Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

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Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:02 pm

I am struggling here. My judge is a total f-ing psychopath and I still have 6 months to go. Anyone else?

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rpupkin
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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:29 pm

I liked my clerkship, but I just want you to know that you're not alone. I believe more people hate their clerkships than we know.

In law school, students, alumni, and CSO staff talk about clerkships like they're this amazing, peak experience. I can't count how many times I heard someone say that their clerkship was "the single best experience of my legal career."

I recall going to a clerkship panel as a 1L. The panel included the school's clerkship advisor, a professor, and an alumnus who had clerked on SCOTUS. During the question-and-answer portion, a student asked something like this: "I'm just interested in transactional law. My uncle is a transactional lawyer and he told me it would be a waste of time and money to do a clerkship." The panel's response was apoplectic. They more or less said that EVERYONE should try to do a clerkship no matter what, because you'll probably never get another chance to have such a great experience. Anyone who suggests otherwise probably never clerked—because if they had, they would tell you that you MUST CLERK.

There's basically a cult of clerking. If you suggest that you didn't like your clerkship, you're outside the orthodoxy. I mean, if you managed to hate the peak experience of clerking, there must be something wrong with you. For that reason—and also because it's just not a good look to speak ill of a sitting federal judge—you almost never hear about nightmare clerkship experiences. But they definitely happen.

If you've got a judge with a bad temperament—and there's plenty of them—you could be in for a nightmare year. There's nowhere to hide. At least at a big law firm, you can try to avoid working for a particular partner. You can't, of course, avoid your judge.

Hang in there. At least it's just a year, and you'll have stories to tell about your psycho judge for the rest of your life.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Cogburn87 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:01 pm

rpupkin wrote:I liked my clerkship, but I just want you to know that you're not alone. I believe more people hate their clerkships than we know.

In law school, students, alumni, and CSO staff talk about clerkships like they're this amazing, peak experience. I can't count how many times I heard someone say that their clerkship was "the single best experience of my legal career."

I recall going to a clerkship panel as a 1L. The panel included the school's clerkship advisor, a professor, and an alumnus who had clerked on SCOTUS. During the question-and-answer portion, a student asked something like this: "I'm just interested in transactional law. My uncle is a transactional lawyer and he told me it would be a waste of time and money to do a clerkship." The panel's response was apoplectic. They more or less said that EVERYONE should try to do a clerkship no matter what, because you'll probably never get another chance to have such a great experience. Anyone who suggests otherwise probably never clerked—because if they had, they would tell you that you MUST CLERK.

There's basically a cult of clerking. If you suggest that you didn't like your clerkship, you're outside the orthodoxy. I mean, if you managed to hate the peak experience of clerking, there must be something wrong with you. For that reason—and also because it's just not a good look to speak ill of a sitting federal judge—you almost never hear about nightmare clerkship experiences. But they definitely happen.

If you've got a judge with a bad temperament—and there's plenty of them—you could be in for a nightmare year. There's nowhere to hide. At least at a big law firm, you can try to avoid working for a particular partner. You can't, of course, avoid your judge.

Hang in there. At least it's just a year, and you'll have stories to tell about your psycho judge for the rest of your life.


Higher clerkship numbers make schools look better. It's not a "cult." They just don't select people for those panels whore are going to get up there and say "Clerking is fine. Whatever." They pick people who are going to sell it to you.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:07 pm

i did, for the same reason as you. by month 3 i was counting down the days. i made it through, tho, and i'm glad i did. made me realize i was tougher than i thought i was.

one thing i would recommend: try to cultivate, as much as possible, your life outside the clerkship, i.e. regularly see friends, do fun things on the weekend. i let my hatred of the clerkship isolate me from people and that was a bad idea. remember that the clerkship will be over soon but your life won't!

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:08 pm

Cogburn87 wrote:Higher clerkship numbers make schools look better. It's not a "cult." They just don't select people for those panels whore are going to get up there and say "Clerking is fine. Whatever." They pick people who are going to sell it to you.

Sure. And if you attend an alumni panel at an admit weekend of a TTT school, you'll hear about how great the school is and how everyone who works hard will get a job. The difference is that can find other alumni—the ones not hand-picked for a panel—who will express regret about having gone to law school or about having gone to that particular TTT. But it's very rare to hear someone say—in any context—that they didn't like their clerkship. It's just not something people feel comfortable discussing, in part because there's such a mythology built up around clerking.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Cogburn87 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:14 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Cogburn87 wrote:Higher clerkship numbers make schools look better. It's not a "cult." They just don't select people for those panels whore are going to get up there and say "Clerking is fine. Whatever." They pick people who are going to sell it to you.

Sure. And if you attend an alumni panel at an admit weekend of a TTT school, you'll hear about how great the school is and how everyone who works hard will get a job. The difference is that can find other alumni—the ones not hand-picked for a panel—who will express regret about having gone to law school or about having gone to that particular TTT. But it's very rare to hear someone say—in any context—that they didn't like their clerkship. It's just not something people feel comfortable discussing, in part because there's such a mythology built up around clerking.

That hasn't been my experience at all. I know a lot of people who say their clerkships were boring or a waste of time. The people who signed on for two year stints in particular were often quite vocal about how they would rather be making better money at a firm.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:28 pm

I love my clerkship because I have a fabulous judge and co-clerk, but I can't imagine working for a different judge in my district. From what I've seen, many of them would be a nightmare.

Hang in here, OP.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby crit_racer » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:34 pm

I get both Pupkin's point and cogburn's point. I think that the odds of someone you don't know very well shit-talking their clerkship are pretty low. But my close friends from LS who clerked? Sure, a few of them have told me it was pretty "meh" or even that they actively disliked it.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:36 pm

I haven't heard people speak ill of their own clerkships, so to speak, but I have heard people trade horror stories about other clerks' experiences. I do think there's a culture of not complaining about your clerkship, and that's it's not at all a good look to complain about a sitting federal (or state) judge (though I agree that talking among friends is different from more general/public conversation). But I also think most clerks, even if they had a good experience, can recognize how bad an experience it could be. A judge doesn't even have to be a psychopath - you could just have significant personality conflicts, or they could be terrible at time management or giving feedback or the like.

And even with a great judge, I can see how the work just wouldn't be congenial to a lot of people. If you like a lot of interaction with different people, don't like writing and research and revising, and go nuts sitting at a computer all day, you're likely to find clerking unpleasant (and I think some people who fall into these categories nonetheless end up clerking because it is seen as another one of the brass rings to collect).

I have to admit I'm always sad to hear people say it was the greatest experience in their career, though - that's one year at the beginning of a long career, and you never experience anything better? That seems depressing.

Edited to add: oh, yeah, and co-clerks are another factor in the experience.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:47 pm

crit_racer wrote:I get both Pupkin's point and cogburn's point. I think that the odds of someone you don't know very well shit-talking their clerkship are pretty low. But my close friends from LS who clerked? Sure, a few of them have told me it was pretty "meh" or even that they actively disliked it.

Same here. After law school, I heard clerking horror stories from a couple of friends. But in contrast to, say, big law firm life—about which you'll hear awful things from acquaintances and strangers during law school—it's rare to hear anything negative about a clerkship. And I think that makes a bad clerkship experience especially tough to endure, because the clerk feels like they're not getting/appreciating what's supposed to be an amazing experience. That's why I brought this up in response to the OP.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:46 pm

Spent the year after law school at a V20. Here I thought the clerkship would provide a much welcomed respite from big law. I can't wait to go back to the firm...and it's not only because my co-clerk is super passive aggressive or that the hours are not all that sexy (you don't leave until the Judge calls it a day)...but my biggest gripe is the pay. Oh, the pay!! I probably should've clerked right after law school. Having spent a year in big law I totally feel the difference and my wallet hates me for it.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:02 pm

Hey there,

Jumping in to add my two cents (anonymously, for obvious reasons). I spent many, many years after law school wanting to clerk, and when I finally landed a job (district court, secondary market--think flat terrain and buffalo), I was thrilled beyond belief. Like the OP, all I had heard was the endless positive reports about what an amazing experience it would be, so long as I avoided a few judges with "reputations."

Lest you think otherwise, this is not going to lead into a tale about how my year was terrible. It wasn't; in retrospect, it was probably a net positive. But it was certainly bipolar and not the kind of thing you necessarily enjoyed while it was happening. You know the cliche about how chambers is like a family? Well, the judge's staff had been with him for years, and this family was thoroughly dysfunctional. Sniping, gossiping, warring factions, and so on. This rubbed off on the judge. He could be very, very nice one day, and radiate a pitch-black aura the next. On some days, you couldn't do anything right.

We were all sweetness and light in public, of course. In private? For about 40% of my term, I was convinced I was going to be fired.

The thing was, I thought this was all on me. I thought I had scored this great opportunity and was screwing it up with some sort of unique, weaponized misanthropy. Because EVERYONE had a great time in their clerkships, right?

But around the year's half-way mark, it became clear that about a third of the clerks in other chambers were also going through the same things. One person made some remark about how her judge had screamed at her for something really minor, and then all bets were off. Some of this, to be sure, was the kind of grousing that has to occur in any workplace setting; you have to let off steam in order to keep perspective. But it was clear that some of the clerks were legitimately unhappy. There was a crying jag or two mixed in there somewhere. Lots of "I'm going to be fired any day now." (And hey, one guy was!)

Now? If you ask any of the people in question, they'll tell you that they adored their judges, had a great year, etc. The instant they got out of chambers, the defense mechanism kicked in and all was sunshine. Why? Beats me.

Anyway, the point of this is that you're not alone--far from it. Personality clashes are real, awkward working relationships are real, and really bad days are real. It's up to you whether you want to try to confine your displeasure to forums like these or whether you want to risk grousing more publicly.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am struggling here. My judge is a total f-ing psychopath and I still have 6 months to go. Anyone else?

I hate mine too. I'm a COA clerk in a desirable circuit and location, and yet find myself wishing that I never took this job. Mentally focusing on applying for the next job has helped.

Courage.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby JusticeJackson » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:49 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:42 pm

OP back again. Thanks for the replies everyone. I worry about the blowback from talking negatively about my clerkship but pretty much everyone knows I hate it (because they see my judge beating up on me). Recently a lawyer walked in on him screaming at me, awkward. Guess I should just count down the days and hope at the end I can pretend it was all fine

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:I love my clerkship because I have a fabulous judge and co-clerk, but I can't imagine working for a different judge in my district. From what I've seen, many of them would be a nightmare.

Hang in here, OP.


Same. Clerking is wholly dependent on the judge.

I am in my second clerkship. The first one was terrible - I got hired by a judge who had to resign a couple months later due to health issues. And thank god, because she was an absolute nightmare of a human being. She threw things at staff, yelled at me countless times over minor things ("YOU MISSPELLED A WITNESS'S NAME!" was an email subject line once), and basically threatened to fire me after a month on the job. I dreaded going to work every day. I avoided her as much as possible. I spent an inordinate amount of time on everything (12-hour days were common) and was in a constant state of stress. I can't begin to explain her insanity. I also could not believe how awful her work product was, her rulings on the bench were often times incomprehensible (so awkward when litigants would basically have to say they don't understand and please repeat and judge would get flustered and raise her voice).

Then after she retired another judge took me aboard for the remainder of my term. He was a goddamn delight. I love that guy and loved working for him. Now on my second clerkship, and I cannot say enough good things about my current judge. One of the nicest people I've ever met and everyone--from the janitors to CSOs to litigants--say nothing but good things about him.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby ggocat » Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am struggling here. My judge is a total f-ing psychopath and I still have 6 months to go. Anyone else?

My judge is awesome, but I've heard horror stories like those described in this thread. Screamers. Most commonly, I've heard this about federal district judges.

This isn't unique to clerkships. If you have a terrible boss, you'll have a terrible experience no matter where you are. Read through some of the small-law-firm experiences on JDU or the graduates-only board here.

At least the work itself during the clerkship is relatively engaging, assuming you like to research and write.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 11, 2016 7:59 pm

I'm so thankful I found this thread to know I'm not alone. I'm clerking for a trial court judge in a small town. He's been on the bench for 30+ years and is beloved by everyone... except me. Super, super passive-aggressive about my work product. One day he'll pick apart an order I drafted and say I'm terrible writer, and the next he'll sign the 20-page opinion I wrote without making any changes. I don't get it. I just want to go back to my firm.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Apr 09, 2016 5:19 pm

Checking in. So glad I found this thread.

I hate my job. The work itself is really cool and interesting, but my judge is absolutely insane. I spend most of my time as a handler rather than doing substantive work.

I am starting to wonder if this job is actually going to hurt my career. My judge is universally despised and viewed as incompetent. I am worried people are not going to want to hire me because of my clerkship.

The worst part is I still have a year and a half to go, and have nothing lined up. I dread going into the office. I am in a specialty court and the market is really bad right now in this area. My predecessor did not find a job and dropped out of the law.

I don't think I am learning much about the law, either. I amhowever, toughening up quite a bit and developing good political skills. I guess if I can work for this person, I can work for anyone.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 10, 2016 9:13 pm

Current clerk. Overall, love my judge. But I still *hate* (strong word, but going with the thread) my clerkship. Fascinating in lots of ways, but the actual substantive work of clerking is not for me. Hoping I like the actual practice of law more.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 10:11 pm

This thread makes me feel a little better on a Sunday evening while I field insane rant e-mails from my district judge. I went to biglaw right out of law school and hated it, so I started applying for clerkships within six months. When I finally got one, I was so happy. I thought it was the perfect way to get out of biglaw while still being "successful" by lawyer prestige standards. Oops.

My judge is completely bipolar. Some days, he's friendly, understanding, respectful, and great to work with. Others, he's a total lunatic. An unreasonable, rude, passive-aggressive, vindictive, controlling tyrant. He treats all his clerks and court staff like slaves. I feel so awful for the lawyers who appear in front of him, but at the same time, I barely even care what happens in my cases anymore. I just try to keep my head down and avoid his craziness as much as possible. The workload and his demands are so unreal that I've lost touch with friends, don't have time to respond to texts or e-mails, and have abandoned all of my hobbies. I have been counting down the days since my third month and can't wait to be done with this nightmare.

I admit that I've definitely learned a ton about litigation by clerking, much more than I learned at biglaw, but I've also learned what weekly panic attacks feel like and I'm not a huge fan. Even though I've built up a pretty strong resume, I don't even want to practice law anymore, that's how miserable this experience has made me. Hoping to escape with my health and sanity reasonably intact so that I can get my life back and start rebuilding whatever is left. I wish I were exaggerating . . . .

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 10:26 pm

I get that no one is going to want to out any judges. If I was a clerk, I know I wouldn't. But as a law student going through the clerkship application process, it is really difficult to get any information about stuff like this, especially judge's to avoid. It would be awesome or something if someone made a google doc where people could just fill in names of judge's they clerked for that act in the way some of the posters are saying.

But I would suspect no one will out anyone, which given the circumstances, seems 100% reasonable.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 11:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
I get that no one is going to want to out any judges. If I was a clerk, I know I wouldn't. But as a law student going through the clerkship application process, it is really difficult to get any information about stuff like this, especially judge's to avoid. It would be awesome or something if someone made a google doc where people could just fill in names of judge's they clerked for that act in the way some of the posters are saying.

But I would suspect no one will out anyone, which given the circumstances, seems 100% reasonable.

Nobody's going to name names.

For clerkship applicants trying to figure out about a judge, I found the robing room helpful (though data is limited). A couple judges in my district have comments like "disrespectful to litigants, shouts over lawyers, etc" and those comments ring true. If a judge "misbehaves" publicly, you can expect worse privately.

The converse isn't necessarily true though, so anonymous internet comments only go so far.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 11:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Anonymous User wrote:
I get that no one is going to want to out any judges. If I was a clerk, I know I wouldn't. But as a law student going through the clerkship application process, it is really difficult to get any information about stuff like this, especially judge's to avoid. It would be awesome or something if someone made a google doc where people could just fill in names of judge's they clerked for that act in the way some of the posters are saying.

But I would suspect no one will out anyone, which given the circumstances, seems 100% reasonable.

Nobody's going to name names.

For clerkship applicants trying to figure out about a judge, I found the robing room helpful (though data is limited). A couple judges in my district have comments like "disrespectful to litigants, shouts over lawyers, etc" and those comments ring true. If a judge "misbehaves" publicly, you can expect worse privately.

The converse isn't necessarily true though, so anonymous internet comments only go so far.


Agreed that anonymous internet comments only go so far. Just pointing out the extreme lack of information for applicants leads to horror stories.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I get that no one is going to want to out any judges. If I was a clerk, I know I wouldn't. But as a law student going through the clerkship application process, it is really difficult to get any information about stuff like this, especially judge's to avoid. It would be awesome or something if someone made a google doc where people could just fill in names of judge's they clerked for that act in the way some of the posters are saying.

But I would suspect no one will out anyone, which given the circumstances, seems 100% reasonable.

You can also reach out to former clerks before you interview and try to read between the lines. No one's going to come out and say their judge is awful, but, given the incentives, anything less than a stellar review should at least alert you to the possibility.




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