Geography as Barrier?

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Anonymous User
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Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 19, 2015 5:56 pm

I'm hoping to get some insight on why my clerkship application process has been barren. Have applied to 40-odd federal district courts (and a few less-competitive federal circuits) over the past 9 months.

T6, top 15%, secondary journal exec board, published note, stellar rec's (former SCOTUS clerks for whom I wrote model answers).

I realize that most CoA applicants have credentials to match (or exceed) mine, but I've also struck out at federal district courts in areas I ostensibly possess ties to (including the less competitive markets of my home state and undergrad state as well as the more competitive market where I attend law school). I have, however, restricted my search to these three areas/regions because of relationship/family obligations, and I'm wondering whether the limited geographic scope of my search is hurting my chances. I did receive one district court interview about 6 months ago...but nothing else. For the better part of a year, I've seen classmates with lesser grades/no journal/etc. land Article III clerkships.

Thoughts? I guess I always assumed that I wouldn't encounter too many obstacles landing a district court in the less-competitive regions to which I have ties, but have even those markets become so intense that someone like me gets ruled out on the basis of credentials?

Thanks for the responses.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 19, 2015 6:18 pm

Have you actually read your recommendation letters ?

Anonymous User
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 19, 2015 6:21 pm

Canadian, I've had them "read" to me by the one judge I interviewed with. She volunteered portions of them during our discussion and said they were "brimming with praise." I haven't read them in their entirety, though: they're sealed for paper apps and inaccessible, as far as I know, for OSCAR apps. School clerkship administrators were incredibly unhelpful the one time I asked about it.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue May 19, 2015 6:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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ndirish2010
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby ndirish2010 » Tue May 19, 2015 6:24 pm

Even at ostensibly "less competitive" district courts, the application process can do this to qualified people. I sorted through applicants and placed to the wrong side many very good ones in not exactly the most competitive district in the world. Unless you have someone calling for you, it can be pretty random.

Anonymous User
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 19, 2015 6:30 pm

Thanks, Irish. I've never understood how you organically get a prof to call for you. Do they take it on themselves to dial a judge for a truly exceptional student they're willing to go out on a limb for? Do you have to ask them to call? Asking seems problematic, because I don't know what particular district judges an all-star prof would know/be willing to call...Lol, it's these sorts of nuts-and-bolts reality pointers that my school OCS is truly terrible at imparting.

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ndirish2010
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby ndirish2010 » Tue May 19, 2015 8:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, Irish. I've never understood how you organically get a prof to call for you. Do they take it on themselves to dial a judge for a truly exceptional student they're willing to go out on a limb for? Do you have to ask them to call? Asking seems problematic, because I don't know what particular district judges an all-star prof would know/be willing to call...Lol, it's these sorts of nuts-and-bolts reality pointers that my school OCS is truly terrible at imparting.



Yeah, it can be difficult with random district judges. A lot of them usually stick to hiring from familiar schools because they have developed a relationship. My judge had a strong preference for local schools, and if you weren't from one of the usual regional T30s, it was pretty difficult to get an interview. I think a lot of that is because these district judges don't really know profs from schools everywhere. I honestly don't know how I would go about asking, I just know we had people with letters from a professor that my judge had heard of or respected, and that carried a TON of weight.

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Micdiddy
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Micdiddy » Tue May 19, 2015 11:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, Irish. I've never understood how you organically get a prof to call for you. Do they take it on themselves to dial a judge for a truly exceptional student they're willing to go out on a limb for? Do you have to ask them to call? Asking seems problematic, because I don't know what particular district judges an all-star prof would know/be willing to call...Lol, it's these sorts of nuts-and-bolts reality pointers that my school OCS is truly terrible at imparting.


Do you have a clerkship advisor? They should know which professors know which judges (or at least know somewhat about this) and can ask them to call on your behalf. My clerkship advisor straight up asked if I wanted her to get a prof to call for me.

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Shaggier1
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Shaggier1 » Wed May 20, 2015 12:54 am

You seem like a great candidate but it is a very saturated market. 40 just isn't that many applications. And you need someone who will really go to bat for you. I know the ask is awkward but the worst that will happen is they say they are uncomfortable making calls. I have had that happen. You shake it off. Fortunately, I have also had the opposite - i.e., the prof. said it would be her pleasure and she asked me for a list of my top choices. About 1.5 months later, I had interviews with 3 of the judges she called.

Now that I am on the other side of the process (as a current clerk who has reviewed apps), I can tell you that we see plenty of candidates like you. It is just a matter of having a reason to look at your app. more closely. That is the function of the professor calls.

Good luck!

wwwcol
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby wwwcol » Wed May 20, 2015 6:58 am

Micdiddy wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, Irish. I've never understood how you organically get a prof to call for you. Do they take it on themselves to dial a judge for a truly exceptional student they're willing to go out on a limb for? Do you have to ask them to call? Asking seems problematic, because I don't know what particular district judges an all-star prof would know/be willing to call...Lol, it's these sorts of nuts-and-bolts reality pointers that my school OCS is truly terrible at imparting.


Do you have a clerkship advisor? They should know which professors know which judges (or at least know somewhat about this) and can ask them to call on your behalf. My clerkship advisor straight up asked if I wanted her to get a prof to call for me.


The problem OP may run into with this is a lack of connections. At my T6, almost all the faculty clerked at the circuit or SCOTUS level, and didn't have very many strong connections to d ct judges. And the conventional wisdom seems to be that calls to a judge of interest from random professors are of limited value because the judge gets many / has no idea who the prof is.

I eventually started applying to judges to whom my faculty had connections and had more success in getting interviews.

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ndirish2010
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby ndirish2010 » Wed May 20, 2015 1:14 pm

wwwcol wrote:
Micdiddy wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, Irish. I've never understood how you organically get a prof to call for you. Do they take it on themselves to dial a judge for a truly exceptional student they're willing to go out on a limb for? Do you have to ask them to call? Asking seems problematic, because I don't know what particular district judges an all-star prof would know/be willing to call...Lol, it's these sorts of nuts-and-bolts reality pointers that my school OCS is truly terrible at imparting.


Do you have a clerkship advisor? They should know which professors know which judges (or at least know somewhat about this) and can ask them to call on your behalf. My clerkship advisor straight up asked if I wanted her to get a prof to call for me.


The problem OP may run into with this is a lack of connections. At my T6, almost all the faculty clerked at the circuit or SCOTUS level, and didn't have very many strong connections to d ct judges. And the conventional wisdom seems to be that calls to a judge of interest from random professors are of limited value because the judge gets many / has no idea who the prof is.

I eventually started applying to judges to whom my faculty had connections and had more success in getting interviews.


Sometimes your profs might have clerked for a circuit judge or SCOTUS justice WITH someone who later becomes a district judge, and could have connections that way. I got two interviews because of that.

Otherwise, it's kind of a barrier because most district judges would only recognize profs from the prominent local or regional schools, if that.

jimmythecatdied6
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby jimmythecatdied6 » Wed May 20, 2015 3:59 pm

You need to apply more broadly. Your publication and grades are good, but if you are applying for a competitive district court clerkship, then there are going to be at least 50-100 people with as good if not better credentials (and some of those people will likely have connections to the judge). Another way to up your chances is to circle back with your recommenders, explain your situation, and (if you have a good relationship with the professor) see if they can make a call on your behalf. It's only awkward if you are awkward about it - they expect to be asked for this kind of help. Also, if your recommenders are former SCOTUS clerks, then there is a good chance their former co-clerks are now on the bench. That's an easy in for you.

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Emma.
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Emma. » Wed May 20, 2015 10:37 pm

your timing could also have something to do with it. It seems like summer is now prime clerkship hiring season, and it sounds like you applied sometime last fall?

Anonymous User
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 21, 2015 3:09 am

It's a total crapshoot. I have crap credentials (T40, median, secondary journal, etc.) but extraordinarily strong recs, two of which are from judges. Those recs landed me my current A3 clerkship.

I applied everywhere. The only court I didn't consider is the Northern Marianas and that's only because my wife vetoed it. But I applied from Fairbanks to Miami and everywhere in between. Over the course of two years, I sent approx. 250 apps and got 3 interviews, only one of which was successful.

So, yeah, you should apply all over.

Anonymous User
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 21, 2015 12:22 pm

Had a pretty similar success rate to district courts applying on the last year of the plan (2013 grad). Midwest T25/30, top 10-15% and law review. Got a district court clerkship in what TLS would say is a totally non-prestigious district. Will be clerking for a circuit judge in 2016 though, so it worked out!

Anonymous User
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 22, 2015 5:24 am

I'm pretty sure it's the number of applications you've put out. 40 is a bit low. Me and many of my other friends who got clerkships applied at the hundreds level.

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bruinfan10
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Re: Geography as Barrier?

Postby bruinfan10 » Fri May 22, 2015 2:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm pretty sure it's the number of applications you've put out. 40 is a bit low. Me and many of my other friends who got clerkships applied at the hundreds level.

+1




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