writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

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Anonymous User
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writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:14 pm

I'm done with my district court clerkship in September. Recently decided to apply to a few COA judges. Couple questions:

1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

2) I've got two good LOR from law school professors. For the third, would it be weird if I asked for one from the career clerk to the judge I'm currently working for? He's been here for 20 years and I know that he'd write me a good letter. Just not sure whether it's appropriate. The judge has a policy of not writing LOR.

madame defarge
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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby madame defarge » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

I would caution you against using work product from your clerkship. Even though it's widely known that clerks do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to writing, judges still like to maintain the polite fiction that they author everything that comes out of their chambers. You may do some reputational damage to your judge, and a hiring judge may be leery of your judgment, if you take ownership of something that your current judge is supposed to have authored. At least, this is how my very old-school COA judge viewed things.

Anonymous User wrote:2) I've got two good LOR from law school professors. For the third, would it be weird if I asked for one from the career clerk to the judge I'm currently working for? He's been here for 20 years and I know that he'd write me a good letter. Just not sure whether it's appropriate. The judge has a policy of not writing LOR.

The career clerk's input would be very valuable if you lack an academic letter, so long as you or the career clerk make clear that your judge has a policy against writing letters. Otherwise, the judge may wonder why your judge isn't going to bat for you. When I was vetting apps for my judge, I sometimes called the other judge's chambers to get scuttlebutt about the applicant (usually from the JA or career clerk--they love to talk about former externs and clerks!). If we heard good things, the judge would call the other judge to get the official endorsement.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:51 pm

madame defarge wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

I would caution you against using work product from your clerkship. Even though it's widely known that clerks do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to writing, judges still like to maintain the polite fiction that they author everything that comes out of their chambers. You may do some reputational damage to your judge, and a hiring judge may be leery of your judgment, if you take ownership of something that your current judge is supposed to have authored. At least, this is how my very old-school COA judge viewed things.

That's really interesting. When I was applying for stuff out of my current clerkship, I asked my judge if I could use an order I'd written, and his take was that anything I'd written that was issued from the court publicly (i.e. not under seal) was fair game as a writing sample. (He also said if I wanted to use something that was under seal/internal we could probably arrange it, but it would depend and would require redacting material.) However, I don't think my judge is very invested in maintaining that polite fiction!

(Obviously not contesting what you said, madame defarge - just thought it was interesting that my district judge didn't care, but that a COA judge could feel differently. And to be clear, I was applying for non-clerkship jobs.)

madame defarge
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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby madame defarge » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:30 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
madame defarge wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

I would caution you against using work product from your clerkship. Even though it's widely known that clerks do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to writing, judges still like to maintain the polite fiction that they author everything that comes out of their chambers. You may do some reputational damage to your judge, and a hiring judge may be leery of your judgment, if you take ownership of something that your current judge is supposed to have authored. At least, this is how my very old-school COA judge viewed things.

That's really interesting. When I was applying for stuff out of my current clerkship, I asked my judge if I could use an order I'd written, and his take was that anything I'd written that was issued from the court publicly (i.e. not under seal) was fair game as a writing sample. (He also said if I wanted to use something that was under seal/internal we could probably arrange it, but it would depend and would require redacting material.) However, I don't think my judge is very invested in maintaining that polite fiction!

(Obviously not contesting what you said, madame defarge - just thought it was interesting that my district judge didn't care, but that a COA judge could feel differently. And to be clear, I was applying for non-clerkship jobs.)


My judge was obsessed with the notion of law clerks usurping his A3 authority. I guess it's easier for clerks to do for COA judges than trial judges. We had a lot of very senior judges on our circuit whose law clerks basically wore the robe, so I can see where he's coming from. But I do think it's a bit unseemly to use as a writing sample something published with another person's name as the putative author. An internal bench memo would work better than a published order, I think.

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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:40 pm

madame defarge wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
madame defarge wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

I would caution you against using work product from your clerkship. Even though it's widely known that clerks do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to writing, judges still like to maintain the polite fiction that they author everything that comes out of their chambers. You may do some reputational damage to your judge, and a hiring judge may be leery of your judgment, if you take ownership of something that your current judge is supposed to have authored. At least, this is how my very old-school COA judge viewed things.

That's really interesting. When I was applying for stuff out of my current clerkship, I asked my judge if I could use an order I'd written, and his take was that anything I'd written that was issued from the court publicly (i.e. not under seal) was fair game as a writing sample. (He also said if I wanted to use something that was under seal/internal we could probably arrange it, but it would depend and would require redacting material.) However, I don't think my judge is very invested in maintaining that polite fiction!

(Obviously not contesting what you said, madame defarge - just thought it was interesting that my district judge didn't care, but that a COA judge could feel differently. And to be clear, I was applying for non-clerkship jobs.)


My judge was obsessed with the notion of law clerks usurping his A3 authority. I guess it's easier for clerks to do for COA judges than trial judges. We had a lot of very senior judges on our circuit whose law clerks basically wore the robe, so I can see where he's coming from. But I do think it's a bit unseemly to use as a writing sample something published with another person's name as the putative author. An internal bench memo would work better than a published order, I think.

I think that this again boils down to "know your judge." Both judges I've worked for expect their clerks to use writing that goes out under the judge's name as a writing sample, and I've known many other clerks on those courts who've used such as writing samples. And in my current chambers, an internal bench memo wouldn't be much good because we tend to write them quite informally, as very pragmatic documents to prepare the judge for court (though you could polish one up, I suppose) (and my understanding is they're quite different at the COA level - here, they only go to my judge, not to other chambers). But again, it's good to know that there are judges out there who feel this way. (I guess I don't agree that it's unseemly, because I've truly never come across this attitude before. But of course, if I'm applying to a judge who does think it's unseemly, what I think doesn't matter!)

theaccidentalclerk
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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:52 pm

Funny. My judge kind of splits the difference between the two camps. He says that we're welcome to use an opinion provided that we clear it with him first. BUT he says to be careful because some judges will raise an eyebrow at it. One because of the whole polite fiction thing, and two because either he edited it (in which case many judges won't want to see it) or didn't (in which case it looks bad for him).

He also says that he'll be happy to call/email judges to let them know that he was OK with us using it and that it was very lightly edited (because it was so good in the first place, obvs) -- but he's not going to be able to do that for more than a handful of judges, so we should play that card very judiciously (no pun intended).

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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:20 pm

Yeah, especially with appellate opinions, I had wondered about the edited (then why send?) v. not edited (then what is the judge doing?) issue. It seems a little less pertinent for district court orders, where there's a lot less need, I think, for the judge actually to edit something if s/he agrees with the analysis and it's functional (though getting back to the thread, such an order might not be the best sample for a COA clerkship, certainly). I will certainly keep all this in mind for future applications!

DreamingInDigital
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Re: writing samples and LOR when going from d.ct -> coa

Postby DreamingInDigital » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:21 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm done with my district court clerkship in September. Recently decided to apply to a few COA judges. Couple questions:

1) If my current judge lets me, should I use a redacted order that I wrote as a writing sample? Is that better than a memo? All my stuff from law school is pretty bad compared to what I've written recently.

2) I've got two good LOR from law school professors. For the third, would it be weird if I asked for one from the career clerk to the judge I'm currently working for? He's been here for 20 years and I know that he'd write me a good letter. Just not sure whether it's appropriate. The judge has a policy of not writing LOR.


I used a redacted order for my COA writing sample. Neither judge (D. Ct. or COA) had a problem with it.




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