staff clerkship

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timmyd

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staff clerkship

Postby timmyd » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:01 pm

I'm nearing the end of my district clerkship. I will being working at a firm in September after a two-week break, so this post does not apply to 2017 positions. I am interested in learning more about staff clerkships at the appellate level for later terms. Anyone done one of these? Is it a good experience? What are the general qualifications needed to make a serious push at contention? How do more elite firms view these clerkships?

JusticeJackson

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby JusticeJackson » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:12 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

timmyd

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby timmyd » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:16 pm

Thanks. My understanding, however, is that a staff clerkship position is different than staff attorney position. I could be wrong though. For example, the seventh circuit staff clerkship position advertises that it is for a term of two years and essentially involves more clerk-like responsibilities. Maybe its just word play to attract more applicants.

JusticeJackson

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby JusticeJackson » Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:39 pm

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

lolwat

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby lolwat » Thu Jun 30, 2016 7:48 pm

Each circuit has a "staff attorney office" which they may very well call something different, but I think all do relatively the same thing. But, I'm not 100% sure about that; just sounds like the case with what you described.

They do have term positions for recent graduates, usually 1-2 years. From my understanding (having interviewed at one and done research on them in the past), they also have some clerk-like responsibilities but it's far from the same. The judges' clerks get all of the good, complex, interesting stuff. The staff attorney's office gets all of the mundane stuff. So, yes, you would be looking at appeals, reviewing the record, drafting up bench memos and recommending to the judges how they should decide. But, I think that's the end of it. Your bench memos and potential order/opinions are going to be very short because you don't get anything interesting enough to warrant long published opinions. You don't get oral argument on anything you do because, again, if it's that interesting, it goes to the clerks. You don't get personal contact with the judges because there's enough volume of this stuff and they're mostly disposed of via conference calls. And you're reporting to your senior staff attorney on a daily basis, not to any judge. And so on.

On the plus side, it sounded like a total 9-5 job that isn't terribly demanding and pays reasonably well. But that's probably why there aren't many exit options from there.

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:38 pm

Former Staff Attorney here (for a COA). At least at the COA level, the precise elements of the job description vary among the Circuits, but they almost all do some array of immigration, pro se, and habeas work (some do direct criminal appeals; mine did not).

A quick note about the previous poster's comment:

The judges' clerks get all of the good, complex, interesting stuff. The staff attorney's office gets all of the mundane stuff.


"Interesting" is in the eye of the beholder;"interesting" is sometimes code for "deadly dull" (which partly explains the prestige of the D.C. Circuit!). I thought immigration cases were plenty interesting, and pro se appeals can run the gamut from rote, to insane, to meritorious. No, you're not going to see appeals on arcane elements of corporate law, but that doesn't mean that what you do is somehow without consequence.

But in addition to being in the eye of the beholder, "interesting" can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine worked at a neighboring Staff Attorney office in a different Circuit. He did almost exactly the same work that we did. Our office culture was relaxed and, our bosses were great, and our coworkers were overly enthusiastic and friendly law nerd types. We were told that we were invaluable to the court and were given a commensurate level of respect by chambers. By contrast, my friend's office was cold and stats-obsessed...and, more importantly, had internalized the "what we're doing is absolute junk" description of the position.

Anyway, back to the central question: exit options for term staff attorneys were indeed limited. Many people eventually got what they were looking for--coordinate federal positions, jobs in well-regarded local law firms--but it took some trying.

lolwat

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby lolwat » Thu Jul 07, 2016 3:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Former Staff Attorney here (for a COA). At least at the COA level, the precise elements of the job description vary among the Circuits, but they almost all do some array of immigration, pro se, and habeas work (some do direct criminal appeals; mine did not).

A quick note about the previous poster's comment:

The judges' clerks get all of the good, complex, interesting stuff. The staff attorney's office gets all of the mundane stuff.


"Interesting" is in the eye of the beholder;"interesting" is sometimes code for "deadly dull" (which partly explains the prestige of the D.C. Circuit!). I thought immigration cases were plenty interesting, and pro se appeals can run the gamut from rote, to insane, to meritorious. No, you're not going to see appeals on arcane elements of corporate law, but that doesn't mean that what you do is somehow without consequence.

But in addition to being in the eye of the beholder, "interesting" can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine worked at a neighboring Staff Attorney office in a different Circuit. He did almost exactly the same work that we did. Our office culture was relaxed and, our bosses were great, and our coworkers were overly enthusiastic and friendly law nerd types. We were told that we were invaluable to the court and were given a commensurate level of respect by chambers. By contrast, my friend's office was cold and stats-obsessed...and, more importantly, had internalized the "what we're doing is absolute junk" description of the position.

Anyway, back to the central question: exit options for term staff attorneys were indeed limited. Many people eventually got what they were looking for--coordinate federal positions, jobs in well-regarded local law firms--but it took some trying.


Glad someone with experience is weighing in. Cool thing is, I don't disagree with any of the above. I do think everyone considering a COA staff attorney job needs to be very careful though--I believe my school essentially marketed it as something that's almost equivalent of a clerkship with a judge, and it just isn't (on many levels).

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Former Staff Attorney here (for a COA). At least at the COA level, the precise elements of the job description vary among the Circuits, but they almost all do some array of immigration, pro se, and habeas work (some do direct criminal appeals; mine did not).

A quick note about the previous poster's comment:

The judges' clerks get all of the good, complex, interesting stuff. The staff attorney's office gets all of the mundane stuff.


"Interesting" is in the eye of the beholder;"interesting" is sometimes code for "deadly dull" (which partly explains the prestige of the D.C. Circuit!). I thought immigration cases were plenty interesting, and pro se appeals can run the gamut from rote, to insane, to meritorious. No, you're not going to see appeals on arcane elements of corporate law, but that doesn't mean that what you do is somehow without consequence.

But in addition to being in the eye of the beholder, "interesting" can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine worked at a neighboring Staff Attorney office in a different Circuit. He did almost exactly the same work that we did. Our office culture was relaxed and, our bosses were great, and our coworkers were overly enthusiastic and friendly law nerd types. We were told that we were invaluable to the court and were given a commensurate level of respect by chambers. By contrast, my friend's office was cold and stats-obsessed...and, more importantly, had internalized the "what we're doing is absolute junk" description of the position.

Anyway, back to the central question: exit options for term staff attorneys were indeed limited. Many people eventually got what they were looking for--coordinate federal positions, jobs in well-regarded local law firms--but it took some trying.


I had an interview for a Staff Atty position today and didn't want to ask this question: what are common exit options for staff attys who only have a term of 1-2 hears, then? What do they typically go on to do? Are there some jobs where you're worse off having taken the job, than had you done nothing? Are there some jobs that do look favorably on the work, even if it doesn't make you a shoe-in with them? Etc. I really don't know anyone who's been a staff attorney, so I'm trying to understand what I should expect if I get the job/accept.

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Re: staff clerkship

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:35 am

Staff Attorney anon here. It's a tough question. My crew, which came in during the depths of the recession, did okay in the end, but not after a ton of false starts. Some went to local (secondary but desirable market) firms, others to (non-DOJ but desirable) federal government positions. One or two nabbed chambers clerkships or state government positions in their origin cities. But this was after a lot of applying throughout the multi-year cycles, and my sense was and is that very few of the jobs in question actually had any idea what Staff Attorneys did. In other words, the applicants would've been competitive for those positions even before becoming Staff Attorneys.



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