Clerkship application process?

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XxSpyKEx
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Clerkship application process?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:03 pm

Could someone who has read about the process of been through it explain it here? Looking for everything from timeframes to get letters of recommendations, how many recommendations to get, when to apply to what clerkship positions (i.e. district count, CoA), the interviewing process, time to accept an offer, etc., etc.

charliec9
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby charliec9 » Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:12 pm

Overarching theme of my experience with it: start getting things together now. I'm a 3L set to clerk for COA 2/7/9/DC (non-feeder, but has sent a few up) next year.

I think one of the best things to plan in advance is your writing sample/letters of recommendation. I took a smaller, seminar-ish class with a professor that I'd heard good things about and in an area of the law that I liked. Put a premium on knocking that class out of the park and developing a relationship with the professor. If all goes well, that'll be a good letter of recommendation that will be a bit outside of the cookie-cutter "he took a tough class with me (with a million other kids) and did well" letters. My second letter was in a class that I took to satisfy the upper level writing requirement; I planned on using the seminar paper as my clerkship writing sample. I also took that prof again second semester in a tough class on the gamble that I'd do well, so that could be reflected in that letter. Third and fourth letters were from profs I did well in in the standard, doctrinal, hard classes, but again, ones that I'd talked to in office hours (about the class, my interests, and clerking). For district judges, I swapped out one of those for a letter from a partner at the firm I worked at during 1L summer.

Once you have your paper down and done, especially if it is long, find a discrete section of it that engages in solid legal reasoning, draft an introduction and that'll lock in your writing sample. Spend some time during second semester editing that portion/cleaning it up/bluebooking. I waited till summer to do this and, even though I had a lot of my prep work done ahead of time, it still had me scrambling. Submit it as a note for publication, if allowed by your school and/or journal, or alternatively, submit it for publication in other schools' journals.

That and a resume should set you up. During second semester, get your list of judges down. If your school or professors offer help re early moving judges, don't hesitate. If you have profs that you know/can get to know that have clerked at your school, talk to them. At worst, they'll give you valuable advice; at best, they might make a call, have information about early hiring, etc. If you are working for a firm this summer, especially one who has a lot of attorneys who have clerked, talk to them about your desire to clerk, your materials, etc. Again, at worst, they'll give advice; at best, they'll make calls/give you advice about their judge or other judges.

Regarding timeframe, if you go on plan, it will be hectic, especially if you are lucky enough to get multiple calls. I knew I wanted to clerk so I applied broadly and, on call day, my phone was going off like crazy. You'll have to make scheduling decisions very quickly or risk the best interview spots being taken. Think about this before that period starts, as having a plan helped me immensely. If you do want COA or DCT in a desired location (DDC, CDCA, NDIL, SD/EDNY, etc), those judges will hire fast and, if you don't go the first or second day, you likely won't get a spot. Basically, this means that you can only pick certain areas to interview in. Many of these judges will give exploding offers of varying lengths -- some will want to know right then, others will let you wait until the end of the day. If you are off plan, you won't have to deal with the plan...but you'll likely to have to accept with that judge before finding out what would of come on-plan (in essence, don't apply to an off plan judge unless you'd be willing to accept).

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:41 pm

charliec9 wrote:Overarching theme of my experience with it: start getting things together now. I'm a 3L set to clerk for COA 2/7/9/DC (non-feeder, but has sent a few up) next year.

I think one of the best things to plan in advance is your writing sample/letters of recommendation. I took a smaller, seminar-ish class with a professor that I'd heard good things about and in an area of the law that I liked. Put a premium on knocking that class out of the park and developing a relationship with the professor. If all goes well, that'll be a good letter of recommendation that will be a bit outside of the cookie-cutter "he took a tough class with me (with a million other kids) and did well" letters. My second letter was in a class that I took to satisfy the upper level writing requirement; I planned on using the seminar paper as my clerkship writing sample. I also took that prof again second semester in a tough class on the gamble that I'd do well, so that could be reflected in that letter. Third and fourth letters were from profs I did well in in the standard, doctrinal, hard classes, but again, ones that I'd talked to in office hours (about the class, my interests, and clerking). For district judges, I swapped out one of those for a letter from a partner at the firm I worked at during 1L summer.

Once you have your paper down and done, especially if it is long, find a discrete section of it that engages in solid legal reasoning, draft an introduction and that'll lock in your writing sample. Spend some time during second semester editing that portion/cleaning it up/bluebooking. I waited till summer to do this and, even though I had a lot of my prep work done ahead of time, it still had me scrambling. Submit it as a note for publication, if allowed by your school and/or journal, or alternatively, submit it for publication in other schools' journals.

That and a resume should set you up. During second semester, get your list of judges down. If your school or professors offer help re early moving judges, don't hesitate. If you have profs that you know/can get to know that have clerked at your school, talk to them. At worst, they'll give you valuable advice; at best, they might make a call, have information about early hiring, etc. If you are working for a firm this summer, especially one who has a lot of attorneys who have clerked, talk to them about your desire to clerk, your materials, etc. Again, at worst, they'll give advice; at best, they'll make calls/give you advice about their judge or other judges.

Regarding timeframe, if you go on plan, it will be hectic, especially if you are lucky enough to get multiple calls. I knew I wanted to clerk so I applied broadly and, on call day, my phone was going off like crazy. You'll have to make scheduling decisions very quickly or risk the best interview spots being taken. Think about this before that period starts, as having a plan helped me immensely. If you do want COA or DCT in a desired location (DDC, CDCA, NDIL, SD/EDNY, etc), those judges will hire fast and, if you don't go the first or second day, you likely won't get a spot. Basically, this means that you can only pick certain areas to interview in. Many of these judges will give exploding offers of varying lengths -- some will want to know right then, others will let you wait until the end of the day. If you are off plan, you won't have to deal with the plan...but you'll likely to have to accept with that judge before finding out what would of come on-plan (in essence, don't apply to an off plan judge unless you'd be willing to accept).


When should I plan on sending all my applications out?

What is "off plan" and "on plan." (I really don't know anything about clerkships)

columbo
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby columbo » Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:57 pm

Thanks for the extremely insightful post! Do judges expect 3-4 letters of recommendation? Did you submit any letters written by first-year profs?

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TTT-LS
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby TTT-LS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:56 pm

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Last edited by TTT-LS on Sun Jul 04, 2010 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

charliec9
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby charliec9 » Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:06 pm

Off-plan/on-plan: The great majority of Federal judges follow the clerkship hiring plan. If you run a google search for "OSCAR clerkship," you'll pull up the website that lays out the program. The website also is the vehicle for filing applications online (for those judges that do online apps) and also lists a number of (but not all) judges who are accepting applications. The plan applies to 3L's and basically says that applications can't be released to judges for current students applying to clerk after they complete their degree until early September of their third year, and they are released all at once. About a week later, the judges can call -- again, all at the same time -- to schedule interviews. Interviews occur about a week later and offers can be extended at any time the judge likes after that point. Alumni can apply at any time -- either by sending applications ("paper" apps) or filing them online.

There are some (a significant minority) of judges who will take applications from law students via paper apps before this time. Lawclerkaddict.com will highlight some of these judges. For example, Judge Kozinski on the 9th Circuit takes applications early, as does Judge Smith on the Fifth. You can find out about these judges through your own research or, sometimes, a school will solicit names early to be forwarded along to these judges or a professor will pass along your name to the judge. Indeed, the hiring plan for current students is completely optional and a judge need not follow the hiring plan's timeline.

Recc letters: I had four prepped (four academic, one practitioner). For COA, I sent the four academic ones, absent a request otherwise (e.g., I think Bea on the 9th wanted a practitioner if you had it, so I subbed that in). For DCT, I sent my three strongest academic and the practitioner. I sent four even to those judges that only wanted two or three, just because it was easier. I got a number of interviews on-plan, so I don't think it turned off any judges. I think first year profs are fine, so long as you kept/keep up with the prof. First year profs are especially credited if you had a class with them second year as well.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:32 pm

Thanks for all the helpful information!

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Merrill
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby Merrill » Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:41 pm

I'm assuming some circuits are more desirable, based on size, influence, selectivity, population, location, feeder judges, etc. Are there any commonly accepted divisions or tiers? charliec9 mentioned "2/7/9/DC" and TTT-LS mentioned "4/6/7/9."

charliec9
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby charliec9 » Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:54 pm

I mostly did that to stay vague. There is a bit of a distinction in desirability, but even it is tough to parse by circuit. I think 2/9/DC (and sometimes 7) get lumped together because they tend to be the circuits centering around the largest cities and/or the most feeders (namely NYC, LA/SF/general California, DC and Chicago). That said, there are plenty of judges on other circuits that are considered feeders or fledgling feeders (for example, Smith on the 5th, Niemeier and Wilkinson the 4th, Sutton on the 6th), they are just in (arguably) less desirable locations.

A number of people would say certain DCT clerkships (SDNY, CDCA, DDC, NDIL) are more desirable than so-called "flyover" COA clerkships (maybe 6/8/10, I suppose). All of this is a lot of splitting hairs, IMHO. Again, I think 2/9/DC (7-ish) tend to get lumped together due to the location, the prevalence of feeder judges, or a combo of the two.

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TTT-LS
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby TTT-LS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:16 pm

.
Last edited by TTT-LS on Sun Jul 04, 2010 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

charliec9
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby charliec9 » Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:25 pm

TTT-LS wrote:SCOTUS
DC Cir.
2&9
1, 3, 4, 7, Fed. Cir.
5, 6
8, 10, 11


I agree w/ this completely, other than Fed. Cir. I think Fed. Cir. is such an exception (in that its valuable in a very narrow set of employment circumstances) that it really shouldn't be ranked with the others. I dunno what the best word is -- quirky? That's a minor quibble...this is very credited.

columbo
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby columbo » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:00 am

True/false:

It makes more sense to clerk where you plan to practice than at a more "desirable" court. E.g., if you want to work in LA, CDC would be better than SDNY. And if you want to work in Chicago, 7th would be better than 9th. And if you want to work in Houston, 5th would be better than 2d, etc. And if you want to work in NY and don't want to do administrative law, 2d would be better than DC.

charliec9
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby charliec9 » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:22 am

columbo wrote:True/false:

It makes more sense to clerk where you plan to practice than at a more "desirable" court. E.g., if you want to work in LA, CDC would be better than SDNY. And if you want to work in Chicago, 7th would be better than 9th. And if you want to work in Houston, 5th would be better than 2d, etc. And if you want to work in NY and don't want to do administrative law, 2d would be better than DC.


For firm work: I'd say this logic likely applies for district clerkships (DDC more useful in DC, SDNY more useful in NYC, etc.). I'm not sure if the logic holds for COA, though. Personally, even if I wanted to practice in Dallas or Houston, I'd still take a DC judge over 5th Circuit (unless I was wed to geography during that year), for a variety of reasons.

I limit the above to firm work because I'm only familiar with that, and even then my familiarity is anecdotal information from hiring partners at my 1L and 2L summer firms. For government, I don't think there's the same district clerkship locality benefits. I surmise that government will like clerkships no matter what...and there's less choice regarding geography there anyway.

bradley
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby bradley » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:59 am

Thanks for all your helpful information, I was looking for it too.

Is there any way to find out where judges' offices actually are? I know that, for example, even though the 6th Circuit hears oral arguments in Cincinnati, the judges are spread all throughout Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, etc.

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ggocat
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Re: Clerkship application process?

Postby ggocat » Sun Oct 11, 2009 11:02 am

bradley wrote:Thanks for all your helpful information, I was looking for it too.

Is there any way to find out where judges' offices actually are? I know that, for example, even though the 6th Circuit hears oral arguments in Cincinnati, the judges are spread all throughout Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, etc.

https://oscar.uscourts.gov/index.php?_to=1

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