Help me choose a post-clerkship job

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Which should I choose?

Firm A
2
9%
Firm B
20
91%
 
Total votes: 22

Anonymous User
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Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 30, 2015 3:19 pm

I'm a current COA clerk, and I'm soliciting advice on my post-clerkship job decision. My applications for post-clerkship positions have yielded two options that I'm seriously considering. First, I have an offer from a firm (let's call it "Firm A") that is generally regarded as one of the top few firms in D.C. (my chosen market). Second, I have an offer from the D.C. office of a large, generally respected but definitively less "prestigious" (think Vault 30-60ish, though I realize Vault doesn't mean much) firm (let's call it "Firm B").

Here's the catch. My main goal going into this application process was finding a place where I can do mainly appellate work. Firm A is well-regarded for appellate work, but it has a free market system, so I think it would be very unlikely that I would do a significant amount of appellate work, at least not early on. Firm B, however, does not have a free market system. During my interview, I spoke exclusively with attorneys in the appellate group, and the firm's offer makes clear that I am being hired into the appellate group, and that all of my work would come from that group. Although Firm B is larger than Firm A, its D.C. office is smaller, and the appellate group (which is centered in D.C.) is, of course, smaller still; the appellate group was described to me as akin to a "boutique within the larger firm."

I am leaning towards Firm B; because they say I would just be doing appellate work, I just think I would have more fun there. I also like the idea of working with a small group of people, and am not thrilled about being in a free market system where I have to compete for the most interesting work. In terms of benefits, both firms seem identical: same starting salary, same clerkship bonus, etc.

There is really just one issue that gives me pause. I may want to transition into the government after a few years at a firm. While I don't care that much about "prestige" for its own sake, I worry that Firm A's stronger reputation may matter then. Do you think that choosing Firm B will limit my options down the road, or will lawyers generally know that getting hired into an appellate group is generally more difficult than just being hired at the firm that houses the appellate group?

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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:41 pm

This is the OP here. Thanks to everyone for their votes. Feel free to reply with commentary too. Also, if anyone reading this thread wants to ask me questions about clerking, etc., feel free.

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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:46 pm

I'm a 2L, so I can't speak with much authority, but since no one else has posted I thought I'd give you my reasoning for voting. In my experience talking to lawyers in DC and people aiming at these kinds of firms, many appellate practice groups are seen as very "prestigious" even if the firm itself isn't (Jenner and Mayer Brown come to mind). If you're getting the experience you want and you already have a COA clerkship, it doesn't seem to me you should be disadvantaged compared to some W&C guy who probably had the same credentials as you anyway. But maybe I'm wrong.

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seizmaar
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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby seizmaar » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:49 pm

i don't think your appellate work at a respected firm will materially harm your possibility in government, and it sounds pretty clear where you would like to be in the short term. give firm b the rose, op.

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rpupkin
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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:53 pm

I didn't vote in the poll, but I have a couple of comments:


Anonymous User wrote:During my interview, I spoke exclusively with attorneys in the appellate group, and the firm's offer makes clear that I am being hired into the appellate group, and that all of my work would come from that group.

I've known COA clerks who went to appellate groups that made identical assurances, and now the former clerks are doing about a 50/50 mix of appellate work and trial work. They're still in the "appellate group," but the firms' demands required pulling in appellate associates onto trial matters. I understand this is quite common, even at firms that are known for their appellate practices. Did you ask other associates in the group if they ever do trial work? The answers might be interesting.

There is really just one issue that gives me pause. I may want to transition into the government after a few years at a firm. While I don't care that much about "prestige" for its own sake, I worry that Firm A's stronger reputation may matter then. Do you think that choosing Firm B will limit my options down the road, or will lawyers generally know that getting hired into an appellate group is generally more difficult than just being hired at the firm that houses the appellate group?

I think connections and experience will prove far more important than the prestige of your firm. As you may know, however, there isn't a ton of demand for government appellate lawyers. If your goal is to transition into government at some point, I'd be wary of pigeon-holing yourself as an appellate lawyer this early. If you get some trial-level litigation experience along with the your appellate experience, you'll have more options in government.

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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:03 pm

rpupkin wrote:I didn't vote in the poll, but I have a couple of comments.

Anonymous User wrote:During my interview, I spoke exclusively with attorneys in the appellate group, and the firm's offer makes clear that I am being hired into the appellate group, and that all of my work would come from that group.

I've known COA clerks who went to appellate groups that made identical assurances, and now the former clerks are doing about a 50/50 mix of appellate work and trial work. They're still in the "appellate group," but the firms' demands required pulling in appellate associates onto trial matters. I understand this is quite common, even at firms that are known for their appellate practices. Did you ask other associates in the group if they ever do trial work? The answers might be interesting.

There is really just one issue that gives me pause. I may want to transition into the government after a few years at a firm. While I don't care that much about "prestige" for its own sake, I worry that Firm A's stronger reputation may matter then. Do you think that choosing Firm B will limit my options down the road, or will lawyers generally know that getting hired into an appellate group is generally more difficult than just being hired at the firm that houses the appellate group?

I think connections and experience will prove far more important than the prestige of your firm. As you may know, however, there isn't a ton of demand for government appellate lawyers. If your goal is to transition into government at some point, I'd be wary of pigeon-holing yourself as an appellate lawyer this early. If you get some trial-level litigation experience along with the your appellate experience, you'll have more options in government.


Thanks. As to ending up doing trial work, I was somewhat concerned about that. They do bring in members of the appellate group to assist with briefing for trial teams on dispositive motions; this seems fairly common across all appellate or "issues and appeals" groups, and I would actually be happy to do that kind of work for the sake of variety and learning more about trial level litigation. (I'm a double COA clerk, so "trial" is a vague abstraction for me.) That said, most associates said it was very much a minority of their work; most of their work, they said, was briefing for appeals before the federal courts of appeals. I suppose they might all be lying to me, but if they are, I'm not sure what I could do to find out otherwise.

I realize, too, that there is not that much demand for government appellate lawyers. I spoke to my judge today, and his general view seemed to be that virtually no one who is going to a big firm is going to have actual trial experience after a couple years, so that I've mainly worked on appeals wouldn't make a big difference.

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rpupkin
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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I realize, too, that there is not that much demand for government appellate lawyers. I spoke to my judge today, and his general view seemed to be that virtually no one who is going to a big firm is going to have actual trial experience after a couple years, so that I've mainly worked on appeals wouldn't make a big difference.

Mmmm....I'm not sure your judge is right. Yeah, you're not going to first chair a trial (or even examine a witness) after a few years at a big law firm, but you're at least going to learn discovery. And that's a huge part of the process--for both private and government lawyers.

Moreover, if you wanted actual trial experience during your first few years, you could go to a smaller (but still prestigious) boutique firm. As you probably know, associates from those firms do quite well when it comes to government hiring.

But it sounds like this is all basically moot because you want to focus exclusively on appellate work. Although I think that's a somewhat risky career choice (because your post-firm options are quite limited), it sounds like Firm B is a good fit for you. That seems like the way to go.

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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:22 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I realize, too, that there is not that much demand for government appellate lawyers. I spoke to my judge today, and his general view seemed to be that virtually no one who is going to a big firm is going to have actual trial experience after a couple years, so that I've mainly worked on appeals wouldn't make a big difference.

Mmmm....I'm not sure your judge is right. Yeah, you're not going to first chair a trial (or even examine a witness) after a few years at a big law firm, but you're at least going to learn discovery. And that's a huge part of the process--for both private and government lawyers.

Moreover, if you wanted actual trial experience in your first few years, you could go to a smaller (but still prestigious) boutique firm. As you probably know, associates from those firms do quite well when it comes to government hiring.

But it sounds like this is all basically moot because you want to focus exclusively on appellate work. Although I think that's a somewhat risky career choice (because your post-firm options are quite limited), it sounds like Firm B is a good fit for you. That seems like the way to go.


You're right that a boutique is probably the best option for getting real trial experience as a young lawyer.

Anyway, I think my judge was referring to criminal trial experience (if, for instance, I wanted to become an AUSA). You could get that as a young lawyer at a boutique, but at a big firm the odds seem much greater of being stuck on some big civil matter, or some internal investigation, etc.

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rpupkin
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Re: Help me choose a post-clerkship job

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 30, 2015 5:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I realize, too, that there is not that much demand for government appellate lawyers. I spoke to my judge today, and his general view seemed to be that virtually no one who is going to a big firm is going to have actual trial experience after a couple years, so that I've mainly worked on appeals wouldn't make a big difference.

Mmmm....I'm not sure your judge is right. Yeah, you're not going to first chair a trial (or even examine a witness) after a few years at a big law firm, but you're at least going to learn discovery. And that's a huge part of the process--for both private and government lawyers.

Moreover, if you wanted actual trial experience in your first few years, you could go to a smaller (but still prestigious) boutique firm. As you probably know, associates from those firms do quite well when it comes to government hiring.

But it sounds like this is all basically moot because you want to focus exclusively on appellate work. Although I think that's a somewhat risky career choice (because your post-firm options are quite limited), it sounds like Firm B is a good fit for you. That seems like the way to go.


You're right that a boutique is probably the best option for getting real trial experience as a young lawyer.

Anyway, I think my judge was referring to criminal trial experience (if, for instance, I wanted to become an AUSA). You could get that as a young lawyer at a boutique, but at a big firm the odds seem much greater of being stuck on some big civil matter, or some internal investigation, etc.

I think that's right. By the way, I'm not trying to challenge your career preferences here. I'm just throwing out some considerations. I was a COA clerk as well (as were several of my friends), and I've noticed that it can be tough to go from "appellate associate specialist" to government, even if you've got nice shiny credentials. But it can work out, of course, and there's little sense in suffering through thousands of hours of trial-level work if that's not where your interests lie. Good luck!




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