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kellyfrost

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Career Clerks

Postby kellyfrost » Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:38 am

Can someone tell me more about being a career clerk? I never clerked so I don't know much about it, but it seems odd someone would want to make a career out of it:
Perks of job?
Downside of job?
Hours?
Pay?
Duties different than two year clerk?
Credentials needed?
Do all federal and appellate judges have career clerks?
Can you lateral from one judge to another?
Last edited by kellyfrost on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Career Clerks

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:35 am

Perks: hours are often really predictable and reasonable (depends on the judge, but often it's very 9-5, except if you have a trial going); federal career clerks make six figures; no billable hours, tyrannical midlevels/partners, or terrible clients - just working closely with your judge, so often a lot of autonomy/responsibility (if you get along with your judge - which you should as a career clerk - it's a fun work environment); often a fair amount of flexibility; exposure to lots of different areas of law; lots of research/writing (if you like that); no appearing in court (if confrontation stresses you out).

Downsides: lots of research and writing (if you don't like that stuff); no appearing in court (if you want to do that); work can get repetitive; your name doesn't go on anything (if you want recognition); often little interaction with people outside chambers (again, can be good or bad depending on the person I guess); no real path to advancement - the job you have on day 1 is pretty much the only job there is; dependent on your judge not retiring/dying; can be hard to go do something else if you've been a career clerk for a while (though by no means impossible. You're probably not going to end up in biglaw though).

Hours: as noted depends on judge (and court/docket) but often very reasonable. It's also very common to have a lot of flexibility as long as you get your work done. But it is very judge specific.

Pay: good for federal clerks; state pay is way more varied and often a lot lower. At the state COA where I clerked most of the career clerks could work from home 2-3 days a week because their judges couldn't do anything about their pay and it was a way to create a perk for a good career clerk.

Duties: pretty much the same as a term clerk, although in my experience the career clerks tended to handle cases that looked likely to stretch beyond the term clerk's term, maybe some of the more complex stuff. Sometimes they have some responsibility to train the term clerks.

Credentials: having been a clerk, usually, so whatever credentials got you there. Almost all the career clerks I know did at least one term clerkship before getting a career gig.

Not all federal judges have career clerks (there's now a limit on the number of people in chambers who can be paid at JS-14, the top pay grade for clerks). Lots have at least one, some have none, some only have career clerks (career clerks in place when the above limit was put in place got grandfathered in I think). States are more varied I think.

In my experience career clerks will move from one judge to another, yes. It can be a little hard to control when though.

Really if you like writing and research, and enjoy spending your days hashing out legal issues, it can be a really great job, especially in the federal system, because of the good pay. If you don't like spending your time in writing/research you'll hate it (trial courts a bit less because there's other stuff going on, but you still won't like it). Also if you had a terrible judge it would suck, but I think most people aren't going to end up being a career clerk for someone they hate.

Maybe something else to point out is that the vast majority of career clerks I've known are women with small kids (not all, especially at the federal COA level, but a lot of them). I've also seen people say it's a great gig but not prestigious (if you care about that).

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mjb447

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Re: Career Clerks

Postby mjb447 » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:01 am

My impression is that it's often a refuge for people who have done a little litigation (often with a prior clerkship somewhere in there) but are looking for a better work-life balance. The reasons that you'd become a career clerk aren't that similar to the reasons that people do term clerkships.

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anon sequitur

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Re: Career Clerks

Postby anon sequitur » Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:55 pm

Weird that someone would want a job paying more than $100,000 a year for 9-to-5 work with generous vacation and a respectful, collegial atmosphere.

lavarman84

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Re: Career Clerks

Postby lavarman84 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:43 am

kellyfrost wrote:Can someone tell me more about being a career clerk? I never clerked so I don't know much about it, but it seems odd someone would want to make a career out of it:
Perks of job?
Downside of job?
Hours?
Pay?
Duties different than two year clerk?
Credentials needed?
Do all federal and appellate judges have career clerks?
Can you lateral from one judge to another?


Honestly, Kelly, it seems like a pretty great job if you enjoy (or can tolerate) the work and don't care about upward mobility. You get paid $100,000+ per year to generally work 9-5 (depends on the judge/court; will be more with some and less with others), get federal holidays, and get the federal government perks. Plus, a lot of judges really value their career clerks and will bend over backwards for them. I know one of the judges that I interviewed with was allowing the career clerk to work from home (unless the clerk was needed in chambers for some reason) because the clerk had a young baby.

As I said, if you are okay with the repetitive work (some people love it), don't care about upward mobility (because there aren't really any promotions), and want a chill job that pays relatively well, it's a good career. Obviously, though, this will depend on the judge. That's the rub. You need to end up with a judge who treats you well.
(Just to clarify, I'm talking about federal career clerks)

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Re: Career Clerks

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:19 am

In some state courts (typically not the federal system) career clerking can actually be a way to break into the judiciary.



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