Female perspectives on applying?

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Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:02 am

Hi everyone,

I've tried browsing these boards, but I'm still on the fence about applying. I wanted to see if anyone has perspectives on what must be a common situation facing women (pretty please don't roast me!). Because I had no intention of applying earlier, I missed a lot of my school's meetings on clerkships.

Originally, I had no intention of applying for a clerkship, but one of my professors took me aside and tried getting me to reconsider. I hadn't wanted to apply, because I'll be 30 when I graduate and I'm a woman. I was mainly concerned about wanting to practice for a couple of years before having kids. I'll be working this summer at a V30 firm in California doing corporate work, though I'm not sure how enamored I am with corporate work as compared to litigation. I'll be applying in the fall to the DOJ Honors program. I also hate the idea of temporarily locating to a city for one year, as I have to consider my husband's work. But I'm wondering if it would be a long-term mistake not to apply, because my dream job is in government.

Other stats: top 5% at a T30 school, Law Review (but no editorial board), hoping to get my note published, awards in moot court, pro bono spring break trip. Should I really reconsider applying for a clerkship, like in California? Thanks!

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IAFG
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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby IAFG » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:14 am

Anonymous User wrote: I was mainly concerned about wanting to practice for a couple of years before having kids.

So you can be pregnant and have a newborn just in time to be a busy midlevel whose lateral opportunities are really taking off?

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:12 am

Dear OP,

I am so glad you asked this question. I am in a similar situation - competitive applicant who will be 30 when she graduates. It's encouraging to know there are other students out there facing similar choices.

I decided to apply within a few hours' radius of my husband's work. Very luckily, he is supportive of an arrangement where we see each other on weekends. We have not yet decided if it makes sense to apply to locations where we would be separated by a flight. I'm thinking the answer is no. A major drawback, of course, is that clerkships closer to home are much more competitive.

I'd say you are at a bit of a disadvantage timing-wise, but perhaps you can figure out a few places where it makes sense to apply. Maybe there is an alum working for a judge close by who is on the federal plan. Alternatively, you could be flexible in terms of the type of court you are applying to. I've heard that if you are set on a COA clerkship, for example, you need to be geographically flexible. If you are geographically inflexible, you should be flexible in terms of federal versus state, and trial versus appellate. Of course, a state appellate clerkship may not help to make you more competitive for a government job, and may not make more sense than going to your firm. My only other thought was that if you are going directly to a firm, it may not be as important to have a clerkship on your resume as a lateral, experienced attorney transfer. Not sure though.

As some more food for thought, I have firsthand knowledge that some clerkships can be great jobs for being pregnant and taking care of newborn babies. If you have a good federal judge, even at the COA level, you could possibly work a 9-5 schedule. This is probably also the case at a state appellate court. You'll need to do some research on quality of life for the judges that you're interested in, and maybe reach out to any former clerks.

These are huge decisions: how to weigh this short-term disruption of current and future family obligations with professional ambitions. People say it's only a year, but it's much more than that - it's when to start a family, which takes thought and planning. There are really multi-year implications. At the same time, do we self-select ourselves out of clerking because of decisions of when to start a family? Men don't really face this choice, for better or for worse. I tried to find a happy medium of applying to places close to home where I could still be competitive. Hopefully you can find a similar solution that works for you and your husband. Keep in mind that you should be sure of where you can possibly clerk before you apply - all of this decision-making is somewhat frontloaded - so that in case you get an interview, you are in a position to accept. From personal experience, one of the most exhausting parts of this process is that once you get into application mode and start thinking about how great it would be to clerk, it's difficult to temper that ambition. Being clear with your spouse and firm with yourself about what your limits are is hard, but necessary in my opinion to make this work for your family.

Good luck! Would love for others to continue this conversation.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby wisdom » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:11 pm

For what it's worth, my advice would be to apply selectively to a few judges near where you want to end up working/where your husband is working. It sounds like you're not absolutely committed to the clerking thing, so it won't be a blow to your aspirations/ego/whatever if you don't land a clerkship. As for the desire to move into government, the main benefit to a clerkship is not just the credential value in and of itself, but the fact that you would have a judge as a mentor who likely has connections to people in government and could be a strong ally. Government jobs are heavily connection-dependent, so you have to weigh your own ability to develop those connections at the firm, and keep in mind that it takes a fair amount of luck regardless of whether or not you clerk.

Above poster -- good point about pregnancy while clerking. I know of at least two people who have had children while clerking and it is definitely a more forgiving environment/time in life to have a child than at a law firm. Of course, it doesn't sound like OP wants kids now, just eventually.

To OP I would also say, in terms of wanting to practice for a couple of years, keep in mind that firms count a clerkship year for purposes of career advancement (i.e., after you clerk, you enter as a second-year). Keep in mind also that, in terms of quality of learning/experience, clerking for a year will give you much more substantive experience than a year in a big law firm, especially doing corporate work where your early years will be spent doing somewhat menial, time intensive, and unpleasant tasks like due diligence.

Finally, I'll ask: what's the connection between corporate work, your moot court experience, and your desire to eventually move into government? Most government positions are litigation-centric (e.g., DOJ, all the USAOs), and based on doing moot court in law school, you sound like a litigation-type rather than a corporate-type. I think working in a corporate department at a big law firm will not help your chances of transitioning to government lawyering jobs, unless we're talking some sort of local/state attorney level where you're acting more like the general counsel of a municipality or county.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:21 pm

OP here. Thanks, posters, for your thoughtful responses.

A little more on my background: I wanted to do litigation, but my law school has bad connections to my hometown (i.e. San Francisco) and I couldn't get anything in litigation there. I'm hoping my firm will let me switch to litigation after the summer, though it's a long-shot. I know that trying to get stuff in government would be very difficult if I go into corporate, but I would settle for local level stuff (though of course state or federal would be preferable, which is why I'm going for DOJ Honors).

It's interesting to hear that clerking has more flexible hours. I've read some posts here from people who go into clerking after a couple of years in big law. This may be a dumb question, but do you think that option makes any sense if you have kids?

wisdom
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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby wisdom » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks, posters, for your thoughtful responses.

A little more on my background: I wanted to do litigation, but my law school has bad connections to my hometown (i.e. San Francisco) and I couldn't get anything in litigation there. I'm hoping my firm will let me switch to litigation after the summer, though it's a long-shot. I know that trying to get stuff in government would be very difficult if I go into corporate, but I would settle for local level stuff (though of course state or federal would be preferable, which is why I'm going for DOJ Honors).

It's interesting to hear that clerking has more flexible hours. I've read some posts here from people who go into clerking after a couple of years in big law. This may be a dumb question, but do you think that option makes any sense if you have kids?


Thanks for explaining a bit more. As for clerking after a couple of years of big law, this is a very typical path for district court clerkships, which value practice experience more than COA. As for whether that option makes sense for someone with kids, keep in mind that clerkships are short-term gigs in general (one or sometimes two years at the district court level). So while it may be a good place to be if you're in your first year with a kid and are getting used to being a new parent, it's not really a "mommy track" per se. Unless, that is, you become a permanent clerk, but those positions are even rarer than term clerkships and become available much less frequently (by definition).

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:46 pm

I am not female, but I'd also add that while many judges are perfectly fine with pregnant clerks, I have heard of more than one instance where a judge reacted very negatively to hearing that his/her clerk was going to be giving birth during her clerkship (the idea being, you're only here for a year, if you need however many weeks / months off after giving birth, that really screws with the judge's plans). I've even heard one instance of a judge revoking an offer after hearing (yes, I know that's illegal, but are you going to sue a judge)?

All this is not to say don't bother. Rather, I think it's important to be upfront about that if you might give birth during the clerkship so expectations are aligned. Chances are, they won't mind. But if they do, I think it's better to identify and avoid that situation, even if they're technically in the wrong.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:06 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:I am not female, but I'd also add that while many judges are perfectly fine with pregnant clerks, I have heard of more than one instance where a judge reacted very negatively to hearing that his/her clerk was going to be giving birth during her clerkship (the idea being, you're only here for a year, if you need however many weeks / months off after giving birth, that really screws with the judge's plans). I've even heard one instance of a judge revoking an offer after hearing (yes, I know that's illegal, but are you going to sue a judge)?

All this is not to say don't bother. Rather, I think it's important to be upfront about that if you might give birth during the clerkship so expectations are aligned. Chances are, they won't mind. But if they do, I think it's better to identify and avoid that situation, even if they're technically in the wrong.


Thanks for the two cents. Male perspectives are certainly welcome; I just referred to it as "female" perspectives simply to communicate the nature of the topic. Yeah, it probably wouldn't be fair to a judge to go on maternity leave during a clerkship, though that job might make more sense if you had young children. I didn't mean to get side-tracked on that issue (it just popped in my mind). Doing the clerkship right out of law school is certainly the best choice it seems, and I'd be curious to hear more on that . :-)

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IAFG
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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby IAFG » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
It's interesting to hear that clerking has more flexible hours. I've read some posts here from people who go into clerking after a couple of years in big law. This may be a dumb question, but do you think that option makes any sense if you have kids?

That was precisely what I was thinking of when I posted. Maybe even look for a 2 year post or take two in a row.

If that pisses off your judge, well, you know, I imagine no employer is super thrilled to be hosting a mom's pregnancy/maternity leave. In my mind, it's a question of who you want to burden with that.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 07, 2013 4:59 pm

An interesting decision re: whether the judge could legally fire you:

http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/ ... d1315p.pdf

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 07, 2013 5:10 pm

Wow, crazy on that lawsuit! I don't know if the alleged facts are true, but it sucks that a judge did that without giving the woman the benefit of the doubt.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 16, 2013 8:22 am

D. Ct. clerk here.

Judges, like all other humans and employers, vary dramatically in their expectations for their clerks. Some are very supportive and flexible of their employers while others are not. One judge at my court has a 100% honors system where (s)he gives the clerks assignments and a deadline, and that's it. I know his/her career clerk works 9-5 and often comes in late and leaves early to help out with the kid. Another judge requires his/her clerks to be in by 7AM, eat lunch every day with him/her, and they can't leave until he/she says they can. Most of them here, however, are very flexible and expect their clerks to work 9-6ish, with more or less hours depending on the case load.

So, tl;dr depending on the judge, it could be perfect or the worst scenario for you. But from what I can gather, the vast majority of them (at least at the d. ct. level) are 9-5ish jobs.

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Re: Female perspectives on applying?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 16, 2013 12:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Wow, crazy on that lawsuit! I don't know if the alleged facts are true, but it sucks that a judge did that without giving the woman the benefit of the doubt.


But the clerk obviously knew before she began her employment and chose not to disclose until two days after she had been hired, which was mildly disingenuous. Devil's advocate.




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