Just landed an interview with a district judge. Any advice?

Seek and share information about clerkship applications, clerkship hiring timelines, and post-clerkship employment opportunities.
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are sharing sensitive information about clerkship applications and clerkship hiring. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned."
Anonymous User
Posts: 273137
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Just landed an interview with a district judge. Any advice?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:14 pm

I don't want to give out too many details, but I'm an alum with an interview in flyover country. I have no ties to the area whatsoever, and I'm positive I was picked because of my work experience.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22806
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Just landed an interview with a district judge. Any advice?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Feb 05, 2013 5:00 pm

A lot of judges approach the interview as a "getting to know you" thing, where they figure out how well you'd fit into chambers. The occasional judge will grill you on substantive legal issues (but I think this is much more likely with a COA judge than district). I'm trying to remember what I got asked... the usual stuff: tell me about yourself, why law school, what did you like/dislike about law school, why do you want to clerk, what do you want to do after you clerk. Because you have no ties, you may well get asked why you want to clerk in that particular area. I did get asked whether there were any legal issues that I felt so strongly about - morally or otherwise - that working on them would be a problem for me (i.e. the death penalty question). You may well also get asked what you'd do if you disagreed with the judge's take on a case.

Also, be prepared to talk about everything on your resume, including courses/writing sample (not that this is terribly different from any other interview, really...). In your case, be able to talk about your work experience and how it fits into the court's docket (based on what you said about your work experience being the reason you were picked).

As for questions to ask, it's really good to find out how the chambers works - what does a typical day look like, how is work distributed, what kinds of cases are most common [you should know something about this from knowing the district, but asking is good], how much do clerks work together, what does the judge like the clerks to do re: asking questions [I'm not wording that very well but I hope you get what I mean], how frequent are trials, balance of criminal/civil work, etc. Some of these are best asked of the other clerks (you'll usually get to interview with them separately where they can give you the "dirt" on the judge - although they are obviously not going to say anything bad and you're still being interviewed so don't let your guard down). Judges usually like to talk about their history - what they did before being a judge, how they became a judge, what they like about being a judge - so if you're in a more conversational part of the interview those are reasonable questions to ask.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273137
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Just landed an interview with a district judge. Any advice?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:22 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:A lot of judges approach the interview as a "getting to know you" thing, where they figure out how well you'd fit into chambers. The occasional judge will grill you on substantive legal issues (but I think this is much more likely with a COA judge than district). I'm trying to remember what I got asked... the usual stuff: tell me about yourself, why law school, what did you like/dislike about law school, why do you want to clerk, what do you want to do after you clerk. Because you have no ties, you may well get asked why you want to clerk in that particular area. I did get asked whether there were any legal issues that I felt so strongly about - morally or otherwise - that working on them would be a problem for me (i.e. the death penalty question). You may well also get asked what you'd do if you disagreed with the judge's take on a case.

Also, be prepared to talk about everything on your resume, including courses/writing sample (not that this is terribly different from any other interview, really...). In your case, be able to talk about your work experience and how it fits into the court's docket (based on what you said about your work experience being the reason you were picked).

As for questions to ask, it's really good to find out how the chambers works - what does a typical day look like, how is work distributed, what kinds of cases are most common [you should know something about this from knowing the district, but asking is good], how much do clerks work together, what does the judge like the clerks to do re: asking questions [I'm not wording that very well but I hope you get what I mean], how frequent are trials, balance of criminal/civil work, etc. Some of these are best asked of the other clerks (you'll usually get to interview with them separately where they can give you the "dirt" on the judge - although they are obviously not going to say anything bad and you're still being interviewed so don't let your guard down). Judges usually like to talk about their history - what they did before being a judge, how they became a judge, what they like about being a judge - so if you're in a more conversational part of the interview those are reasonable questions to ask.


Thanks! Do you have any guesses as to what my chances might be? Is it like some biglaw callbacks where the job is yours to lose? I guess it varies wildly by judge, but I'd be interested to hear what your experience has been.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22806
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Just landed an interview with a district judge. Any advice?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:41 pm

Well, 1) I suck at assessing chances, and 2) you haven't given very much to go on! But FWIW, if the judge is interviewing you, s/he has already decided you're qualified for the position. The big question is how many other people s/he's interviewing, how your qualifications compare to theirs, and how well you interview.

That said, at least some judges, when interviewing off-plan, interview as the applications come in, rather than setting a deadline for applications and then going through the whole pool. A lot of judges also tend to hire as soon as they interview someone they like (again, rather than compiling a pool and interviewing all of them and weighing them against each other), because hiring is a huge pain in the neck and if they come across someone who's qualified whom they like, why not hire that person and end the process? Even if it turns out to be a mistake, the person will be gone in year anyway.

So, it's entirely possible you're the only interview going on right now, and if the judge likes you, they'll make an offer right away, yay! (This is what happened to me applying as an alum.) But it's also possible that even if you are the only interview going on right now, the judge may decide to hedge their bets and see what other applicants they get, possibly depending on how your qualifications stack up against the candidates they've seen historically, and on how antsy they feel to get the hiring done. (I've seen this happen, too - first, early interviewee was very good but not spectacular, and if it was later in the year the judge would have hired them, but it was early enough that the judge held out for a bit, and ended up snapping up a slightly later candidate who was spectacular.)

So, sorry, no idea. FWIW, though, as much as clerking is a numbers game, it's also about finding a judge who happens to find something about you interesting. I have mediocre stats for a clerk, but I have pre-LS WE that my judge happened to like, and voila, clerkship. So you never know - go in assuming you have as good a shot as anyone at this.




Return to “Judicial Clerkships”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.