Clerks Taking Questions

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:12 pm

How are letters of rec from 1L summer employers weighed against recs from professors? For example, if I have the choice (for a 3rd rec for judges who require 3) of a fairly strong rec from the executive director of a legal public interest organization, a good rec from a partner at a V10, or a likely average rec from a prof in whose class I did well, which should I choose? Does the answer change if the prof had a CoA or SCOTUS clerkship?

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:18 pm

Thanks for doing this GTL. I'm a transfer student (TTT to GWU) and was lucky enough to get a 4.0 this semester. However, I do not have a journal, though I have a lot of writing awards from my old school and was invited onto LR there. What should I do to put myself in the best position to get a clerkship next year?

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:22 pm

To the anon HLS poster who speculates he or she is in the top 25-30%, I'm curious what your grade breakdown was. Given the lack of GPAs, it's a total shot in the dark for those of us who try to predict ranking.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:24 pm

Anonymous HLS poster here. I have 8 H's (including 1 DS) and 6 P's. My "GPA" is a 3.58. I think it's probably closer to 30% than 25%, but who knows.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:11 pm

Interesting. I'm a currently a 3L, and I had better grades than you this time last year (though not by a huge margin). By the end of fall semester of 2L, I had 9 H's (including a DS) and 4 P's. My "GPA" dropped slightly by the end of 2L, but not by much. I targeted pretty much every major city district court and a few COA. Not a whiff from the latter or from most other courts. Landed a few interviews in major markets, but was unable to secure a clerkship w/ any of those judges. Like you, I was an RA and member of the executive board of a secondary journal.

Long story short, the clerkship market has gotten monstrously competitive. I'm confident that my stats would've landed me something very nice just 5 years ago, but things have gotten much tougher. I'll be re-applying for 2013.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Interesting. I'm a currently a 3L, and I had better grades than you this time last year (though not by a huge margin). By the end of fall semester of 2L, I had 9 H's (including a DS) and 4 P's. My "GPA" dropped slightly by the end of 2L, but not by much. I targeted pretty much every major city district court and a few COA. Not a whiff from the latter or from most other courts. Landed a few interviews in major markets, but was unable to secure a clerkship w/ any of those judges. Like you, I was an RA and member of the executive board of a secondary journal.

Long story short, the clerkship market has gotten monstrously competitive. I'm confident that my stats would've landed me something very nice just 5 years ago, but things have gotten much tougher. I'll be re-applying for 2013.


Do you think LR would've made much of a difference in your situation? GTL, what do you think? I'm just trying to gauge whether LR itself makes a big difference, or whether it's really just about the tippy-top grades that usually accompany being on LR.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:09 pm

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Interesting. I'm a currently a 3L, and I had better grades than you this time last year (though not by a huge margin). By the end of fall semester of 2L, I had 9 H's (including a DS) and 4 P's. My "GPA" dropped slightly by the end of 2L, but not by much. I targeted pretty much every major city district court and a few COA. Not a whiff from the latter or from most other courts. Landed a few interviews in major markets, but was unable to secure a clerkship w/ any of those judges. Like you, I was an RA and member of the executive board of a secondary journal.

Long story short, the clerkship market has gotten monstrously competitive. I'm confident that my stats would've landed me something very nice just 5 years ago, but things have gotten much tougher. I'll be re-applying for 2013.

Two things. First, I bet the anon 3L above will have some success this cycle. For a number of reasons, people reapplying as alumni (which is what 3Ls are considered for plan purposes) tend to fare better. Second, the 3L's experience 2L year is quite common and current 2Ls should consider it carefully. Things have become more competitive. And an astronomical number of 2Ls overestimate their chances, leading them to apply too narrowly. This leads to strikeouts, many of which are preventable.

People on TLS constantly post "chances" questions that go like this: they list their stats, then say they know X is out (where X = a court completely out of reach) but think they have a shot at Y (where Y = another court they almost certainly cannot land ITE). For example, one might say "I'm top 25% at MVP, V5 NY SA, non-EIC board position on secondary journal, unsure of publication, RA 1L summer, above-average recs, etc. I know I can't get a feeder, but any shot at the less selective 2d Cir. judges or SDNY/DDC? What about flyover COA?" To be clear, you get no bonus points for setting up and knocking down a straw man. Or ten of them. Nor is it generally true that random "flyover" COAs are easier for people with good but not amazing grades from T14 schools. As has been explained many, many times before, judges on these courts tend to hire top 5 people (not top 5%) from local TTTs, people from top schools who have solid credentials and strong local ties, alumni with biglaw or district court experience, and so on. Your odds may be mathematically higher with a judge in North Dakota than they are with Judge Garland. But, to paraphrase another incredibly selective and well-regarded judge, the sum of a whole bunch of zero-value parts is still basically zero.

Which brings me back to my second point. 2Ls should decide what their goal is and apply accordingly. If you really only want to clerk in LA, SF, NY, or DC, and are comfortable striking out if those don't happen, fine. That's a pretty reasonable plan. The odds of getting nothing go up astronomically, of course. If instead you really want to clerk because you would enjoy the experience, or because you perceive some professional benefit from it, then you need to level with yourself about how random and competitive things have become. You need to be realistic about what you have that others do not, because there are a crapload of others and most are very qualified. An easy way to do this is to look at what 3Ls with your stats experienced.

If this post feels a little preachy, I apologize. I have been fielding a ton of inquiries lately, and am beginning to wear a little thin from unrealistic expectations/repeat questions.


HLS 2L. Not preachy at all, and actually very helpful to hear. Again, the reason I was asking about less competitive COA and district court positions is because I am very aware that I have next to no shot at elite district or COA clerkships. Obviously I was planning to apply very broadly; my question was more about where I figure my ceiling is given my grades at this point.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby quiver » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:09 pm

In terms of on-plan district court and COA judges, how does applying broadly practically affect interviewing for clerkships? For example, if I want to apply very broadly to district courts (or on-plan COA) to give myself the best shot at landing a clerkship and I get an interview for like DNH and SDFL, how can I possibly make it to both interviews when they're both on the plan and trying to get spots filled as quickly as possible? Do judges conduct phone interviews at all?

There is also the doctrine of not turning down an offer from a judge. How does this play a part in both the above geographic problems and on-plan interviewing generally? If two judges are both hiring on-plan but I would like to clerk for one more than the other, do I just schedule that interview first and hope I get an immediate offer? If there are off-plan judges that I would like to clerk for but on-plan judges that I want more, do I forego applying to off-plan ones altogether?

On the whole, how do you balance applying broadly with judge preferences and geographic interviewing difficulties?

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:02 pm

3 questions for you clerkship masters, they are more opinion than anything else:

1) How much longer until "The Plan" totally implodes?

2) Are students better suited to clerk in the COA or DCt right after law school?

3) Do you honestly believe that the top flight clerkship applicants will be substantially better clerks than the average t14, LR, top 33% grad at the district court level? I mean how difficult is it to write opinions on 1983 cases, Title VII cases, 12b6, 56, habeas petitions and so forth? Or is it that judges want to see that they are hiring someone that works hard and efficiently which the GPA signals?

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:28 pm

2L who is just getting started on the clerkship process here. Any thoughts on my chances?

T25 school, hovering just outside the top 5%, published an article in a journal not related to my school, 1 professor who is a former supreme court clerk and is fairly well known who I'm close with and is really passionate about helping me clerk, on LR and running for EIC and managing editor with a pretty good shot at winning, working at a V25 this summer. I have ties to CA, MD, DC, MA, and NY.

Thanks, I realize you get a lot of these.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Corwin » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:31 pm

There's also the simple fact that CoA judges don't have to dip that low in order to get extraordinarily qualified clerks (and so they don't). If there is an extra iota of talent that could be extracted by looking for a diamond in the rough, it isn't worth the cost to the judge.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Perdevise » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:33 am

GTL, thanks for taking questions. I have two, if you don't mind. I am sorry if they have been addressed before, but I am only about half way through reading the thread.

I am a 0L probably going to Stanford, and aside from good grades/making law review, what can I do early on to maximize chances for a COA clerkship?

Second, I read a lot of people disparage clerkships in noncompetitive areas or in centrally-located states (I dislike the term flyover). Is there a point where an article III clerkship in certain districts provides less of the benefits associated with clerking to the point that it becomes not worth it? (I mean from an employment stance; I understand that clerking anywhere is an honor and provides interesting work).

Thanks again.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:20 pm

Is there a point where an article III clerkship in certain districts provides less of the benefits associated with clerking to the point that it becomes not worth it? (I mean from an employment stance; I understand that clerking anywhere is an honor and provides interesting work).


First, the obligatory "you're a 0L, come back when you have enrolled in a law school and have, well, grades."

To answer your question: It's actually a pretty complicated one. You're going to take a financial hit no matter what, probably even if you clerk for SCOTUS (the clerkship bonus might roughly compensate for the lost salary, but you won't get the annual associate bonuses). So the question is what you get for that financial loss.

One answer might be that firms or practice groups open up for you that otherwise would be foreclosed. With respect to the first of these, places like Barlitt Beck, Susman and Munger come to mind, but there are others. With respect to the second, appellate litigation groups anywhere will likely require a COA clerkship; an AIII clerkship is also a de facto requirement in some specialized litigation groups as well (securities lit most frequently, but this can vary by firm). Finally, I know of a handful of firms that won't make you partner in particular groups unless you've clerked -- actually, in one of these, midlevel and even senior associates have taken a clerkship "hiatus" to bless their resumes prior to the partnership push. Where to draw the line so that you get the sought after benefit will depend on which situation you are talking about, and can even vary firm-to-firm. For example, Barlitt might require a COA clerkship, whereas Susman wants COA, ND Tex, WD Tex or SD Tex, whereas Munger will take pretty much any AIII clerkship. Or Mayer wants 2/7/9/DC for its appellate group, but GDC will take 2/4/5/9/DC for its one. (The "must clerk to make partner" firms I'm aware of generally will take any AIII clerkship.)

Another thing that might make a clerkship worth it is that it could help you get a nonfirm job down the road. USAO/DOJ and academia are the most famous two, but there are others (the Texas SG's office, for example). Where to draw the line with academia is easy -- virtually any COA clerkship will meet the minimum threshold (i.e., it won't hurt you), but it will only be a net positive if you clerk for particular judges or are a SCOTUS clerk. Aside from a handful of judges (Weinstein, Wood, maybe a few others), a USDC clerkship will be viewed as something to overcome -- though the lack of any clerkship is an even bigger handicap (it implies to hiring committees that your grades weren't very good). As for where to draw the line with USAO/DOJ, that's just going to depend on the office. OLC, for example, mainly hires SCOTUS clerks. The USAO in most big cities will probably be fine with most AIII clerkships. The USAO in the boonies might not even require that.

So, having said all that, where you draw the line between clerkships that are "worth it" really depends on what you want to do, and where you want to do it. Want to spend a few years at a DC appellate group and then maybe think about academia? A USDC clerkship in a flyover state is not going to be worth it -- might as well start directly as an associate at a lit group in LA or SF and "save" the money, because that career path is probably out. Thinking about maybe moving over to the USAO after a few years? Well, that same USDC flyover clerkship likely would open some doors for you in some markets.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Perdevise » Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:33 pm

I apologize for the 0L-ness, I was just wondering if there is anything I can start thinking of right now. Thanks for the detailed answer.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby madame defarge » Wed Feb 01, 2012 4:36 pm

Best thing to do during 1L other than to focus on grades/making law review is to start making connections with professors who will be future recommenders. Judge McConnell comes to mind...

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One answer might be that firms or practice groups open up for you that otherwise would be foreclosed. With respect to the first of these, places like Barlitt Beck, Susman and Munger come to mind, but there are others. With respect to the second, appellate litigation groups anywhere will likely require a COA clerkship; an AIII clerkship is also a de facto requirement in some specialized litigation groups as well (securities lit most frequently, but this can vary by firm). Finally, I know of a handful of firms that won't make you partner in particular groups unless you've clerked -- actually, in one of these, midlevel and even senior associates have taken a clerkship "hiatus" to bless their resumes prior to the partnership push. Where to draw the line so that you get the sought after benefit will depend on which situation you are talking about, and can even vary firm-to-firm. For example, Barlitt might require a COA clerkship, whereas Susman wants COA, ND Tex, WD Tex or SD Tex, whereas Munger will take pretty much any AIII clerkship. Or Mayer wants 2/7/9/DC for its appellate group, but GDC will take 2/4/5/9/DC for its one. (The "must clerk to make partner" firms I'm aware of generally will take any AIII clerkship.)


This is pretty silly. Firms don't make such arbitrary distinctions between circuits. To the extent that anybody cares (which, in the real world, is pretty questionable), people care far more about judges.

Another thing that might make a clerkship worth it is that it could help you get a nonfirm job down the road. USAO/DOJ and academia are the most famous two, but there are others (the Texas SG's office, for example). Where to draw the line with academia is easy -- virtually any COA clerkship will meet the minimum threshold (i.e., it won't hurt you), but it will only be a net positive if you clerk for particular judges or are a SCOTUS clerk. Aside from a handful of judges (Weinstein, Wood, maybe a few others), a USDC clerkship will be viewed as something to overcome -- though the lack of any clerkship is an even bigger handicap (it implies to hiring committees that your grades weren't very good).


Saying that a USDC clerkship is "something to overcome" is pretty arbitrary as well. If you have the grades, publications, connections, then it doesn't really matter that much where you clerked. And, plenty of people will clerk for both district and circuit. Plus, plenty of people get top fellowships without clerkships.

Finally, your list of "acceptable" district court judges is pretty damn arbitrary. What about Rakoff, Pollack, Thapar, Ellis, Brinkema, etc.?

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby traydeuce » Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:36 pm

"Mayer wants 2/7/9/DC for its appellate group, but GDC will take 2/4/5/9/DC for its one. (The "must clerk to make partner" firms I'm aware of generally will take any AIII clerkship.)

Another thing that might make a clerkship worth it is that it could help you get a nonfirm job down the road. USAO/DOJ and academia are the most famous two, but there are others (the Texas SG's office, for example). Where to draw the line with academia is easy -- virtually any COA clerkship will meet the minimum threshold (i.e., it won't hurt you), but it will only be a net positive if you clerk for particular judges or are a SCOTUS clerk. Aside from a handful of judges (Weinstein, Wood, maybe a few others), a USDC clerkship will be viewed as something to overcome -- though the lack of any clerkship is an even bigger handicap (it implies to hiring committees that your grades weren't very good)."

Very quickly, this seems like a ton of superficially informed misinformation. Mayer and GDC both have a fair number of lawyers in their appellate groups outside those circuits. To say that a COA clerkship is only a net positive for academia if it's with certain judges is nonsense. It's always a net positive, some clerkships are obviously bigger positives than others. A USDC clerkship is not, outside of a few schools, something to overcome. So many usdc clerks do coa the next year. Below t25, there are plenty of profs who clerked on the usdc level, still more who never clerked at all. Finally, the lack of a clerkship, though it may be a minus, doesn't necessarily imply an applicant's grades weren't good; there's a little something called honors, another little something called law review, another little something called working for grade snob firms.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:43 pm

Poster from above.

This is pretty silly. Firms don't make such arbitrary distinctions between circuits.


This isn't my experience. If you're talking the the top appellate groups (and I was an associate for several years at a firm with such a practice, and I handled several cases with appellate group attorneys, though I wasn't in the group because I'm not that qualified), there was a distinct hiring prejudice against clerks from the "flyover" circuits. Now a lot of this is parochial -- Chicago firms consider the 7th Circuit to be a "top" circuit, whereas the same for DC firms and the 4th Circuit (and presumably TX firms and the 5th, Boston firms and the 1st, etc.) But if you're saying that the appellate group at (say) Sidley DC doesn't distinguish between a 10th Circuit clerk and a DC Circuit clerk -- well, like I said above, this doesn't match my experience. (I'll note that there are judge-by-judge caveats: Obviously a Wilkinson or Sutton or Gorsuch clerk will do just fine.)

Saying that a USDC clerkship is "something to overcome" is pretty arbitrary as well. If you have the grades, publications, connections, then it doesn't really matter that much where you clerked. And, plenty of people will clerk for both district and circuit.


Yeah, um, no. Have you been on the academic market? I have. Law schools don't have your transcripts. They have your CV. From this they can tell if you graduated with honors (Harvard and Chicago) and where you clerked (HSYC). That's what they have to try to guess your grades. If you clerked for a USDC, that screams "not top quarter" from HYS and "not top 10%" from Chicago. Now, it's certainly true that you can overcome this stigma with a good publication record or (presumably, but it's out of my sphere of expertise) connections. But again, you're overcoming a deficiency.

And, plenty of people will clerk for both district and circuit. Plus, plenty of people get top fellowships without clerkships.

Finally, your list of "acceptable" district court judges is pretty damn arbitrary. What about Rakoff, Pollack, Thapar, Ellis, Brinkema, etc.?


Agreed on the last. I wasn't trying to be exhaustive.

On the fellowship point, I agree if "plenty of people" means people with PhDs. Other than that, people without PhDs or top flight clerkships? Yikes. Look at Climenkos or Bigelows or NYU AAPs and tell me exactly how many people fall in this category. My guess is that you're talking one or two people per school, max.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:42 pm

Quickly:

Mayer and GDC both have a fair number of lawyers in their appellate groups outside those circuits.


The point was that top flight appellate groups like to hire from COA judges and circuits that they hold in higher esteem than other COA judges and circuits. All COA clerks are not created equal and all. Maybe there are some firms that view all of them the same; I didn't work at one of those.

To say that a COA clerkship is only a net positive for academia if it's with certain judges is nonsense. It's always a net positive, some clerkships are obviously bigger positives than others.


We're quibbling over semantics. I noted in my first post that any COA clerkship will meet the minimum threshold where it won't hurt you. Whether the value is "zero" or "slightly positive but nowhere near where it would be if you clerked for Posner or Kozinski or [insert another academic feeder judge here]" is really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. The academic market is such these days that only the hypercompetitive candidates are getting jobs -- and if you "only" have a COA clerkship from a non-descript, non-feeder COA judge (we should all be so lucky!), you better have something else to distinguish your candidacy (publications, PhD, top fiight VAP/fellowship, sought-after subject, etc.).

So many usdc clerks do coa the next year.


Yes, and they no longer face the disadvantage of having "only" a USDC clerkship.

A USDC clerkship is not, outside of a few schools, something to overcome... Below t25, there are plenty of profs who clerked on the usdc level, still more who never clerked at all.


Look at the prawfsblawg hiring lists from the past few years. If you eliminate COA clerks, PhDs, and foreign hires, the list is pretty scant. (Not non-existent, but not very long either. Especially if you further exclude tax hires with tax LLMs.)

Sorry GTL Rev. I'll shut up now.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Yeah, um, no. Have you been on the academic market? I have. Law schools don't have your transcripts. They have your CV. From this they can tell if you graduated with honors (Harvard and Chicago) and where you clerked (HSYC). That's what they have to try to guess your grades. If you clerked for a USDC, that screams "not top quarter" from HYS and "not top 10%" from Chicago. Now, it's certainly true that you can overcome this stigma with a good publication record or (presumably, but it's out of my sphere of expertise) connections. But again, you're overcoming a deficiency.


Top 25% at HYS gets COA these days? Huh, could've fooled me. Top 10-15% and then maybe you're in the ballpark.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:54 pm

Top 25% at HYS gets COA these days? Huh, could've fooled me. Top 10-15% and then maybe you're in the ballpark.


Fair enough. And the top 10% at Chicago probably is being generous as well. Point is that a USDC clerkship out of these schools is a signal that you had good-but-not-great grades.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:31 am

G. T. L. Rev. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Point is that a USDC clerkship out of these schools is a signal that you had good-but-not-great grades.

Eh, I am not so sure about this. But people have pretty well qualified or nullified the most extreme statements above, so I'm not getting into it.


I'm a 3L well within the top 5% at CCN and I'm doing a federal trial-level clerkship. I didn't apply to any COA. I applied to one judge that best matched my interests rather than aiming for the fanciest-sounding clerkship I could get. I know a few other very successful people doing district court clerkships. We definitely exist so I'd hesitate to rely on that assumption.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 3:51 am

Top 25% at S is, at least, competitive for a CoA clerkship. About 15% of the current 3L class got a CoA clerkship (and a similar % got a dct clerkship), and there were a fair number in the top 15% who didn't apply for clerkships at all, and a similarly large number who were only interested in (and only applied to) Dct clerkships. I think most S 3Ls with CoA clerkships are in the top 15% (it's a fair assumption to make for the purpose of a, say, academia evaluation), but there's a not insignificant number who are not.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby pany1985 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 3:33 pm

If anyone else is like me and has a 2-yr clerkship coming up this fall (or if you're already doing one now), this is some good news. Not great, but still good.

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Re: Clerk, taking questions for a bit

Postby imchuckbass58 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:22 pm

On the subject of judicial salaries, a question for anyone who knows:

Let's say you get an offer to clerk after a gap year (i.e., graduate 2012, start clerking 2013). The start date for your firm is September 2012, and the start date for your clerkship is June 2013.

What pay level would you come in at? JSP-11 or JSP-12? I know JSP-12 requires "a year of full-time legal work experience," but how strict are the courts when calculating a "year?" Is it really a full year, or are 9 or 10 months considered to count for those purposes?




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