Clerking for a judge for free?

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Anonymous User
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Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:37 pm

Have any of you guys done this or know someone who has? How much of a hassle was it? Was it worth it? Would you recommend doing this only at a certain "level" (e.g., state appellate, federal district, federal COA). How "low" would you go to work for free? (Not that there are any low-level judges, but I hope you get the idea).

DreamingInDigital
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby DreamingInDigital » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:39 pm

I can't imagine that any federal judge would allow someone to "clerk" for free. An internship/externship is a different story.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Have any of you guys done this or know someone who has? How much of a hassle was it? Was it worth it? Would you recommend doing this only at a certain "level" (e.g., state appellate, federal district, federal COA). How "low" would you go to work for free? (Not that there are any low-level judges, but I hope you get the idea).


I've heard of this only in the context of unpaid clerkships for law firm deferred associated and for international students who can't be paid by the government for their clerkship.

lolwat
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby lolwat » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:57 pm

DreamingInDigital wrote:I can't imagine that any federal judge would allow someone to "clerk" for free. An internship/externship is a different story.


There are several SDNY clerkships that are listed as "volunteer" clerk positions (once you look at the description of the opening). They're listed on OSCAR. I don't have any details beyond that, though.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:57 pm

OP: I wasn't asking about if a federal judge would ever do it. I'm assuming he already has. I'm asking at what level is it worth it? That would be more pertinent to what I'm thinking of.

09042014
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby 09042014 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:02 pm

I'd do a Federal A3 one and try to come dat big law after, but only if was already knocking on the big law door. And you'd get a bonus if you pulled it off.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:54 pm

There's a Denver federal district court judge who's posted a "special" unpaid clerkship for a couple of years now. So the volunteer positions are out there.

I think the value depends on why you're clerking. If you're doing it purely for the credential, only to signal that you could get a clerkship, an unpaid one might not be the same as a paid one because the competition isn't going to be the same - I'd imagine a lot of judges would take on someone for free they might not hire for pay. (My current chambers is going to have a volunteer clerk next year - not quite the same because their school is paying them a fellowship to do it, but this person didn't have to compete for the position. Their school has made clear they have to make the volunteer/not paid by the court nature of the position clear on their resume.) I mean, that may not in fact be the case - it may be just as competitive - but the signaling value may not be as clear. (I might be overstating this, but I throw it out there as a potential issue - I could be wrong though.)

In terms of the experience, I think you'd get all the same things out of it that a paid clerk would, in terms of the learning/mentoring/exposure to trials/connections etc. A law grad is quite different from an intern in that respect. So what level of court would be worth it will depend on which courts you'd be interested in clerking in just generally. (I suspect these positions are simply more common at the trial level, but that's just a guess.)

Of course, the big question is how you'll support yourself, but if you can support yourself, and you wanted to clerk anyways, it could be a good experience. I'd hate to go into debt for it, though.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby IAFG » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:06 am

lolwat wrote:
DreamingInDigital wrote:I can't imagine that any federal judge would allow someone to "clerk" for free. An internship/externship is a different story.


There are several SDNY clerkships that are listed as "volunteer" clerk positions (once you look at the description of the opening). They're listed on OSCAR. I don't have any details beyond that, though.

Yeah they definitely exist. During the recession someone with a "real" clerkship was losing their shit on TLS about people listing it like a paid clerkship on their resume, worried that it was going to dilute the market for clerks I guess.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:11 am

That may have been me. I got over it. :lol:

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nevdash
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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby nevdash » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:55 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:That may have been me. I got over it. :lol:

GUYS, THEY'RE GOING AFTER OUR PRESTIGE! WE HAVE TO STOP THEM!
:P

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby hiima3L » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:41 pm

It would be very important to figure out what the clerkship would be like, i.e., if you'd be treated like any other clerk or if you'd end up being an administrative type clerk. It would also be a good idea to talk to the judge to see if he/she would require you to indicate it to others that you're a volunteer and if he/she would consider you different from the other clerk(s).

I know someone clerking without pay but for all other intents and purposes it's the exact same as the other clerks.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:40 am

I know someone clerking without pay but for all other intents and purposes it's the exact same as the other clerks.


I interviewed with a chambers that had an upaid clerk. I was told that the two paid clerks divided up cases 50-50 based on the last digit in the case number, and then the unpaid person picked up cases on an ad hoc basis. This could be bad or good. If the cases are the interesting ones, then it would be fun. If they were the cases that the paid clerks just didn't want (e.g., pro se cases or social security appeals), then it would be drudgery.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby tommytahoe » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:35 pm

Bumping this...

I am facing this very issue right now. Or, I very well might be. I have struck out to date on the post-grad job searches, including numerous failed clerkship applications. I am now staying with my sister at her home, rent-free in the guest bedroom. I reached out last week to several chambers on this state's supreme court, asking if they accept work from volunteer/unpaid law clerks. My general thinking is that if I could cover my meager budget by working two nights a week as a server in a catering company (I amassed ten years of server experience prior to enrolling at law school), then I will have mitigated the financial risk. My thinking also is that there is likely quite a lot to gain from clerking on a court with as solid reputation as this one has -- assuming that the work I would do and the training I would receive would be of the same quality and caliber (even if in smaller quantities); and assuming that having that title would increase my odds as I search for a paid position here in the area.

Out of the three chambers I have contacted on this court, two judges' assistants already have responded on the phone or by email, expressing more than just casual consent. This is all speculation now, but I am asking around to find folks who have gone this route, and can help fill in the blanks as to the return one can get on an investment such as this one. I am very confident that with the free rent + catering work on the side, I can plausibly mitigate the financial burden I would shoulder were I to just take out more loans. But for me to even consider doing this I would have to feel there is some feasible or likely career reward at the end of it.

My gut says that 3 - 6 months clerking on the court of last resort would give an enormous boon to my resume and my odds of finding better work. But I am only running on assumptions here. Anecdotal experiences is what I really seek...

tx

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:42 pm

tommytahoe wrote:Bumping this...
My gut says that 3 - 6 months clerking on the court of last resort would give an enormous boon to my resume and my odds of finding better work. But I am only running on assumptions here. Anecdotal experiences is what I really seek...


I'm currently clerking at a fed d. ct. and we have a few post-grad/barred volunteers in different chambers. The judges treat them differently. A couple of them are essentially clerks but don't get paid. One of them recently got hired because he interned for almost a year, the current clerk left on short notice, and the judge thought the volunteer clerk had proved himself. So, that can work out very nicely.

The other ones are basically just interns. And by that they are given easy/routine assignments so the (paid) clerks can focus on the more involved cases. I don't know if the judges require the volunteer clerks to make that explicit on their resumes, but I think it would be a meaningful difference in a lot of chambers.

I would suggest you do it, but make sure that the judges won't expect you to stay there for X amount of time. Make it clear that you're going to be looking for other, permanent work and that they're okay with that. I can't speak to how much of a resume boost it'll give you, but I guarantee it's better than 99% of the other options where you're working for free or for peanuts.

I would do it for as long as you financially can until you get a worthwhile job. Don't, say, start doing doc review just because it pays. It's arguably a net negative financially in the long run.

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:45 pm

I have heard of some "volunteer" clerks who worked for free, but I haven’t seen any in the court I am clerking right now, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I think it really depends on how you have to list it on your resume. If your title is "Judicial Law clerk to xyz", I really don't see the difference between the paid and non-paid clerkship for post-clerkship employment purposes. I have never had anyone ask me if I was paid or unpaid clerk during interviews.

I personally think it’s unethical for judges to exploit unemployed lawyers and have them work for free (it's one thing to take advantage of law students, it's another to take advantage of unemployed lawyers with gazillion dollars of debt). So I personally would not do it just because that is where I draw the line, but I can see it being very benefital if you do not have to list your position as a volunteer law clerk because, if you do, employers will treat it like an internship.

So I say, if you do not have an alternative and can support yourself without pay, it is definitely worth the shot as long as you play it right. (especially the poster staying with her sister).

p.s. during my interviews last year, I interviewed with one federal judge who mentioned to me of how he has never seen the market like this and that he even recently had a recent graduate who clerked for him for a year with no compensation (so they are out there).

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Re: Clerking for a judge for free?

Postby brainking » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:15 pm

I know someone who was a volunteer law clerk for a federal district court judge after she struck out in the job market. She continued to interview during this "clerkship," and ultimately landed an associate position at a smallish firm in the district. There is no question that having the judge as a recommender helped her land this job (even though I think she listed the position as "volunteer law clerk," clearly differentiating it from a normal clerkship).

So yes, if you can afford to do it, work your ass off, impress the judge, get a rec, and PROFIT.




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