Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

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Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:12 pm

Alum here. Lower T14, not stellar grades (below top 1/3 but above median), great work experience, great recs. Had 4 interviews for district court clerkships for 14-15, 3 in major markets (SDNY/EDNY/DDC/ND Ill/CD Cal), but no offers. I know I whiffed one interview (just wasn't the right fit with the judge) but in the others I thought I comported myself well.

Have another interview coming up early next month in another major market, and I want to seal the deal this time. I'm worried that (1) the fact that my grades aren't as good as many other applicants means I need to distinguish myself more in interviews (that is, it's not really a "chance for them to say yes again" for me as it would be for someone from HYS with a killer array of whatever passing marks they use in lieu of real numbers) and (2) maybe I'm doing something grievously wrong that I'm missing.

Do any of you (particularly former/current clerks) have tips that go beyond the usual law school fact sheet for interviews? Any instructive stories about interviews that you thought went particularly well/poorly?

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:15 pm

Would also be interested.

You and I have very similar credentials.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:33 pm

The most important thing you can do at this point is to speak with former and current clerks of the judge and get a feel for his/her interview style and personality. Don't be sycophantic, but definitely tailor your approach to the individual judge. Also, unless a former or current clerk tells you not to, invest time and energy into researching the judge's biography and reading a few of the judge's decisions. These may fall into the category of "basic advice" but you'd be surprised at how many interview candidates don't do these basic steps.

JusticeJackson
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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:48 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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legalese_retard
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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby legalese_retard » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:42 pm

Since you are an alum, I am assuming that you are already working at a firm. If that is the case, how are responding to the question on why are you pursuing a clerkship. If you are competing with HYS students with great grades, you need to show why you with firm experience are a better choice. Focus on your maturity, organizational skills, and knowing your role. You need to convey to the judge that if you were his or her law clerk, you would do all they ask and make their lives as easy as possible. You have to walk a tight-rope throughout your interview: (1) conveying the idea that you want the clerkship for the experience and the opportunity to enhance your legal skills and (2) demonstrate that you have better experience and skills over current law students at HYS.

As a heads up, since you are applying in a competitive district, know that you are also competing against current law clerks as well. This is not to discourage you but to give you additional perspective on your other interviews.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:14 pm

When we were interviewing people for my judge last year (in one of the aforementioned districts), I can tell you that by the time a candidate was in the door for the interview, her grades/specific credentials were almost a non-factor. We picked people to interview based upon their credentials, yes, but after that, it was about fit. So we focused on personality, the right atmosphere for chambers, etc. So definitely get a sense from former clerks, if you can, about the judge's style and all that. Worry less about your grades and how they compare to the person before or after you. You've already crossed that hurdle.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:19 am

in the vast majority of chambers, the judge and the current clerks are hoping someone will come through the door who is polite, presentable, interesting, interested, humble, and fun to be around. if you can be all of those things, you'll probably get the job. i think most people fuck up the interesting, humble and fun to be around check boxes

i also clerked in one of the aforementioned districts. most of the time, grades werent even brought up. if the judge didnt think there was a decent chance he'd give you the job with your grades, he wouldnt have had u in for an interview (unless, for example, you know a federal judge or some other important person who made a call on your behalf and you only got the interview out of respect for that person -- ive seen this happen on more than one occasion, and i always thought it was unfair to the interviewee). what WILL come up is lots of the other stuff on your resume. they want to get you talking, and find out whether you're a fun and interesting person (i can guarantee you that your INTERESTS section will come up -- talking about these is a good way to start a convo and come across as a chill person). its obviously incredibly important that you ask meaningful questions that you actually have about the job -- not questions you found on google that you think will impress the judge (they see right through that shit). and dont be cocky, at all

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby bruinfan10 » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:in the vast majority of chambers, the judge and the current clerks are hoping someone will come through the door who is polite, presentable, interesting, interested, humble, and fun to be around. if you can be all of those things, you'll probably get the job. i think most people fuck up the interesting, humble and fun to be around check boxes.

I've also accepted a position / interviewed in several of those districts, and I think the above advice is exactly right. Some of the hardcore COA feeders (and even some regular COA judges like Judge Ebel on the 10th) will grill you on black letter law, but my experience with district courts has been that they're primarily looking for "fit."

They may push you a little on your writing sample, because why not? But I found that districts asked less "legal analysis" / "judicial philsophy" questions in interviews than did COA judges. Obviously there are exceptions, etc etc, but I'm sure you're doing great.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 22, 2013 5:40 pm

Did you get an offer? =) Hope you did.

I wanted to ask you if you applied for clerkships as a 3L. If you did, how well did you do?

I have slightly better stats (similar school, between top quarter and top third) but I struck out as a 3L this year. No interviews. Would working a few years improve my chances if I applied again?

How many years out are you? Are you doing the typical law firm thing, or are you doing something special that would make you stick out as an alum applicant?

Thanks.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:Did you get an offer? =) Hope you did.

I wanted to ask you if you applied for clerkships as a 3L. If you did, how well did you do?

I have slightly better stats (similar school, between top quarter and top third) but I struck out as a 3L this year. No interviews. Would working a few years improve my chances if I applied again?

How many years out are you? Are you doing the typical law firm thing, or are you doing something special that would make you stick out as an alum applicant?

Thanks.


Working will help, especially if you are open to moving to a non-major market for the clerkship. I graduated median from a top-50 school, was a staff attorney at a medium firm (and getting no legal experience), and got a federal district court clerkship.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:21 pm

OP here. Thank you all for your advice -- it was very helpful.

Nope, didn't get the job -- one of the recurring questions in the interview was very much "what connections do you have to this market?" and it was a market where I had none and didn't really want to stay, despite its major appeal. They knew from my answer that I wasn't going to stick around, so they went with folks who would.

Sigh.

Re: the question from another anon about whether I applied as a 3L/my experience thus far -- no, I did not apply as a 3L. Had my job lined up already and my grades were just not good enough to even think about it, TBH. All six judges I've interviewed with (had another after posting this originally -- waiting to hear) singled out my specific work experience as what got me pulled from the pile initially. For obvious reasons I don't want to say what that specific work experience is here, but I will say it's not biglaw and it leaves me directly responsible for a lot of litigation. I also think I look interesting enough on paper, in terms of, y'know, cocktail party conversation, which is why I've been paranoid that something in my interviews is sinking me.

I definitely take the advice about being humble and approachable to heart, and I've had great conversations with almost all the judges and clerks (there was that one where the fit wasn't there from the start, but I soldiered through that knowing I was dead in the water). It makes me wonder if I'm being too laid-back or not acting like I "want the job" enough. I do want the job. I just don't want to come off as a jerk who's gunning for nothing but the job. I'd rather look like someone who'd be nice, on top of things, and easy to work with over the term -- because that's who I'd wind up being.

Thanks again to all of you for your advice. For those of you applying in similar situations, feel free to ask questions about my process and I'll answer as best I can. Best of luck to you guys/congrats to those already there.

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Re: Interview Tips (fed. district ct.)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:40 am

Original OP here. Wanted to let the many folks who offered great advice know that I was, in fact, offered a clerkship in one of the major markets I'd been interviewing in (SDNY/EDNY/DDC/ND Ill/CD Cal) a little while back, after the previous strikeouts. Thanks to all of you responders for your kind words.

Turned out it really was a matter of fit. After 140+ applications to districts far and wide, I wound up getting hired by one judge who just "clicked" with me when we chatted. It was clear that things would go great if I worked for him/her.

I am sure this is trite advice to many who have similar resumes and who are striving for a slot in a very competitive environment, but perseverance and willingness to adapt at the opening level were the two big things I learned in my application odyssey in addition to the advice I was given here. It sucks to have to go through your resume and samples and cover letters all the time, especially after a close-call rejection, but I'm so glad I did it. Eventually, a judge who called me in for an interview wound up hiring me, and I doubt I would have gotten the time of day with him/her had I not taken a look at my written work every time I didn't get the previous "big job" on offer.

tl;dr: be vigilant on paper and your sharpest, least-conceited self in person.




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