Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

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Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:40 pm

I am trying to position myself as best as possible for a term circuit court clerkship. Not for SCOTUS goals, so not eyeing a feeder judge, but because I really want to do appellate work long-term and enjoyed working in chambers my 1L summer.

I am thinking about applying for an externship for my 3L year, but I'm torn as to whether applying to more judges will help my resume when I try to get a COA clerkship.

About me: Top 3% at a second tier law school. Moot Court, Law review (no e-board position - yes I know this would have helped me). Intra-collegiate appellate team, inter-collegiate appellate competition win and best brief. 1L summer was with a magistrate judge, 2L summer will be a SA with biglaw in NYC.

I don't care if I clerk straight out of law school (I thats obviously unlikely, since most if not all are filled and a lot are filled even through 2019/2020). I also know my school alone makes me a huge long shot.

I can apply for an externship at the USAO (not doing appeals), with the chief district judge, or with a different federal district judge I'd be interested in working for. My basic question: which, if any, of those would make me a more marketable candidate for a circuit clerkship? Or am I better off just taking bar courses and applying like crazy?

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:48 pm

I very much doubt any of these externships will make a difference in terms of your resume. Could be helpful if you meet someone who will make calls for you.

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:01 pm

You should focus on getting a district court clerkship, which is a more realistic goal. If you get a district court clerkship, then you can focus on a COA clerkship.

If you have the time and the interest, all those externships sound fine. If your goal is clerking, consider externing for a district court judge who will consider hiring former externs.

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:52 pm

+1 to the advice already given. Externships tend to be short-term and unpaid, and extern work varies a lot in how substantive it is, so externships don't signal much about your abilities or competitiveness on their own. If you can get someone who you extern for to give you an excellent recommendation or parlay the externship into a permanent position that might in turn make you more competitive for COA, though, that's a different story. (I also agree that a district court clerkship will be more achievable initially, and it will make you a more competitive COA candidate.)

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:09 pm

OP here. Thanks for the advice! If I have a strong rec from the judge I worked for 1L year, should I not really stress about one position looking better/helping more then another?

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks for the advice! If I have a strong rec from the judge I worked for 1L year, should I not really stress about one position looking better/helping more then another?

At this point, it's not about "looks," it's about experience and connections. Externships (unlike clerkships) are not prestigious and don't really mean anything as resume items.

If you've already externed for a district court judge, I would lean toward the USAO externship—not because it's more prestigious or impressive in the abstract, but because it's a different sort of experience that will help you figure out what you want out of a career in the law.

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:37 pm

In this context, "looking better" and "helping more" are very different things. You shouldn't be concerned about any externship "looking better" than another because externships are basically interchangeable as far as filling space on a resume goes. The externship that helps most re: getting a circuit clerkship will be the one that gets you a good reference/someone who will go to bat for you, gives you great experience that you can talk about when interviewing later, or helps you land an intermediate position that will help your COA chances. If you're asking if you shouldn't be concerned about references because you have one from your 1L MJ, it's always better to have lots of good references, but yeah, I'd be a little less concerned about getting a second good reference from a judge, particularly if it means you won't be able to extern somewhere else.

(N.B., you should also consider whether there's any other reason that you might want to do any of these externships, e.g., like pupkin said, to get exposure to the work that the USAO does. It's not particularly likely that anything that comes out of these externships will move the needle a lot for ultimately becoming a COA clerk, so you might want to think about what kind of externship experience you'd want if that weren't a factor.)

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:21 pm

OP again. Thanks everyone, this is exactly what I was wondering. I'm more drawn to the USAO b/c it would be substantially different from where I have previously worked and I want to see if it would be something I was interested in for the future. But was worried about not trying to apply/extern for a district court judge (1L summer was with magistrate) if goals are clerkship. Sounds like I should just go for what I'm most interested in, and hope to come out of it with a great experience and maybe even another reference.

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:00 pm

Just one data point: I had a USAO externship on my resume when I interviewed for clerkships, and I think it was helpful to talk about my experiences there and sell my interest in government work to judges who really wanted to see that kind of thing.

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Re: Will This Help Me Get A Circuit Court Clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:22 am

Many judges are former federal prosecutors. At least for district judges, it's probably the most common path to the bench. And frequently they maintain relationships with some of their former colleagues, and/or look kindly on applicants with connections to their old offices and aspirations to be an AUSA themselves. It's definitely not the wrong move if your goal is to clerk. Also, ancedotally, I have a number of friends from law school who got interviews at least in part because of their work at a USAO.



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