Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

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Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:20 pm

Stats: 2L transfer student; top 5% at lower T14; transferred from T1 school where I was top 1%.

Firm: Biglaw SA lined up in target market. Firm occasionally no offers SAs (~90% offer rate). Firm data lists clerkship bonus as being below market.

Debt: I personally will have a little over 200k debt at graduation. Significant other wants kid(s) soon; she also has debt (~60k) and is in a low paying career. Trying to create a budget for during a potential clerkship. Can either do IBR and let interest accrue; or do IBR and make payments just enough so that interest doesn't accrue. Or, not clerk.

Question: I am interested in litigation, and nearly everyone I speak with states that a clerkship is worth pursuing. I am interested in clerking, but when I look at the numbers, it just seems insane to forgo the salary to clerk for a year or two. And my student loan debt would either stay the same or even increase during my clerkship. I have zero interest in academia. Given my personal situation, do you think I should pursue a clerkship? Why or why not? What if only option was a two year clerkship?

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:23 pm

If you're planning on moving around a bit and/or switching firms early in your career, it would probably be worth it to clerk. By the time you're a mid-level or senior associate, your partnership prospects and chances at other employment (outside of some BIGFED and all academia jobs) will largely depend on your work experience. If you're not interested in BIGFED (AUSA) or academia jobs, and you want to stick around at the firm you'll be at until you're a mid-level, I think it's perfectly sensible to pass up a clerkship for more money.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:49 pm

Thank you for your response. What do you think about the idea that a clerkship is a "signaling" or resume padding tool; e.g. that even as a mid-level or senior associate a clerkship acts as a proxy for competency or as a distinguishing factor for purposes of lateraling? I've heard this touted as an intangible benefit of clerking and your analysis seems to undercut that somewhat. Thanks.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you for your response. What do you think about the idea that a clerkship is a "signaling" or resume padding tool; e.g. that even as a mid-level or senior associate a clerkship acts as a proxy for competency or as a distinguishing factor for purposes of lateraling? I've heard this touted as an intangible benefit of clerking and your analysis seems to undercut that somewhat. Thanks.


I think you'll find hiring partners or others in a position to consider hiring you who will look upon it favorably, but it certainly won't make up for a lack of substantive legal experience in the area they are interested in. You're always going to find people who look favorably upon clerking, law review and grades as signaling tools because they used these kinds of resume lines to get where they are now. But even these folks are going to place your substantive experience ahead of any of these factors in importance when they consider hiring you. Moreover, clerking, in my opinion, is not as good of a "signaling" mechanism as being on law review, getting Coif, etc. because I know people at my firm who got 9th Cir or other highly-sought-after clerkships based on connections they had with a professor or someone at our firm. This doesn't say much about your intelligence or work ethic, and it's unlikely that the connections these people rely on would be useful for a legal employer.

You're obviously extremely intelligent and hard-working. You don't need a clerkship, in my opinion, to belabor the point. To the extent you want to clerk for the substantive legal experience, I'd say go for it. But like I said earlier, this is more useful when you're a junior associate. There's a reason you see very few mid-level and senior associates leaving to clerk.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:44 pm

I'm in a very similar boat. Only I owe closer to 250K in loans. I've been lucky enough to land a district and COA clerkships in a competitive circuit. I know that this is a great opportunity, but I'm VERY concerned about the finances.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:46 pm

OP--

One thing to think about is that some firms have a de facto clerkship requirement to make partner in certain of their litigation groups. And, of course, it's well known that some of the tonier boutiques have one to get hired. This is more true in DC than other markets, and more true to a lesser extent in the bigger non-DC markets than in the "true" secondary markets, but you'll still see some of the more selective litigation groups (appellate, obviously, but also sometimes securities or financial services lit) even in those. By not clerking, you're essentially giving up on these firms and groups. Now, maybe that's OK for you -- it's really a "your call" situation. But I'll just warn you that you don't always know where your career is going to take you five or ten years from now. You may end up kicking yourself because you'd totally be competitive to lateral to a high end boutique or get a DOJ job or go into academia except for the fact that there's a disqualifying no-clerkship hole in your resume.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:53 pm

OP here.

Thanks for the responses. Any other thoughts from people or anyone else in a similar situation?

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:23 pm

Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


I haven't noticed a trend of associates getting an extra year in biglaw for clerking. Generally, you are pushed up a year in seniority, but you still get kicked out as if you had started biglaw with everyone else from your graduating class who didn't clerk.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:56 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


I haven't noticed a trend of associates getting an extra year in biglaw for clerking. Generally, you are pushed up a year in seniority, but you still get kicked out as if you had started biglaw with everyone else from your graduating class who didn't clerk.

Re-read my post. :wink:

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:00 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


I haven't noticed a trend of associates getting an extra year in biglaw for clerking. Generally, you are pushed up a year in seniority, but you still get kicked out as if you had started biglaw with everyone else from your graduating class who didn't clerk.

Re-read my post. :wink:


But you're still forgoing the excess of what would presumably be one year of a higher salary at your next job after biglaw over your clerk salary, no? Also, I think my point is still valid. You go from +0->+6 to +1->+6, not +1->+7.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby 09042014 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


I haven't noticed a trend of associates getting an extra year in biglaw for clerking. Generally, you are pushed up a year in seniority, but you still get kicked out as if you had started biglaw with everyone else from your graduating class who didn't clerk.

Re-read my post. :wink:


He means that clerks start as second years, with second year pay. So you'd get a year less in the firm. But that clerkship bonus goes a long way in making up for it.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:08 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


I haven't noticed a trend of associates getting an extra year in biglaw for clerking. Generally, you are pushed up a year in seniority, but you still get kicked out as if you had started biglaw with everyone else from your graduating class who didn't clerk.

Re-read my post. :wink:


But you're still forgoing the excess of what would presumably be one year of a higher salary at your next job after biglaw over your clerk salary, no? Also, I think my point is still valid. You go from +0->+6 to +1->+6, not +1->+7.

I see what you mean as to the second part of your comment. Looks like I was the one who misread!

As to the first part: no, you're not forgoing it, you're just pushing it back a year. I think you'll still get your X years of biglaw, Y years of whatever else. I suppose if you think you'll retire at age Z no matter what you're forgoing a year, but I bet that isn't quite right.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby spleenworship » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:46 am

Not even close to your situation (barely top 20% at a T2) so take it FWIW, but if I was in your shoes I would do the clerkship in a heartbeat.

You are talking about the experience of a lifetime that will advance your career and open doors all over the place.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby bk1 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:10 am

Anonymous User wrote:As to the first part: no, you're not forgoing it, you're just pushing it back a year. I think you'll still get your X years of biglaw, Y years of whatever else. I suppose if you think you'll retire at age Z no matter what you're forgoing a year, but I bet that isn't quite right.

I think the disagreement is whether you will be forced out or not. If biglaw is merely about how long you can stomach it, then you're right clerking essentially gives you an additional year of biglaw salary (or at least close to it). But if you get forced out based on class year (not number of years at the firm) then how long you can stomach it is immaterial since you're forced to depart at the same time whether you clerk or not.

Since I'm not in biglaw I have no idea how likely people are to forced out and defer to people with more knowledge than I.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


If someone really wanted to clerk and gain that flexibility, couldn't one clerk after 5-6 years of biglaw? And then transition into a more permanent position?

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Chances are you're not making partner anyway. You're going to get ~6 years of biglaw income. Clerking just delays that 6 years from graduation+0->+6 to graduation+1->+7. So the only real cost is the year of interest accrued in graduation+0. And if you're on IBR some of that will be subsidized. Flexibility in your career is worth more than less than a year of interest. That's the way I look at it.


If someone really wanted to clerk and gain that flexibility, couldn't one clerk after 5-6 years of biglaw? And then transition into a more permanent position?

It's pretty tough to leave a job paying north of $200k per year for a clerk's salary, even at JSP13 or whatever you'd be at after 5 or 6 years of practice. Especially if you have a family and kids, as OP assumes he will. Much easier to take the pay cut up front.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:51 pm

This is why I went to the school I did. Low cost. Its outside top 100 but I'll graduate with between 20-25K in debt.

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:22 pm

OP here. Thanks again for all of the helpful comments, really appreciate it. If anyone is curious, I am almost certainly not going to try to clerk immediately following graduation. Good luck to all in the clerkship hunt.


Anonymous User wrote:This is why I went to the school I did. Low cost. Its outside top 100 but I'll graduate with between 20-25K in debt.


I am so glad for you that you don't have much debt. This really added a lot to the discussion. I can understand why you posted anonymously because it would probably out you otherwise as so few people go to schools outside of the top 100 on scholarship. Additionally, what percentage of the class at your school has a positive employment outcome? Would you say that many are unemployed, or that most have obtained the positions of their dreams? Maybe I should go back in time and decide to attend your TTT school? Mind sharing which school it is so that I know which one I should have attended?

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Re: Should I even try to clerk? Money issues...

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks again for all of the helpful comments, really appreciate it. If anyone is curious, I am almost certainly not going to try to clerk immediately following graduation. Good luck to all in the clerkship hunt.


Anonymous User wrote:This is why I went to the school I did. Low cost. Its outside top 100 but I'll graduate with between 20-25K in debt.


I am so glad for you that you don't have much debt. This really added a lot to the discussion. I can understand why you posted anonymously because it would probably out you otherwise as so few people go to schools outside of the top 100 on scholarship. Additionally, what percentage of the class at your school has a positive employment outcome? Would you say that many are unemployed, or that most have obtained the positions of their dreams? Maybe I should go back in time and decide to attend your TTT school? Mind sharing which school it is so that I know which one I should have attended?


:mrgreen: Haha, on edge much man? Take it easy. I am sorry my post offended you. Relax.

And I will add to the conversation: I have externed for two federal judges while in school. Best legal experiences I have had so far. So if you can swing it financially, the experience alone would be worth it, not to mention the added boost in the future job hunt.

Also, just pointing out the obvious but you posted anonymously too.




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