Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

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Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 27, 2016 4:11 pm

Typically is it frowned upon to wait a year to clerk?


I'm headed to a small V50 office. I don't want to clerk straight out of law school but I'd like to eventually. It is worth discussing with my firm?

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 9:09 am

Its pretty normal to clerk a year out. Increasingly so now after the plan fell apart

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby 1styearlateral » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:09 am

Yeah I think it's pretty common. Some judges like their clerks to have a year or two of experience in the field (+ bar admitted). I know the clerk for the judge I externed with went clerk > associate & firm > clerk > will go back to firm.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:30 am

I agree that this is becoming more common than it used to be - I am currently clerking after a couple of years at a firm.

That being said, at one point almost no body did this, and some partners might resent this decision. When I told my firm I was leaving to clerk, I was met with varying reactions. Many partners indicated that they had never even heard of someone leaving a firm to clerk because that was something you did right after law school or not at all. Others were super supportive and said it was a great decision.

I think the size of the market is probably one of the biggest factors. In smaller markets where a lot of the partners started with the firm right out of law school and have been there ever since, it is more likely to be seen as a bizarre or even insulting move. Some will be much more understanding though. While I had some negative reactions, it was made very clear that I was welcome back post-clerkship.

TLDR - it depends.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:35 am

Am I missing something here? Perhaps an implicit premise that you aren't returning to the film post-clerkship? It seems to me that a firm would love to have its associates spend a year clerking and then return because a) it makes them look good to have another federal clerk working for them, and b) you return to them with the substantive experience that makes clerks so desirable in the first place.

I could be way off base, though. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:12 am

Anonymous User wrote:Am I missing something here? Perhaps an implicit premise that you aren't returning to the film post-clerkship? It seems to me that a firm would love to have its associates spend a year clerking and then return because a) it makes them look good to have another federal clerk working for them, and b) you return to them with the substantive experience that makes clerks so desirable in the first place.

I could be way off base, though. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


Anon with the "TLDR" answer above here --

In my experience, firms don't care about this nearly as much as you would think. Brass rings are nice and all, but the resume bullet point and experience you get clerking are nothing compared to the lost billable hours and inconvenience of losing someone for a year. By doing what the OP suggests, your first year is kinda worthless because no one wants to assign you to cases when they know you're leaving in twelve months. Then your group is gonna be short for a year while you're gone. Plus - clients don't care about clerkship credentials nearly as much as law students.

Then when you come back, when you should be a third year who can actually start doing some real stuff on your own, you are basically starting from scratch. This is all after the firm has spent some decent money on you for bar prep, summer stipend, etc.

If the clerkship is in a location where the firm often practices, things may change somewhat because they will see the clerkship as a way to gain a connection/insight into the judge.

I'm sure some firms are different, some may value experience/prestige more than others, but looking at it from a purely corporate perspective, the firm loses more than it gains.

All that being said -- despite those drawbacks I still did it and think it is worth it (I certainly would not change my decision - but I also did not want to return to my firm). Not trying to discourage OP, just trying to lay out the reality that this may make more negative waves than you think (and emphasizing again - all of this is probably super firm specific).

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 12:13 pm

Anon who asked the question here.

Thanks for your great answer, other-anon. Very helpful.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 28, 2016 1:42 pm

In my experience, firms don't care about this nearly as much as you would think. Brass rings are nice and all, but the resume bullet point and experience you get clerking are nothing compared to the lost billable hours and inconvenience of losing someone for a year. By doing what the OP suggests, your first year is kinda worthless because no one wants to assign you to cases when they know you're leaving in twelve months. Then your group is gonna be short for a year while you're gone. Plus - clients don't care about clerkship credentials nearly as much as law students.

Then when you come back, when you should be a third year who can actually start doing some real stuff on your own, you are basically starting from scratch. This is all after the firm has spent some decent money on you for bar prep, summer stipend, etc.

If the clerkship is in a location where the firm often practices, things may change somewhat because they will see the clerkship as a way to gain a connection/insight into the judge.

I'm sure some firms are different, some may value experience/prestige more than others, but looking at it from a purely corporate perspective, the firm loses more than it gains.


First-year associate here, nearing the end of ~10 months at my firm before heading to a district court clerkship. Had accepted clerkship in 2L spring -- after accepting summer associate position but before starting as a summer associate. Was very up front about it with firm, which I encourage.

From my experience, this answer is basically right. My firm was very supportive of me leaving to clerk, but it still doesn't put them in the best position. On-boarding, training, etc., is expensive. And I imagine a fair bit of my time (like most first-year associates) has been written off.

There are multiple cases that I've been on since I started that are ramping up, but have to begin thinking about transitioning the work to someone else. I've been hesitant to take on new cases for the same reason. And, if they had planned to have X new litigation associates and then they have X-1, they have to plan around that -- a 3L hire? a lateral? or does everyone else just absorb the work? This is particularly true in a small office, where they might have only a handful of litigation first-years and not dozens. And there will certainly be a steep learning curve when I come back (here or elsewhere) as a third-year.

That said, judges (like mine) are increasingly preferring people with work experience, and they make the rules. Would my firm have preferred I clerk right after law school? Certainly. But, like the quoted anon, I wouldn't have done anything differently.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 29, 2016 2:32 pm

I was in a smallish Palo alto satellite office of a v50 firm, and while the FIRM was technically "fine" with it, it was strongly discouraged in our office. They explained that while maybe headquarters office with 50 1st years would be nbd to lose an associate for a year, it would seriously cripple an office of that size

I don't know what would've happened if we decided to clerk anyways, but they basically said don't.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Apr 29, 2016 4:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was in a smallish Palo alto satellite office of a v50 firm, and while the FIRM was technically "fine" with it, it was strongly discouraged in our office. They explained that while maybe headquarters office with 50 1st years would be nbd to lose an associate for a year, it would seriously cripple an office of that size

I don't know what would've happened if we decided to clerk anyways, but they basically said don't.

Sounds like an awful place to work.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 29, 2016 11:25 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was in a smallish Palo alto satellite office of a v50 firm, and while the FIRM was technically "fine" with it, it was strongly discouraged in our office. They explained that while maybe headquarters office with 50 1st years would be nbd to lose an associate for a year, it would seriously cripple an office of that size

I don't know what would've happened if we decided to clerk anyways, but they basically said don't.

Sounds like an awful place to work.


I left for other reasons, but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable stance. Why should a practice group of like 8 people increase their work load by 12% to account for someone that wants to go off and do something that's really only for the benefit of that person for a year or more?

was definitely better QOL and environment than the stories I hear of NY biglaw regardless. But I guess it's one downside of people giving a shit about you versus being another number in a huge office.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby rpupkin » Sat Apr 30, 2016 12:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was in a smallish Palo alto satellite office of a v50 firm, and while the FIRM was technically "fine" with it, it was strongly discouraged in our office. They explained that while maybe headquarters office with 50 1st years would be nbd to lose an associate for a year, it would seriously cripple an office of that size

I don't know what would've happened if we decided to clerk anyways, but they basically said don't.

Sounds like an awful place to work.


I left for other reasons, but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable stance. Why should a practice group of like 8 people increase their work load by 12% to account for someone that wants to go off and do something that's really only for the benefit of that person for a year or more?

You're such a quisling! Imagine that you had said the following to your firm: "Hey, your workload will increase by 12% if I left; therefore, you should pay me $220k/yr instead of $170k/yr." They would have told you to go to hell.

All firms suffer when associates leave to clerk. But most firms have the decency to at least go through the motions of being supportive. The fact that your firm told you not to clerk shows how little respect they have for the well being of their associates. Your old firm sucks.

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Re: Will my firm hate me if I wait a year after graduation to clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Apr 30, 2016 2:15 am

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was in a smallish Palo alto satellite office of a v50 firm, and while the FIRM was technically "fine" with it, it was strongly discouraged in our office. They explained that while maybe headquarters office with 50 1st years would be nbd to lose an associate for a year, it would seriously cripple an office of that size

I don't know what would've happened if we decided to clerk anyways, but they basically said don't.

Sounds like an awful place to work.


I left for other reasons, but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable stance. Why should a practice group of like 8 people increase their work load by 12% to account for someone that wants to go off and do something that's really only for the benefit of that person for a year or more?

You're such a quisling! Imagine that you had said the following to your firm: "Hey, your workload will increase by 12% if I left; therefore, you should pay me $220k/yr instead of $170k/yr." They would have told you to go to hell.

All firms suffer when associates leave to clerk. But most firms have the decency to at least go through the motions of being supportive. The fact that your firm told you not to clerk shows how little respect they have for the well being of their associates. Your old firm sucks.


New word lol. I suppose you're right if you're looking for somewhere supportive for clerks. My point really was that not all places really care about clerks. And I personally don't give a shiiiiit since I was already pretty hesitant to take the pay cut. I just don't see what's so horrible about not supporting clerks. They would've much rather had someone with industry experience. If you are gungho about clerking go to a firm that cares about having that line on people's bios.......

Like I'm not really even trying to defend them as a firm, I have serious criticisms of them and have even posted some on here by name. But I just don't see this as one of them.



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