Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

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Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:27 am

To clarify, the majority in my circuit work before clerking on the COA, but usually they apply for their clerkships when they're at the firm or work in the public sector/a lower court first.

I applied and got my clerkship as a 2L, but due to the competitive timeline, it was slotted for a year after graduation. I couldn't land a dist ct in the same location for the interim since almost every judge was full, and the handful of really interesting fellowships I applied to aren't going to work out. So the options are to 1) return to my summer firm for one year or 2) take a fellowship I'm not particularly interested in, a state government job for the interim year (fed gov doesn't hire for one year), or a magistrate.

Downsides to 1) is that post-clerkship I'll no longer be eligible for DOJ honors; I'll interrupt my time at the firm at an awkward time for my prof dev.; I would have to change cities for one year and then move back, which is a huge pain in the ass; I would have to be a first year associate in litigation (albeit at a firm that's not the most painful culture); and there may be a stigma against people in my position. Upside is I don't have to worry about bar expenses and I can afford to pay off my personal debts. The downsides to 2) are that I'm taking a $100k+ paycut for an indeterminate payoff in practice experience, personal interest, and long-term career value. I would get into court more as corporation counsel or the like than as a first year associate; as a magistrate clerk I would see a lot of discovery proceedings, but I wouldn't have the writing experience of a dist ct. I would have to keep a running balance of personal debt (loan repayment would cover my student loans at least) in excess of $10k (probably $15k after bar expenses) that would accrue significant interest and damage my credit. I don't care about living a luxurious lifestyle at my age per se, but I am concerned about paying down my debts.

Any thoughts on these alternatives?

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:18 am

What kind of stigma are you worried about?

Edited to add: I'm not much help on the firm angle, but barring something superspecific about firms that would change this calculus, I think mostly it's going to be what you, personally, would prefer. In your shoes, if it would prevent moving out to the firm and moving back again after a year (because that would make me nuts), I'd probably do the magistrate clerkship for a year - it won't get you the writing experience of a district court, but you won't have that experience before the 2nd clerkship either way, and I think it would be interesting and you could learn a lot (I've also known some great magistrates, so it will depend, of course). But I am not snobby about clerkships and also really enjoy them (and they all paid more than I ever made before going to law school so the money thing wasn't a big concern for me). And these are really all based on personal preference. I think it partly depends on how important preserving honors eligibility, and the money, are for you. I can see perfectly good arguments either way. (Ditto for state government job, but you sound much less interested in that.)

(If you're worried that you won't get decent work during the year because your firm knows you're leaving - I don't think that would necessarily be something to worry about long term. If your firm supports clerking, the timeline shouldn't matter that much. You'd still have the chance to build relationships during that year, and either you return after the clerkship to build on that, so you're fine, or you don't, and you're also fine. But again, I have to defer to more firm-expert people.)

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Jchance » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:02 am

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Last edited by Jchance on Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:14 am

Pretty sure actually the OP means a COA clerkship.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Traynor Brah » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:28 am

Just spitballing here: maybe apply for honors then if you get an offer see if your judge will let you push back your COA clerkship to your third year.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 01, 2015 2:38 pm

Jchance wrote:so firm for 1 year then magistrate clerkship? I'd take the firm gig and stay there until I land a district court clerkship if I was you. Would be helpful to know school + class rank


This is OP. I think you've misunderstood. I have a court of appeals clerkship for a year after graduation; a magistrate clerkship is one possible option for the interim year (there are magistrate judges with remaining positions to whom professors have offered to speak) in lieu of going to my summer firm. I do like my firm it's just not the most convenient. It seems like you are suggesting a magistrate is not of much value, though; unfortunately as I explained the d ct judges in my circuit are full now.

Re: credentials, I doubt it's relevant, but I have very strong credentials (school/rank) by the standards of this website.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Jchance » Tue Dec 01, 2015 2:42 pm

Oh I see. Don't take the fed. mag. clerkship, it will make your credentials seem weak (people would likely think that you got the CoA gig because you clerk for a mag. first, and getting a mag. gig is all you could have gotten after graduated law school). I'd take the firm gig the year before CoA clerkship.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:01 pm

I don't think doing a mag clerkship will make the credentials you have look any worse than they would otherwise. I don't think in the real world there's quite the disdain for mag clerkships that people have here, especially depending on where the clerkship is. If it will give you experience in your circuit that would probably be particularly helpful.

And I would not push the COA back to after doing honors - it doesn't really work like that. Honors positions are intended to slot you into permanent positions and to my knowledge the feds don't hold positions for clerkships. If you wanted to continue in the federal position you'd have to reapply after clerking and it would defeat the purpose.

(I also think it wouldn't work time wise, since if OP is a 3L they've missed the boat for honors for after graduation.)

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:49 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I don't think doing a mag clerkship will make the credentials you have look any worse than they would otherwise. I don't think in the real world there's quite the disdain for mag clerkships that people have here, especially depending on where the clerkship is. If it will give you experience in your circuit that would probably be particularly helpful.

And I would not push the COA back to after doing honors - it doesn't really work like that. Honors positions are intended to slot you into permanent positions and to my knowledge the feds don't hold positions for clerkships. If you wanted to continue in the federal position you'd have to reapply after clerking and it would defeat the purpose.

(I also think it wouldn't work time wise, since if OP is a 3L they've missed the boat for honors for after graduation.)



I don't think there is any stigma to going to a firm for a year and then going to your COA clerkship. In fact, being able to get a bit established financially before signing on to the JSP scale is a pretty nice perk. If you want to do the Magistrate Judge clerkship, then sure, go for it. But don't do it because you're worried the year at the firm will look weird. I know a lot of people who have done that in one variation or another. I think you're over thinking this.

(I did a Dist. Ct. clerkship last year and am now clerking on a COA, FWIW)

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:I don't think doing a mag clerkship will make the credentials you have look any worse than they would otherwise. I don't think in the real world there's quite the disdain for mag clerkships that people have here, especially depending on where the clerkship is. If it will give you experience in your circuit that would probably be particularly helpful.

And I would not push the COA back to after doing honors - it doesn't really work like that. Honors positions are intended to slot you into permanent positions and to my knowledge the feds don't hold positions for clerkships. If you wanted to continue in the federal position you'd have to reapply after clerking and it would defeat the purpose.

(I also think it wouldn't work time wise, since if OP is a 3L they've missed the boat for honors for after graduation.)



I don't think there is any stigma to going to a firm for a year and then going to your COA clerkship. In fact, being able to get a bit established financially before signing on to the JSP scale is a pretty nice perk. If you want to do the Magistrate Judge clerkship, then sure, go for it. But don't do it because you're worried the year at the firm will look weird. I know a lot of people who have done that in one variation or another. I think you're over thinking this.

(I did a Dist. Ct. clerkship last year and am now clerking on a COA, FWIW)


Thanks for this. I'm far from committed to a magistrate clerkship, it's just one of a couple options including the others I mentioned, like city corporation counsel and a couple local fellowships. The fellowships are very poorly paying and not well known, and while I think the experiences could be valuable, I'm not comfortable with the trade-offs and it seems like none of you would be psyched about them either. I think Nony is right about DOJ honors from my research and yes, the timetable has passed.

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:28 pm

I should add I'm not saying the magistrate is the clear best thing to do here, just that you didn't really sound like you wanted to go to the firm for some reason. :D

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Re: Any stigma to firm one year before clerking?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:59 pm

There's definitely no stigma attached to this -- it's increasingly common, given the pace of COA hiring. That doesn't mean there may not be good reasons to avoid it -- including many of the ones you mentioned in your post (Honors ineligibility, multiple relocations, burden of being a first-year associate). But stigma isn't one of them.

It's worth keeping an eye on judicial confirmations and sending a copy of your materials to any new D.Ct. judge in an area you'd be willing to live in. There aren't going to be many of these in the next 9 months, but there won't be zero (there are two new EDNY judges confirmed in the last six weeks). Have a professor make a phone call.



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