Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

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Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:06 pm

I am a 3L at a T14 with grades in the top 1/3 or so of my class. I am very lucky to have a job at a big law firm after graduation, but would like to clerk as it seems to be a beneficial experience from what I've heard from talking to many different lawyers, and would have positive career benefits for me in both the law firm track or the government track, which I am hoping to switch over to whenever a good opportunity arises. And my firm is willing to hold my offer open, which takes some of the post-clerkship job hunting worries off the table as well.

I have been applying to almost every clerkship opportunity I've found on OSCAR or been alerted to by my clerkship office. I did so on the idea that while certain districts may be more prestigious than others, any Article III clerkship is going to be looked at favorably. However, a recent interview I had has left me wondering if this is indeed true. During the interview, I was told that 95% of the clerkship's work would be criminal, and the civil work would likely be tied directly to the criminal work (habeas petitions and things of that sort).

Considering that the work I do at my firm will be civil litigation, and the work I hope to do at the government level will also be civil, would such a clerkship, if I am fortunate enough to be selected, actually be beneficial for my career? Would firms and/or government civil law positions value a clerkship of that nature? I'm not talking about the bonus, b/c that's usually fairly mechanical, but would people question the added value of the clerkship since most of the work was in an area that I plan to interact with very little over the course of my career? Or is it more of a title/honor that people don't really ask too much about once it's on the resume/bio?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

Jchance

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Jchance » Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:43 pm

No. Crim or civil, you learn transferable skills in litigation, and an AIII clerkship is another badge of honors.

Gotta catch 'em all.

P.S. No one I've heard of regrets clerking, even if they had a bad boss.

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2016 6:19 pm

I'm sure there are some scenarios where clerking is a bad career move, but if you want to litigate, those scenarios are few and far between.

I'd also challenge the premise of your question. I'm currently an AIII district court clerk, and I barely touch any criminal work. I do some 2255 habeas stuff (which is civil, but criminal related) but the judge doesn't need help with most criminal trials. There might be some work I do on a motion to suppress, or on jury instructions, but that's relatively infrequent. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say at least 80% of my work is on civil matters.

Just FYI, I don't work in a specialty district (e.g., I do not work in ED Tex, SDNY, DDC, ED Va, etc). I'd say our docket is pretty typical, from what I hear from friends who are also clerking or who have clerked.

Edited to add: This was somewhat implied by my post, but to be more explicit, even if your judge works on 70% criminal lit, that doesn't mean you will. You work on things where the judge needs help. Most judges don't require much help with criminal matters. From my experience, your job will mostly be civil motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, directed verdict, etc.

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'd also challenge the premise of your question. I'm currently an AIII district court clerk, and I barely touch any criminal work. I do some 2255 habeas stuff (which is civil, but criminal related) but the judge doesn't need help with most criminal trials. There might be some work I do on a motion to suppress, or on jury instructions, but that's relatively infrequent. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say at least 80% of my work is on civil matters.

Just FYI, I don't work in a specialty district (e.g., I do not work in ED Tex, SDNY, DDC, ED Va, etc). I'd say our docket is pretty typical, from what I hear from friends who are also clerking or who have clerked.

Edited to add: This was somewhat implied by my post, but to be more explicit, even if your judge works on 70% criminal lit, that doesn't mean you will. You work on things where the judge needs help. Most judges don't require much help with criminal matters. From my experience, your job will mostly be civil motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, directed verdict, etc.


All of this sounds great to me, and is what I expected, since I interned for a judge who also had mostly criminal work but gave his clerks mainly civil assignments. I was just thrown off guard a bit when the previous clerk conducting screeners told me that the work is 95% criminal and that it'd be nice if I had a career interest in criminal law.

lavarman84

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby lavarman84 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'd also challenge the premise of your question. I'm currently an AIII district court clerk, and I barely touch any criminal work. I do some 2255 habeas stuff (which is civil, but criminal related) but the judge doesn't need help with most criminal trials. There might be some work I do on a motion to suppress, or on jury instructions, but that's relatively infrequent. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say at least 80% of my work is on civil matters.

Just FYI, I don't work in a specialty district (e.g., I do not work in ED Tex, SDNY, DDC, ED Va, etc). I'd say our docket is pretty typical, from what I hear from friends who are also clerking or who have clerked.

Edited to add: This was somewhat implied by my post, but to be more explicit, even if your judge works on 70% criminal lit, that doesn't mean you will. You work on things where the judge needs help. Most judges don't require much help with criminal matters. From my experience, your job will mostly be civil motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, directed verdict, etc.


All of this sounds great to me, and is what I expected, since I interned for a judge who also had mostly criminal work but gave his clerks mainly civil assignments. I was just thrown off guard a bit when the previous clerk conducting screeners told me that the work is 95% criminal and that it'd be nice if I had a career interest in criminal law.


I'd trust the clerk who worked there. Judges all have their own way of doing things. This judge might have one clerk who handles civil and another who handles criminal. I'd say that's irregular based on my experience, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities.

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2016 2:32 am

There are also criminal-heavy districts (usually border states). So it happens. (But it is less common because yeah, judges generally need less help with criminal stuff.)

clerk1251

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby clerk1251 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 10:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm sure there are some scenarios where clerking is a bad career move, but if you want to litigate, those scenarios are few and far between.

I'd also challenge the premise of your question. I'm currently an AIII district court clerk, and I barely touch any criminal work. I do some 2255 habeas stuff (which is civil, but criminal related) but the judge doesn't need help with most criminal trials. There might be some work I do on a motion to suppress, or on jury instructions, but that's relatively infrequent. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say at least 80% of my work is on civil matters.

Just FYI, I don't work in a specialty district (e.g., I do not work in ED Tex, SDNY, DDC, ED Va, etc). I'd say our docket is pretty typical, from what I hear from friends who are also clerking or who have clerked.

Edited to add: This was somewhat implied by my post, but to be more explicit, even if your judge works on 70% criminal lit, that doesn't mean you will. You work on things where the judge needs help. Most judges don't require much help with criminal matters. From my experience, your job will mostly be civil motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, directed verdict, etc.


I am a district court clerk as well and would agree with everything said here. I'm actually doing my second clerkship, because the experience has been so valuable, and this is after a stint in biglaw.

Judge's largely handle their criminal docket, and clerks only assist when needed. As said by the other clerk, there are occasional habeas petitions or trial motions that you might work on. But criminal is very limited. Largely as a clerk you manage the civil docket.

Now, I want to point out that I've seen posts on OSCAR that are specifically listed for habeas clerks, or specialty positions where you would be doing entirely criminal matters. Those positions are not common, and you will know what you are getting yourself into at the onset. For me personally, I wouldn't take one of those jobs because I don't find that line of work enjoyable, but that's just my opinion.

To address your original question though, there is no way an AIII clerkship would be a bad career move. You gain invaluable perspective and experience, that you just can't get elsewhere. If it wasn't valuable, firms wouldn't shell out big bucks to recruit people straight from clerkships.

Lastly, as far as down the line, a clerkship is very valuable to have when you are looking to make moves into government. And, if you choose to go in-house at some point, at least from the company that I summered with in law school (large bay area tech company), they always weigh candidates with clerkship experience better than those without.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Dec 19, 2016 11:01 am

I mean, if the clerk told the OP that most of their work would be criminal stuff, I would go with what the clerk says, regardless of how most judges do it.

I agree it's not a bad career move/it's a great experience, but yes, it is possible that the OP would be doing largely criminal stuff.

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:15 pm

Quoted anon from above.

Yea, I read the OP a bit quickly and didn't realize that he/she was told by a current clerk of a judge for whom he/she might work that the work is 95% criminal. If that's the case, then yes definitely trust the current clerk's info about the clerkship. But, even if that's true, it's not representative of clerkships generally, so I wouldn't let it prevent you from applying elsewhere.

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Re: Can clerking for an AIII district judge be a bad career move?

Postby timmyd » Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:38 pm

I did absolutely no criminal stuff during my clerkship. Judge didn't trust the term clerks to do it or something; or maybe it was just routine. I don't know; I didn't complain. But I don't think it matters. It's still all research, writing, and trial/hearing assistance. In fact, you'll likely be much more involved in the trial process because civil trials seem a rarity nowadays.



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