Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

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Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:26 pm

I just interviewed with a judge that interned for during law school for a clerkship position. The pay is around 38K with a bump to 42K if I pass the bar.

Before I came to law school I was making 50K. If offered the position (that’s a big if) would sticking it out with the low pay for a year be worth it in terms of advancing my career or being a unique/great experience?

The other factor in this equation is I just found out from the firm I was interning at this past summer and during the school year that they will not be hiring me after law school, so I am just getting my job search going full steam.

I am at a law school ranked 100 to 120’s and I am in the middle of the class in terms of grades. I was on moot court, no journal. My interest is in patent law (technical background)/business law/transactional work. I am also interested in litigation.

rad lulz
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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby rad lulz » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:29 pm

Depends on your state. I've heard all the way from "very valuable experience, even if not preftigious" to "completely worthless."

But then again, median at TTT, what else you got.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:44 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am at a law school ranked 100 to 120’s and I am in the middle of the class in terms of grades.


You should take the first legal job offered to you regardless of pay (unless, of course, you can't live off of it).

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ndirish2010
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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby ndirish2010 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:52 am

Dude, you're median from a TTT and you're asking whether you should take a job?

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:02 am

rad lulz wrote:Depends on your state. I've heard all the way from "very valuable experience, even if not preftigious" to "completely worthless."

But then again, median at TTT, what else you got.

TITCR. For instance, my impression is that NJ trial clerkships are pretty helpful in getting a job after (not biglaw, but employment). That may not be true everywhere. But in a lot of states, you should have a lot of contact with attorneys appearing before the court, which can create useful connections (usually with small/midlaw - biglaw is more likely to be in federal court). The flip side is that, again depending on the state, a trial judge may end up with a specialized docket - all juvenile, all criminal, all family - so your contacts may not be in the area of law you want to practice.

All that said - if you don't have another job lined up, I don't see why you wouldn't take the clerkship. If reference to your pre-LS salary means you can go back to that job, then you probably have to decide whether you'd get that salary or get legal work - I think if you go back to your previous career it would be fairly hard to get back into the legal profession. (But that probably depends on a lot of unknown factors.)

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby SDviaVA » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:36 am

My concern would be that I would take this position and then be offered another position making more money or more related to what I want to do. If I accept this clerkship would I be "locked in?" Or put another way, how would the Judge take it if I backed out before I started because I found something more related to what I want to do or for more money?

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:51 am

Probably fairly badly; I know state trial clerkships aren't as preftigious as appellate/federal, but it's still not cool to renege on a judge. The only exception I could see is if you have a good enough relationship with the judge that you can discuss this with him/her and give a sort of conditional yes. But I have no idea how realistic that would be (theoretically some might be cool with it, but others would be really pissed - no way to know. Even so, I think it would be really risky).

But I am also of the "defer to the judge" mode. So I might be overly conservative on this.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby hiima3L » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:14 am

SDviaVA wrote:My concern would be that I would take this position and then be offered another position making more money or more related to what I want to do. If I accept this clerkship would I be "locked in?" Or put another way, how would the Judge take it if I backed out before I started because I found something more related to what I want to do or for more money?


Who cares about reneging unless it's going to bite you in the ass, i.e., there is a possibility you'd be before the judge in the future or he/she is in a city you're going to practice in. You should always do what is best for you in these types of decisions.

But you're median at a shitty school. Take the job offer. You are not going to get much better if you haven't already.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby keg411 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:12 pm

Trial court clerkships are insanely helpful for making connections with local attorneys. I honestly think they're incredibly underrated; especially for people who aren't getting anything else, who go to regional T1's/TT/TTT/TTTT's and don't have top grades, etc.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:38 am

keg411 wrote:Trial court clerkships are insanely helpful for making connections with local attorneys. I honestly think they're incredibly underrated; especially for people who aren't getting anything else, who go to regional T1's/TT/TTT/TTTT's and don't have top grades, etc.


I've heard this so many times, but don't really understand it. Do state trial court clerks really communicate with attorneys who appear before their courts? I don't have that experience, but I did clerk for a Fed CoA, and all contact with the parties or their attorneys was strictly prohibited. Literally any requests for anything we or the judges needed would go through the Clerk's office. And we were required to be super careful in court to avoid letting attorneys see or hear anything we knew related to their cases (e.g. hiding a bench memo if some attorney, who didn't know what s/he was doing, asked us a question). (It surprises me that it would be any other way for state trial court clerkships--the clerks talking to attorneys who are appearing before the court creates the appearance of impropriety, if you ask me.)

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby SemperLegal » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:48 am

I used to work for a state judge in a non-official capacity (as in, I worked for a person who happened to be a state judge). I went with him to Court a few times and attorneys would try to hire me for per diem work on a pretty regular basis, thinking that I must have a least some social skills and legal knowledge to get even a low-level clerkship(drafting motions, appearances, etc.) Obviously being less than a 0L, I didn't take the offers, but I know for a fact that some attorneys paid the rent on that kind of work. The judge's actual legal staff also seemed to really enjoy their jobs and weren't starving.

Seems like there are worse places to be.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby Citizen Genet » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:49 am

XxSpyKEx wrote:
keg411 wrote:Trial court clerkships are insanely helpful for making connections with local attorneys. I honestly think they're incredibly underrated; especially for people who aren't getting anything else, who go to regional T1's/TT/TTT/TTTT's and don't have top grades, etc.


I've heard this so many times, but don't really understand it. Do state trial court clerks really communicate with attorneys who appear before their courts? I don't have that experience, but I did clerk for a Fed CoA, and all contact with the parties or their attorneys was strictly prohibited. Literally any requests for anything we or the judges needed would go through the Clerk's office. And we were required to be super careful in court to avoid letting attorneys see or hear anything we knew related to their cases (e.g. hiding a bench memo if some attorney, who didn't know what s/he was doing, asked us a question). (It surprises me that it would be any other way for state trial court clerkships--the clerks talking to attorneys who are appearing before the court creates the appearance of impropriety, if you ask me.)


The impropriety you sense is culturally ingrained by the type of clerkship you had (fed COA) and likely the region. I asked a DOJ employee who argues in District Courts all over the country about relationships with clerks and he said it varies wildly. South in federal dct you get attorneys who introduce themselves to the clerks and chat them up. In the northeast, you don't approach the clerk, the clerk approaches you.

My sense is at the state level things are even less formal.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:50 am

XxSpyKEx wrote:
keg411 wrote:Trial court clerkships are insanely helpful for making connections with local attorneys. I honestly think they're incredibly underrated; especially for people who aren't getting anything else, who go to regional T1's/TT/TTT/TTTT's and don't have top grades, etc.


I've heard this so many times, but don't really understand it. Do state trial court clerks really communicate with attorneys who appear before their courts? I don't have that experience, but I did clerk for a Fed CoA, and all contact with the parties or their attorneys was strictly prohibited. Literally any requests for anything we or the judges needed would go through the Clerk's office. And we were required to be super careful in court to avoid letting attorneys see or hear anything we knew related to their cases (e.g. hiding a bench memo if some attorney, who didn't know what s/he was doing, asked us a question). (It surprises me that it would be any other way for state trial court clerkships--the clerks talking to attorneys who are appearing before the court creates the appearance of impropriety, if you ask me.)

Court of Appeals clerkships are very different from trial level. I did a state COA, and never spoke to attorneys (except once for 30 seconds when my judge asked me to call one to let them know they'd been given an extension on something, because it was the end of the day and the order wouldn't go out before the thing was due). Now I'm doing a federal district court clerkship, and there are lots of opportunities to interact with attorneys - not like you go out for lunch or drinks or anything, obviously, but in a professional fashion. At trial, things are a lot more fluid/interactive than in an appeals setting. And even when it's not trial contact is usually fine. My co-clerk called up attorneys today because of a problem with a filing. If you have a question about something that's been filed, as often as not it makes more sense just to call the attorneys and find out what's up, than to mess around with orders asking them to clarify etc. etc. (Though when I say question about something that's been filed - I mean logistical stuff, not content; I'm not discussing the merits of the case with them or anything, it's more like, you filed 1000+ pp of exhibits, can you send over a copy that's tabbed in a binder.)

However, it does vary according to judge/chambers. There are judges who believe their clerks should never speak to anyone outside chambers about anything related to their case (or anything), ever - for instance, those clerks never ever answer the general chambers phone. (I do answer our phone, but only if no one else is there to take it because I'm almost always just going to have to ask someone else the answer anyway.) My impression is that this is fairly old school/conservative. But I don't think it's the majority of chambers.

It's also my understanding that there's even more interaction in state trial level clerkships, because state level clerks take on more bailiff-y/courtroom deputy-ish roles than federal clerks do (this is my impression second hand). If you're involved in things like scheduling, taking care of the docket, dealing with exhibits and so on, you will have a lot of contact with attorneys. But generally, my impression is that trial level is a lot more casual that COA. (Just because the focus is on getting things done and getting cases out the door, in a different way from at the appeals level.)

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby SemperLegal » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:51 am

XxSpyKEx wrote:
keg411 wrote:Trial court clerkships are insanely helpful for making connections with local attorneys. I honestly think they're incredibly underrated; especially for people who aren't getting anything else, who go to regional T1's/TT/TTT/TTTT's and don't have top grades, etc.


I've heard this so many times, but don't really understand it. Do state trial court clerks really communicate with attorneys who appear before their courts? I don't have that experience, but I did clerk for a Fed CoA, and all contact with the parties or their attorneys was strictly prohibited. Literally any requests for anything we or the judges needed would go through the Clerk's office. And we were required to be super careful in court to avoid letting attorneys see or hear anything we knew related to their cases (e.g. hiding a bench memo if some attorney, who didn't know what s/he was doing, asked us a question). (It surprises me that it would be any other way for state trial court clerkships--the clerks talking to attorneys who are appearing before the court creates the appearance of impropriety, if you ask me.)



In at least one state, staff attorneys/career clerks are the only people who counsel ever talks to before the trial. They pretty much act in the capacity of magistrates. I am not sure if term clerks have a similar experience.

ETA: Actually, I don't know exactly what magistrates do. Staff Attorneys coordinate conferences, grant extensions, "take notes" for the judge during contentious court-directed settlement/discovery conferences, and deny/approve filings.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:57 am

Citizen Genet wrote:The impropriety you sense is culturally ingrained by the type of clerkship you had (fed COA) and likely the region. I asked a DOJ employee who argues in District Courts all over the country about relationships with clerks and he said it varies wildly. South in federal dct you get attorneys who introduce themselves to the clerks and chat them up. In the northeast, you don't approach the clerk, the clerk approaches you.

Not in the south, but funnily, so far the AUSAs pretty much always introduce themselves, and defense attorneys, not so much.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby keg411 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:43 am

It's because on the state level, the judges and attorneys all know each other and there is a ton of interaction. So if you apply to a job or meet an attorney and say "I'm so-and-so's" clerk, people immediately know who you're talking about. Remember, the state level is VERY different from the federal level. And trial is very different from appellate (since there isn't really as much interaction between judges and attorneys on the appellate level; but I'd say most of the appellate/SSC clerks in my state usually are heading to BigLaw or the equivalent, so the "networking" isn't needed as much).

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:23 pm

keg411 wrote:It's because on the state level, the judges and attorneys all know each other and there is a ton of interaction. So if you apply to a job or meet an attorney and say "I'm so-and-so's" clerk, people immediately know who you're talking about. Remember, the state level is VERY different from the federal level. And trial is very different from appellate (since there isn't really as much interaction between judges and attorneys on the appellate level; but I'd say most of the appellate/SSC clerks in my state usually are heading to BigLaw or the equivalent, so the "networking" isn't needed as much).


Appellate state level clerks heading to biglaw? Is that common? Why do not more people take that route?
I know someone who landed a v-50 after appellate clerkship, school t-25, law review, but I thought he was the exception and most appellate clerkships led you nowhere.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby keg411 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
keg411 wrote:It's because on the state level, the judges and attorneys all know each other and there is a ton of interaction. So if you apply to a job or meet an attorney and say "I'm so-and-so's" clerk, people immediately know who you're talking about. Remember, the state level is VERY different from the federal level. And trial is very different from appellate (since there isn't really as much interaction between judges and attorneys on the appellate level; but I'd say most of the appellate/SSC clerks in my state usually are heading to BigLaw or the equivalent, so the "networking" isn't needed as much).


Appellate state level clerks heading to biglaw? Is that common? Why do not more people take that route?
I know someone who landed a v-50 after appellate clerkship, school t-25, law review, but I thought he was the exception and most appellate clerkships led you nowhere.


The people i knew who did it went 2L SA --> state appellate/Supreme clerkship --> back to firm. Although if you work for the right judge, I wouldn't be shocked if they feed well into regional big/midlaw. Most people who get State Supreme/Appellate clerkships had LR + top grades from a regional school so it's not really an "exception" if those people had the grades to begin with.

ETA: I want to make it clear that I am NOT clerking, nor do I have the interest/grades to do so. I do, however, know people who have on the state level in my home state (Supreme/appellate/trial).

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby silenttimer » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:19 pm

I graduated top 35-40% from my law school (ranked top 25), non-law review, and clerked for a state level trial court judge after I graduation. After my clerkship I received 4 interviews (2 with vault firms), and I now work at a vault 50 firm. I know of several more people in my class and the class above and below me who did the same.

Yes, take the clerkship.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
keg411 wrote:It's because on the state level, the judges and attorneys all know each other and there is a ton of interaction. So if you apply to a job or meet an attorney and say "I'm so-and-so's" clerk, people immediately know who you're talking about. Remember, the state level is VERY different from the federal level. And trial is very different from appellate (since there isn't really as much interaction between judges and attorneys on the appellate level; but I'd say most of the appellate/SSC clerks in my state usually are heading to BigLaw or the equivalent, so the "networking" isn't needed as much).


Appellate state level clerks heading to biglaw? Is that common? Why do not more people take that route?
I know someone who landed a v-50 after appellate clerkship, school t-25, law review, but I thought he was the exception and most appellate clerkships led you nowhere.

I know people who did this; like keg said, most of these people had offers from their summer firms, which they went back to after the state clerkship, so the clerkship didn't really get them anything they didn't already have (but was still a good and worthwhile experience usually encouraged by their firms). Admittedly, it was mostly regional biglaw (small/insular market). But I do know 2 state intermediate appellate clerks who got genuine biglaw jobs post-clerkship that they didn't have before. I think in their cases, the clerkship helped, but probably almost as much by giving them time to hustle and work connections, as being a good credential in itself.

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Re: Trial Level Judicial Clerkships Worth It?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:23 pm

silenttimer wrote:I graduated top 35-40% from my law school (ranked top 25), non-law review, and clerked for a state level trial court judge after I graduation. After my clerkship I received 4 interviews (2 with vault firms), and I now work at a vault 50 firm. I know of several more people in my class and the class above and below me who did the same.


State trial court clerkship --> v50 law firm is not typical.




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