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merits of a state trial court clerkship

Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:53 pm
by depth charge
i know this is a highly contextual question, but i'd like to hear thoughts particularly from those who have state trial court clerking experience. the question: would it be a prudent professional move to accept a state trial court clerkship?

i've got a few years of small firm civil litigation experience and am considering clerking at the state circuit court level for a well-respected judge in the state's largest county.

long term, i want to be a civil litigator practicing within the state the clerkship is in, and very likely within the same county.

the cut in salary is $30,000 annually, and it'd be a 2-year commitment. i envision returning to private practice litigation after 2 years. that'd put me at ~6 years out of law school. i know the prestige of a state circuit court clerkship is slim to none, but i'd ideally be able to transition to a large firm (i have t14 credentials, but middling academic performance).

the experience i'm getting at my current firm is neither bad nor particularly good. it's a bit too generalist, though i am litigating. i am eager to either move to another firm with more opportunities or take this clerkship.

what do you guys think?

Re: merits of a state trial court clerkship

Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:43 pm
by lawschoolftw
depth charge wrote:i know this is a highly contextual question, but i'd like to hear thoughts particularly from those who have state trial court clerking experience. the question: would it be a prudent professional move to accept a state trial court clerkship?

i've got a few years of small firm civil litigation experience and am considering clerking at the state circuit court level for a well-respected judge in the state's largest county.

long term, i want to be a civil litigator practicing within the state the clerkship is in, and very likely within the same county.

the cut in salary is $30,000 annually, and it'd be a 2-year commitment. i envision returning to private practice litigation after 2 years. that'd put me at ~6 years out of law school. i know the prestige of a state circuit court clerkship is slim to none, but i'd ideally be able to transition to a large firm (i have t14 credentials, but middling academic performance).

the experience i'm getting at my current firm is neither bad nor particularly good. it's a bit too generalist, though i am litigating. i am eager to either move to another firm with more opportunities or take this clerkship.

what do you guys think?


Out of context, I'm not sure this is a great move. Generally speaking, state trial clerkships carry little prestige and the only way it would get you into a big firm is if the judge has connections him/herself and was willing to put in a word for you. I can't imagine a big firm looking at someone who's been out of school six years, with two of those years being a state trial court clerkship, being interested per se because of the clerkship. You would effectively be a senior associate, without senior associate experience.

Another thing worth noting, and this varies by court/judge, but trial-level clerkships at the state level can involve more administrative work than substantive legal work. I have a friend doing one and she spends most of her day preparing form orders, prepping the docket etc. It's not the same kind of substantive experience you get from a Fed. D. Ct. clerkship. If you want biglaw, I'd look to lateral from where you are now, rather than spending two years clerking.