Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

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Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 13, 2016 9:59 pm

I'm having trouble narrowing down my list of where to apply.

Y/S, median or very slightly above, law review with exec board position, KJD, female, non-urm. Okay recommenders and do have people willing to make calls probably (but I need a judge list before I ask...). No geographic preferences (all things considered would prefer a city but also I just want the opportunity to clerk). No preference between 2017 or 2018 (would prefer a better fit for 2018. I know I'm late for 2017).

Interested in a more civil-oriented court than criminal (I'd look at bankruptcy courts but I want a more varied experience than just that).

This is a dumb question but how do I know what courts do less criminal stuff? Like, I was told to look at EDNY but then read that they do a lot of drug stuff (I think)--how do I figure that out? Just asking around?

TLDR: District Court suggestions? I know it's impossible to know the chances but I just don't even know where to target first (outside of my home town, which is like, 4 judges).

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 13, 2016 10:30 pm

Others can chime in, but my understanding is that many district judges have their clerks do little, if any, criminal work even when it's a substantial portion of the judge's docket. My husband did none during his 2-year district court clerkship. I'm doing a lot, but only because my judge knows I love it and plan to do criminal law after my clerkship. Other clerks in my district seem to do very little.

Do you know where you want to practice? Would you like to be in your hometown again? Judges in my district seem to love HYS grads who are from this area and willing to come back.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 13, 2016 10:44 pm

My SA is in DC. I'd be happy going back to my home town again to clerk but the work I want to do is pretty DC-centric. It would be pretty clear (and was clear during OCI when I was hoping to work out a split with a firm in my home town and with DC) that I wouldn't be aiming to go back after clerking, but I'm definitely applying there. It's just not a very big city and I don't have ties anywhere else.

Did you know your clerkship was crim heavy before you took it? How did you identify that?

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:04 pm

If you clerk for an active judge, then you'll get a pretty diverse range of cases, so you don't have to worry about seeing just crim stuff. However, if you clerk for a senior judge, just make sure he/she doesn't just do crim stuff. I knew a senior judge who purposely did only crim cases.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby BVest » Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:25 pm

There are definitely judges where you'd end up doing a lot of crim stuff, mainly because that's 90% of their docket. Obviously they're not going to hand off only 10% of their work to their term clerks. For our neck of the woods, that's the border judges who end up with that imbalance.

I've found that some districts will put their stats somewhere on their website and others will not. Also some districts will divide their stats up by division whereas other will only give stats for the district as a whole. I don't know of a central repository for that info, but there is probably one somewhere.

see e.g. http://www.txwd.uscourts.gov/CourtInfo/ ... stics.aspx
Last edited by BVest on Sat Jan 27, 2018 4:09 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:56 pm

HLBE689 wrote:http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2014-tables


Thank you!

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 14, 2016 12:10 am

BVest wrote:There are definitely judges where you'd end up doing a lot of crim stuff, mainly because that's 90% of their docket. Obviously they're not going to hand off only 10% of their work to their term clerks. For our neck of the woods, that's the border judges who end up with that imbalance.

Yeah, this was what I was going to say - that the criminal-heavy districts tend to be the border districts. Even there, though, there are judges who will handle most of the criminal stuff themselves, because so much of it is evidentiary rulings, and they get really versed in that stuff and just don't need clerks to help. Where clerks do work on criminal stuff, it may be stuff that's sort of transferable to the civil context (for instance, Daubert hearings - you have those in both criminal and civil). There are also some IP-heavy districts, or at least, that's what people here have said (having no IP experience I haven't followed which they are).

Honestly, though, I think what kind of work you see is going to be determined as much by the luck of the draw as anything else (for instance, one of my predecessors on the district court where I clerked didn't see a trial his whole year, because none of them ended up going - while another clerk had like 4 in 2 months), so geographical preference is as good a way as any to narrow down your choices, at least to start. And/or where your profs have particular connections - in fact, they may have suggestions about good judges.

Also (and this is kind of obnoxious but I feel compelled to say it) you may find that clerking gives you a different perspective on what you want to do. I went to law school with no intention of doing criminal law, took almost no criminal law courses, graduated not intending to do criminal law, did 2 clerkships...and now I do criminal law. It turned out that the stuff that I enjoyed learning about, as an academic subject, and the stuff I enjoyed doing in practice were not the same.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:My SA is in DC. I'd be happy going back to my home town again to clerk but the work I want to do is pretty DC-centric. It would be pretty clear (and was clear during OCI when I was hoping to work out a split with a firm in my home town and with DC) that I wouldn't be aiming to go back after clerking, but I'm definitely applying there. It's just not a very big city and I don't have ties anywhere else.

Did you know your clerkship was crim heavy before you took it? How did you identify that?



My clerkship is only crim heavy because my judge knows I want it to be. According to the career clerk, my predecessors did very little criminal work for the same judge. Crim is my background and what I plan to do after the clerkship, and the judge, who also loves criminal law, enjoys having someone who loves it as much as he does.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby HLBE689 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2014-tables


Thank you!


No problem--I realize its kind of an overkill of stats but it was the best source I knew of regarding your particular questions.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 14, 2016 3:37 pm

HLBE689 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2014-tables


Thank you!


No problem--I realize its kind of an overkill of stats but it was the best source I knew of regarding your particular questions.


No this is exactly the type of thing I was looking for--thank you!

And thank you everyone else! I had planned on talking to professors first to figure out where they had connections and stuff, but then the clerkship advisor told me I needed to bring a list of at least districts to them first :(

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 14, 2016 4:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2014-tables


Thank you!


No problem--I realize its kind of an overkill of stats but it was the best source I knew of regarding your particular questions.


No this is exactly the type of thing I was looking for--thank you!

And thank you everyone else! I had planned on talking to professors first to figure out where they had connections and stuff, but then the clerkship advisor told me I needed to bring a list of at least districts to them first :(


Just a word of unsolicited advice, but I would be especially skeptical of what your clerkships office has to say. In my experience, the advisors at my HYS were particularly out of touch with district court hiring trends outside of the usual DDC/E/SDNY, NDCAL, etc. And with respect to profs, there tend to be only a handful with district court connections (and even then they're mostly to the districts I just named). I found the best strategy was reaching out to alums (I assume your school also has a directory of clerks).

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 14, 2016 9:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
HLBE689 wrote:http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2014-tables


Thank you!


No problem--I realize its kind of an overkill of stats but it was the best source I knew of regarding your particular questions.


No this is exactly the type of thing I was looking for--thank you!

And thank you everyone else! I had planned on talking to professors first to figure out where they had connections and stuff, but then the clerkship advisor told me I needed to bring a list of at least districts to them first :(


Just a word of unsolicited advice, but I would be especially skeptical of what your clerkships office has to say. In my experience, the advisors at my HYS were particularly out of touch with district court hiring trends outside of the usual DDC/E/SDNY, NDCAL, etc. And with respect to profs, there tend to be only a handful with district court connections (and even then they're mostly to the districts I just named). I found the best strategy was reaching out to alums (I assume your school also has a directory of clerks).


We do have a directory--thank you for the advice! I'm taking any and all advice no matter how solicited lol

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:33 am

I clerk in a court with one of the heaviest criminal dockets in the country but do exclusively civil work, except for helping the judge with trial stuff. Judge handles all the criminal work almost entirely. Other DJs are like this too.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:36 pm

Not sure about Yale, but if at Stanford, with median grades, you have an ok shot but need to apply widely. So you home court, any place you wouldn't mind living for a while, big cities--there is no harm in applying all over. Other posters are right that alumni who clerked with the judges you target will be more helpful. Then present your list to your recommenders; in the likely case they don't know anyone, you may have to prioritize.

I think the criminal/civil divide is something you would wait until interviews to bring up (or maybe ask alumni). Judges are all over the place on this--in my district, all the clerks take civil and criminal work.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 15, 2016 5:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not sure about Yale, but if at Stanford, with median grades, you have an ok shot but need to apply widely. So you home court, any place you wouldn't mind living for a while, big cities--there is no harm in applying all over. Other posters are right that alumni who clerked with the judges you target will be more helpful. Then present your list to your recommenders; in the likely case they don't know anyone, you may have to prioritize.

I think the criminal/civil divide is something you would wait until interviews to bring up (or maybe ask alumni). Judges are all over the place on this--in my district, all the clerks take civil and criminal work.


Yup--just coming up with the list is the hard part :( I think I got a decent preliminary one going though finally!

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:12 pm

What experiences have people had with applying to less desirable districts without having a connection there? Obviously districts like SDNY, NDCA, NDIL, etc. are used to people with no connections. The district judges in my flyover, but not tiny, city love HYS students who have connections, but HYS students without connections don't seem to get interviews. My impression is that at least my chambers figures those students don't really want to be in this (not especially desirable) city and will have and take better options.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What experiences have people had with applying to less desirable districts without having a connection there? Obviously districts like SDNY, NDCA, NDIL, etc. are used to people with no connections. The district judges in my flyover, but not tiny, city love HYS students who have connections, but HYS students without connections don't seem to get interviews. My impression is that at least my chambers figures those students don't really want to be in this (not especially desirable) city and will have and take better options.


(original op) yeah I'm worried about this too. I know people who have gotten clerkships in states they have never visited (and interviewed via Skype) but a lot of them were able to manufacture some reason to at least be in the region (usually something like "sure I've never been to X but at least it's in the same time zone as my fiancé). They were also all COA :/

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:12 am

Anonymous User wrote:What experiences have people had with applying to less desirable districts without having a connection there? Obviously districts like SDNY, NDCA, NDIL, etc. are used to people with no connections. The district judges in my flyover, but not tiny, city love HYS students who have connections, but HYS students without connections don't seem to get interviews. My impression is that at least my chambers figures those students don't really want to be in this (not especially desirable) city and will have and take better options.


A couple thoughts: It's a pretty random process so I'd suggest applying very broadly, including to districts you have no ties to. I (HYS median, secondary journal) ended up getting a bunch of interviews in two districts in a state I'd never been to, and still have no idea why I stood out to those judges.

Second, especially if you have no plausible ties, connect with alums as noted above. This way, you can say in your cover letter "I spoke with former clerk X who spoke very highly of their time in your chambers." A lot of alums will offer to put in a call to chambers on your behalf, which increases the chances your application packet gets a serious read.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:34 am

Second, especially if you have no plausible ties, connect with alums as noted above. This way, you can say in your cover letter "I spoke with former clerk X who spoke very highly of their time in your chambers." A lot of alums will offer to put in a call to chambers on your behalf, which increases the chances your application packet gets a serious read.


+1 to this. The Number One thing you can do to have your app pulled by my COA judge is to land a recommendation from a former clerk.

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 16, 2016 2:45 pm

Thank you for all the advice! Sincerely. It's been super helpful.

One probably dumb question--is it okay to contact people who are alums of a specific judge but who didn't go to your school?

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Re: Narrowing down district courts (Y/S, median, LR, KJD)

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you for all the advice! Sincerely. It's been super helpful.

One probably dumb question--is it okay to contact people who are alums of a specific judge but who didn't go to your school?


Yes, that's totally fine



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