implications that I can't foresee?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273147
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hi all. So I've done pretty well through 1.5 years of law school; I'm currently closer to a 4.0 to a 3.9. I based on historical data, that probably puts me in the top 3-5% of my class, but we do not get exact class ranks at my T20.

I've secured summer employment at a very strong corporate firm, and I'm looking to do either M&A or Antitrust work related to M&A. I have no aspirations of ever sitting on the bench personally, my end goal is to be a corporate partner at the firm I'm starting at. Mentors and professors keep telling me that I should be applying for clerkships, but I cannot shake the suspicion they think it's the proper path because it's what they all did. But I don't want to work in academia. Likewise, many of my classmates are getting ready to apply too, but most of them say it's because they want to be litigators and they think the court experience / hearing arguments will be invaluable. But I don't want to litigate.

Are there other reasons for clerking that I'm missing?

Will it actually increase chances at partnership even if all I end up doing is deal work?

Do I do it just because "I can" as a hedge against future career implications that I can't foresee?


How old are you? If you are young and single, it could be a great chance to try out a new city and overall just have a unique experience. If/when you make partner, you probably won't look back in 10 years and think "gee, I wish I ground out another year at this biglaw firm back when i was 24". There is little to no downside, even if there are no tangible partnership benefits. On the other hand, it prob won't help you all that much professionally, so I wouldn't go for it if you were older and/or married (assuming at that point, you'd want to get a bit more stability in your life).

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8442
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby thesealocust » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:But I don't want to litigate.

Then there isn't much of a reason to do it unless the experience sounds great to you. If it does, you're lucky that it's (a) on the table and (b) that most big/corporate firms have broad clerkship policies. The reality is that clerking is rare amongst corporate attorneys and the attitude on it is at best mixed, and at worst people think it's a waste and disagree with their own firm's policy of letting people clerk then go into the corporate practice.
Anonymous User wrote:Are there other reasons for clerking that I'm missing?

No.
Anonymous User wrote:Will it actually increase chances at partnership even if all I end up doing is deal work?

No. Not at all.
Anonymous User wrote:Do I do it just because "I can" as a hedge against future career implications that I can't foresee?

It won't hedge against shit.

Also, the people who sing the praises of clerkships are the people who really liked theirs. There is huge variation amongst federal judges and in private a lot of people come close to regretting their year or two clerking. It can be very isolating.

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3224
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby ph14 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hi all. So I've done pretty well through 1.5 years of law school; I'm currently closer to a 4.0 to a 3.9. I based on historical data, that probably puts me in the top 3-5% of my class, but we do not get exact class ranks at my T20.

I've secured summer employment at a very strong corporate firm, and I'm looking to do either M&A or Antitrust work related to M&A. I have no aspirations of ever sitting on the bench personally, my end goal is to be a corporate partner at the firm I'm starting at. Mentors and professors keep telling me that I should be applying for clerkships, but I cannot shake the suspicion they think it's the proper path because it's what they all did. But I don't want to work in academia. Likewise, many of my classmates are getting ready to apply too, but most of them say it's because they want to be litigators and they think the court experience / hearing arguments will be invaluable. But I don't want to litigate.

Are there other reasons for clerking that I'm missing?

Will it actually increase chances at partnership even if all I end up doing is deal work?

Do I do it just because "I can" as a hedge against future career implications that I can't foresee?


If you want to do M&A it probably isn't worth it. Don't just do it because a lot of people want to do it.

Citizen Genet
Posts: 516
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:03 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby Citizen Genet » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:46 am

I'll say that one way that clerking can help corporate associates make partner is the networking aspect. thesealocust is right that no corporate group is going to say, "Geez, he's got a clerkship. That puts him over the top." But when you clerk you instantly become part of a huge network. Former and future clerks tend to know each other well and often rely on each other. (This can vary judge-to-judge, obviously.) A lot of book-building is about getting referrals from other attorneys. Now, of course a lot of clerks will just be pushing business into their own firm's portfolio. But many of those will work their way into boutique's and GCs after awhile. Those are the kind of contacts you want to start building a book.

Now, that's a pretty tenuous reason to clerk. But it is a fringe benefit to clerking.

I think the most important thing it does is give you flexibility. You don't want to go into academia or government work right now, but you might latter. If you would hate clerking, I don't think that's worth it. If you think you'd enjoy yourself a little, I think it's a small down payment to keep options open later.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273147
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:53 am

Thanks all. Helpful replies all around.

User avatar
legalese_retard
Posts: 334
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:14 pm

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby legalese_retard » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:24 pm

Current law clerk. Not sure if I would recommend clerking in your case. The two greatest benefits of clerking is (1) the experience and (2) the resume boost. As a transactional attorney, the experience from clerking will not really benefit you. True, you will be tasked to research and write in your practice, but not in the same way as someone in litigation practice. You will get a resume boost, but the "boost" won't be as significant for a transactional career. The firm you end up working at will probably give you a bonus for the clerkship and you will get the class credit bump, but the clerkship will not factor as much in your career thereafter. You have to ask yourself if the year or two clerkship is worth the reduction in salary for experience that is not as significant as it is for your litigator counterpart. One could argue that clerking may sway your view on litigation practice, but there are no guarantees.

The one thing clerking can offer you is flexibility in the event that the legal market freaks out again. When I graduated from law school, I had several friends that were gungho transactional folks and received offers to join the firm they summered at. When it became evident that the transactional work at those firms dried up, a lot of my friends started working in the litigation group because that was the only practice that could sustain new attorneys. While some were transferred back to the transactional side, a lot of them are still doing litigation and may end up sticking in that practice. Now they are in litigation, they wish they would have clerked as it would have helped them in future partnership and lateraling opportunities.

theaccidentalclerk
Posts: 151
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:29 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:46 pm

One benefit in clerking in your case is that it tends to be a resume equalizer to some extent if you come from a generally lesser-regarded school. Meaning that if you are ever trying to lateral or switch jobs, prospective employers very well could easily say something along the lines of "yes, he 'only' went to USC, but he clerked for the Ninth Circuit so he did really, really well there." This is really only going to be a concern in a few contexts -- USAO/DOJ, academia, maybe a few very high end boutiques or practice groups that have tough academic standards, even for laterals -- and most of those seem to be outside of your career goals, so it might not be enough.

Another thing to think about is what was said above -- clerking would also give you some flexibility if you ended up not liking transactional work. This is a nontrivial concern, by the way. What you do in law school is much closer to what you do in a litigation practice. You've already shown that you're good at that sort of thing. You might not be as good at the sorts of things that make a good deal lawyer, or you might be as good but just not enjoy it. Having a prestigious clerkship credential wouldn't be a bad idea if that turns out to be the case.

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby TatteredDignity » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:08 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:One benefit in clerking in your case is that it tends to be a resume equalizer to some extent if you come from a generally lesser-regarded school. Meaning that if you are ever trying to lateral or switch jobs, prospective employers very well could easily say something along the lines of "yes, he 'only' went to USC, but he clerked for the Ninth Circuit so he did really, really well there." This is really only going to be a concern in a few contexts -- USAO/DOJ, academia, maybe a few very high end boutiques or practice groups that have tough academic standards, even for laterals -- and most of those seem to be outside of your career goals, so it might not be enough.

Another thing to think about is what was said above -- clerking would also give you some flexibility if you ended up not liking transactional work. This is a nontrivial concern, by the way. What you do in law school is much closer to what you do in a litigation practice. You've already shown that you're good at that sort of thing. You might not be as good at the sorts of things that make a good deal lawyer, or you might be as good but just not enjoy it. Having a prestigious clerkship credential wouldn't be a bad idea if that turns out to be the case.


Just curious, why couldn't a manga/summa notation on the resume/transcript accomplish the same?

theaccidentalclerk
Posts: 151
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:29 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:27 pm

Just curious, why couldn't a manga/summa notation on the resume/transcript accomplish the same?


Well, he almost certainly would be out of the running for summa -- at most schools, that's only the top person or two. Magna depends on the cutoff, but if he's top 3%, that's almost certainly good enough.

In any event, the more substantive answer to your question is that it's much harder to compare school- or class-specific honors between people who graduated from different schools when comparing lateral candidates (or candidates for other competitive post-entry-level jobs, like USAO). For example, which is more impressive -- a Harvard cum laude grad, a Chicago high honors grad, or a UT magna cum laude grad? One way to approximate the answer is to look at the clerkships. Another would be to look at the first nonclerkship job out of law school, by the way -- though then you have the problem of people graduating in different years and into different markets, plus a lot of people take "less prestigious" jobs for all sorts of personal or professional reasons (the most common being that the person wants to practice in a particular market).

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Talk me out of (or into) applying for clerkships

Postby TatteredDignity » Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:31 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:
Just curious, why couldn't a manga/summa notation on the resume/transcript accomplish the same?


Well, he almost certainly would be out of the running for summa -- at most schools, that's only the top person or two. Magna depends on the cutoff, but if he's top 3%, that's almost certainly good enough.

In any event, the more substantive answer to your question is that it's much harder to compare school- or class-specific honors between people who graduated from different schools when comparing lateral candidates (or candidates for other competitive post-entry-level jobs, like USAO). For example, which is more impressive -- a Harvard cum laude grad, a Chicago high honors grad, or a UT magna cum laude grad? One way to approximate the answer is to look at the clerkships. Another would be to look at the first nonclerkship job out of law school, by the way -- though then you have the problem of people graduating in different years and into different markets, plus a lot of people take "less prestigious" jobs for all sorts of personal or professional reasons (the most common being that the person wants to practice in a particular market).


OK, so they let the judges do the sorting process for them. Makes sense. Thanks!




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.