pro se law clerk

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Anonymous User
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pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 07, 2013 4:37 pm

just curious what a pro se law clerk does and hows it viewed in terms of potential employment post clerkship

theaccidentalclerk
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Tue May 07, 2013 6:37 pm

Handles (most) pro se cases in the district, the majority of which are habeas petitions (at least in my district). A pro se clerk has described it to me as "not super intellectually stimulating, but the hours are nice and the work isn't difficult."

As far as post-clerkship job opportunities, I'd have to think that you wouldn't be especially attractive to firms (other than maybe criminal defense firms).

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed May 08, 2013 12:50 am

^That's pretty much my understanding. I think the workload depends a little on the district and so on - we have 2 pro se clerks in my district and I know one of them at least is fairly swamped and never takes a lunch hour (eats at her desk in front of the computer). But I'm pretty sure she still works 8-5, nothing like firm hours, so not really not terrible. The pro se clerks work for the whole court, they aren't tied to a specific chambers (which I'm sure you knew but I throw it out there), so on the one hand, you get exposure to more judges than as a term clerk, but on the other hand, you wouldn't get to know any one of them as well as you would in a term clerk position. So I think you'd miss out on some of the mentoring-type experience of a term clerkship. (But that's just my impression; the pro se clerks in my district are career clerks, so hard to compare.)

I'd think experience as pro se clerk might be most appealing to criminal law employers - the federal defender or state PD appeals unit (although of course habeas is federal law, but a lot of the other post-conviction stuff has state parallels? don't rely on me about that)? Or, of course, on the prosecution side, I guess (though it seems more useful to defendants). Or if there's a civil rights firm that represents prisoners, maybe? But I don't know *how* appealing it would be.

lolwat
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby lolwat » Wed May 08, 2013 11:00 am

My understanding is:

- Reasonable hours (but all the clerks in this district have reasonable hours)
- Handles, well, pro se cases as the title suggests, which is pretty much prisoner/habeas stuff
- More often career positions than term positions
- I think you might end up working mostly for "a judge" even if you're technically working for the whole court, so it may or may not allow you to get to know the judge as well as a regular clerkship

It seems to depend on district.

Exit options . . . I don't know. I wouldn't think it's very good except for PD work.

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tommytahoe
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby tommytahoe » Fri May 10, 2013 5:28 pm

Hey!

I was generally aware already about the kind of work going on for pro se clerks -- and about the limits on attractiveness for pro se clerks after they finish. What I had heard was in line with what you've all written.

What I would like to know is just how competitive these slots are. Logically, they would be less competitive than would the term clerk positions at the same court/same judge. But i am just not sure how much less competitive... I'm at a top-30 law school and due to a lousy 1L year have a GPA at/right below the 50% mark of class rank, which is why I ask. I am looking for substantive work that could allow me to be more attractive as a federal court term clerk for the following year, perhaps; but I assume that even pro se clerkships are exceedingly hard to get for those not in the top 30% of their class or not at a T14 school.

thanks!

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:59 pm

bumping to see if anyone has any input on these positions. thinking about applying for a 2-year term in my hometown, which is where I want to be. A good idea if I want to be an AUSA or otherwise want to go into gvmt? Is there any success in turning these into term clerkships afterwards?

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:bumping to see if anyone has any input on these positions. thinking about applying for a 2-year term in my hometown, which is where I want to be. A good idea if I want to be an AUSA or otherwise want to go into gvmt? Is there any success in turning these into term clerkships afterwards?


Maybe for AG's office, but probably not for USAO. Federal habeas petitions are entirely going to be state defendant appeals. In most states it means the defendant exhausted all possible appeals (including direct appeals and post-conviction appeals). So how federal habeas petitions work is that a defendant files the petition pro se (except death penalty cases), and hence the "pro se" law clerk position, and the district court can order that the AG's office file a reply to the petition. In some non-death penalty cases, the defendant gets appointed counsel counsel, and appointed counsel lawyers up the case, and then the AG's office gets appointed. Overall, it's really just a giant waste of tax payer dollars, since only 1% of all habeas petitions are actually granted since AEDPA was enacted in 1996, and I think of that 1% of, most of those are death penalty cases. So from this perspective, I can see how the experience would be useful for someone who wants to work at the AG's office doing the habeas work. But I can't possibly see how it would be useful for a criminal AUSA, where all of your work would be related to federal statutes and mostly working with federal law enforcement agencies. Honestly, it's probably kind of a dead end job in the long-run, since the AG's office probably has somewhere around 5 attorneys total who do habeas work in most states (so the likelihood you're ever going to get into one of those is slim).

If you want to work for a local PD's office, I think the experience would demonstrate interest in criminal work, but that's about it (again, local PD's offices don't handle habeas petitions). If you could get a clerkship doing death penalty habeas work, you would definitely be very marketable to capital habeas units at federal defender offices as well as AGs/DAs offices that reply to those petitions (the death penalty world is a lot bigger of one, since there's automatic right to counsel for the defendant and the state is going to reply to every one of those petitions, unlike with the pro se petitions). Although, I suspect the term clerks probably handle most of the death penalty capital habeas petitions in most district courts (since it's kind of important work, unlike the vast majority of pro se habeas petitions, which are frivolous and/or very unlikely to result in any kind of relief due to the procedural challenges).

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:19 pm

D. ct. clerk here.

I echo the above. One bonus I know is that most judges more or less rubber stamp your work.

objctnyrhnr
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:08 pm

d ct clerk here. nobody mentioned how awful it usually is to slog through submissions not written by attorneys.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 24, 2015 12:20 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:d ct clerk here. nobody mentioned how awful it usually is to slog through submissions not written by attorneys.


+1. Dealing with pro se shit was probably one of the most miserable things I dealt with as a law clerk. Pro se criminal defendants (or I guess in the realm of habeas work, petitioners) are the worst, since they are typically not very educated, they are generally terrible writers (both in substance and the fact that their submissions are usually hand written), and have unlimited time on their hands, so they'll submit 100+ page documents that are incredibly difficult to figure out WTF they are arguing. I imagine dealing with pro se habeas petitions all day long would be very mind numbing work.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 24, 2015 8:17 am

State level prosecutor who is currently responding to one of these...it's death.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 24, 2015 2:10 pm

Although, I suspect the term clerks probably handle most of the death penalty capital habeas petitions in most district courts (since it's kind of important work, unlike the vast majority of pro se habeas petitions, which are frivolous and/or very unlikely to result in any kind of relief due to the procedural challenges).


My judge used his career clerk on all death penalty habeas matters, at least while I was there.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 25, 2015 3:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:d ct clerk here. nobody mentioned how awful it usually is to slog through submissions not written by attorneys.


+1. Dealing with pro se shit was probably one of the most miserable things I dealt with as a law clerk. Pro se criminal defendants (or I guess in the realm of habeas work, petitioners) are the worst, since they are typically not very educated, they are generally terrible writers (both in substance and the fact that their submissions are usually hand written), and have unlimited time on their hands, so they'll submit 100+ page documents that are incredibly difficult to figure out WTF they are arguing. I imagine dealing with pro se habeas petitions all day long would be very mind numbing work.


D. ct. clerk anon from above.

Very valid points. It takes a certain person to deal with pro se nonsense. But, on the other side of the coin, the vast majority of pro se filings are such patent BS that you can get rid of them with very minimal work. The problem with that is it often becomes routine cut and paste work.

objctnyrhnr
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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby objctnyrhnr » Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:06 am

this is slightly off-topic, but I feel that somebody can answer my question--

in my district there are something like 2 or 3 full time pro se law clerk, paid with our tax dollars.

why is it that I, as a d court clerk, deal with pro se stuff if these positions exist? why wouldn't all pro se cases go to them? if they don't do the pro se cases that get auto-assigned to the various judges in my district, what exactly do they do? or are there too many pro se cases for them to do them all, and am i only seeing a small number that's left over?

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:19 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:this is slightly off-topic, but I feel that somebody can answer my question--

in my district there are something like 2 or 3 full time pro se law clerk, paid with our tax dollars.

why is it that I, as a d court clerk, deal with pro se stuff if these positions exist? why wouldn't all pro se cases go to them? if they don't do the pro se cases that get auto-assigned to the various judges in my district, what exactly do they do? or are there too many pro se cases for them to do them all, and am i only seeing a small number that's left over?


Every district deals with pro se stuff differently and calling these staff attorneys "pro se" staff attorneys or law clerks is kind of confusing. I clerked for district judges in two districts and the experience was quite different. In the first district, they had "pro se" staff attorneys who basically acted as intake for all pro se cases and would deal with service and summons stuff and getting a suit off the ground, then they would write a memo to the judge and the case would be "transferred" over to the assigned judge. In the second district, the pro se staff attorneys were limited to pro se prisoner litigation (except habeas) but actually basically handled these cases by themselves and would draft orders and opinions (subject to the assigned judge's approval of course). So in that case, the staff attorneys were kind of like an extra law clerk that worked for a number of judges and specifically only handled one type of case.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:this is slightly off-topic, but I feel that somebody can answer my question--

in my district there are something like 2 or 3 full time pro se law clerk, paid with our tax dollars.

why is it that I, as a d court clerk, deal with pro se stuff if these positions exist? why wouldn't all pro se cases go to them? if they don't do the pro se cases that get auto-assigned to the various judges in my district, what exactly do they do? or are there too many pro se cases for them to do them all, and am i only seeing a small number that's left over?


Every district deals with pro se stuff differently and calling these staff attorneys "pro se" staff attorneys or law clerks is kind of confusing. I clerked for district judges in two districts and the experience was quite different. In the first district, they had "pro se" staff attorneys who basically acted as intake for all pro se cases and would deal with service and summons stuff and getting a suit off the ground, then they would write a memo to the judge and the case would be "transferred" over to the assigned judge. In the second district, the pro se staff attorneys were limited to pro se prisoner litigation (except habeas) but actually basically handled these cases by themselves and would draft orders and opinions (subject to the assigned judge's approval of course). So in that case, the staff attorneys were kind of like an extra law clerk that worked for a number of judges and specifically only handled one type of case.


D. ct. clerk. Your second district sounds just like mine - pro se clerks deal with exclusively pro se prisoners, which is effectively 99% of all prisoner litigation.

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Re: pro se law clerk

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 26, 2015 11:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:this is slightly off-topic, but I feel that somebody can answer my question--

in my district there are something like 2 or 3 full time pro se law clerk, paid with our tax dollars.

why is it that I, as a d court clerk, deal with pro se stuff if these positions exist? why wouldn't all pro se cases go to them? if they don't do the pro se cases that get auto-assigned to the various judges in my district, what exactly do they do? or are there too many pro se cases for them to do them all, and am i only seeing a small number that's left over?


Every district deals with pro se stuff differently and calling these staff attorneys "pro se" staff attorneys or law clerks is kind of confusing. I clerked for district judges in two districts and the experience was quite different. In the first district, they had "pro se" staff attorneys who basically acted as intake for all pro se cases and would deal with service and summons stuff and getting a suit off the ground, then they would write a memo to the judge and the case would be "transferred" over to the assigned judge. In the second district, the pro se staff attorneys were limited to pro se prisoner litigation (except habeas) but actually basically handled these cases by themselves and would draft orders and opinions (subject to the assigned judge's approval of course). So in that case, the staff attorneys were kind of like an extra law clerk that worked for a number of judges and specifically only handled one type of case.


D. ct. clerk. Your second district sounds just like mine - pro se clerks deal with exclusively pro se prisoners, which is effectively 99% of all prisoner litigation.

The above was pretty much how it worked in my district. I didn't really see any pro se stuff, but we did get in a couple of civil, non-prisoner cases (my co-clerk handled them). The pro se staff attorneys were really prisoner pro se staff attorneys to keep us from drowning in frivolous prisoner suits. Also, I think if something ended up actually being substantial where real litigation was going to result, rather than a routine "judge please rubber stamp this," it would get transferred to a DCt judge. But it depends on the district chooses to handle things.




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