"Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

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addictedtoblue
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"Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby addictedtoblue » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:17 am

Hi everyone,

I am a mid-level attorney who recently received an offer to clerk for a federal district judge for one year.

The judge is giving me the choice between two positions - one is a regular law clerk position, and another is a hybrid term/administrative position. (The latter may have a more proper term, but I don't know what it is). As a matter of context, the judge had a long term Judicial Assistant, who left, and rather than filling that position he decided to create this hybrid position a few years ago.

This is all relatively new to me, and I'm wondering if you folks could let me know what the relative pros/cons are of each position. Especially interested to hear from former law clerks who had an "admin" law clerk position and what they thought about it. Also curious to hear what kind of questions I should ask before making a final decision.

Many thanks,
- Blue

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seizmaar
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby seizmaar » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:24 am

i dunno man it just sounds like you'll be the judicial assistant with a bit of law clerk on the side. i'd do the normal gig.

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:39 am

seizmaar wrote:i dunno man it just sounds like you'll be the judicial assistant with a bit of law clerk on the side. i'd do the normal gig.


That's not at all what it was like with my district court judge. In his chambers the main difference was caseload; the admin clerk has about 2/3 of the caseload as the other clerks.

I think it comes down to personal preference. If you hate doing administrative/organizational stuff, don't take the admin position. But if that sounds alright to you, and you like the idea of a lower caseload (which can be nice on a busy district court), I'd consider it. I know a few clerks who have chosen the admin position over the regular position and I don't think they've regretted it.

addictedtoblue
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby addictedtoblue » Wed Dec 17, 2014 1:33 pm

Thanks for the responses so far. My understanding that the position can vary depending on the person. The first time the judge did this, he had a new extern become a clerk, so she was relatively inexperienced and did a lot of admin work. The second time, he hired someone who had been a law clerk and had real world experience, so he did much more law clerk type stuff with admin work on the side. I probably fit somewhere between these two.

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sundance95
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby sundance95 » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:11 pm

if you decided to clerk so that you could be a part-time HR flak, then by all means go for it
this sounds shitty unless there's extra pay involved, which of course there isn't

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:15 pm

I believe I know the judge you're applying to. If so, I would recommend taking the regular law clerk position unless you just really like doing administrative assistant type-tasks for some reason.

There's really no upside to the admin clerk position, and it can be awkward explaining to others that you're a clerk but that unlike the judge's other clerks, you handle fewer cases and do admin stuff instead. It's also probable that, due to your somewhat different role, your relationship will be a little different with the judge and the other clerks than it would if you were a normal law clerk.

Jchance
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Jchance » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:08 pm

From my understanding, Regular Term Clerk >> Admin Clerk, at least in term of prestige--that's how ppl perceive it. Plus, it's more competitive to get the term clerk position vs. getting the admin clerk position.

I vote for the regular term clerk.

addictedtoblue
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby addictedtoblue » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:46 pm

I definitely want the "clerkship" experience but the burn out possibilities scare me a bit. The admin position seems like it could be a good mix. Also, it would have the same title and same responsibilities as the other clerks - just a lighter case load. And clerks I have talked to of this judge have all mentioned that the admin law clerk just gets more face time with the judge, since that position is often her sounding board in chambers (compared to the regular term clerks, who are locked in a corner writing orders). I was initially thinking of only doing the term clerk position but I do see some advantages to the admin hybrid thing.

Other thoughts from folks?

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seizmaar
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby seizmaar » Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:11 am

wtf are the burn out possibilities?

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BearState
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby BearState » Thu Dec 18, 2014 11:56 am

Without a JA, someone has to do ALL of the work the JA would have done. So its not really "law clerk with admin stuff on the side"; you'll be doing the JA's job with law clerk work on the side.

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:03 pm

I clerked in a district court that had a career clerk in lieu of a JA. There were some other administrative tasks involved (writing scheduling orders, coordinating the judge's travel, etc.), but a lot of our administative tasks fell to the courtroom deputy and the permanent clerk did a very significant amount of substantive case work without being slammed. Not saying this will be the case for you, but just another data point.

addictedtoblue
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby addictedtoblue » Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:10 pm

Thanks. I talked to the previous clerks who occupied this position and they had wildly varying experiences. The first did about 50% JA work, 50% clerk work...the majority of the JA work that took up time was filing. The second clerk started to delegate the filing to the externs, which in turn meant it was more of a 90% clerk, 10% JA division - the majority of the JA work included answering phones, keeping the judge's calendar, managing her visitors, booking her travel, etc. Seems like the biggest advantage is that the caseload is not as intense and that position gets much more face time with the judge/relationship building with the judge compared to the others. That clerk also has more control over his cases.

Are those advantages good enough to overcome whatever disadvantages there might be?

Jchance
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Jchance » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:01 pm

addictedtoblue wrote:Seems like the biggest advantage is that the caseload is not as intense and that position gets much more face time with the judge/relationship building with the judge compared to the others.


Ehh, depends on what kind of relationship--will the judge see you more like a JA rather than a clerk? Plus, your response presumes competent judicial extern(s), but what if they are not, can you trust them with your task then they screw it up? I'd still rather be a clerk, you'd still get plenty of face-time with the judge.

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:22 pm

Going to have to disagree with everyone here... in my highly competitive district, the admin law clerk does exactly the same thing as the term clerk(s), but also answers the phone and handles the judge's schedule. Their case load might be slightly reduced (i.e. 10% at most), depending on the judge. Aside from the phone and scheduling, additional administrative tasks (e.g. mail, dealing with the marshals, dealing with court staff, etc.) are shared with the other clerks. I have never heard of any difference in perceived prestige between the positions.

The big pro is that you get more exposure to other judges, career clerks, and friends/guests of the judge -- which, depending on the prestige of your judge, can be significant. For example, every judge in this district probably recognizes our administrative law clerk, but most of them probably wouldn't know me from Adam. The big con is that having to answer the phone seems like it can be a bit of a bother/distraction, and it's an added responsibility without additional compensation.

I obviously don't have a dog in this "prestige" fight, as I'm not the admin clerk in our chambers. Our district might also be atypical.

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Going to have to disagree with everyone here... in my highly competitive district, the admin law clerk does exactly the same thing as the term clerk(s), but also answers the phone and handles the judge's schedule. Their case load might be slightly reduced (i.e. 10% at most), depending on the judge. Aside from the phone and scheduling, additional administrative tasks (e.g. mail, dealing with the marshals, dealing with court staff, etc.) are shared with the other clerks. I have never heard of any difference in perceived prestige between the positions.

The big pro is that you get more exposure to other judges, career clerks, and friends/guests of the judge -- which, depending on the prestige of your judge, can be significant. For example, every judge in this district probably recognizes our administrative law clerk, but most of them probably wouldn't know me from Adam. The big con is that having to answer the phone seems like it can be a bit of a bother/distraction, and it's an added responsibility without additional compensation.

I obviously don't have a dog in this "prestige" fight, as I'm not the admin clerk in our chambers. Our district might also be atypical.

The above is true in my experience of JA/clerks, too (though my experience is secondhand).

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:55 pm

It's the same pay and does not offer any additional substantive opp., so it is beyond me why anyone would opt out for anything other than the regular clerk. First of all, it is not clear how employers view regular clerks v. JA Clerk. While most will understand JAs are as valubable, I would hate to have to explain to those that don't know that JA Clerk basically does the same work (even worse, those employers that think JA is less than regular clerk and do not give you an opp to clarify). Second, just the hassle of doing JA stuff day to day in addition to what I am doing now would probably drive me nuts lol (I will do it if I have to, but I wouldn't volunteer for it). It sounds like no big deal but it can get super annyoing and could make your experience more stressful than it needs to be, especially if you are in a busy court. Third, if I am going to take a pay cut to clerk, I would rather learn as much as I can by spending all my time on legal stuff. Fourth, what burnout? You are there for a year, it will pass by so fast you will be done by the time you realize you are burned out (if any). Lastly, any "connection" that you apparently could be exposed to by becoming a JA is a non-factor because majority of the time, your judge would easily grant you access to his network, especially if you are proactive about it.

Ofcourse this is just my take on it so it could just be me :)

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:19 pm

I worked for a (non-Art. 3) judge who opted to have more clerks in lieu of a JA, and now I am a term clerk for an Art. 3 clerk.

In my first clerkship, I wasn't even a glorified secretary some days. I was the secretary. I have no delusions of grandeur and don't consider any work "below me." I just hate administrative stuff. It makes me anxious and stresses me out. But it also is very time-consuming and mind-numbing.

I fucking loathed all the admin stuff I had to do. We had a huge caseload and we'd have to do incessant case management. I would put off entire days every couple of weeks to do nothing but obnoxious admin busy work. I would sit at my desk for 8-10 hours straight just organizing case files and making sure nothing had slipped through the cracks. The absolute only upside to the position was that I became familiar with filing stuff on CMECF. And that isn't even much of an upside. I would rage some days where I had a huge decision to work on but I had to put it off for hours while I went through and updated/organized our case management chart.

But, to be fair, some other clerks really didn't mind it. As one of them put it, "I get paid $85k to do what a high schooler can do." Sometimes I looked at it that way and it made the job less frustrating.

In my current clerkship, I do nothing but write decisions. I've been here for almost a year and I've had to contact counsel only two times, I've never filed anything, and the only admin work I have to do is putting stips into orders and a few routine scheduling orders once or twice a week. It is infinitely better than my first clerkship for that reason alone (also, dat subject matter).

TL;DR Don't take the admin position if you have an offer for the regular one. (I hear Judge Bea is a nice guy to work for btw.)

Total Litigator
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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Total Litigator » Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:32 pm

As someone who tried really hard to get a clerkship and failed, I can't even handle this thread.

OP has somehow managed to get a federal clerkship offer, and he/she is the kind of person who is worried about burning out as a law clerk in less a year.

OP, have you thought about just throwing the towel and asking to do the JA job full-time?

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Re: "Admin" Law Clerk vs. Regular Term Law Clerk Position?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 29, 2014 4:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:TL;DR Don't take the admin position if you have an offer for the regular one. (I hear Judge Bea is a nice guy to work for btw.)

FWIW, have NOT heard this.




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