Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

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Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:57 am

Hi all,

I know this has been discussed a bit several years ago, but what are the general thoughts on clerkships when you're targeting a specific US Attorney's Office or a particular state. For example, If you're looking to go to the US Attorney's Office in the EDNY or DNJ would it make more sense to clerk there, or should you really gun for the "best" clerkship you can get, like SDNY or DDC (or COA).

Just wondering how much I should take this into account now that I'm getting my first calls for interviews. I'm an alum and I'll have 2 years at a V10 before I begin clerking.

Any input would be appreciated.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:25 am

I think that 1) district court clerkships are going to be more helpful for the USAO, unless you end up hired in an appellate section to do only appellate, of course (I just think these positions are rarer), and 2) a clerkship in the same district, or a district working with a similar docket, is more useful than a very fancy clerkship somewhere completely different. (E.g. clerking in a border state and going to a border USAO).

But that's just my gut impression. It's based on the idea that relevant experience and connections matter more than just pure prestige, which i know holds true for some offices, but there may be offices that hire based on pure prestige. So I can't guarantee my perspective is true for all USAOs.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:39 am

It absolutely would be better to clerk in the district that you're targeting. Most judges have a good working relationship with the USA in that district -- and many judges in the district worked in the specific USAO themselves. They should be able to place a call for you. I know mine did for his/her clerks or former clerks who are interested in going that route. This resulted in at least two interviews that I know of -- though the current freeze means no jobs. Speaking of, I should caution that at this point you should treat AUSA plans like you would law professor plans -- it's a nice career aspiration, and you should definitely pursue it, but given the current hiring environment, it's unlikely to happen so you should definitely have a Plan B.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Citizen Genet » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:32 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:It absolutely would be better to clerk in the district that you're targeting. Most judges have a good working relationship with the USA in that district -- and many judges in the district worked in the specific USAO themselves. They should be able to place a call for you. I know mine did for his/her clerks or former clerks who are interested in going that route. This resulted in at least two interviews that I know of -- though the current freeze means no jobs. Speaking of, I should caution that at this point you should treat AUSA plans like you would law professor plans -- it's a nice career aspiration, and you should definitely pursue it, but given the current hiring environment, it's unlikely to happen so you should definitely have a Plan B.


+1. If you want to be an AUSA in S.D. Iowa, clerking in D.D.C. is way less useful than clerking in S.D. Iowa. From my experience, USAOs care about relevant accomplishments, not "prestige." So doing well at a great law school is relevant and getting a clerkship is relevant. But the fact that you clerked for a judge in N.D. Cal. means about as much as clerking for a judge in N.D. Ala. if you are applying for a clerkship in N.D. Tex. And clerking for a judge in N.D. Tex. is going to beat both of those.

From talking to AUSAs, a lot of applicants with COA background and great appeals work who have awesome academic backgrounds come in with the expectation that they are an obvious candidate. Compare that with applicants who did a D.Ct. clerkship and has good trial court work who has a solid academic background who actually has much more experience doing what AUSAs do.

Save Supreme Court Clerkships, USAOs really just don't care that much about these gradients of prestige that a lot of students seem to care about. Connections and relevant experience. Go for that.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:45 pm

so would it be better to wait some years out before doing a D.Ct then (when you're sure where you want to practice)?

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:23 pm

Is there a tangible bump for doing both a Dist. Ct. and a COA clerkship for AUSA hiring?

Any bump from both clerkships being in the same circuit as your target district, even if they are in a different state?

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:31 pm

so would it be better to wait some years out before doing a D.Ct then (when you're sure where you want to practice)?


Yes. Others may differ, but I think that biglaw for 2-3 years -> district court clerkship in the targeted district -> AUSA may be the best way to get an AUSA job. Though I could see the argument that even better would be to tack on a COA clerkship first. But keep in mind the following.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:42 pm

Is there a tangible bump for doing both a Dist. Ct. and a COA clerkship for AUSA hiring?

Any bump from both clerkships being in the same circuit as your target district, even if they are in a different state?


I think that the answer to the first question is that it's district-by-district. Some -- especially the more competitive ones -- may give you a bump if you have a COA clerkship. Others won't care.

As for the second, you probably wouldn't get any bump with an outside-district USDC clerkship in the same circuit (vis a vis any non-district USDC clerkship). You probably would get a bit of a bump with a same-circuit COA clerkship, but nowhere near the bump clerking in that district would give you. Again, though, keep in mind that that bump isn't a prestige thing. It's your judge calling up the USA (who he meets with every two months and maybe worked with before he was appointed) and saying that he has this clerk who needs a job.

But all of this is pretty much just wankery. Here's the bottom line: USAOs aren't hiring. Period. And in the few months that they were hiring between the recession freeze and the sequester freeze, the competition was unbelievably fierce. A co-clerk applied to one in the middle of nowhere. S/he got a receipt confirmation where they copied everyone on the "CC:" line and not the "BCC:" line. It had about 100 names on it, all starting with the letter "T" or after (meaning that there were probably at least 500 applicants, if not more). There were partners at AmLaw 100 law firms on there. There were law professors on there. There were a ton of COA clerks on there.

Yes, maybe you might luck out and clerk in the right district when an AUSA spot opens up and you have an in with your judge. But you just can't count on it. It probably won't happen. Plan accordingly.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Citizen Genet » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:31 pm

theaccidentalclerk wrote:
Is there a tangible bump for doing both a Dist. Ct. and a COA clerkship for AUSA hiring?

Any bump from both clerkships being in the same circuit as your target district, even if they are in a different state?


I think that the answer to the first question is that it's district-by-district. Some -- especially the more competitive ones -- may give you a bump if you have a COA clerkship. Others won't care.

As for the second, you probably wouldn't get any bump with an outside-district USDC clerkship in the same circuit (vis a vis any non-district USDC clerkship). You probably would get a bit of a bump with a same-circuit COA clerkship, but nowhere near the bump clerking in that district would give you. Again, though, keep in mind that that bump isn't a prestige thing. It's your judge calling up the USA (who he meets with every two months and maybe worked with before he was appointed) and saying that he has this clerk who needs a job.

But all of this is pretty much just wankery. Here's the bottom line: USAOs aren't hiring. Period. And in the few months that they were hiring between the recession freeze and the sequester freeze, the competition was unbelievably fierce. A co-clerk applied to one in the middle of nowhere. S/he got a receipt confirmation where they copied everyone on the "CC:" line and not the "BCC:" line. It had about 100 names on it, all starting with the letter "T" or after (meaning that there were probably at least 500 applicants, if not more). There were partners at AmLaw 100 law firms on there. There were law professors on there. There were a ton of COA clerks on there.

Yes, maybe you might luck out and clerk in the right district when an AUSA spot opens up and you have an in with your judge. But you just can't count on it. It probably won't happen. Plan accordingly.


Agreed with this. While doing Firm ---> DCt clerkship in the right district is a good step to go toward an AUSA, you really can't count on opening being there when you finish the D.Ct. clerkship. In other words, have some other exit strategy that you can do a holding pattern in, namely a firm in that market.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:13 pm

Citizen Genet wrote:Agreed with this. While doing Firm ---> DCt clerkship in the right district is a good step to go toward an AUSA, you really can't count on opening being there when you finish the D.Ct. clerkship. In other words, have some other exit strategy that you can do a holding pattern in, namely a firm in that market.

For those of us who don't see a firm as a viable holding pattern, given the up and out mentality, does anyone know whether going to a state prosecutor's office while you're waiting for USAO to open up makes any sense? Say you only wanted to work at a firm for 2-3 years after a COA clerkship, then go D.Ct --> USAO. I honestly don't know what jobs outside of BigLaw would still allow you to trade up to USAO.

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Re: Clerkships and US Attorney jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:31 am

theaccidentalclerk wrote:There were partners at AmLaw 100 law firms on there. There were law professors on there. There were a ton of COA clerks on there.


Damn. People kill to make peanuts and top out at $140k. I'm in the same boat. I'd trade in my 160k for a AUSA gig any day. It's just amazing how many of us are out there. Especially because AUSAs work hard. It's not the cushy government gig your tea-partier friends tell you about.




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