how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

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objctnyrhnr
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how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby objctnyrhnr » Sat May 25, 2013 7:34 pm

My school strongly discourages not accepting clerkships, if one is offered. But I am wondering (out of idle curiosity), how bad would it actually be to be offered a clerkship at one place and then to contact another place that you have interviewed and see if you can get an offer? Is this completely taboo, or is it something that people probably do sometimes?

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nevdash
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby nevdash » Sat May 25, 2013 7:48 pm

It's pretty bad if the judge expects you to accept the offer if given. Judges are extremely busy and can't afford to put their hiring on hold while you try to leverage one offer into another. If you're interviewing for federal clerkships, assume that accepting the interview means you would accept an offer. If state, clarify before you accept the interview. Not accepting an exploding offer on the spot, depending on the judge, could lead to the offer being rescinded plus the judge blackballing other students from your school in the future.

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Haymarket
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Haymarket » Sat May 25, 2013 9:35 pm

Really, really bad for your school. And they will probably hear about it from the judge, current clerks, or through the grapevine. You will probably hear, in turn, from the school about it.

badaboom61
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby badaboom61 » Sat May 25, 2013 9:43 pm

I've heard that it's cool to use an offer to leverage a VERY fast response (ie from judges you've already interviewed with, < 24 hour turnaround) from a judge on a different court (2nd vs 3rd circuit, SDNY vs 2nd Cir). Other than that, no don't do it, for reasons mentioned above.

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ph14
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby ph14 » Sat May 25, 2013 11:37 pm

I guess it depends in the school. It should be avoided if possible, but I think that if it comes down to it you should not to feel obligated and should feel the freedom to decline. And that isn't event such a bad thing. A judge wants clerks who really want to be there I'm sure.

fish52
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby fish52 » Sun May 26, 2013 3:58 am

ph14 wrote:I guess it depends in the school. It should be avoided if possible, but I think that if it comes down to it you should not to feel obligated and should feel the freedom to decline. And that isn't event such a bad thing. A judge wants clerks who really want to be there I'm sure.

Complete opposite advice from our CDO. In their words, if you weren't willing to take the clerkship you shouldn't have applied for it. Declining a clerkship offer is framed as not even being an option. Law school is always so dire.

NYstate
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby NYstate » Sun May 26, 2013 7:54 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:My school strongly discourages not accepting clerkships, if one is offered. But I am wondering (out of idle curiosity), how bad would it actually be to be offered a clerkship at one place and then to contact another place that you have interviewed and see if you can get an offer? Is this completely taboo, or is it something that people probably do sometimes?

Are you referring to a different clerkship or going to a firm?

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 26, 2013 8:16 am

I know a partner who accepted a clerkship with a judge, got an offer in a better district, told the judge that his "fiancee" objected to him moving to the less impressive district and turned down the clerkship, then accepted the better one. It obviously didn't ruin his legal career.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Citizen Genet » Sun May 26, 2013 10:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:I know a partner who accepted a clerkship with a judge, got an offer in a better district, told the judge that his "fiancee" objected to him moving to the less impressive district and turned down the clerkship, then accepted the better one. It obviously didn't ruin his legal career.


Can you reject a clerkship and still have a successful career? Yes.

Should you use a clerkship to leverage another position without the offering judge's explicit permission? No.

There are plenty of valid reasons to reject a clerkship offer. Most of them, however, are due to external circumstances. (Change in family situation, illness, etc.) The anon I am quoting gave a judge a legit reason (albeit seemingly made up and one that could have been discovered before) and did fine in life. But there are plenty of scenarios where this will bite you. If you ever plan on practicing in that market, that can be a decidedly bad move. And I know of one judge who rejected an applicant who tried to leverage an offer because the applicant had not received explicit permission from the other judge before doing it. (Kid still ended up with the other judge so it worked out for him, but he probably blew his chances with that judge for a later clerkship.)

And outside of what it will do to you, you really should consider what it will do to future applicants from your school. One prominent circuit judge almost always refuses to hire from Yale because of bad experiences with Yale clerks in the past. If you muck things up in the interest of getting the prettiest clerkship possible, you will likely screw over scores of future applicants. For a lot of people, this isn't a compelling reason not to do it. (And I won't say they are right or wrong.) But for me and some others, this is a valid reason to avoid surreptitiously juggling offers.

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ph14
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby ph14 » Sun May 26, 2013 12:40 pm

fish52 wrote:
ph14 wrote:I guess it depends in the school. It should be avoided if possible, but I think that if it comes down to it you should not to feel obligated and should feel the freedom to decline. And that isn't event such a bad thing. A judge wants clerks who really want to be there I'm sure.

Complete opposite advice from our CDO. In their words, if you weren't willing to take the clerkship you shouldn't have applied for it. Declining a clerkship offer is framed as not even being an option. Law school is always so dire.


Career Services' interests and students' interests aren't necessarily aligned.

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Detrox
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Detrox » Sun May 26, 2013 1:35 pm

ph14 wrote:
fish52 wrote:
ph14 wrote:I guess it depends in the school. It should be avoided if possible, but I think that if it comes down to it you should not to feel obligated and should feel the freedom to decline. And that isn't event such a bad thing. A judge wants clerks who really want to be there I'm sure.

Complete opposite advice from our CDO. In their words, if you weren't willing to take the clerkship you shouldn't have applied for it. Declining a clerkship offer is framed as not even being an option. Law school is always so dire.


Career Services' interests and students' interests aren't necessarily aligned.


In this case they're not opposing though. You really should not be accepting interviews with judges you are not willing to accept offers from them on the spot. Rejecting offers for these highly competitive, desirable, and closely personal positions reflects really poorly on you and the school you attend. In addition to screwing potential applicants from your school over in the future, you are harming your reputation with that judge and any others he or she informs of the situation. It's a pretty selfish action that can very easily be avoided, if you aren't willing to accept a position don't accept an interview.

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ph14
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby ph14 » Sun May 26, 2013 2:05 pm

Detrox wrote:
ph14 wrote:
fish52 wrote:
ph14 wrote:I guess it depends in the school. It should be avoided if possible, but I think that if it comes down to it you should not to feel obligated and should feel the freedom to decline. And that isn't event such a bad thing. A judge wants clerks who really want to be there I'm sure.

Complete opposite advice from our CDO. In their words, if you weren't willing to take the clerkship you shouldn't have applied for it. Declining a clerkship offer is framed as not even being an option. Law school is always so dire.


Career Services' interests and students' interests aren't necessarily aligned.


In this case they're not opposing though. You really should not be accepting interviews with judges you are not willing to accept offers from them on the spot. Rejecting offers for these highly competitive, desirable, and closely personal positions reflects really poorly on you and the school you attend. In addition to screwing potential applicants from your school over in the future, you are harming your reputation with that judge and any others he or she informs of the situation. It's a pretty selfish action that can very easily be avoided, if you aren't willing to accept a position don't accept an interview.


You realize there is a difference between "not oppos[ed]" and "aren't necessarily aligned." They aren't opposed, but they aren't necessarily aligned.

Declining an offer isn't something you should do without understanding the proper gravity of the situation. But I don't think this attitude of "you can never decline an offer" and that it "reflects really poorly on you," is a "pretty selfish action" and "screw[s] potential applicants from your school" is overstating the situation. It's possible to decline an offer without burning a bridge or casting yourself in a negative light. I've talked to one judge who pretty much said the same thing. People feel pressured to accept the first offer they get, but that isn't necessarily good for judges or clerks.

Anyways, i'm not trying to say that declining is no big deal but let's not make it out to be the single worst act that a law student could possibly commit. I know multiple people who have declined offers who have accepted other clerkships.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 26, 2013 2:31 pm

The general rule that you should not accept an interview from a judge you would not be willing to work for makes good sense. Clerkships are intimate and particular jobs, however, and you often cannot learn what it is like to work for the judge without interviewing. If you learn something during the interview that causes you to lose interest in the job, you can and should decline. It is less appropriate to decline because you simply changed your mind about wanting to clerk or wanting to move to Mississippi for a year, but you can do it. The only people who obsess about this process are Career Services offices and law students. Life will go on if you say no, and the judge will get another well qualified clerk and forget you existed.

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ph14
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby ph14 » Sun May 26, 2013 2:35 pm

ph14 wrote:
In this case they're not opposing though. You really should not be accepting interviews with judges you are not willing to accept offers from them on the spot. Rejecting offers for these highly competitive, desirable, and closely personal positions reflects really poorly on you and the school you attend. In addition to screwing potential applicants from your school over in the future, you are harming your reputation with that judge and any others he or she informs of the situation. It's a pretty selfish action that can very easily be avoided, if you aren't willing to accept a position don't accept an interview.


You realize there is a difference between "not oppos[ed]" and "aren't necessarily aligned." They aren't opposed, but they aren't necessarily aligned.

Declining an offer isn't something you should do without understanding the proper gravity of the situation. But I don't think this attitude of "you can never decline an offer" and that it "reflects really poorly on you," is a "pretty selfish action" and "screw[s] potential applicants from your school" is overstating the situation. It's possible to decline an offer without burning a bridge or casting yourself in a negative light. I've talked to one judge who pretty much said the same thing. People feel pressured to accept the first offer they get, but that isn't necessarily good for judges or clerks.

Anyways, i'm not trying to say that declining is no big deal but let's not make it out to be the single worst act that a law student could possibly commit. I know multiple people who have declined offers who have accepted other clerkships.[/quote]

Also, clerkship interviews aren't just a one-sided affair. They're also for the clerkship applicant to determine fit with the judge.

The general rule that you should not accept an interview from a judge you would not be willing to work for makes good sense. Clerkships are intimate and particular jobs, however, and you often cannot learn what it is like to work for the judge without interviewing. If you learn something during the interview that causes you to lose interest in the job, you can and should decline. It is less appropriate to decline because you simply changed your mind about wanting to clerk or wanting to move to Mississippi for a year, but you can do it. The only people who obsess about this process are Career Services offices and law students. Life will go on if you say no, and the judge will get another well qualified clerk and forget you existed.


Yes. Nicely said.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 26, 2013 4:24 pm

Chiming in: I declined an offer to work for another judge, but only because my judge pulled the trigger faster, and the other judge, with whom I interviewed days before, called before I had a chance to withdraw myself from consideration.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 27, 2013 7:48 pm

The situation OP posited, where one leverages a clerkship OFFER for another offer with another judge is pretty ballsy. I wouldn't do it. I think the advice to only interview with a judge from whom you would accept an offer is credited. HOWEVER, it's entirely possible you can learn something about the judge, the chambers, the location, etc. during the interview that would make you decide not to take an offer. I interviewed with a COA judge and got bad vibes from the judge, the chambers staff, and the city. I called a day after the interview and withdrew my application. Neither I nor anyone at my school heard anything bad from the judge, and s/he has current and future clerks from my school.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 28, 2013 9:50 am

This thread is confusing me a little (and scaring me a lot). I've had a few interviews with district court judges, and at least three of them have said something to the effect of: "If you get another offer, please let me know so I can make a decision on you sooner."

I realize that people focus on their own self-interest, but would all these judges be telling me to do this if it is really such a taboo? Does anyone out there think it's normal to call judges with whom you've already interviewed to check in, even after getting an offer from a different judge? If not, what do I make of this suggestion from the judges I referenced? Now I'm worried about offending them if I don't inform them of an offer and give them the chance to respond...

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue May 28, 2013 10:01 am

No, I think it's completely reasonable to check in with judges with whom you've already interviewed when you get an offer. Both judges I got offers from expressly gave me extra time to reply so that I could see if I got something else that worked better for me. Both were off-plan hires, which may make a little difference.

I think if a judge expressly gives you time to answer before accepting an offer, that time is yours to do what you can/like with. There are judges who expect you to accept an offer once given, or possibly after a token amount of time to consult with a SO or the like, and they will make that expectation clear. If you turn one of these down, it probably doesn't look great (but I agree with the people who say that if you get a really bad vibe from the interview and think it would be a bad experience, feel free to turn it down).

I do think that trying to parlay an offer from a judge into an interview where you've had no response yet is kinda ballsy, and I would NOT do that on the same court. But if you've already had interviews I think, assuming the first judge gives you time to decide, it's entirely reasonable to check back in with the judges you interviewed with.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby lolwat » Tue May 28, 2013 10:04 am

This thread is confusing me a little (and scaring me a lot). I've had a few interviews with district court judges, and at least three of them have said something to the effect of: "If you get another offer, please let me know so I can make a decision on you sooner."


Yes, if a judge is still in the early stages of interviewing, they might tell you to let him know if you have another offer so they can decide. I've had that too. I think if you're in the process of interviewing, many judges will give you the opportunity to finish all of your interviews and then make a decision even if they give you an offer (this was particularly true during the previous hiring plans).

I guess what you need to understand is that some judges may very well be annoyed if they extend you an offer and you ask for some time to decide (i.e., to make calls to judges you've already interviewed with), and I don't subscribe to the whole "you wouldn't want to work for them anyway" deal. So you just need to decide if that's worth it.

(Also, WHY!!! A. Nony Mouse keeps saying what I want to faster than I do it. :P)

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IAFG
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby IAFG » Tue May 28, 2013 10:05 am

Clerkship interviewing = huge clusterfuck.

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 28, 2013 10:37 am

My timeline:

I got a call from chambers to interview in early August. I interviewed in late August. At the time, the judge said it would be a few weeks because of the rest of the interviews and then a vacation. A week or so later, I got another call to interview with another judge. I scheduled it for the Tuesday in the third week after the first interview. I was also going to be out that Friday, so I emailed chambers, ostensibly to say to call me on my cell phone that (third) week since I was going to be gone, but really to try to shake out an offer. The first judge called with an offer on Monday of the week I was out, literally after I had called for a cab to go to the airport. He said that I was welcome to go on the Tuesday interview, but that he needed an answer by Wednesday because he had other people in line. He suggested maybe telling the other judge that I had an offer pending and set to expire to see if he would make an on-the-spot decision (if I'd prefer to clerk for that judge). It wasn't necessary -- I called my spouse to confirm that it was OK, then called back to accept the offer.

Peyton
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Peyton » Tue May 28, 2013 10:46 am

What is worse, turning down a clerkship or reneging on a firm because you received a better offer within 48 hours of accepting. Are they both the same dark shade of severe, or . . .

theaccidentalclerk
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Tue May 28, 2013 11:02 am

What is worse, turning down a clerkship or reneging on a firm because you received a better offer within 48 hours of accepting. Are they both the same dark shade of severe, or . . .


I think this will depend very much on the particular circumstances. For example, if the market is a smaller one with a lot of communication between firms (e.g., it's largely fed by one or two law schools, so everyone at a firm has a bunch of classmates at other firms), and you are reneging on one of the bigger firms, then it could have severe reputational effects vis a vis turning down a clerkship offer because you have another one pending.

In contrast, if the judge is in the market you are practicing in, and you turn it down for a "bad" reason (e.g., you change your mind and decide you want to stay at your firm), then it's probably worse than reneging on a below-market-paying firm for a clearly better offer.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue May 28, 2013 12:14 pm

lolwat wrote:(Also, WHY!!! A. Nony Mouse keeps saying what I want to faster than I do it. :P)

Don't worry, this just means you probably have more of a life than I do right now!

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Re: how bad is it to not accept a clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 28, 2013 12:42 pm

The amount of bizarre hero worship federal judges receive from clerkship applicants always struck me as odd. Federal judges are employers. They may be influential, and sure, they may dislike it if you turn them down, but they shouldn't be treated differently from any other employers.

Think about it this way: If law firms insisted you accept offers on the spot despite having more interviews scheduled, students and law schools would consider that outrageous because of the pressure it places on applicants, arguably forcing them into mutually non-beneficial decisions where a student chooses a suboptimal fit just because that firm happened to get to them first. It's the same thing with judges (arguably, even more so, since you'll have to work personally with the judge for a year). Sure, judges are influential, but turning them down is not some unforgivable offense. They won't like it, but neither will any other legal employer, some of which may end up being as or more influential when it comes to your career than judges you meet once.

I don't think people should interview with judges they have no intention of working for, or deliberately try to use judges as leverage, but then again, I don't think you should do that with any employer. If you interview and have a negative experience, or if you interview with two judges in quick succession, hear from the first, and call to let the second know, I think it's totally legitimate to turn down an offer. I think people (rightly) look down on applicants who blatantly leverage to get the most "prestigious" clerkship they can, but that's because that is a douchey practice regardless, not because federal judges are special flowers.

And, for what it's worth, I know several clerks who turned down clerkships, with no negative effect or even ill feelings. In fact, I can't think of one situation where the judge was even upset, as long as it was handled courteously, and as long as it was clear the applicant was entertaining multiple offers to find the best fit, rather than excessively leverage.




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