1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

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1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:43 pm

My spouse is a 1L at HYS, and needs to decide almost immediately between an internship with a federal district judge and a SA position at a large law firm. Some details on both:

District judge internship:
- Probably one of the 5 highest-profile district courts in the US.
- Judge has national name recognition due to ongoing caseload of some significance. (I don't know how famous the judge really is in general, but I recognized the name despite not being in law, which I doubt I could say that about more than 5 district judges nationwide. Almost everyone I know is familiar with some relevant recent cases, even if they don't recognize the name itself.)
- Given the judge's caseload, some of the work is likely to be in an area of personal interest. The internship generally seems like it offers decent experience (the judge was heavily involved in recruitment and interviewing for the position, not just a clerk).
- Unpaid and in a very expensive area. Law school's summer support does not cover internships with judges.

SA position:
- Large law firm (top 100)
- Very good pay
- Probably not work that is as interesting to my spouse, though it's very hard to say in advance.

If it was a random US district judge vs a well-paid biglaw SA position, I'd certainly opt for the latter -- much better financially, and probably also somewhat better for the resume. But this is very much not a random judge, and my experience (admittedly not in the same field) suggests that these experiences can be both very useful personally and very good for resume-building. (Having worked at the center of an instantly recognizable national case is terrific for interviews.)

Financially, it is a massive loss to pass up the SA position, though it is not one that will overwhelm us. I earn income separately, and we are borrowing well below the usual amount for law school. Since the financial loss is not an intolerable short-term burden, I'm viewing it in the light of long-term career development, where much larger sums of money will be in play. (The financial loss should not be minimized either, of course.)

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. These seem to me like pretty good options (a relief after seemingly endless interviews), but a choice must be made almost immediately. I initially leaned toward the position with the judge, but I'm a little more skeptical now that I've seen the list of 1L summer positions obtained by past students from the same school. Only a very small number have chosen internships with judges, and I'm worried that there's some issue that the "wisdom of crowds" is picking up.

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ph14
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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby ph14 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My spouse is a 1L at HYS, and needs to decide almost immediately between an internship with a federal district judge and a SA position at a large law firm. Some details on both:

District judge internship:
- Probably one of the 5 highest-profile district courts in the US.
- Judge has national name recognition due to ongoing caseload of some significance. (I don't know how famous the judge really is in general, but I recognized the name despite not being in law, which I doubt I could say that about more than 5 district judges nationwide. Almost everyone I know is familiar with some relevant recent cases, even if they don't recognize the name itself.)
- Given the judge's caseload, some of the work is likely to be in an area of personal interest. The internship generally seems like it offers decent experience (the judge was heavily involved in recruitment and interviewing for the position, not just a clerk).
- Unpaid and in a very expensive area. Law school's summer support does not cover internships with judges.

SA position:
- Large law firm (top 100)
- Very good pay
- Probably not work that is as interesting to my spouse, though it's very hard to say in advance.

If it was a random US district judge vs a well-paid biglaw SA position, I'd certainly opt for the latter -- much better financially, and probably also somewhat better for the resume. But this is very much not a random judge, and my experience (admittedly not in the same field) suggests that these experiences can be both very useful personally and very good for resume-building. (Having worked at the center of an instantly recognizable national case is terrific for interviews.)

Financially, it is a massive loss to pass up the SA position, though it is not one that will overwhelm us. I earn income separately, and we are borrowing well below the usual amount for law school. Since the financial loss is not an intolerable short-term burden, I'm viewing it in the light of long-term career development, where much larger sums of money will be in play. (The financial loss should not be minimized either, of course.)

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. These seem to me like pretty good options (a relief after seemingly endless interviews), but a choice must be made almost immediately. I initially leaned toward the position with the judge, but I'm a little more skeptical now that I've seen the list of 1L summer positions obtained by past students from the same school. Only a very small number have chosen internships with judges, and I'm worried that there's some issue that the "wisdom of crowds" is picking up.


$30k versus $0k. This seems like an easy choice. What judge? It doesn't really matter in any event as it is an internship, not a clerkship. PM me the name of the judge and i'll let you know if I think it should make a difference.

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Emma.
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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Emma. » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My spouse is a 1L at HYS, and needs to decide almost immediately between an internship with a federal district judge and a SA position at a large law firm. Some details on both:

District judge internship:
- Probably one of the 5 highest-profile district courts in the US.
- Judge has national name recognition due to ongoing caseload of some significance. (I don't know how famous the judge really is in general, but I recognized the name despite not being in law, which I doubt I could say that about more than 5 district judges nationwide. Almost everyone I know is familiar with some relevant recent cases, even if they don't recognize the name itself.)
- Given the judge's caseload, some of the work is likely to be in an area of personal interest. The internship generally seems like it offers decent experience (the judge was heavily involved in recruitment and interviewing for the position, not just a clerk).
- Unpaid and in a very expensive area. Law school's summer support does not cover internships with judges.

SA position:
- Large law firm (top 100)
- Very good pay
- Probably not work that is as interesting to my spouse, though it's very hard to say in advance.

If it was a random US district judge vs a well-paid biglaw SA position, I'd certainly opt for the latter -- much better financially, and probably also somewhat better for the resume. But this is very much not a random judge, and my experience (admittedly not in the same field) suggests that these experiences can be both very useful personally and very good for resume-building. (Having worked at the center of an instantly recognizable national case is terrific for interviews.)

Financially, it is a massive loss to pass up the SA position, though it is not one that will overwhelm us. I earn income separately, and we are borrowing well below the usual amount for law school. Since the financial loss is not an intolerable short-term burden, I'm viewing it in the light of long-term career development, where much larger sums of money will be in play. (The financial loss should not be minimized either, of course.)

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. These seem to me like pretty good options (a relief after seemingly endless interviews), but a choice must be made almost immediately. I initially leaned toward the position with the judge, but I'm a little more skeptical now that I've seen the list of 1L summer positions obtained by past students from the same school. Only a very small number have chosen internships with judges, and I'm worried that there's some issue that the "wisdom of crowds" is picking up.


If the judge is Lucy Koh, I'd probably take the internship.

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bk1
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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby bk1 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:52 pm

Emma. wrote:If the judge is Lucy Koh, I'd probably take the internship.

My suspicion is that it is Judge Koh, but why is she worth it?

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Pokemon » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:54 pm

The difference is 30k versus 0k. Which one is better?

Oh, but the judge is famous? But the judge has a big case load? So, what?? She is aiming to work at a firm after graduation, and it is not like Cravath will be: "wait, you hope to get a job with us? Nah, we only accept people who could not get 1L SAs and had to settle for district judges. As a matter of fact, we prefer even more the ones who did not even get a district court internship, but had to settle on working for that famous Harvard Professor during the summer."

PS: big name judge internship does not also necessarily mean a bonus for you. Because they are famous it does not mean they will care for you. There are plenty of interns who worked for big judges and worked 95% on tasks that the law clerk of that judge assigned them.

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Emma.
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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Emma. » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:07 pm

bk1 wrote:
Emma. wrote:If the judge is Lucy Koh, I'd probably take the internship.

My suspicion is that it is Judge Koh, but why is she worth it?


OP's spouse is particularly interested in the caseload (presumably in patent stuff, if it is Judge Koh), but beyond that I think the opportunity to work for the District Ct judge currently handling one of the highest profile cases in the country is a pretty unique one. No question OP's spouse will be able to land a biglaw SA for her/his 2L summer if that is what s/he wants. This seems like the one chance to do something cool and different before settling down into biglaw hell.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby EvilClinton » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:13 pm

It is definitely Koh.

Take the Big Law SA. Judicial externships do nothing for you in the long run.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby bigbirdfly » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:18 pm

Take the 1L SA, even if the alternative option is an unpaid summer SCOTUS judicial internship (of course, not such a thing).

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bk1
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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby bk1 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:45 pm

Emma. wrote:OP's spouse is particularly interested in the caseload (presumably in patent stuff, if it is Judge Koh), but beyond that I think the opportunity to work for the District Ct judge currently handling one of the highest profile cases in the country is a pretty unique one. No question OP's spouse will be able to land a biglaw SA for her/his 2L summer if that is what s/he wants. This seems like the one chance to do something cool and different before settling down into biglaw hell.

Eh, this still seems like a weak reason to choose a judge over being an SA. I was thinking more along the lines of if the judge for some reason really went to bat for interns and was really hands on with them.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:54 pm

Thanks to all for your comments. It seems that there is a majority in favor of taking the SA position, although there is certainly not total agreement!

Since the pay difference (you mention $30k vs $0k, which is in the ballpark) is coming up a lot in the discussion, perhaps I should elaborate a little on my views about the importance of pay. Again, we are certainly not a rich household, but we have some slack in our financial position. I have no debt, and since we are paying for the cost of living and some of the cost of law school out of my salary, my spouse's debt load will be about half the typical one. Since we are not running up against any hard constraints, it is rational to take a longer view and not overemphasize the importance of $30k, despite the obvious attraction.

At a real discount rate of 4% and a 25 year career length, an expense of $30k incurred today corresponds to an average of $2k salary per year. I'm not an expert on the legal job market, but it certainly seems plausible to me that decisions about 1L year (however unimportant the conventional wisdom holds it to be) could alter a career trajectory by at least $2k per year, which is quite small compared to mid-career salaries in the upper 25% of the legal world. (And this doesn't have to be a crudely monetary calculation either; even if this decision has zero expected impact on long-term salary, it could have non-monetary benefits or costs that we'd value at $2k per year.)

Again, I don't mean to dismiss $30k entirely; it's a respectable chunk of money, and I would love to have an additional $30k in my bank account right now. But since there is a great deal of heterogeneity on this forum about the importance of summer salary, I'd like to get beyond this issue for a moment and have more discussion about the career implications. So I'll ask:

If money is irrelevant (suppose I am assured the Mafia will steal exactly $30k after the SA job), which position do you think offers better experience, helps build a better resume, and so on?

(Obviously money is not really irrelevant, but I think opinions on this hypothetical question could serve as a useful benchmark, and get past debate over the precise importance of $30k.)

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby EvilClinton » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
If money is irrelevant (suppose I am assured the Mafia will steal exactly $30k after the SA job), which position do you think offers better experience, helps build a better resume, and so on?

(Obviously money is not really irrelevant, but I think opinions on this hypothetical question could serve as a useful benchmark, and get past debate over the precise importance of $30k.)

The Biglaw SA is a lot more prestigious and offers better experience.

It is really easy to get a judicial externship as a 1L from a T14. It is much harder to get a 1L SA. The SA will likely come with an offer for a job (or an offer to return next summer). The judicial externship probably get you nothing. Most judges also have a policy of not hiring former externs as clerks (I know Judge Koh does).

TL:DR The 1L SA opens more doors than the judicial externship.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby bk1 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:At a real discount rate of 4% and a 25 year career length, an expense of $30k incurred today corresponds to an average of $2k salary per year. I'm not an expert on the legal job market, but it certainly seems plausible to me that decisions about 1L year (however unimportant the conventional wisdom holds it to be) could alter a career trajectory by at least $2k per year, which is quite small compared to mid-career salaries in the upper 25% of the legal world. (And this doesn't have to be a crudely monetary calculation either; even if this decision has zero expected impact on long-term salary, it could have non-monetary benefits or costs that we'd value at $2k per year.)

I'm going to go even further than EvilClinton and say that (unless your spouse ends up at his/her 1L firm after graduation) even the 1L SA is not going to have any impact on future career. Neither of these things are going to impress employers at OCI. All they care about is whether you work somewhere legal, doesn't matter whether it's the USAO, a V100 firm, or a judge.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby ilovesf » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:06 pm

If you go to S, just try to parlay the internship into a Fall internship and do it for credit.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby bk1 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:08 pm

ilovesf wrote:If you go to S, just try to parlay the internship into a Fall internship and do it for credit.

Since the person has to move for the judge, it seems like interning for this judge during the semester would not be possible.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby ilovesf » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:10 pm

bk1 wrote:
ilovesf wrote:If you go to S, just try to parlay the internship into a Fall internship and do it for credit.

Since the person has to move for the judge, it seems like interning for this judge during the semester would not be possible.

Oops, I should pay better attention to detail.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby TLSwag » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:12 pm

is this really a question. wow

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Pokemon » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks to all for your comments. It seems that there is a majority in favor of taking the SA position, although there is certainly not total agreement!

Since the pay difference (you mention $30k vs $0k, which is in the ballpark) is coming up a lot in the discussion, perhaps I should elaborate a little on my views about the importance of pay. Again, we are certainly not a rich household, but we have some slack in our financial position. I have no debt, and since we are paying for the cost of living and some of the cost of law school out of my salary, my spouse's debt load will be about half the typical one. Since we are not running up against any hard constraints, it is rational to take a longer view and not overemphasize the importance of $30k, despite the obvious attraction.

At a real discount rate of 4% and a 25 year career length, an expense of $30k incurred today corresponds to an average of $2k salary per year. I'm not an expert on the legal job market, but it certainly seems plausible to me that decisions about 1L year (however unimportant the conventional wisdom holds it to be) could alter a career trajectory by at least $2k per year, which is quite small compared to mid-career salaries in the upper 25% of the legal world. (And this doesn't have to be a crudely monetary calculation either; even if this decision has zero expected impact on long-term salary, it could have non-monetary benefits or costs that we'd value at $2k per year.)

Again, I don't mean to dismiss $30k entirely; it's a respectable chunk of money, and I would love to have an additional $30k in my bank account right now. But since there is a great deal of heterogeneity on this forum about the importance of summer salary, I'd like to get beyond this issue for a moment and have more discussion about the career implications. So I'll ask:

If money is irrelevant (suppose I am assured the Mafia will steal exactly $30k after the SA job), which position do you think offers better experience, helps build a better resume, and so on?

(Obviously money is not really irrelevant, but I think opinions on this hypothetical question could serve as a useful benchmark, and get past debate over the precise importance of $30k.)


Employers will not be impressed by an unpaid judicial internship unfortunately. So, not much gain in that area. If anything employers are more impressed by 1L SA since they are so rare. I have heard people say that 1L SA can be risky since 2L firms might feel you might be "taken," but I do not think there is much truth to that view.

For the internship to matter, you have to count on the judge falling in love with your spouse, and helping him/her constantly throughout her/his career. Not realistic.

Working for the judge should not even be less stressful than being a 1L sa, since the expectations are so low.
The only benefit I see is maybe establishing ties to the city where the judge is located if you want to practice there and you currently have no ties.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:38 pm

The Biglaw SA is a lot more prestigious and offers better experience.

It is really easy to get a judicial externship as a 1L from a T14. It is much harder to get a 1L SA. The SA will likely come with an offer for a job (or an offer to return next summer). The judicial externship probably get you nothing.

Thanks. This does seem to be the overwhelmingly more common view - judicial externships are a lot more common (and easy to obtain) than 1L SA jobs, even at the relatively high end.

I don't think there would be any argument here at all for most judicial externships - it's the combination of a prestigious district, a highly recognizable judge, and (most importantly) some potentially interesting work that makes this at least somewhat debatable.

The contrary view here seems so overwhelming that I'm probably just misguided - again, I don't have any personal experience with the legal market - but I've long understood that in general, having varied, high-profile experiences is very good for a resume. (Hate to get too anecdotal, but a friend of mine back in college who didn't seem at first to have much going on managed to get work with a few incredibly high-profile names on his resume, and has parlayed that into better and better things ever since.)

Of course, in the legal market perhaps the Biglaw SA job is an even better name-brand experience. (This is what people here seem to be saying.) Keep in mind, though:

1. Although the firm is definitely prominent, it is not one of the very, very biggest names. It seems to rank 50-100 on most surveys, for what that's worth. (I do not know much about the fine gradations of prestige in the biglaw world.)

2. I am at a similar stage in a different, but also high-powered career (I hope, at least!), meaning that we may have a very difficult co-location problem ahead of us. The implications for the 1L summer decision aren't clear, but it is unlikely that we would both be able to live in the particular city where the biglaw job is offered - meaning that the "1L summer turns into a 2L summer and maybe a permanent job" track is not so relevant.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Samara » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:51 pm

Pokemon wrote:I have heard people say that 1L SA can be risky since 2L firms might feel you might be "taken," but I do not think there is much truth to that view.

There is some truth to that view with regards to certain (most?) boutiques that hire 1Ls, but I doubt that any big firms would not still try to poach through 2L summer since such candidates are usually at the top of their class and do sometimes switch to the big firm.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby TooOld4This » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:59 pm

No upside to internships. Some are crap -- you sit in the library and clerks feed you discrete research projects. Some are substantive, but who cares? A summer internship with a judge, even a "famous" one isn't going to do much for you. The "prestige" is entirely in clerkships (i.e., post-graduation). Not only that, after one year of law school you can screw up pretty easily (assuming you aren't just doing small research busy-work).

Save the judicial side experience for a clerkship. Get paid this summer and learn some practical skills.

As long as people had something legal to talk about in interviews, I never cared what it was. No one got a "bump" from the job -- they got points for how they were able to talk about it.
Last edited by TooOld4This on Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:59 pm

bk1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:At a real discount rate of 4% and a 25 year career length, an expense of $30k incurred today corresponds to an average of $2k salary per year. I'm not an expert on the legal job market, but it certainly seems plausible to me that decisions about 1L year (however unimportant the conventional wisdom holds it to be) could alter a career trajectory by at least $2k per year, which is quite small compared to mid-career salaries in the upper 25% of the legal world. (And this doesn't have to be a crudely monetary calculation either; even if this decision has zero expected impact on long-term salary, it could have non-monetary benefits or costs that we'd value at $2k per year.)

I'm going to go even further than EvilClinton and say that (unless your spouse ends up at his/her 1L firm after graduation) even the 1L SA is not going to have any impact on future career. Neither of these things are going to impress employers at OCI. All they care about is whether you work somewhere legal, doesn't matter whether it's the USAO, a V100 firm, or a judge.


I don't think this is true. Firms cared that I did a 1L SA. I think firms care because it signals to them that another firm felt you were valuable enough to throw one of their very, very few SA spots on you and pay 30k for a less than 50-percent chance that you would return. The experience is also better for OCI than judge or virtually any other summer experience besides in-house work because it enables you to say "I am interested in your firm because of your reputable (tech transactions, white collar lit, etc.) practice I am interested in (XYZ) because I was assigned to (XYZ) assignments at my firm which I enjoyed because of (XYZ)."

Also, working for a judge, even a Kozinski or similar-level circuit judge, over 1L summer isn't that big of a deal. I guess it gives you an in with a judge so that you can get a clerkship. However, I would venture to say that the number of law school grads who worked for a judge over 1L summer and ended up striking out is probably 100x the number that did an SA position over 1L summer and ended up striking out at OCI.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby adonai » Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:54 pm

Why is this even a question? Go with the V100. If it was Kozinski or some other famous higher level court judge, I'd say it would be worth a brief consideration. But even then, V100 should win out. Having done both CoA/district court externships, I think the amount of "bump" they give is highly overrated on these forums. If you don't have the grades, no judicial internship will make up for that if you decide to clerk later on. A biglaw SA will actually give you money and a chance for a full-time job. It will also be beneficial in your spouse's hunt for a clerkship if your spouse decides they want to pursue that later on.

If your spouse is really remorseful for passing on the judicial internship with Koh (or whoever it might be), he/she can just do a visiting student gig at Berkeley (I think HYS has a special visiting student program with Berk) and do it that way during the school year. There were some kids at my CoA who were doing this.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby thesealocust » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:19 pm

OP: Unpaid temporary positions with judges of any kind just aren't impressive in the legal industry. They're generally not very competitive to land, and not viewed in an especially favorable light (largely for that reason). And fame doesn't help, if it even exists at all amongst district court judges.

To the extent there are "famous" judges it's extremely doubtful you would get career/resume boost from doing summer intern crap for them. It's fair to not consider money as the sole deciding factor, but honestly every other factor points towards the firm. More odds of hitting a meaningful work connection with somebody there than in a cloistered firm, better long term prospects, more impressive on the resume (1L SA positions being obscenely competitive to obtain), possible as much if not more substantive experience, etc.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:23 pm

Tell chambers s/he is extremely interested in the position and would like to know if s/he could do it during the school year as a field placement (i.e., getting academic credit). If chambers can't accommodate that request, your spouse should do the 1L SA for many of the reasons already discussed. It pays better, it has the potential for job security after graduation (even if it's not in a location you particularly desire, having an offer would be invaluable both as a last resort and as a resume-padder), and it's more prestigious (at least in the short term, which is really all that's worth considering). In other words, when it comes to getting a long-term job s/he likes in a location s/he desires, the 1L SA is superior.

The only potential exception is if your spouse is set on clerking after law school and the judge is of the type that goes to bat for former interns (I don't know whether Judge Koh is one of these). Even then, it's not like doing a 1L SA hurts your spouse's chances at all.

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Re: 1L summer: judicial clerk vs biglaw SA

Postby TaipeiMort » Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:01 am

adonai wrote:Why is this even a question? Go with the V100. If it was Kozinski or some other famous higher level court judge, I'd say it would be worth a brief consideration. But even then, V100 should win out. Having done both CoA/district court externships, I think the amount of "bump" they give is highly overrated on these forums. If you don't have the grades, no judicial internship will make up for that if you decide to clerk later on. A biglaw SA will actually give you money and a chance for a full-time job. It will also be beneficial in your spouse's hunt for a clerkship if your spouse decides they want to pursue that later on.

If your spouse is really remorseful for passing on the judicial internship with Koh (or whoever it might be), he/she can just do a visiting student gig at Berkeley (I think HYS has a special visiting student program with Berk) and do it that way during the school year. There were some kids at my CoA who were doing this.


The reason they are overrated in general is because career services pumps them as holy-grail-type opportunities in order to increase their yield of A3 clerks after graduation.




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