Truly "outside the box" candidates

Seek and share information about clerkship applications, clerkship hiring timelines, and post-clerkship employment opportunities.
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are sharing sensitive information about clerkship applications and clerkship hiring. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned."
Anonymous User
Posts: 273280
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:56 am

...and yes, I mean myself. I've meandered my way through part of the 55-page thread of recommendations for federal applicants, but I'd be curious to get some feedback on my credentials:

Currently a 2L at a T1 school in a major market

GPA: it sucks (bottom 50%), and I accept from the get-go that it'll be a dealbreaker with the overwhelming majority of federal judges. However...

I'm a "mature" student and have known since undergrad that I do not test well. Nonetheless, two LS professors have already written me glowing LORs even though my grades in their first classes were only Bs. (I'm now on my second class with one of them and third with the other.) I'm as active as possible in class, to the point of glancing but not falling over the precipice into gunner-dom. I've frankly bent over backwards to build relationships with both of the profs -- both because I genuinely like them, and they also give great advice. One of the two was, until three years ago, very, very senior at a V10 firm; he ran one of their largest practices and knows literally nearly every federal judge in my (very large) city. Both would have no problem phoning judges on my behalf.

Undergrad alma mater: top-10 university; had a crappy first year but made Dean's List every semester my final two years. Had a rather unique experience with the U.S. Supreme Court while there that makes for excellent essay and interview grist.

LSAT: 167 the first time I took it in undergrad, and that was after I had one of only three full-fledged panic attacks in my life at the start of it, resulting in me not finishing the first section (didn't even have time to guess on the final six questions). I suspect that I would've gotten a 170 minus the attack, even without any pre-test training. I mention all this because even *with* an eight-week study course beforehand, I only got a 161 the second AND third times I took it (which was required since it had been 5+ years since I took it the first time)... even though that's in theory not supposed to happen.

Pre-LS job experience: a lot of it, and a wide variety of it, though none in law. I've worked for two high-profile (then-) startup tech companies, both of which IPO'd (I received a sum from my stock options that is miniscule by modern Silicon Valley standards but very nice by rational ones: high six figures)

Journal: Obviously not LR, but I made it onto a niche but high-profile (within said niche) journal, and my experience on it has been, well, abnormal. They published my first submitted article during my 1L summer; I was named Chief Articles Editor last fall after my predecessor had to leave school suddenly b/c of a family issue; and I was just named EIC for the upcoming year. Point being, I'm a damn good writer.

Legal job experience: spent my 1L summer at a high-profile DA's office; currently interning for a universally well-liked federal magistrate judge. He *really* knows all the federal judges in the city (all in our courthouse building, obviously), and has openly stated that my opinion-writing work is the best he's seen to date from an intern. Again, no question he'd give me a glowing and detailed rec (either phone or letter).

Misc.: I won two prestigious fellowships for my 2L summer.

So: thoughts? Do I have even a slim chance of a D.Ct. clerkship? (in a big city but not one of the "important" districts like S.D.N.Y.) Are federal judges who purposely fail to list a GPA requirement in OSCAR truly open-minded when it comes to "unconventional" students? Does my pre-LS experience help or hurt, given that I am well into my thirties? Are liberal judges (in this context I only mean ones appointed by Democratic presidents) more "liberal" in terms of strict adherence to requested info, specifically grades? (Based on my admittedly informal OSCAR perusing, it did seem like Republican appointees were bigger hard-asses on mandating top-10% or top-5% GPAs, plus multiple writing samples and undergrad transcripts.)

User avatar
ExBiglawAssociate
Posts: 2090
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:34 am

Why do you even want to clerk for a judge or practice law? Practicing law is objectively horrible for the vast majority of attorneys, although a federal district court clerkship is an admittedly sweet gig, relatively speaking.

TigerDude
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2013 2:42 pm

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby TigerDude » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:44 am

ed: unnecessarily harsh.

I doubt you will get what you want, tho.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273280
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:51 am

In my chambers...it's theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely. The only reason it's even theoretically possible is that, unlike in many chambers, when the clerks do first-round review of applications we are specifically forbidden from looking at transcripts. We look at everything else, though. If there was something in your application that stood out to us, it is possible we might move you into the stack to show the judge.

Even then, though, the judge DOES look at transcripts, and I think chances are good you wouldn't make it into the interview pile. Something about you would have to really stand out to him/her.

That's a best case scenario, though. I hate to say it, but bottom-half T1 makes your chances terrible. Because as much great other stuff you might have, there are applicants who are equally accomplished AND rocked law school. We get hundreds or even thousands of applications for one or two spots, and all it takes is a couple people looking better on paper than you.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22836
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:38 pm

I tend to agree that the grades make it an uphill battle. (And for the record, your LSAT is basically irrelevant. I had one judge actually ask for my LSAT score, but that's extremely unusual.)

I don't think not listing a GPA requirement says very much about the role that GPA plays in picking a candidate; I suspect it's more that the chambers has a sliding scale of grade requirements, in that someone who's median at HYS would be fine but someone who's median at a T1 would not, so why bother listing anything? I also don't think there's any correlation between political affiliation and willingness to overlook grades, because no judge really has to overlook grades to find an amazing candidate.

And while congrats on your positions on your journal board, I don't think people see e-board positions as in any way correlating to writing ability (they actually tend to correlate to an ability to get people to vote for you). (The publication is more helpful in that respect.)

Where I think you have any kind of a chance is the magistrate judge and/or profs being willing to go to bat for you. A personal recommendation from someone the judge knows can get you pulled out of a pile, and if those people are willing to say that your law school grades absolutely do not represent your ability or your potential as a clerk, you might have a shot. In practice, it sounds like your best chance is in the courthouse where your magistrate judge works, and/or in your city where that prof can call for you.

But the anon above is correct that judges may decide to go with someone who has all the accomplishments you have, AND has better grades. There's no reason not to apply, because you never know, but it's going to be tough and I wouldn't hold my breath (mostly because even top candidates can't count on anything). Look at it this way - what happens when someone else the judge knows calls up to recommend an amazing candidate, who has better grades than you do? Also, are you DCt or bust? What about applying to magistrate judges? (I still think the grades make it tough, but if you're applying anyway...)

(The closest person to your situation I've come across here is someone who got a DCt clerkship in, I think, one of the TX districts, out of a lower T1; I think they were top-third, they had a judge they interned for call judges directly, and they were a female fighter jet pilot, which is a pretty spectacular soft, especially with an ex-military judge [can't remember if for certain that the judge who hired her was ex-military, though I think he was]. I don't think they ended up in a big city, though.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 273280
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:59 pm

I think you're also overestimating how outside the box your application is. You're older with really good recs and some work experience. There's a lot of folks just like that honestly. And for what it's worth, you don't really come off that well, among other things, describing why you're unable to get a 170 LSAT. I mean law schools over, let it go. Even had you

JusticeJackson
Posts: 454
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:26 am

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby JusticeJackson » Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:59 am

.
Last edited by JusticeJackson on Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273280
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Truly "outside the box" candidates

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a "mature" student and have known since undergrad that I do not test well. Nonetheless, two LS professors have already written me glowing LORs even though my grades in their first classes were only Bs. (I'm now on my second class with one of them and third with the other.) I'm as active as possible in class, to the point of glancing but not falling over the precipice into gunner-dom. I've frankly bent over backwards to build relationships with both of the profs -- both because I genuinely like them, and they also give great advice. One of the two was, until three years ago, very, very senior at a V10 firm; he ran one of their largest practices and knows literally nearly every federal judge in my (very large) city. Both would have no problem phoning judges on my behalf.

Frankly, the fact that the two professors "would have no problem phoning judges on your behalf" is not that big of a deal. Believe me, judges get plenty of phone calls from professors. The more important thing is what your professors say when they call. Are they going to say that you're a nice, hardworking student who makes thoughtful contributions in class? If that's all they'll say, it is extremely unlikely to make a difference given your grades.


Anonymous User wrote:Undergrad alma mater: top-10 university; had a crappy first year but made Dean's List every semester my final two years. Had a rather unique experience with the U.S. Supreme Court while there that makes for excellent essay and interview grist.

Although there are exceptions, most judges are not going to care much about undergrad grades one way or the other. As for your cryptic reference to your unique SCOTUS experience, I'd be cautious about dwelling on it unless it reveals something exceptional about your own ability. Did you write a pro se cert petition that got granted by the Supreme Court? Yeah, definitely talk about that. But if it's something less direct--e.g., you were part of a student organization that was affected by a school policy that got challenged in federal court--then I wouldn't go out of my way to bring it up. You risk sounding self-important.


Anonymous User wrote:LSAT: 167 the first time I took it in undergrad, and that was after I had one of only three full-fledged panic attacks in my life at the start of it, resulting in me not finishing the first section (didn't even have time to guess on the final six questions). I suspect that I would've gotten a 170 minus the attack, even without any pre-test training. I mention all this because even *with* an eight-week study course beforehand, I only got a 161 the second AND third times I took it (which was required since it had been 5+ years since I took it the first time)... even though that's in theory not supposed to happen.

As others have indicated, this is all irrelevant. Don't talk about this. In fact, don't even think about it anymore.


Anonymous User wrote:Pre-LS job experience: a lot of it, and a wide variety of it, though none in law. I've worked for two high-profile (then-) startup tech companies, both of which IPO'd (I received a sum from my stock options that is miniscule by modern Silicon Valley standards but very nice by rational ones: high six figures)

For most law jobs--including clerking--I think it's better to have some substantive work experience before law school. It's a plus, to be sure. But, as others have noted, your experience isn't especially distinctive.


Anonymous User wrote:Journal: Obviously not LR, but I made it onto a niche but high-profile (within said niche) journal, and my experience on it has been, well, abnormal. They published my first submitted article during my 1L summer; I was named Chief Articles Editor last fall after my predecessor had to leave school suddenly b/c of a family issue; and I was just named EIC for the upcoming year.

Your journal experience doesn't sound abnormal at all. I have two friends in law school who had almost the exact same experience as you on their respective secondary journals.


Anonymous User wrote:Point being, I'm a damn good writer.

No. Being EIC of your journal means (1) you are liked by others, and (2) you are willing to do a lot of grunt work. Those are both good qualities for a law clerk. But being EIC doesn't signal anything, really, about writing ability.


Anonymous User wrote:Legal job experience: spent my 1L summer at a high-profile DA's office; currently interning for a universally well-liked federal magistrate judge. He *really* knows all the federal judges in the city (all in our courthouse building, obviously), and has openly stated that my opinion-writing work is the best he's seen to date from an intern. Again, no question he'd give me a glowing and detailed rec (either phone or letter).

This is huge. Seriously. I've seen clerkship applicants with middling grades get clerkships because a judge for whom they interned *really* liked them and was willing to go to bat for them. However, I'd be a little concerned that the judge's compliment ("stated that my opinion-writing work is the best he's seen to date from an intern") won't be enough, especially if he's only had a few interns. You really want a statement like: "Her opinion writing is equal to or better than the quality I've seen from most of the clerks I've had."



Are liberal judges (in this context I only mean ones appointed by Democratic presidents) more "liberal" in terms of strict adherence to requested info, specifically grades?

I doubt it. This is anecdotal, but on the circuit I clerk on (I'm a COA clerk), the Democratic appointees tend to be a little more snobby about both grades and the prestige of the applicant's law school, whereas a couple of the Republican appointees are known to be more "holistic" about selecting clerks. I suspect this is pretty random, though. Much of it comes down to the status of the judge--if the judge is a "feeder," he or she can be more selective about grades.




Return to “Judicial Clerkships”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.