Contacting Past Clerks

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Anonymous User
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Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:55 pm

How (in)appropriate is it to contact past clerks? I interviewed with a judge last year, didn't get the position, and am planning to reapply this year. During the interview, I met with the clerks (including one who graduated from my law school). Would it be inappropriate to contact the clerk from my school to get advice on reapplying? If it is acceptable to contact the clerk, I should stick to asking for general advice rather than asking about my failed app, right?

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Tangerine Gleam
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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Tangerine Gleam » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:57 pm

I think it's totally appropriate, especially if the clerk went to your school. I contacted tons of former clerks during my search, and it was very helpful. I feel like it's pretty much understood that this happens, so clerks should be fairly used to it (and hopefully nice about it).

As for your failed application last time, I'd say that will just depend on the context -- if the clerk is really nice, and it seems appropriate, it might not be a bad thing to ask about. But I'd say it would have to just depend on the situation. And it certainly shouldn't be one of your first questions. Hopefully they'll remember and offer some advice without you having to fish around too much.

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:07 pm

Tangerine Gleam wrote:I think it's totally appropriate, especially if the clerk went to your school. I contacted tons of former clerks during my search, and it was very helpful. I feel like it's pretty much understood that this happens, so clerks should be fairly used to it (and hopefully nice about it).

As for your failed application last time, I'd say that will just depend on the context -- if the clerk is really nice, and it seems appropriate, it might not be a bad thing to ask about. But I'd say it would have to just depend on the situation. And it certainly shouldn't be one of your first questions. Hopefully they'll remember and offer some advice without you having to fish around too much.


Great, thanks! I wasn't going to be blunt and ask something like "Why didn't I get it," but instead something more subtle like asking how I could strengthen my application this time around. But beyond that I'd probably stick to asking about what it's like to clerk for the judge.

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Tangerine Gleam
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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Tangerine Gleam » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:40 pm

Sounds like your instincts are right on. Good luck.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:09 pm

Ha, I just got an e-mail this morning from someone a year behind me in LS, asking if I'd be willing to talk to someone a year behind him. I love the idea that anyone thinks I have helpful info about anything. :lol:

(I think you could ask about something like who did the judge hire or what does the judge look for in an applicant - not straight out of the gate, but somewhere in the conversation. But if these are the clerks who were there when you interviewed, it's a little weird to talk to the person who interviewed - who you probably interviewed - and didn't get it, compared to someone who's never interviewed. Not saying I would be unwilling or you shouldn't do it, just that if it seems awkward at first, that's probably why.)

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:How (in)appropriate is it to contact past clerks? I interviewed with a judge last year, didn't get the position, and am planning to reapply this year. During the interview, I met with the clerks (including one who graduated from my law school). Would it be inappropriate to contact the clerk from my school to get advice on reapplying? If it is acceptable to contact the clerk, I should stick to asking for general advice rather than asking about my failed app, right?


Generally, its a good idea to talk to former clerks. Here, it strikes me as a bit odd - you've already talked to this clerk and you've already met the judge. It seems then that you don't need any additional information at the application stage. I would think that it would be more appropriate to speak with the clerk, in this situation, after you get another interview. In fact, I think the best course here would be to ask one of your recommenders to get in touch with chambers/the judge and get a sense of whether it is worth reapplying and how you can improve your application.

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Omerta » Sun Feb 17, 2013 11:04 pm

I've called at least one clerk for every judge I've interviewed with. Without exception, every single clerk has been extremely helpful and generous with their time.

The only thing I'd say is that you should let any past clerks you talked to know about how the interview went, even if you don't get the job. Maybe it's just me, but if they took time out of their day to talk to me, then I feel that I have the obligation to let them know how it went and how much I appreciated their time.

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:29 pm

Is it pretty universally agreed that contacting current clerks is not kosher?

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is it pretty universally agreed that contacting current clerks is not kosher?


No. Contacting current clerks is fine, so long as you have some sort of plausible connection to them (e.g., they are alumni of the same law school/undergrad, or summered/worked at the firm you summered at, etc.).

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Tangerine Gleam
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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Tangerine Gleam » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is it pretty universally agreed that contacting current clerks is not kosher?


Not at all. There were several occasions where I contacted (and even ended up getting lunch or coffee with) current clerks of judges I was interested in applying to. In one case, several months after meeting a current clerk, he interviewed me when I ended up getting an interview with his judge. Another clerk, without any pushing from my end, offered to pull my app from the pile "if and when" I decided to apply.

The big caveat, however, is that at some point in the year, it probably becomes "too close" to application time to contact a current clerk. For example, if you know a judge is on-plan (and thus won't be looking/hiring until September 2013), reaching out to a current clerk now to learn more about the judge and ask general questions about the clerkship seems totally reasonable. By contrast, if someone went to your school and is currently clerking for Diane Wood or Brett Kavanaugh or Diarmuid O'scannlain (i.e. judges who are probably already interviewing applicants), I'd say it is too late to contact that clerk (assuming that you'd want to be applying this cycle).

I'd like to hear what others think about this. This "rule" I'm putting forward doesn't really come from anywhere -- it's just my instinct that, at a certain point, it would probably get a little weird to contact current clerks if you're about to send (or have already sent) your application. Others might disagree. But I do think that contacting current clerks is OK, provided you do it far enough in advance.

EDIT: The following poster has actually clerked (unlike me), so take his/her advice over mine. In my experience, contacting current clerks was very helpful, but I'm not surprised to hear that it can often backfire.

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Re: Contacting Past Clerks

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:12 pm

Contacting current clerks can often backfire. If the applicant already knows the current clerk, the current clerk can feel like the applicant is pressuring her or trying to take advantage of a friendship, which puts the clerk in an uncomfortable position. If the applicant doesn't already know the current clerk, the communication can feel pushy and forced. What seems to work better is contacting a former clerk (or even a future clerk), who then puts out feelers to the current clerk (e.g., "Hey, I know a great guy who is interested in working for our judge--where is he in the hiring process?" etc.).

When I was clerking for a COA judge, random people were always coming out of the woodwork trying to work their (perceived) connections, and usually, we just found it annoying. Some applicants thought they were our new BFFs and would e-mail/call often to chat, when we were so busy we didn't have time for it. Some were so obsequious or self-aggrandizing that they shot themselves in the foot with every e-mail they sent. If you do decide to contact a current clerk, be very brief and to the point. Don't expect anyone to do you a favor, and don't pretend that a friendship exists when there isn't one. Also, assume that the judge will read any e-mail you send--we put these things in each candidate's file.




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