Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

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Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:30 pm

How possible is it to land a fed clerkship after getting poor grades at a T14, then getting biglaw and doing litigation a couple years?

I hear grades will always matter for clerkships, but I'm wondering how a mid-level associate with a few years of Biglaw litigation experience will do in the application process.

Of course, I'm asking about less competitive districts - I'm pretty sure SDNY, EDNY, DDC are out for good. I'm sort of interested in DNJ, but I have no ties to the region (however, I do have expertise/experience in a kind of case they handle a lot of).

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby los blancos » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:37 pm

What would be the purpose of doing this?

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:38 pm

Also interested

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:39 pm

los blancos wrote:What would be the purpose of doing this?


Experience, credibility (perhaps I have an inferiority complex for not doing better in law school). I don't know if I want to do it yet but if there's no hope I definitely won't waste my time.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby BasilHallward » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
los blancos wrote:What would be the purpose of doing this?


Experience, credibility (perhaps I have an inferiority complex for not doing better in law school). I don't know if I want to do it yet but if there's no hope I definitely won't waste my time.



What do you mean by you don't want to waste your time? So if there is no "viable" path to a clerkship you're not going to work in BigLaw/litigation??? You're disclosed from clerkships at this point, so you should feel relief that you have something (I'm assuming) lined up or are currently working as a lawyer, if your grades were "poor," which I construe to mean roughly bottom 1/3.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:48 pm

BasilHallward wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
los blancos wrote:What would be the purpose of doing this?


Experience, credibility (perhaps I have an inferiority complex for not doing better in law school). I don't know if I want to do it yet but if there's no hope I definitely won't waste my time.



What do you mean by you don't want to waste your time? So if there is no "viable" path to a clerkship you're not going to work in BigLaw/litigation??? You're disclosed from clerkships at this point, so you should feel relief that you have something (I'm assuming) lined up or are currently working as a lawyer, if your grades were "poor," which I construe to mean roughly bottom 1/3.


Different than OP, but the second poster who said was interested. Median at Upenn/UVA/Duke/Michigan going to work next year at v70 firm in DC lit. Goal would be biglaw for 2 years, clerk, then lateral to govt or to secondary market

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:50 pm

BasilHallward wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
los blancos wrote:What would be the purpose of doing this?


Experience, credibility (perhaps I have an inferiority complex for not doing better in law school). I don't know if I want to do it yet but if there's no hope I definitely won't waste my time.



What do you mean by you don't want to waste your time? So if there is no "viable" path to a clerkship you're not going to work in BigLaw/litigation??? You're disclosed from clerkships at this point, so you should feel relief that you have something (I'm assuming) lined up or are currently working as a lawyer, if your grades were "poor," which I construe to mean roughly bottom 1/3.


No, what I mean is I'm not going to waste my time lining up references and sending out clerkship applications. I'm in biglaw litigation right now and the time commitment of preparing and sending apps is not one I'm sure is worthwhile if I have almost no shot.

Specifically, I'm curious to hear about people with bad grades from T14s who have landed federal clerkships with a few years of biglaw litigation under their belt.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
BasilHallward wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
los blancos wrote:What would be the purpose of doing this?


Experience, credibility (perhaps I have an inferiority complex for not doing better in law school). I don't know if I want to do it yet but if there's no hope I definitely won't waste my time.



What do you mean by you don't want to waste your time? So if there is no "viable" path to a clerkship you're not going to work in BigLaw/litigation??? You're disclosed from clerkships at this point, so you should feel relief that you have something (I'm assuming) lined up or are currently working as a lawyer, if your grades were "poor," which I construe to mean roughly bottom 1/3.


Different than OP, but the second poster who said was interested. Median at Upenn/UVA/Duke/Michigan going to work next year at v70 firm in DC lit. Goal would be biglaw for 2 years, clerk, then lateral to govt or to secondary market


I'm the OP, and I'm actually from one of those schools. I hear median will get you a clerkship at my school so I'm guessing you have a shot, too. I'm below median.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby los blancos » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:58 pm

Median @ T14 + biglaw experience gives you a viable shot, but the point I'm trying to make is that it often does not make sense to clerk as a midlevel.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:09 pm

los blancos wrote:Median @ T14 + biglaw experience gives you a viable shot, but the point I'm trying to make is that it often does not make sense to clerk as a midlevel.


OP here - yeah, that's another thing that's deterring me from trying. I'm not sure getting a clerkship will help more than lining up allies/doing more marketing as a mid-level.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:09 pm

I can't speak to how this plays with biglaw at all, but if you do want to transition to government a clerkship will help. You just may not be able to go directly from clerkship to government so will want to make sure you have a backup plan. And if you want to change markets, clerking *in that market* can be really helpful (even a state clerkship, if it's a small market) - not maybe even for the credential, but for the chance to spend a year networking your ass off in that market. I think clerking in some random district to get you to an unrelated small market is not really going to move the needle a ton with regard to qualifications - it's getting to know people in your target market that's really valuable.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:12 pm

Quite possible, particularly if (a) you develop a good reputation at work, (b) someone at your work has a connection to a judge, (c) that person is willing to recommend you even though they know they'll lose you for at least a year (and possibly permanently), and (d) the judge values recommendations a lot more than law school grades.

I've seen (a)-(d) happen.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:25 pm

Yeah, it sounds like it's worth a shot if you really want to clerk (although we don't know exactly how bad your grades are) - clerkship hiring as an alum is even more idiosyncratic than normal clerkship hiring.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby los blancos » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:27 pm

You don't even necessarily NEED (a)-(d) but yeah that's one way to do it.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:31 pm

los blancos wrote:You don't even necessarily NEED (a)-(d) but yeah that's one way to do it.

Agreed, though, if your grades are bad, I think you do need at least (b)&(c) or their equivalent. Someone the judge trusts is going to have to recommend you.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Lincoln » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:38 pm

I have a little insight into this as a current clerk whose grades, although above median, were not good enough to get me clerkship out of school.

After a few years of practice, grades can be less important. The problem for you is what else you will have to offer. Just being a run-of-the-mill associate at some run-of-the-mill firm doesn't really give the judge a reason to hire you over anyone else. As indicated above, the advantage of a few years of practice is that you may be able to show the judge that you would be an excellent clerk despite your poor grades and more so than other candidates. If a partner who knows the judge, for example, can call and say that you were a star associate, that is a way for the judge to look past your grades. That's the kind of thing that will only happen after some time as a practicing lawyer.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:16 pm

A friend of mine had median grades at a T14, got one good LOR, one alright LOR, and one that wasn't that great (recommeder told her that if she has other people to ask, she should do it, but she didn't have anyone else). She also wasn't on law review but was on a secondary journal and had an interesting/unique background. She still landed a district court clerkship right out of law school. It wasn't in a competitive district or part of the country, but it's still a clerkship. So if you're ok with that, you might as well try, especially since you have a few years of experience under your belt.

And don't listen to people who say the only thing valuable from a clerkship outside of the main competitive markets is the networking "if you want to move there." Judges from smaller or less competitive markets tend to be less uptight and approachable. So you get to know the judge I think more closely if you're in a smaller market and the judge is willing to go to bat for you so much more. I was surprised by how close my friend was with her judge. It's like they're law school friends who text, joke, and go out for drinks with the chambers. Do you know how valuable that is? She's gonna go to a firm now, pick up the same bonus anyone else picks up for going to a very competitive clerkship, and she has a judge in her corner that'll call, write letters, do anything for her just like you would for a close friend. And whatever she wants or needs she can talk to her judge about. There's no awkwardness or overly professional barriers in the way like you might get with more formal judges in more competitive places. This obviously varies from judge to judge but it's worth thinking about.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:29 pm

I get your point, but I don't think it has anything to do with the competitiveness of the market and is entirely judge-specific (or possibly court-specific if a given court has a particular culture, but I don't think it's based on competitiveness). So it's a benefit you might get from clerking anywhere, or might not get regardless of where you clerk.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby mjb447 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:A friend of mine had median grades at a T14, got one good LOR, one alright LOR, and one that wasn't that great (recommeder told her that if she has other people to ask, she should do it, but she didn't have anyone else). She also wasn't on law review but was on a secondary journal and had an interesting/unique background. She still landed a district court clerkship right out of law school. It wasn't in a competitive district or part of the country, but it's still a clerkship. So if you're ok with that, you might as well try, especially since you have a few years of experience under your belt.

And don't listen to people who say the only thing valuable from a clerkship outside of the main competitive markets is the networking "if you want to move there." Judges from smaller or less competitive markets tend to be less uptight and approachable. So you get to know the judge I think more closely if you're in a smaller market and the judge is willing to go to bat for you so much more. I was surprised by how close my friend was with her judge. It's like they're law school friends who text, joke, and go out for drinks with the chambers. Do you know how valuable that is? She's gonna go to a firm now, pick up the same bonus anyone else picks up for going to a very competitive clerkship, and she has a judge in her corner that'll call, write letters, do anything for her just like you would for a close friend. And whatever she wants or needs she can talk to her judge about. There's no awkwardness or overly professional barriers in the way like you might get with more formal judges in more competitive places. This obviously varies from judge to judge but it's worth thinking about.

I'd be very, very careful about making this assumption w/r/t a particular judge in a secondary market, but it's definitely worth trying to find out if a particular judge treats chambers like extended family.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?z

Postby wwwcol » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:A friend of mine had median grades at a T14, got one good LOR, one alright LOR, and one that wasn't that great (recommeder told her that if she has other people to ask, she should do it, but she didn't have anyone else). She also wasn't on law review but was on a secondary journal and had an interesting/unique background. She still landed a district court clerkship right out of law school. It wasn't in a competitive district or part of the country, but it's still a clerkship. So if you're ok with that, you might as well try, especially since you have a few years of experience under your belt.

And don't listen to people who say the only thing valuable from a clerkship outside of the main competitive markets is the networking "if you want to move there." Judges from smaller or less competitive markets tend to be less uptight and approachable. So you get to know the judge I think more closely if you're in a smaller market and the judge is willing to go to bat for you so much more. I was surprised by how close my friend was with her judge. It's like they're law school friends who text, joke, and go out for drinks with the chambers. Do you know how valuable that is? She's gonna go to a firm now, pick up the same bonus anyone else picks up for going to a very competitive clerkship, and she has a judge in her corner that'll call, write letters, do anything for her just like you would for a close friend. And whatever she wants or needs she can talk to her judge about. There's no awkwardness or overly professional barriers in the way like you might get with more formal judges in more competitive places. This obviously varies from judge to judge but it's worth thinking about.


This is a weird and long-winded way to say that firms value a federal clerkship regardless of district (which is true). But firms don't care if you went out for drinks wth chambers - they care that you learned how to write and how to handle motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. A clerk in DAC or DWY applies the same rules as a clerk in SDNY, and (to the extent firms will hire a DWV or DMT clerk) that's why firms or the government will hire them.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 28, 2017 4:21 pm

rpupkin wrote:Quite possible, particularly if (a) you develop a good reputation at work, (b) someone at your work has a connection to a judge, (c) that person is willing to recommend you even though they know they'll lose you for at least a year (and possibly permanently), and (d) the judge values recommendations a lot more than law school grades.

I've seen (a)-(d) happen.


DJ clerk here. This is exactly the kind of possibility I was thinking of based on my chambers and a couple other judges in this court that very strongly prefer people with work experience. Although most judges are grade-obsessed, there are plenty who put more of a premium on real-world experience and reputation.

I had crappy grades from a crappy school, but I had very strong recommendations, particularly w/r/t my writing ability. M judge doesn't care much about pedigree or grades after a few years of experience if an applicant's recommendations are credible and strong.

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Re: Very bad law school grades (T14) -->BigLaw Lit-->Fed clerkship?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Mar 28, 2017 6:28 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I get your point, but I don't think it has anything to do with the competitiveness of the market and is entirely judge-specific (or possibly court-specific if a given court has a particular culture, but I don't think it's based on competitiveness). So it's a benefit you might get from clerking anywhere, or might not get regardless of where you clerk.

Agreed. There are plenty of big-city judges who treat their clerks like family, and plenty of judges in less urban areas who are relatively cold and distant. The anon's post was silly.



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