Clerkship chances?

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Clerkship chances?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:49 pm

I'm a 2L at a T20, and my GPA places me in the top third of my class (.01 GPA points away from top quarter of course haha). For personal reasons, I need to start my legal career in my home town, which is considered a "secondary" legal market. There are a few decent sized firms, but I have not had any luck securing a summer associate position for this summer. Now, I've switched my focus to landing a clerkship in my home town with the state Supreme Court or state appellate court (or a US District Court, although I doubt I'm competitive).

I was wondering if anyone could assess my chances for these clerkships. My CSO has been sketchy for the last month. They'll barely return my emails, and if I do succeed in setting up a meeting, they won't really do anything beyond editing my cover letters for grammar and content.

Like I said, I'm in the top third, don't have law review or a secondary journal (I was invited to be on a secondary journal but had to decline for personal reasons), have extensive ties to the area (state flagship UG and work experience before law school), have personal connections through former bosses/professors to Supreme Court and appeals court judges, research experience with a professor, participated in a clinic at school one semester, and have good recommenders.

Could anyone weigh in on my chances/what I can do to improve my chances? My primary concern is no journal, but I'm not sure about the extent to which this damages me. I appreciate any input!

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mjb447

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby mjb447 » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:06 pm

I have no idea what your chances are, but why not just apply and see what happens? You've said you have good recommenders so, assuming that you have a decent writing sample and can write a cover letter that doesn't torpedo your chances, your application is about as good as it's going to get (e.g. your lack of a journal is what it is). It also sounds like the market is limited enough that it won't be prohibitively expensive to blanket it with apps. (Obviously, you can also fight for that top quarter, but I assume you'll be doing that anyway.)

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:07 pm

At the state level, connections will do a lot for you. You should have sufficient credentials for a state clerkship (although, it depends on the state for the SSC clerkship). I'd just make sure your writing sample is sound in regards to Bluebooking since you aren't on a journal.

From there, put together your application materials and try to use your connections. Might as well apply for federal clerkships (Magistrate and D. Ct.), but as you said, you don't jump out as a leading candidate.(unless you have connections)

If you're serious about it and network hard, I think you'll land something. Just apply widely. But it's hard to give you advice without knowing what state it is. Is your school in the state's geographic market?

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:16 pm

lawman84 wrote:At the state level, connections will do a lot for you. You should have sufficient credentials for a state clerkship (although, it depends on the state for the SSC clerkship). I'd just make sure your writing sample is sound in regards to Bluebooking since you aren't on a journal.

From there, put together your application materials and try to use your connections. Might as well apply for federal clerkships (Magistrate and D. Ct.), but as you said, you don't jump out as a leading candidate.(unless you have connections)

If you're serious about it and network hard, I think you'll land something. Just apply widely. But it's hard to give you advice without knowing what state it is. Is your school in the state's geographic market?


Shot you a PM.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby gatorz » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:34 pm

Long time lurker piggy-backing here. I am a 3L at one of UCLA/UT/Vanderbilt, top 25%, LR (no E-board), summered at V15 in major market, externed for Chief Judge in District Court, accepted an offer to publish an article (not on my journal), Moot Court Board, and solid recommendations. Chances at an Article III clerkship? Open to flyovers. I am applying now for a 2018 or 2019 position (and a handful of 2017s that are still open for some reason), so does the fact that I'd be headed to the firm I summered with for a year or two improve my chances, or will I not be able to receive the practice experience boost until/if I am actually in practice and applying? Thanks in advance. I know the typical advice here is to just apply and see what happens, and I am certainly doing just that (65 finalized applications and counting), but I was wondering if anyone had some thoughts as to whether my efforts are probably futile.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby clerk1251 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:28 am

I always get a kick out of these "chances" threads. Sure, if you went to a terrible school and did terrible, your chances are low, but people in those situations aren't even thinking about clerkships and are never the ones making these posts. If you think you have a shot, go for it and apply, you've got nothing to loose but a little time and effort in preparing your application.

The advice that was given here is very spot on. Make sure your cover letter is fantastic, make sure you have a great writing sample (not too long, not too short, try to have it be right about 10 pages), make sure you have good recommendors, make sure you network, make sure your recommendors are making calls for you, apply broadly, and don't get discouraged. That's about all there is to it. Since you're still in school, keep crushing it and keep pushing yourself.

For the OP, I would recommend continuing to pursue firms, as well as a clerkship just so you have a fallback if needed. Firms will always understand if you reneg on an offer because you were suddenly offered a clerkship that you had applied for awhile back. It might also help set you up for a post clerkship position right out of the gate. If you have a good relationship through networking, with any particular judge, perhaps consider telling them you will be home over a certain week (such as spring break for example) and that you'd be happy to come in for an interview if the Judge is interested. You don't even need to book a flight until they say yes.

For the second poster asking for advice, it is growing increasingly common for judges to want (and some even require) firm experience before your clerkship. Make sure you indicate on your resume that you will be spending the year prior to your clerkship at your firm - that should help you.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:33 am

gatorz wrote:Long time lurker piggy-backing here. I am a 3L at one of UCLA/UT/Vanderbilt, top 25%, LR (no E-board), summered at V15 in major market, externed for Chief Judge in District Court, accepted an offer to publish an article (not on my journal), Moot Court Board, and solid recommendations. Chances at an Article III clerkship? Open to flyovers. I am applying now for a 2018 or 2019 position (and a handful of 2017s that are still open for some reason), so does the fact that I'd be headed to the firm I summered with for a year or two improve my chances, or will I not be able to receive the practice experience boost until/if I am actually in practice and applying? Thanks in advance. I know the typical advice here is to just apply and see what happens, and I am certainly doing just that (65 finalized applications and counting), but I was wondering if anyone had some thoughts as to whether my efforts are probably futile.

FWIW, having the experience on your resume as something you will have done by the time you clerk is enough - you don't have to have actually done it when you apply.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby mjb447 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:19 am

gatorz wrote:Long time lurker piggy-backing here. I am a 3L at one of UCLA/UT/Vanderbilt, top 25%, LR (no E-board), summered at V15 in major market, externed for Chief Judge in District Court, accepted an offer to publish an article (not on my journal), Moot Court Board, and solid recommendations. Chances at an Article III clerkship? Open to flyovers. I am applying now for a 2018 or 2019 position (and a handful of 2017s that are still open for some reason), so does the fact that I'd be headed to the firm I summered with for a year or two improve my chances, or will I not be able to receive the practice experience boost until/if I am actually in practice and applying? Thanks in advance. I know the typical advice here is to just apply and see what happens, and I am certainly doing just that (65 finalized applications and counting), but I was wondering if anyone had some thoughts as to whether my efforts are probably futile.

Yeah, you can get the experience boost by putting it on your resume since you'll have it by the time you clerk, and it should help you somewhat with the judges who prefer practicing attorneys. And I don't think it's futile to apply. Your application doesn't strike me as a slam dunk (very few do, honestly - the clerkship hiring process is weird), but it's good enough to give it a shot.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:21 pm

gatorz wrote:Long time lurker piggy-backing here. I am a 3L at one of UCLA/UT/Vanderbilt, top 25%, LR (no E-board), summered at V15 in major market, externed for Chief Judge in District Court, accepted an offer to publish an article (not on my journal), Moot Court Board, and solid recommendations. Chances at an Article III clerkship? Open to flyovers. I am applying now for a 2018 or 2019 position (and a handful of 2017s that are still open for some reason), so does the fact that I'd be headed to the firm I summered with for a year or two improve my chances, or will I not be able to receive the practice experience boost until/if I am actually in practice and applying? Thanks in advance. I know the typical advice here is to just apply and see what happens, and I am certainly doing just that (65 finalized applications and counting), but I was wondering if anyone had some thoughts as to whether my efforts are probably futile.


As a current district court clerk who has hired 3 clerks thus far, I would say you have a decent shot with a district judge who isn't super snobby about grades/schools, which in my limited experience is about half of judges. Having work experience is big, be sure to put that on your resume. A big mistake applicants make is not indicating on their resume that they got a post-grad offer from their 2L SA firm (if you don't indicate this, clerks will wonder if maybe you got no-offered) I think its best to note this info parenthetically next to the SA job title, i.e., Summer Associate (Post-graduation Offer Extended). Having externed is also big, you want to emphasize that in your cover letter/interview.

The biggest thing that will hold you back is the same thing that can hold anyone back: the risk that your application will be lost in a stack of similarly situated applicants. Having professors call/email on your behalf (after the various chambers have already received your application) is your best bet (unless of course you know somebody with a personal connection to a judge, then having that person put in a good word is bound to get your app out of the stack). Best of luck.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby timmyd » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:11 am

Above poster, does work experience have to be big law? Does your judge value prior clerkships? What about private practice outside of big law like law enforcement defense, workers comp defense, insurance defense? Thanks

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby clerk1251 » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:32 am

timmyd wrote:Above poster, does work experience have to be big law? Does your judge value prior clerkships? What about private practice outside of big law like law enforcement defense, workers comp defense, insurance defense? Thanks


Not the above annon, but I am a district court clerk as well who has hired other clerks. Again, baring in mind that your questions will vary greatly from judge to judge, but I believe the general consensus is past work experience in biglaw or a prior clerkship will be valuable. The most competitive candidate would be someone with a prior clerkship, with a good recommendation or reference from your previous judge, and a relevant writing sample. A candidate from biglaw (1-2 years) would also be an attractive candidate assuming you are in a litigation practice. Non-biglaw private practice would depend on if the level of litigation work you've had and may offer some advantage to you over someone fresh out of school. Especially for non-biglaw, I'd say it depends on geography. The Law Offices of Joe Smith, might not help you as much for SDNY but it might for middle america, especially if Joe Smith is located in that middle america district.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby timmyd » Thu Mar 02, 2017 11:13 am

Thanks. I did a previous district clerkship and am in process of getting rec letter from judge, as well as writing samples. I just didn't know about my work experience in private practice. As I assumed, the further away from my location I apply, the less forceful it will be.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby clerk1251 » Thu Mar 02, 2017 12:03 pm

timmyd wrote:Thanks. I did a previous district clerkship and am in process of getting rec letter from judge, as well as writing samples. I just didn't know about my work experience in private practice. As I assumed, the further away from my location I apply, the less forceful it will be.


I'd say that's true. If you had a previous clerkship, that will be your bread and butter.

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Re: Clerkship chances?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:11 pm

timmyd wrote:Above poster, does work experience have to be big law? Does your judge value prior clerkships? What about private practice outside of big law like law enforcement defense, workers comp defense, insurance defense? Thanks


Above poster here, for my judge at least, the work-experience component is less about you coming in with good substantive experience that will be relevant to your clerkship (2 years in biglaw wont really prepare you for what you will be doing as a clerk), but rather is about you coming in with a good work ethic/professional attitude. There is always a risk with law students who went straight through from undergrad and are coming to clerk right from law school, that they wont know how to function in a professional environment or wont know how to buckle down during rough periods to get their work done.

Again, going to vary a lot judge-by-judge, but my guess is that the ones who you are competitive for (judges who aren't obsessed with prestige) might have this same mentality.



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