Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:37 pm

I'm clerking for a state court judge. I came from big law big market to mid market state ct clerkship in the biggest city in the state, basically wanting something different. I am debt-free and I'm probably on my way out of practice altogether after this, so take it with a grain of salt. I am struggling more with this clerkship than with my big law job. My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. In any event, I had a couple of really hard issues come up that I botched in the beginning of my clerkship (in part because I didn't know what I was doing yet, in part because I had a large number of cases that were blowing up in my face, and probably in part because I am not as good as I thought I was at complex legal analysis) and I don't think she has trusted me 100% ever since, so that's part of the problem with this gig. There's nowhere else to turn if you fuck something up. I don't think I'm dumb, but I do not like getting caught up in the procedural minutia of cases. When you're clerking, a LOT of the time there are no easy answers, and you have to like solving really difficult problems basically by yourself. Since graduating law school, I realized I don't like doing that, especially not without help or input or collaboration with others, so again, take all of this with a grain of salt.

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys. I am pretty much on an island every single day. Thankfully my co-clerk (who enjoys the job much more and seems to be infinitely better at it) is always receptive to me bouncing ideas off him, but at the end of the day, I am the only person responsible for solving the issue. So I guess all I want to say is something that might have been addressed earlier in this thread-- clerking is really tough if you did not have a genuine passion for litigation, the practice of law, solving a never-ending stream of super complex, difficult issues every single day, etc. and you are comfortable doing it all by yourself and getting your work mercilessly picked apart if you slip up anywhere. If you are looking for better hours than big law or a less stressful environment, this is not the the place to get it. This is more stressful. It's like working for a senior partner at a firm, if that senior partner only had two associates and you were one of them. And if you land a judge who is an unreasonable dick on top of everything else (rumor has it there are a few) then God help you.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. [. . .]

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys.

I think both of these are more common elements of the clerkship experience than people realize (certainly not universal, though).

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby ggocat » Thu Apr 13, 2017 10:16 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm clerking for a state court judge. I came from big law big market to mid market state ct clerkship in the biggest city in the state, basically wanting something different. I am debt-free and I'm probably on my way out of practice altogether after this, so take it with a grain of salt. I am struggling more with this clerkship than with my big law job. My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. In any event, I had a couple of really hard issues come up that I botched in the beginning of my clerkship (in part because I didn't know what I was doing yet, in part because I had a large number of cases that were blowing up in my face, and probably in part because I am not as good as I thought I was at complex legal analysis) and I don't think she has trusted me 100% ever since, so that's part of the problem with this gig. There's nowhere else to turn if you fuck something up. I don't think I'm dumb, but I do not like getting caught up in the procedural minutia of cases. When you're clerking, a LOT of the time there are no easy answers, and you have to like solving really difficult problems basically by yourself. Since graduating law school, I realized I don't like doing that, especially not without help or input or collaboration with others, so again, take all of this with a grain of salt.

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys. I am pretty much on an island every single day. Thankfully my co-clerk (who enjoys the job much more and seems to be infinitely better at it) is always receptive to me bouncing ideas off him, but at the end of the day, I am the only person responsible for solving the issue. So I guess all I want to say is something that might have been addressed earlier in this thread-- clerking is really tough if you did not have a genuine passion for litigation, the practice of law, solving a never-ending stream of super complex, difficult issues every single day, etc. and you are comfortable doing it all by yourself and getting your work mercilessly picked apart if you slip up anywhere. If you are looking for better hours than big law or a less stressful environment, this is not the the place to get it. This is more stressful. It's like working for a senior partner at a firm, if that senior partner only had two associates and you were one of them. And if you land a judge who is an unreasonable dick on top of everything else (rumor has it there are a few) then God help you.

I think this post highlights how different people can have different reactions to similar experiences. Some people might really like the environment you're in, while others hate it.

I've been working at an appellate court for >5 years. So I'll try to give some advice from that perspective. First, don't worry about screwing up so much. One nice thing about working at a court is that screw-ups are often fixable. Usually the parties will tell you when they think you've done something wrong, which gives you an opportunity to take a second look. It's OK to screw up so long as you own it and fix it when possible. And you definitely need to own it -- trying to shift blame away from your mistake will lessen credibility immensely.

Second, sticking to the arguments of the parties is ideal. The parties might be arguing Y, when you think the case is really about X. If you decide the case based on X, I think you're more likely to get reversed and more likely to get some irate parties. If you start making good arguments for the winning party, you're stepping out of your role as an umpire and into the role of a player. If you decide the case based on the Y rationale, you might be getting the "wrong" result, but I think you're less likely to get reversed. The losing party won't be able to shift to X argument on appeal and win. In short, it's not usually your job to make the case "right."

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:09 am

I definitely hated my clerkship to start. Judge is a screamer/yeller who is pretty profane. I got used to this, however, and the yelling decreased and affected me less as I got used to the work. I think rather than saying I hated my entire clerkship, I just hated the start of it because my judge isn't all warm and fuzzy like people who love their clerkship from day 1 say about their judges.

So, for those who are concerned about hating their clerkship, realize that you may hate it during the beginning transition but it can improve over time (or you just get used to the awfulness :D )

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Lincoln » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:20 am

mjb447 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. [. . .]

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys.

I think both of these are more common elements of the clerkship experience than people realize (certainly not universal, though).


These are true even in my SDNY chambers. My judge is happy to discuss if it truly is a 50/50 issue, but he generally expects a recommended outcome without any prior discussion (even if that outcome is not how he originally thought it would come out). My judge sometimes wants to decide big motions in the absence of adequate briefing (like deciding motions based only on a letter seeking leave to file that motion) which puts a lot of the onus on the clerk to figure out the case law and the outcome. But that's just the job. You have to do your best, and if it comes out the wrong way, the parties will let you know and you have a chance to fix it. Over time, you learn the judge's preferences and you get better at identifying the key issues. Good luck and keep your head up!

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:40 am

I started enjoying my clerkship more when I realized these things: 90% of civil disputes are fucking garbage wastes of time for everyone involved so don't feel like you have to channel Learned Hand on every decision; attorneys often spend less time thinking about the legal issues than you, and if they fail to make an argument, that's their client's problem, not the court's; at the district court level, in most situations, there are many, many opportunities for mistakes to be addressed and corrected, it's not the end of the world when a party or the court screws up, and that happens all the time. You can't really make up for having an unpleasant judge, but you can keep things things in mind to make things better.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm clerking for a state court judge. I came from big law big market to mid market state ct clerkship in the biggest city in the state, basically wanting something different. I am debt-free and I'm probably on my way out of practice altogether after this, so take it with a grain of salt. I am struggling more with this clerkship than with my big law job. My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. In any event, I had a couple of really hard issues come up that I botched in the beginning of my clerkship (in part because I didn't know what I was doing yet, in part because I had a large number of cases that were blowing up in my face, and probably in part because I am not as good as I thought I was at complex legal analysis) and I don't think she has trusted me 100% ever since, so that's part of the problem with this gig. There's nowhere else to turn if you fuck something up. I don't think I'm dumb, but I do not like getting caught up in the procedural minutia of cases. When you're clerking, a LOT of the time there are no easy answers, and you have to like solving really difficult problems basically by yourself. Since graduating law school, I realized I don't like doing that, especially not without help or input or collaboration with others, so again, take all of this with a grain of salt.

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys. I am pretty much on an island every single day. Thankfully my co-clerk (who enjoys the job much more and seems to be infinitely better at it) is always receptive to me bouncing ideas off him, but at the end of the day, I am the only person responsible for solving the issue. So I guess all I want to say is something that might have been addressed earlier in this thread-- clerking is really tough if you did not have a genuine passion for litigation, the practice of law, solving a never-ending stream of super complex, difficult issues every single day, etc. and you are comfortable doing it all by yourself and getting your work mercilessly picked apart if you slip up anywhere. If you are looking for better hours than big law or a less stressful environment, this is not the the place to get it. This is more stressful. It's like working for a senior partner at a firm, if that senior partner only had two associates and you were one of them. And if you land a judge who is an unreasonable dick on top of everything else (rumor has it there are a few) then God help you.


I'm a DJ clerk and all of this sounds familiar, though it's precisely why I love the job. The only difference, which I acknowledge is significant, is I have a supervisor who's been a career clerk for almost two decades and is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. But we constantly encounter things where no one has any idea what to do and the judge has to make a decision (or agree with our "I don't know if this is right but I promise I've tried really hard and this is the best thing I can recommend" decision). Our judge is wonderful in that he doesn't care if we make mistakes, so long as it's not due to carelessness. Even then, he's supportive and treats it as a learning process. Article III tenure is a beautiful thing sometimes.

Your post summarizes why the job is stressful though. It's a different kind of stress than almost any other kind of legal job.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:I started enjoying my clerkship more when I realized these things: 90% of civil disputes are fucking garbage wastes of time for everyone involved so don't feel like you have to channel Learned Hand on every decision; attorneys often spend less time thinking about the legal issues than you, and if they fail to make an argument, that's their client's problem, not the court's; at the district court level, in most situations, there are many, many opportunities for mistakes to be addressed and corrected, it's not the end of the world when a party or the court screws up, and that happens all the time. You can't really make up for having an unpleasant judge, but you can keep things things in mind to make things better.


I'm the anon who posted at the top of the page. I really don't agree with this post, at least as it applies to my current clerkship. My judge makes me feel like it would be the end of the world if the court screwed up. In fact, the more the attorneys who write the crappy briefs fuck shit up, the more the pressure is on for me to work to fix the problem so our orders will be pristine and beautiful. Whether the biggest biglaw sweatshop churned it out with a handful of associates making sure every Bluebook cite and pin cite was correct, or the lowliest, most incompetent pro se party, it doesn't matter. The orders all have to be the same caliber. It's definitely the court's problem (read: my problem) when an attorney doesn't care about representing their client adequately or getting the law right. This is the source of all of my frustration. Keeping the fact that a depressing number of attorneys can't do their job in mind while I toil away each day doing it for them is not going to make me enjoy my clerkship more. Then again, nothing would at this point.

Plus, something I should have added in my original post: There was never a constructive learning process attached to writing. What happened was, I fucked up some shit, it was angrily corrected/fixed at the eleventh hour (which is when judges inevitably get around to the things they need to do) and I was expected to do it better the next time. For prospective clerks, I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is the norm rather than the exception.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:51 am

I'm the anon who posted what you disagreed with. Sorry, upon reread, my post could sound dismissive or like I was saying problem was with you taking things too seriously. It sounds like you are in a really tough spot with no easy answers, and my suggestions don't work for you and are not very helpful.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:11 am

Anonymous User wrote:Plus, something I should have added in my original post: There was never a constructive learning process attached to writing. What happened was, I fucked up some shit, it was angrily corrected/fixed at the eleventh hour (which is when judges inevitably get around to the things they need to do) and I was expected to do it better the next time. For prospective clerks, I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is the norm rather than the exception.

It's also the norm for the practice of law. Last-minute corrections are often as constructive as the learning process gets. I'm not making excuses for your judge--especially for the "angrily" part--but he's basically behaving the way most lawyers (and many other judges) behave. Judges aren't writing tutors. I've heard stories of judges sitting down with clerks to discuss how the clerks could improve their writing, but those stories are pretty rare.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby lolwat » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:07 pm

The above several posts also describe my experience clerking for my district court judge. But that's part of why I liked it so much. There was so little oversight on a day to day basis but still safety nets to catch any screw-ups. I mean, the entire clerk job really is to do the legal analysis and recommend an outcome for the judge, and (depending on the judge, but seemingly true for most) write the opinion based on that recommended outcome. The judge will either agree or disagree about the result and discuss it with the clerks, or they can then edit the draft opinion or whatever as they see fit.

I will note that the anon talking about his/her experience is clerking for a state court judge, which can be a little different for several reasons. I had plenty of time to fully research and resolve issues; I know judges at my state court often deal with 10-20 motions on their law and motion day, often multiple case-dispositive motions in the same week. That doesn't give anyone a whole lot of time to do much. That, and I think I do take the anon's post with a grain of salt. There's really only two things about litigation that most people seem to look forward to, and this is very close to one of them. (The other is to do trials and be in court all day.)

And, I will disagree that it's not the clerk's job to make the case right -- it's the court's job, which translates to it being the clerk's job. I do think this is probably the worst part of clerking, though -- having to "help" shitty attorneys do the work for them sometimes.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby quiver » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:33 pm

mjb447 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:My judge is respectful and isn't necessarily unreasonable, though she is really hands-off and expects clerks to pretty much get drafts to her that are ready to go out the door, with minimal input from her on how to rule or what to do if possible. In other words, the problem, however difficult, should be solved before it goes to her, for every single motion hearing, court trial, other type of issue (scheduling, admin, irrational atty request, etc.) Maybe most judges are like that, I just don't know. [. . .]

Anyway, my biggest problem is the volume of cases I have paired with the really shoddy work of some (actually a lot) of the attorneys working on my cases. I'd say about a third or more of the time, the briefs I get are crap and don't get at the actual issue in the case at all. I resent having to do all the research myself with no help even identifying what the hell is going on from the attorneys.

I think both of these are more common elements of the clerkship experience than people realize (certainly not universal, though).
Agree with this. In my experience, helpful briefs are more the exception than the rule (even at the appellate level), and it was the clerks' job to provide recommendations/opinions to the judge. Many of my friends/coclerks had similar experiences with other judges.

Perhaps some of the issues relate to this point:
lolwat wrote:I will note that the anon talking about his/her experience is clerking for a state court judge, which can be a little different for several reasons. I had plenty of time to fully research and resolve issues; I know judges at my state court often deal with 10-20 motions on their law and motion day, often multiple case-dispositive motions in the same week. That doesn't give anyone a whole lot of time to do much.
Hang in there, OP. Just do the best you can and use your coclerk as a sounding board.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm the anon who posted what you disagreed with. Sorry, upon reread, my post could sound dismissive or like I was saying problem was with you taking things too seriously. It sounds like you are in a really tough spot with no easy answers, and my suggestions don't work for you and are not very helpful.


Top of page Anon again. Actually, the more I've reflected on your post, the better it makes me feel on a general outside-the-office kind of way. Like, how much of an idiot can I really be if I grapple with a tough issue and eventually get it right but the attorneys on the case don't even begin to get it right, or fucking identify it. I guess I would still rather be a stressed out, overworked professional who is good at my job than someone who is lazy or incompetent and can get away with a shit brief because the court ends up working the issue out on its own.

It's helpful to keep things in perspective, even though my judge puts a lot of pressure on me to not do that. I think she understands that the briefs are garbage too, and knows how hard we work to get it right in spite of the fact that we are doing the work that other (and usually better-paid) attorneys *should* be doing. I suppose that's partly why it's an honor to be hired as a clerk and be able to work as a clerk and all that-- it literally forces you to be better, sometimes way better, than the attorneys, some of whom have good pedigrees, have been practicing for years, etc. I don't doubt that it's an invaluable experience, but can often, OFTEN, be shitty in the moment.

Unfortunately, it should be left to the people who want to continue to practice law....

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm the anon who posted what you disagreed with. Sorry, upon reread, my post could sound dismissive or like I was saying problem was with you taking things too seriously. It sounds like you are in a really tough spot with no easy answers, and my suggestions don't work for you and are not very helpful.


Top of page Anon again. Actually, the more I've reflected on your post, the better it makes me feel on a general outside-the-office kind of way. Like, how much of an idiot can I really be if I grapple with a tough issue and eventually get it right but the attorneys on the case don't even begin to get it right, or fucking identify it. I guess I would still rather be a stressed out, overworked professional who is good at my job than someone who is lazy or incompetent and can get away with a shit brief because the court ends up working the issue out on its own.

It's helpful to keep things in perspective, even though my judge puts a lot of pressure on me to not do that. I think she understands that the briefs are garbage too, and knows how hard we work to get it right in spite of the fact that we are doing the work that other (and usually better-paid) attorneys *should* be doing. I suppose that's partly why it's an honor to be hired as a clerk and be able to work as a clerk and all that-- it literally forces you to be better, sometimes way better, than the attorneys, some of whom have good pedigrees, have been practicing for years, etc. I don't doubt that it's an invaluable experience, but can often, OFTEN, be shitty in the moment.

Unfortunately, it should be left to the people who want to continue to practice law....

But that's the thing--courts usually don't work it out on their own (excepting pro se or very compelling facts)--because that isn't their job. Waiver is your friend.

I struggled with this a lot in my clerkship. I had a case where I thought a party had framed things wrong. I wrote the case up to the judge and spent tons of time developing arguments. Judge wrote back: "This is persuasive. You're a much better attorney than [X's] attorney--but they didn't hire you." After that, the job got easier on that front (though I still disliked my clerkship for other reasons).

Tl;dr--in civil cases, state the burden and the party who bears it, summarize their arguments, analyze whether those arguments satisfy their burden, and call it a day. Don't try to remake the case as you would have litigated it. In the end, you're just deciding who gets $$$. (Criminal cases are another thing, obviously.)

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm the anon who posted what you disagreed with. Sorry, upon reread, my post could sound dismissive or like I was saying problem was with you taking things too seriously. It sounds like you are in a really tough spot with no easy answers, and my suggestions don't work for you and are not very helpful.


Top of page Anon again. Actually, the more I've reflected on your post, the better it makes me feel on a general outside-the-office kind of way. Like, how much of an idiot can I really be if I grapple with a tough issue and eventually get it right but the attorneys on the case don't even begin to get it right, or fucking identify it. I guess I would still rather be a stressed out, overworked professional who is good at my job than someone who is lazy or incompetent and can get away with a shit brief because the court ends up working the issue out on its own.

It's helpful to keep things in perspective, even though my judge puts a lot of pressure on me to not do that. I think she understands that the briefs are garbage too, and knows how hard we work to get it right in spite of the fact that we are doing the work that other (and usually better-paid) attorneys *should* be doing. I suppose that's partly why it's an honor to be hired as a clerk and be able to work as a clerk and all that-- it literally forces you to be better, sometimes way better, than the attorneys, some of whom have good pedigrees, have been practicing for years, etc. I don't doubt that it's an invaluable experience, but can often, OFTEN, be shitty in the moment.

Unfortunately, it should be left to the people who want to continue to practice law....

But that's the thing--courts usually don't work it out on their own (excepting pro se or very compelling facts)--because that isn't their job. Waiver is your friend.

I struggled with this a lot in my clerkship. I had a case where I thought a party had framed things wrong. I wrote the case up to the judge and spent tons of time developing arguments. Judge wrote back: "This is persuasive. You're a much better attorney than [X's] attorney--but they didn't hire you." After that, the job got easier on that front (though I still disliked my clerkship for other reasons).

Tl;dr--in civil cases, state the burden and the party who bears it, summarize their arguments, analyze whether those arguments satisfy their burden, and call it a day. Don't try to remake the case as you would have litigated it. In the end, you're just deciding who gets $$$. (Criminal cases are another thing, obviously.)


(Different poster than OP) We all probably agree that a court shouldn't make an argument not made by a party. But when you're trying to figure out the framework for analysis (e.g., what must a party show to defeat summary judgment on this strict liability claim) and the parties give you pages of non-sense or conclusory statements of law, you'll have to put it in the time to figure out what the law is and whether the pleading/record can survive a 12b/56 motion.

When I accepted a clerkship I had a (delusional) idea that I'd get to work on a lot of interesting cases with good lawyers. The reality is that the vast majority of federal practice is mundane and the average quality of lawerying is bad (some briefs make no sense no matter how often you read them). The problem for clerks is that, if the law is to make any sense, someone has to devote time to research and to developing a coherent argument, and the parties often don't. Usually the parties give you enough to get by (or to point you in the wrong direction), but not infrequently they'll focus on an issue that's completely irrelevant.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby TatteredDignity » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:56 pm

If appellant doesn't articulate coherent basis for reversal, you affirm. No intervention needed. If appellee follow appellant down a rabbit hole or digs a new one, affirm on the grounds the district court ruled on.

And to reiterate what someone said above, waiver is your friend.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:43 am

TatteredDignity wrote:If appellant doesn't articulate coherent basis for reversal, you affirm. No intervention needed. If appellee follow appellant down a rabbit hole or digs a new one, affirm on the grounds the district court ruled on.

What if the district court erred in interpreting a statute? Does your judge say "I hate affirming an incorrect interpretation of the law, and I know that the standard of review is de novo and all, but the appellant didn't articulate a coherent argument so peace out lol"?

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:40 am

rpupkin wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:If appellant doesn't articulate coherent basis for reversal, you affirm. No intervention needed. If appellee follow appellant down a rabbit hole or digs a new one, affirm on the grounds the district court ruled on.

What if the district court erred in interpreting a statute? Does your judge say "I hate affirming an incorrect interpretation of the law, and I know that the standard of review is de novo and all, but the appellant didn't articulate a coherent argument so peace out lol"?


Former D Ct and current CA6/7 clerk. If the question is close or we don't want to open a can of worms, I could see us affirming a debatable decision on some combination of waiver, forfeiture, and failure to develop an argument. But in general, and particularly with pure legal questions, we take on erroneous district court analyses even if the parties didn't spot all the errors. It's not unusual to have essentially three "arguments" (one by appellant, one by appellee, one by district court), and to end up writing an opinion that accepts and rejects portions of each and invokes principles not expressly relied upon in the briefs. As long as we're within the ambit of the issues as framed by the parties, I don't feel bound to their particular arguments.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby TatteredDignity » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:20 pm

rpupkin wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:If appellant doesn't articulate coherent basis for reversal, you affirm. No intervention needed. If appellee follow appellant down a rabbit hole or digs a new one, affirm on the grounds the district court ruled on.

What if the district court erred in interpreting a statute? Does your judge say "I hate affirming an incorrect interpretation of the law, and I know that the standard of review is de novo and all, but the appellant didn't articulate a coherent argument so peace out lol"?


Yeah, that's an exception to blindly affirming. Good point. Most cases aren't that, though.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:18 am

TatteredDignity wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:If appellant doesn't articulate coherent basis for reversal, you affirm. No intervention needed. If appellee follow appellant down a rabbit hole or digs a new one, affirm on the grounds the district court ruled on.

What if the district court erred in interpreting a statute? Does your judge say "I hate affirming an incorrect interpretation of the law, and I know that the standard of review is de novo and all, but the appellant didn't articulate a coherent argument so peace out lol"?


Yeah, that's an exception to blindly affirming. Good point. Most cases aren't that, though.

Original waiver poster. Yeah, obviously an exception. Point still stands, though--courts' job is to say what the law is, not rescue parties from shyte lawyering. The post was directed at helping OP with the avg case, not to posit a universal rule of jurisprudence.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:Original waiver poster. Yeah, obviously an exception. Point still stands, though--courts' job is to say what the law is, not rescue parties from shyte lawyering. The post was directed at helping OP with the avg case, not to posit a universal rule of jurisprudence.

It's not an infrequent exception. I'm sure it varies depending on what COA you're on, but my court routinely confronted de novo review issues that involved questions of statutory or regulatory interpretation. So, sure, it's not the judge's job to "rescue parties from shyte lawyering," but it's also not the judge's job to evaluate lawyers as if one were presiding over a moot court competition. If an appeal presents challenging legal issues and the lawyers have done a shitty job of helping the Court, that sucks, but the judges and clerks still have to work to get the law right. The COA judges who take that task seriously are usually the most respected, even though it often means that their clerks end up working harder.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby TatteredDignity » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:25 am

If I had to guess, I'd say the DC Circuit has a higher percentage of tbose issues than other circuits.

Anyway, nobody here is trying to shirk the court's duty. But you don't get any points for making things harder than they need to be.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 13, 2017 3:07 am

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Original waiver poster. Yeah, obviously an exception. Point still stands, though--courts' job is to say what the law is, not rescue parties from shyte lawyering. The post was directed at helping OP with the avg case, not to posit a universal rule of jurisprudence.

It's not an infrequent exception. I'm sure it varies depending on what COA you're on, but my court routinely confronted de novo review issues that involved questions of statutory or regulatory interpretation. So, sure, it's not the judge's job to "rescue parties from shyte lawyering," but it's also not the judge's job to evaluate lawyers as if one were presiding over a moot court competition. If an appeal presents challenging legal issues and the lawyers have done a shitty job of helping the Court, that sucks, but the judges and clerks still have to work to get the law right. The COA judges who take that task seriously are usually the most respected, even though it often means that their clerks end up working harder.

Been a bit, but anon being responded to here.

Again, yes--but like a big fish, you know when you have one of these. Seriously doubt that's the norm, even on the DC circuit. But I clerked on the 9th, which has a shyteload of dogs--so DC Cir. folks should feel free to correct me.

TatteredDignity wrote:Anyway, nobody here is trying to shirk the court's duty. But you don't get any points for making things harder than they need to be.

Yes, this exactly ×1000.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby bruinfan10 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:10 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Original waiver poster. Yeah, obviously an exception. Point still stands, though--courts' job is to say what the law is, not rescue parties from shyte lawyering. The post was directed at helping OP with the avg case, not to posit a universal rule of jurisprudence.

It's not an infrequent exception. I'm sure it varies depending on what COA you're on, but my court routinely confronted de novo review issues that involved questions of statutory or regulatory interpretation. So, sure, it's not the judge's job to "rescue parties from shyte lawyering," but it's also not the judge's job to evaluate lawyers as if one were presiding over a moot court competition. If an appeal presents challenging legal issues and the lawyers have done a shitty job of helping the Court, that sucks, but the judges and clerks still have to work to get the law right. The COA judges who take that task seriously are usually the most respected, even though it often means that their clerks end up working harder.

I agree 1000% with rpupkin. The parties rarely helped me draft an opinion or order with their good or their (almost always) bad lawyering, at either the district or appellate court level. Lawyers and/or d.cts mess up constantly; their screw ups just made it more time consuming for me to avoid their errors and make sure any incompetence in the case didn't mess up the law in the circuit or my judge's reputation/reversal rate.

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Re: Does anyone just *hate* their clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:01 am

New anon checking in.

I HATE my clerkship. Hate, hate, hate it. My boss is cold, unhelpful, and not particularly smart. He puts very little effort into the job but nonetheless expects everything from the clerks to be perfect. The judge is also a terrible manager, and it has resulted in many, many administrative problems during my year. The most frustrating thing is that my judge has a good reputation - both among other judges and among clerkship applicants. But I've talked to my coclerks about it, and none of us thinks the judge is particularly smart or good at the job or a very good boss. We are interviewing all of these top tier candidates for clerkship positions and I just want to scream at them "you can find something better! run away!" The judge has a good reputation only because he is incredibly fake. He spends more time schmoozing other people (mostly other judges) than actually doing his fucking job. I know this is how law works, but it's just frustrating to see that this person is a federal judge not because he is actually in any way qualified to be one, but because he is politically well-connected and happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I know no one cares, but I just need to rant. As soon as I'm done with this job, I hope to never talk to this judge ever again. What a waste of a year.




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