Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

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cim_can
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:17 pm

Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby cim_can » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:15 pm

A lot of people are listing their data and asking for their chances at a federal clerkship.

Here's my answer: nobody knows. We're all guessing.

Look, there are things that will make it more likely you'll get a federal clerkship:

1. You went to a T-14, and preferably higher up on the list.
2. You were on law review.
3. You had bomb grades.
4. You have a famous professor write or call for you.

But, at the same time, there are judges who do not care about your grades except to the extent that they reveal you can't fog a pane of glass. Some judges don't like law review. Others only take from certain schools. Others will only take those with geographic connections to that state. Some do not hire people straight out of law school.

There are less than 900 federal judges (I don't think this includes magistrates). You are competing for one to four slots with more than 500 other people. You cannot necessarily know the idiosyncrasies of all the judges you'll be applying to. I had many classmates who had better grades than I did and, by all accounts, who should have gotten clerkships. They didn't, and I did, and I cannot tell you why.

So, the answer really should be: I don't know what your chances are; why not just apply?

Now, there are things that will make it harder for you to get a clerkship.

1. You refuse to apply to a judge outside of D.C., NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

When I applied, I tried to stay away from those markets. Everyone wants to go there. My grades were not fantastic and I was not on the law review. Guess what? I'm in a market where I'm on a clerk salary, I don't live with 4 roommates, and I have cash after rent to put towards debt or restaurants or baseball games. The value of the clerkship is not necessarily where it is located; it's the clerkship itself. You can be in the middle of the ocean, and if you have a great judge and clerkship, it's going to be worth it. I'm from a snooty coastal state, and whatever disdain I may have had before working here, it quickly disappeared.

2. You only apply to clerk on a court of appeals.

Every gunner and their mother wants to clerk for a judge on a court of appeals because it's seen as more prestigious. Again, my grades were not amazing, and I didn't want to compete with mouth-breathing psychopaths. So I only applied to district judges. Here's my two cents: skip appellate clerkships. Sure, they're more "prestigious" and there are fewer of them, and some of those people will be feeders to the Supreme Court; I wasn't going to get an appellate clerkship and John Roberts isn't itching to hire me, ever.

My poorly informed sense of an appellate clerkship is that you sit in a room with the record and write and maybe sometimes get to see oral argument, and then go back to your room and write. I get to sit in court and conferences all the time. I get to watch thousands of lawyers try to weave and dodge. I see great lawyers, horrible lawyers, and everything in between. Every. Single Day. I've seen what works and what doesn't, and I know that I will not be intimidated to stand up in court and argue motions.
Let's put it this way: creating the record at the trial court is a lot of fun. And probably a lot more exciting and insane than reading it later.

Applying to clerkships is not fun; it's a lot of work and stress and time. But, truthfully, nobody knows what your chances are. With the understanding that there are a variety of factors that will affect the likelihood that someone will call to interview you, and applying to clerkships is a lot like playing the lottery, you should just apply anyway.

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Detrox
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Detrox » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:38 pm

This all looks credited. I'd add two points which can bolster applications: 1. You're applying as an alum who will have clerkship or practice experience (with clerkship experience likely helping to an even greater extent). This factor is a baseline requirement for some judges even. 2. You have a personal connection to judges. The stronger the connection, the stronger the relationship etc. all boost your chances here but to a wildly variable degree.

JusticeJackson
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:03 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lolwat
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby lolwat » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:02 am

So, the answer really should be: I don't know what your chances are; why not just apply?


Well, because people can't apply to all 800+ judges, and getting advice as to who they should target could be extremely useful to them. But yes, rather than just listing data and asking for chances, people should be asking for advice. Although, most of the advice is honestly going to be the same.

Here's my two cents: skip appellate clerkships.


I wouldn't skip applying to appellate clerkships, but I also wouldn't only apply to clerk on a COA unless that is the only clerkship you would do over the firm you have an offer at.

1. You refuse to apply to a judge outside of D.C., NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


I agree with this, but just so everyone knows, if you don't have a 2L SA that you're planning on heading back to (or as a backup plan at the very least), clerking in a flyover district may still give you a great clerkship experience but it may not be as helpful in landing you a job as you might think.

Anonymous User
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:32 am

I basically only applied to SF/LA/DC/NY and scattered COA, and I got nothing. So recently I did it again and haven't heard anything yet.

Here's my thinking, feel free to give me other advice.

I was top 2% at a lower T-14, published twice, secondary journal. Since I'm going to work either 1 or 2 years at my biglaw firm first, I figure I want to leave for something that is going to be really valuable for me. If I want to go into another line of work or try to crack into a top litigation boutique, I figure I need a prestigious district or circuit to help me do that. Since I'm not ABSOLUTELY DYING to clerk anywhere, I figure it isn't too insane to reserve my application to places I'd love to be, or judges I'd love to work for. The only way I've been able to find out who is a "great judge" whether it's "in the middle of the ocean," is by this website and the very scant (5-6) recommendations I've received from professors.

Most of my connections ARE in SF/LA/DC/NY, so that's where I've heard about judges. Not sure what else to do.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:I basically only applied to SF/LA/DC/NY and scattered COA, and I got nothing. So recently I did it again and haven't heard anything yet.

Here's my thinking, feel free to give me other advice.

I was top 2% at a lower T-14, published twice, secondary journal. Since I'm going to work either 1 or 2 years at my biglaw firm first, I figure I want to leave for something that is going to be really valuable for me. If I want to go into another line of work or try to crack into a top litigation boutique, I figure I need a prestigious district or circuit to help me do that. Since I'm not ABSOLUTELY DYING to clerk anywhere, I figure it isn't too insane to reserve my application to places I'd love to be, or judges I'd love to work for. The only way I've been able to find out who is a "great judge" whether it's "in the middle of the ocean," is by this website and the very scant (5-6) recommendations I've received from professors.

Most of my connections ARE in SF/LA/DC/NY, so that's where I've heard about judges. Not sure what else to do.

I think that all makes sense - you're aware you're not deadset on clerking, so it sounds like if it doesn't work out, oh well, you'll keep working at your biglaw firm. There's nothing that says every applicants has to apply everywhere. I think it's more that if you *are* deadset on clerking and it's clerking or bust, then limiting yourself to competitive regions/COA is a problem. You have specific, perfectly reasonable reasons to apply differently.

lolwat
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby lolwat » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:09 am

I think that all makes sense - you're aware you're not deadset on clerking, so it sounds like if it doesn't work out, oh well, you'll keep working at your biglaw firm. There's nothing that says every applicants has to apply everywhere. I think it's more that if you *are* deadset on clerking and it's clerking or bust, then limiting yourself to competitive regions/COA is a problem. You have specific, perfectly reasonable reasons to apply differently.


Hey, big surprise, I agree 100%. It makes total sense why you're applying the way you are.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:37 am

I'm thinking of applying for magistrate judges too. How much less competitive are those? Does it also depend on region? (SF/LA/NY). Can a magistrate clerkship in a big city make up for not doing a district clerkship in a flyover district?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:50 am

Magistrate clerkships can vary a lot by district, depending on what magistrate judges in that district do. However, if you want to practice in the city where you get a magistrate clerkship, at least in some districts, clerks can have an awful lot of contact with the local attorneys. For instance, where I am, magistrates handle all the scheduling/settlement conferences as well as do all the discovery, which involves quite a lot of nitty-gritty work with the attorneys. So that can arguably provide better networking opportunities for that location than doing a district clerkship in a flyover. (Though the latter conclusion is just something I've been told, I'm happy to be corrected if that's not people's experience.)

However, neither are likely to get a great biglaw job without a lot of hustling/networking if you didn't already have the grades for biglaw.

ClerkAdvisor
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:16 pm

cim_can wrote:A lot of people are listing their data and asking for their chances at a federal clerkship.

Here's my answer: nobody knows. We're all guessing.

Look, there are things that will make it more likely you'll get a federal clerkship:

1. You went to a T-14, and preferably higher up on the list.
2. You were on law review.
3. You had bomb grades.
4. You have a famous professor write or call for you.

But, at the same time, there are judges who do not care about your grades except to the extent that they reveal you can't fog a pane of glass. Some judges don't like law review. Others only take from certain schools. Others will only take those with geographic connections to that state. Some do not hire people straight out of law school.

There are less than 900 federal judges (I don't think this includes magistrates). You are competing for one to four slots with more than 500 other people. You cannot necessarily know the idiosyncrasies of all the judges you'll be applying to. I had many classmates who had better grades than I did and, by all accounts, who should have gotten clerkships. They didn't, and I did, and I cannot tell you why.

So, the answer really should be: I don't know what your chances are; why not just apply?

Now, there are things that will make it harder for you to get a clerkship.

1. You refuse to apply to a judge outside of D.C., NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

When I applied, I tried to stay away from those markets. Everyone wants to go there. My grades were not fantastic and I was not on the law review. Guess what? I'm in a market where I'm on a clerk salary, I don't live with 4 roommates, and I have cash after rent to put towards debt or restaurants or baseball games. The value of the clerkship is not necessarily where it is located; it's the clerkship itself. You can be in the middle of the ocean, and if you have a great judge and clerkship, it's going to be worth it. I'm from a snooty coastal state, and whatever disdain I may have had before working here, it quickly disappeared.

2. You only apply to clerk on a court of appeals.

Every gunner and their mother wants to clerk for a judge on a court of appeals because it's seen as more prestigious. Again, my grades were not amazing, and I didn't want to compete with mouth-breathing psychopaths. So I only applied to district judges. Here's my two cents: skip appellate clerkships. Sure, they're more "prestigious" and there are fewer of them, and some of those people will be feeders to the Supreme Court; I wasn't going to get an appellate clerkship and John Roberts isn't itching to hire me, ever.

My poorly informed sense of an appellate clerkship is that you sit in a room with the record and write and maybe sometimes get to see oral argument, and then go back to your room and write. I get to sit in court and conferences all the time. I get to watch thousands of lawyers try to weave and dodge. I see great lawyers, horrible lawyers, and everything in between. Every. Single Day. I've seen what works and what doesn't, and I know that I will not be intimidated to stand up in court and argue motions.
Let's put it this way: creating the record at the trial court is a lot of fun. And probably a lot more exciting and insane than reading it later.

Applying to clerkships is not fun; it's a lot of work and stress and time. But, truthfully, nobody knows what your chances are. With the understanding that there are a variety of factors that will affect the likelihood that someone will call to interview you, and applying to clerkships is a lot like playing the lottery, you should just apply anyway.


This strikes me as pretty credited.

Anonymous User
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:36 am

ClerkAdvisor wrote:
cim_can wrote:A lot of people are listing their data and asking for their chances at a federal clerkship.

Here's my answer: nobody knows. We're all guessing.

Look, there are things that will make it more likely you'll get a federal clerkship:

1. You went to a T-14, and preferably higher up on the list.
2. You were on law review.
3. You had bomb grades.
4. You have a famous professor write or call for you.

But, at the same time, there are judges who do not care about your grades except to the extent that they reveal you can't fog a pane of glass. Some judges don't like law review. Others only take from certain schools. Others will only take those with geographic connections to that state. Some do not hire people straight out of law school.

There are less than 900 federal judges (I don't think this includes magistrates). You are competing for one to four slots with more than 500 other people. You cannot necessarily know the idiosyncrasies of all the judges you'll be applying to. I had many classmates who had better grades than I did and, by all accounts, who should have gotten clerkships. They didn't, and I did, and I cannot tell you why.

So, the answer really should be: I don't know what your chances are; why not just apply?

Now, there are things that will make it harder for you to get a clerkship.

1. You refuse to apply to a judge outside of D.C., NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

When I applied, I tried to stay away from those markets. Everyone wants to go there. My grades were not fantastic and I was not on the law review. Guess what? I'm in a market where I'm on a clerk salary, I don't live with 4 roommates, and I have cash after rent to put towards debt or restaurants or baseball games. The value of the clerkship is not necessarily where it is located; it's the clerkship itself. You can be in the middle of the ocean, and if you have a great judge and clerkship, it's going to be worth it. I'm from a snooty coastal state, and whatever disdain I may have had before working here, it quickly disappeared.

2. You only apply to clerk on a court of appeals.

Every gunner and their mother wants to clerk for a judge on a court of appeals because it's seen as more prestigious. Again, my grades were not amazing, and I didn't want to compete with mouth-breathing psychopaths. So I only applied to district judges. Here's my two cents: skip appellate clerkships. Sure, they're more "prestigious" and there are fewer of them, and some of those people will be feeders to the Supreme Court; I wasn't going to get an appellate clerkship and John Roberts isn't itching to hire me, ever.

My poorly informed sense of an appellate clerkship is that you sit in a room with the record and write and maybe sometimes get to see oral argument, and then go back to your room and write. I get to sit in court and conferences all the time. I get to watch thousands of lawyers try to weave and dodge. I see great lawyers, horrible lawyers, and everything in between. Every. Single Day. I've seen what works and what doesn't, and I know that I will not be intimidated to stand up in court and argue motions.
Let's put it this way: creating the record at the trial court is a lot of fun. And probably a lot more exciting and insane than reading it later.

Applying to clerkships is not fun; it's a lot of work and stress and time. But, truthfully, nobody knows what your chances are. With the understanding that there are a variety of factors that will affect the likelihood that someone will call to interview you, and applying to clerkships is a lot like playing the lottery, you should just apply anyway.


This strikes me as pretty credited.



By far, one of the most even-handed assessments of the clerkship process I have seen on this forum. It is an utter crapshoot for most people. Some on LR/top 10% from a T20 strike out and a top 1/3 from a Tier 2 on a secondary journal get the job. Judges are far more individualized in their search criteria than OSCAR or this forum let on to be. You don't know how much you're in the running or not.

Anonymous User
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
By far, one of the most even-handed assessments of the clerkship process I have seen on this forum. It is an utter crapshoot for most people. Some on LR/top 10% from a T20 strike out and a top 1/3 from a Tier 2 on a secondary journal get the job. Judges are far more individualized in their search criteria than OSCAR or this forum let on to be. You don't know how much you're in the running or not.


Second that. I'm not on law review, not top 10% of class, not HYS, and only got one interview. Many of my friends at school had much better stats, more famous recommenders, seemed to be ahead and "on top" of their clerkship hunt game more than I was, and they got several interviews, but they didn't get any offers. I got one interview, one clerkship. The judge just clicked with certain specific things on my resume and we clicked in the interview. It really is that random (unfair?) sometimes.

Anonymous User
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
By far, one of the most even-handed assessments of the clerkship process I have seen on this forum. It is an utter crapshoot for most people. Some on LR/top 10% from a T20 strike out and a top 1/3 from a Tier 2 on a secondary journal get the job. Judges are far more individualized in their search criteria than OSCAR or this forum let on to be. You don't know how much you're in the running or not.


Second that. I'm not on law review, not top 10% of class, not HYS, and only got one interview. Many of my friends at school had much better stats, more famous recommenders, seemed to be ahead and "on top" of their clerkship hunt game more than I was, and they got several interviews, but they didn't get any offers. I got one interview, one clerkship. The judge just clicked with certain specific things on my resume and we clicked in the interview. It really is that random (unfair?) sometimes.


FWIW, I applied 2013 - 2014 and only got one interview with an Art III Judge. I was Top 1/3 at a T50 with secondary journal and moot court. Granted, I did not get an offer but the point is, no one thought I would even get an interview. It upped my confidence enough to try again for 2014 - 2015. Honestly, if you're willing to put in the work to do the apps and you have professors willing to recommend you, apply! I really think there are more clerkship outliers than one might initially expect.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:14 am

There are federal judges who sift through applications by reading the first two pages of the writing sample before the resume. If it is not a brief of some sort, it's trashed because clerks won't be writing journal articles. It seems counterintuitive because of inefficiency, but the judge figures out right there whether you have the basic capacity to perform the primary function of the job. More often than not, judges read the writing sample after you've been contacted for an interview so there is always something to discuss. It's pretty cool when it's done blindly and Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 students/alums get calls because they write better than HYS applicants.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 23, 2013 9:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:There are federal judges who sift through applications by reading the first two pages of the writing sample before the resume. If it is not a brief of some sort, it's trashed because clerks won't be writing journal articles. It seems counterintuitive because of inefficiency, but the judge figures out right there whether you have the basic capacity to perform the primary function of the job. More often than not, judges read the writing sample after you've been contacted for an interview so there is always something to discuss. It's pretty cool when it's done blindly and Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 students/alums get calls because they write better than HYS applicants.


This makes complete sense to me, and I'm glad there are judges out there that do this.

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There are federal judges who sift through applications by reading the first two pages of the writing sample before the resume. If it is not a brief of some sort, it's trashed because clerks won't be writing journal articles. It seems counterintuitive because of inefficiency, but the judge figures out right there whether you have the basic capacity to perform the primary function of the job. More often than not, judges read the writing sample after you've been contacted for an interview so there is always something to discuss. It's pretty cool when it's done blindly and Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 students/alums get calls because they write better than HYS applicants.


This makes complete sense to me, and I'm glad there are judges out there that do this.

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.


I personally applaud judges take the clerkship application process out of the hands of their clerks and who look beyond the strict school prestige/GPA/LR construct really getting their elbows into the applications looking for good clerks from any school at any rank (I guess other than dead last). It is a travesty that gifted applicants who can write invariably get automatically shut out from serious consideration for these positions because of lackluster grades or school they attended when they can do the work as well, if not better, than their T-14 counterparts.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There are federal judges who sift through applications by reading the first two pages of the writing sample before the resume. If it is not a brief of some sort, it's trashed because clerks won't be writing journal articles. It seems counterintuitive because of inefficiency, but the judge figures out right there whether you have the basic capacity to perform the primary function of the job. More often than not, judges read the writing sample after you've been contacted for an interview so there is always something to discuss. It's pretty cool when it's done blindly and Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 students/alums get calls because they write better than HYS applicants.


This makes complete sense to me, and I'm glad there are judges out there that do this.

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.


I personally applaud judges take the clerkship application process out of the hands of their clerks and who look beyond the strict school prestige/GPA/LR construct really getting their elbows into the applications looking for good clerks from any school at any rank (I guess other than dead last). It is a travesty that gifted applicants who can write invariably get automatically shut out from serious consideration for these positions because of lackluster grades or school they attended when they can do the work as well, if not better, than their T-14 counterparts.


I'm sure it's ideal to always be able to review each applicant and give them careful review, but that's really not possible when you can literally get up to 1000 applicants. I interned for a judge in a large district, and his clerks told me that they got 500+ applications. I really don't think it's realistic to expect a judge to read each one by himself. The clerks go through it, make the automatic cuts based on grades and rank and then give them the few applicants that made it through the cuts.

Anonymous User
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There are federal judges who sift through applications by reading the first two pages of the writing sample before the resume. If it is not a brief of some sort, it's trashed because clerks won't be writing journal articles. It seems counterintuitive because of inefficiency, but the judge figures out right there whether you have the basic capacity to perform the primary function of the job. More often than not, judges read the writing sample after you've been contacted for an interview so there is always something to discuss. It's pretty cool when it's done blindly and Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 students/alums get calls because they write better than HYS applicants.


This makes complete sense to me, and I'm glad there are judges out there that do this.

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.


I personally applaud judges take the clerkship application process out of the hands of their clerks and who look beyond the strict school prestige/GPA/LR construct really getting their elbows into the applications looking for good clerks from any school at any rank (I guess other than dead last). It is a travesty that gifted applicants who can write invariably get automatically shut out from serious consideration for these positions because of lackluster grades or school they attended when they can do the work as well, if not better, than their T-14 counterparts.


I'm sure it's ideal to always be able to review each applicant and give them careful review, but that's really not possible when you can literally get up to 1000 applicants. I interned for a judge in a large district, and his clerks told me that they got 500+ applications. I really don't think it's realistic to expect a judge to read each one by himself. The clerks go through it, make the automatic cuts based on grades and rank and then give them the few applicants that made it through the cuts.


It's not about reading the entire application. Very few judges sit there and delve into the intricacies of your application unless they've selected you to interview. Judges who do read the applications themselves usually give a resume one minute or anywhere 5-10 minutes if they are reading writing samples. Personally, I don't believe the clerks should have any input into the process considering that some never had any employment experience and do not know what to look for other than the typical law school prestige/LR, etc. distinctions to pass on to the judge.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:43 am

Anonymous User wrote:Personally, I don't believe the clerks should have any input into the process considering that some never had any employment experience and do not know what to look for other than the typical law school prestige/LR, etc. distinctions to pass on to the judge.

I'm pretty sure clerks just scan applications for specific judge-identified criteria, to weed out the mass of applications that aren't going to go anywhere. In that respect, they don't have any input other than applying criteria given to them - they're not setting the standards. Doing a holistic review of each applicants would be lovely, but some judges really do get 500+ applications. There's no way judges or clerks can do any kind of holistic review of 500+ applicants and keep the chambers' work moving forward. The judges I know of are much more interested in writing skills than grades, LR, etc. per se, but you have to make cuts somewhere - even reading the first 2 pp of 500+ writing samples isn't feasible.

(If you think judges should be willing to put in this kind of time: they're not hiring clerks for life, they're hiring for a year, or maybe two. And they're going to do the exact same thing the next year, and the next, and the next. They want to get the process over with. This is why phone calls can be so key; if someone the judge knows - or even someone s/he doesn't know - calls to say, This candidate is AMAZING, and they can convince the judge, and spare the judge from wading through the piles of applications, most judges will LEAP at the opportunity. If the clerk ends up not to be very good - well, they'll be gone in a year, and the judge probably won't listen to that person in future.)

Yes, the process relies on the typical LS proxies - school prestige, LR, etc. But really, no one should have any illusions that this is how it all works by the time they go to LS. And I think it's a little too simple to say that writing skills should trump grades/other qualifications, since there are going to be lots of candidates who have both. (I say this as someone whose writing skills probably did trump grades/LS prestige, but I know I was incredibly lucky to find a judge who looked past those things.)

(Now, at the interview stage I think clerks' input can be very useful, but that's a different issue, of course.)

lolwat
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby lolwat » Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:31 am

And I think it's a little too simple to say that writing skills should trump grades/other qualifications, since there are going to be lots of candidates who have both.


This. Really, how amazing is your writing that you honestly think it overcomes everything else? And do you really think no one else that has better "credentials" (using this term to describe school/grades/LR/etc.) than you can write anywhere near as well as you can?

I don't necessarily disagree with the thought that clerks shouldn't have any input (or perhaps rather that judges should have more input earlier in the hiring process), but it's unrealistic to think that many judges wouldn't use the same tactic to weed out applications. We do what the judge would have done. It's simple, the judge only has 2-4 spots; it makes absolutely no sense to give 500+ applications full consideration. We make some arbitrary cut-offs (as identified by the judge) so we can go from 500-1000 applications to about 10-20, then we start reviewing them to see if they fit in--both in terms of work product and chambers atmosphere. If we don't get enough out of those 10-20 that make the final cut, then we look for another 5-10 that meet the arbitrary cut-offs and continue the process. Objectively, we never need to look for people at median at some tier 2 school that can write because we have kids at the top 5-10% of their T14 or T20 or even down to T50 that can write just as well.

Doing a holistic review of each applicants would be lovely, but some judges really do get 500+ applications.


My flyover district judge got 500+ applications. I can only imagine how many applications judges in the competitive districts get.

This is why phone calls can be so key; if someone the judge knows - or even someone s/he doesn't know - calls to say, This candidate is AMAZING, and they can convince the judge, and spare the judge from wading through the piles of applications, most judges will LEAP at the opportunity. If the clerk ends up not to be very good - well, they'll be gone in a year, and the judge probably won't listen to that person in future.


This is also 100% true. I personally know of judges here that interview from TTT schools because of this.

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nevdash
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby nevdash » Tue Jun 25, 2013 11:51 am

lolwat wrote:
Doing a holistic review of each applicants would be lovely, but some judges really do get 500+ applications.


My flyover district judge got 500+ applications. I can only imagine how many applications judges in the competitive districts get.

Yeah, my judge in a flyover district got 400 apps or something like that. And I had also applied to a district judge in a competitive coastal district who also taught my Trial Ad class and he took me aside and apologized for not being able to interview me...because he got 900 apps. Things are crazy ITE.

And about clerks having input in hiring: I think the one situation where clerks should maybe have more input than usual is when the judge has clerks on staggered terms. In those cases, "fit" isn't just a matter of getting along with the judge since the interviewee will also be the current clerk's/clerks' coworker.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.


I personally applaud judges take the clerkship application process out of the hands of their clerks and who look beyond the strict school prestige/GPA/LR construct really getting their elbows into the applications looking for good clerks from any school at any rank (I guess other than dead last). It is a travesty that gifted applicants who can write invariably get automatically shut out from serious consideration for these positions because of lackluster grades or school they attended when they can do the work as well, if not better, than their T-14 counterparts.


Of course. If the judges just looked harder, then they would realize your writing is so much better than those untalented T-14 magna kids. We all know that Law Review University of Chicago and Michigan students are borderline illiterate, but they somehow happen to test really well.

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ndirish2010
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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby ndirish2010 » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:

As a clerk, writing is 90% of the actual work (or at least it has been in my experience--it depends on the judge). I had pretty bad statistics (barely above median at a T30), but I can write very well and all of my LORs attested to that, so I got the job, beating out a couple former COA clerks and a few coif bros from top schools. My judge doesn't focus on grades as much because (s)he thinks they aren't representative of writing and researching ability. It seems to be true based on my experience.

Not trying to toot my horn, just want to encourage good writers with lackluster grades to not give up hope. I know the judge I clerk for as well as a COA judge I interned for think writing ability is 9/10 of what makes a clerk good at the job. I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of judges are going to pick the LR coif bro types, but there are ones who want to see that you write well above all else.


I personally applaud judges take the clerkship application process out of the hands of their clerks and who look beyond the strict school prestige/GPA/LR construct really getting their elbows into the applications looking for good clerks from any school at any rank (I guess other than dead last). It is a travesty that gifted applicants who can write invariably get automatically shut out from serious consideration for these positions because of lackluster grades or school they attended when they can do the work as well, if not better, than their T-14 counterparts.


Of course. If the judges just looked harder, then they would realize your writing is so much better than those untalented T-14 magna kids. We all know that Law Review University of Chicago and Michigan students are borderline illiterate, but they somehow happen to test really well.


Exactly- there is no way for a judge to know if you are a good writer by looking at your application. Anyone can submit a good writing sample.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:16 am

ndirish2010 wrote:Exactly- there is no way for a judge to know if you are a good writer by looking at your application. Anyone can submit a good writing sample.


No, not everyone can submit a good writing sample. You should see some of the samples that come through chambers. Most are sections of notes/commentaries . . . some of which were lightly edited and give the judge no insight into whether you can actually write an internal memo or a draft opinion. This doesn't include ones that contain grammatical errors, etc some of which come from students from national law schools. That's why there's a trend among judges to ask for two writing samples. Better sample size from which to figure out how well you can actually do the job they're hiring you to do.

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Re: Your chances at a clerkship: my thoughts

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:Of course. If the judges just looked harder, then they would realize your writing is so much better than those untalented T-14 magna kids. We all know that Law Review University of Chicago and Michigan students are borderline illiterate, but they somehow happen to test really well.


I didn't even post what you responded to, but the original post didn't knock people at the T-14 but just said that you can find good writers on par with those students at any law school. Maybe your post's elitism momentarily clouded your reading comprehension skills.




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