Clerkship questions

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:14 pm

Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but just heard this recently and would like some insight.

A mentor - managing partner of major law firm office in a NC market - cautioned me against pursuing a clerkship since I have a 2L SA offer in hand. His reasoning was that federal district judges he knows have had "trouble" getting otherwise qualified clerks into good post-clerk jobs these days, given the marked turn down in litigation in the region and also the turn down in entry-level recruiting (i.e., lateral hiring is big, but a candidate coming off of a clerkship isn't as much of a credential as it used to be as they aren't specialized or good with clients yet).

Any thoughts? Evidence beyond this anecdote? Kinda caught me by surprise but is this the reality, at least in the 4th Circuit? Would hate to try to defer a (potential) permanent offer only to lose it and be unable to secure another Biglaw job.

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but just heard this recently and would like some insight.

A mentor - managing partner of major law firm office in a NC market - cautioned me against pursuing a clerkship since I have a 2L SA offer in hand. His reasoning was that federal district judges he knows have had "trouble" getting otherwise qualified clerks into good post-clerk jobs these days, given the marked turn down in litigation in the region and also the turn down in entry-level recruiting (i.e., lateral hiring is big, but a candidate coming off of a clerkship isn't as much of a credential as it used to be as they aren't specialized or good with clients yet).

Any thoughts? Evidence beyond this anecdote? Kinda caught me by surprise but is this the reality, at least in the 4th Circuit? Would hate to try to defer a (potential) permanent offer only to lose it and be unable to secure another Biglaw job.


You can still accept the offer from your firm if your judge allows it (and you can accept the offer at the end of 2L summer and make it contingent on your judge allowing you to accept a post-clerkship position at a firm, if you end up getting a clerkship).

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:10 am

Anonymous User wrote:Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but just heard this recently and would like some insight.

A mentor - managing partner of major law firm office in a NC market - cautioned me against pursuing a clerkship since I have a 2L SA offer in hand. His reasoning was that federal district judges he knows have had "trouble" getting otherwise qualified clerks into good post-clerk jobs these days, given the marked turn down in litigation in the region and also the turn down in entry-level recruiting (i.e., lateral hiring is big, but a candidate coming off of a clerkship isn't as much of a credential as it used to be as they aren't specialized or good with clients yet).

Any thoughts? Evidence beyond this anecdote? Kinda caught me by surprise but is this the reality, at least in the 4th Circuit? Would hate to try to defer a (potential) permanent offer only to lose it and be unable to secure another Biglaw job.


Well, I'm not quite sure how you can characterize the entire 4th Circuit by one NC market. I would imagine the DMD, EDVA, and 4th COA clerks are still doing well (i.e., the DC market has been doing pretty well). And, a lot of this will depend on the clerk -- its much easier for a clerk who summered at a V10 to land a post clerkship gig than someone who struck out at OCI.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby clerker » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but just heard this recently and would like some insight.

A mentor - managing partner of major law firm office in a NC market - cautioned me against pursuing a clerkship since I have a 2L SA offer in hand. His reasoning was that federal district judges he knows have had "trouble" getting otherwise qualified clerks into good post-clerk jobs these days, given the marked turn down in litigation in the region and also the turn down in entry-level recruiting (i.e., lateral hiring is big, but a candidate coming off of a clerkship isn't as much of a credential as it used to be as they aren't specialized or good with clients yet).

Any thoughts? Evidence beyond this anecdote? Kinda caught me by surprise but is this the reality, at least in the 4th Circuit? Would hate to try to defer a (potential) permanent offer only to lose it and be unable to secure another Biglaw job.


I have no idea whether your mentor is right about the market, but he does have a point. Having a clerkship, by itself, does not mean that you get to choose whatever job you want afterwards. The reason why this myth is widespread is because many who go to clerk either (1) have jobs lined up already or (2) had credentials that made it very easy for them to find jobs afterwards. The clerkship will help your chances, but won't guarantee anything.

Is your mentor a partner at the law firm where you're planning to return? There may be a conflict of interest there; he wants you to return immediately, without clerking, because that would be best for the firm. I think if you're going to be a litigator, it's better to take the clerkship because even if you have trouble finding a job right after, you do become more marketable and knowledgable about litigation in the long term, which is a safer bet than relying on one single firm to provide you with job security. If it is true that the region's legal market is hurting, the firm you plan to head to may not be the most secure place either.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Citizen Genet » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:14 pm

clerker wrote:
I have no idea whether your mentor is right about the market, but he does have a point. Having a clerkship, by itself, does not mean that you get to choose whatever job you want afterwards. The reason why this myth is widespread is because many who go to clerk either (1) have jobs lined up already or (2) had credentials that made it very easy for them to find jobs afterwards. The clerkship will help your chances, but won't guarantee anything.


Building on this --

Don't get the wrong impression. Clerking is definitely a gold star on the resume. It makes you a more attractive candidate. But if you weren't Munger Tolles material before the clerkship, you probably won't be after. There's certain firms that get enough clerkship associates from their own summer program that they aren't impressed by the clerkship.

That being said, it can catapult your value. One situation is a student who does well, but not outstanding during 1L so they miss out on the OCI train. However, they kill it second year and get a clerkship. You will essentially get another bite at the apple by doing the clerkship. So a firm who would never have looked at you during OCI will seriously consider you now because you're a clerkship applicant AND because your GPA reflects the kind of students they look for.

Another big help that clerking can be is breaking into particular markets. Clerkship experience tends to be portable, but it is most valuable in the location of the judge. Firms want associates who have worked with the local district court judge because they will appear before that judge. Also, it demonstrates an investment in the community and can effectively create a tie. (I'm not sure how this works market to market, but I know that it happens in many markets.)

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:14 pm

Is your mentor a partner at the law firm where you're planning to return? There may be a conflict of interest there; he wants you to return immediately, without clerking, because that would be best for the firm.


There's also often a sour grapes phenomenon that goes on in some places, where people who didn't clerk (because they couldn't) slough it off because deep down they're jealous that they didn't have that opportunity. This phenomenon can be especially prevalent in markets that draw heavily from regional schools, where only the top handful of students will be in the running for an AIII clerkship.

So assuming your mentor is in NC, did he get his law degree from UNC or Wake Forest? If so, then that's evidence supporting the above possibility.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:44 pm

Citizen Genet wrote:That being said, it can catapult your value. One situation is a student who does well, but not outstanding during 1L so they miss out on the OCI train. However, they kill it second year and get a clerkship. You will essentially get another bite at the apple by doing the clerkship. So a firm who would never have looked at you during OCI will seriously consider you now because you're a clerkship applicant AND because your GPA reflects the kind of students they look for

This is the situation I'm in, but I was only able to land a fairly un-sexy clerkship. It's in a district where I don't want to be long-term, and its docket is almost all criminal. While this will definitely help with my goals later in my career (AUSA or big-city ADA) and I think I'll really enjoy it, will firms automatically reject someone who didn't have an SA and didn't see a lot of civil stuff during his clerkship? I think my grades will be competitive enough (top 10%/LR at a T30 if my GPA doesn't drop this semester), but I haven't heard about many people in a similar situation, so I have no idea what to expect.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:25 am

Original anon regarding the mentor's advice here. First, sorry about lumping all of the 4th Circuit together. I'm sure the DC market is pulling in clerks from the nearby 4th Circuit districts and a COA clerk from anywhere is likely going to do more than well. I was mostly referring to the rest of the 4th - namely the NC region, including Virginia outside of DC and elsewhere - and primarily district clerkships at that, which is the most I would realistically be able to land. To otherwise respond en masse, and without revealing too much about myself or my mentor, I'll say the following.

My mentor is NOT from my 2L SA firm. We have known each other for more than 5 years, with him helping me get into law school, and have kept in touch once I began law school, headed into OCI, etc. His advice is pretty independent in that sense. Also, he did not go to a regional school (nor do I) and, in my view, is far from sour on the idea of a clerkship. He views clerking as a credential for a new associate in a normal market, but indicated that it is not a normal market in the region these days - hence his apprehension about me pursuing one within that region, with the intent to then stay in that region. So ultimately it wasn't that he was sour on clerking, just that he viewed the entry-level and post-clerkship recruiting as sour. A takeaway from our convo was that, in the past, firms had 18 months to make an associate profitable, which largely allowed for big SA classes. In the region at least, where litigation is seriously down (which I'm beginning to realize), the value of a district clerkship does not necessarily offset bringing in a new associate at 2nd or 3rd year level w/bonus, when they haven't learned how to be profitable yet. And obviously a clerkship is nearly pointless to the transactional practices.

I guess in short it is making me reevaluate pursuing a district clerkship in my preferred region, at least for immediately after graduation, d even though I am interested in litigation. I just hadn't heard this point of view and now hesitate deferring my (potential) firm offer after graduation for a district clerkship, in case something goes awry and my firm offer is rescinded and other firms continue to only take laterals. Call me overly conservative, but crazier things have happened with firm hiring over the past few years.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:in the past, firms had 18 months to make an associate profitable

I stopped reading right here.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:in the past, firms had 18 months to make an associate profitable

I stopped reading right here.
Do you disagree with it then? I've heard this type of thing from a couple of different partners, so I wasn't surprised when he said it.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:Original anon regarding the mentor's advice here. First, sorry about lumping all of the 4th Circuit together. I'm sure the DC market is pulling in clerks from the nearby 4th Circuit districts and a COA clerk from anywhere is likely going to do more than well. I was mostly referring to the rest of the 4th - namely the NC region, including Virginia outside of DC and elsewhere - and primarily district clerkships at that, which is the most I would realistically be able to land. To otherwise respond en masse, and without revealing too much about myself or my mentor, I'll say the following.

My mentor is NOT from my 2L SA firm. We have known each other for more than 5 years, with him helping me get into law school, and have kept in touch once I began law school, headed into OCI, etc. His advice is pretty independent in that sense. Also, he did not go to a regional school (nor do I) and, in my view, is far from sour on the idea of a clerkship. He views clerking as a credential for a new associate in a normal market, but indicated that it is not a normal market in the region these days - hence his apprehension about me pursuing one within that region, with the intent to then stay in that region. So ultimately it wasn't that he was sour on clerking, just that he viewed the entry-level and post-clerkship recruiting as sour. A takeaway from our convo was that, in the past, firms had 18 months to make an associate profitable, which largely allowed for big SA classes. In the region at least, where litigation is seriously down (which I'm beginning to realize), the value of a district clerkship does not necessarily offset bringing in a new associate at 2nd or 3rd year level w/bonus, when they haven't learned how to be profitable yet. And obviously a clerkship is nearly pointless to the transactional practices.

I guess in short it is making me reevaluate pursuing a district clerkship in my preferred region, at least for immediately after graduation, d even though I am interested in litigation. I just hadn't heard this point of view and now hesitate deferring my (potential) firm offer after graduation for a district clerkship, in case something goes awry and my firm offer is rescinded and other firms continue to only take laterals. Call me overly conservative, but crazier things have happened with firm hiring over the past few years.


The best advice that I, or anyone can give, is to talk to mentors at your firm. It may well be that your mentor's firm values clerkships differently than your own firm. If your firm is happy for you to go and clerk, then you should go clerk.

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Re: Clerkship questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:07 pm

ClerkAdvisor wrote:The best advice that I, or anyone can give, is to talk to mentors at your firm. It may well be that your mentor's firm values clerkships differently than your own firm. If your firm is happy for you to go and clerk, then you should go clerk.

Thank you and everyone else for your responses. I think TITCR, I was just taken aback before as mentioned.




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