Stay or clerk?

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Stay or clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:16 pm

Seeking some advice deciding between two good options.

Current status: 3 years at elite litigation boutique in desired major city, good mentors, nice colleagues, work demands fluctuate between near-burnout (trial) and a reasonable pace (altogether ~2300-2400 hours each year), Cravath salary and bonus, favorable reviews (e.g. "I see you making partner here"), good amount of client contact, decent experience (take/defend depos, small trial roles, draft important motions/briefs), genuinely interested in the subject matter of my cases, decent professional and personal network. Generally good, but I did consider leaving after a particularly busy stretch earlier this year.

Potential option for year 4: clerk for COA judge in the circuit most relevant to my practice

No loans/debt. Would plan to return to the firm after the clerkship, though for how long is unclear, given the potential for burnout.

Has anyone been a similar situation or have any advice re: stay v. clerk?


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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby jd20132013 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:42 pm

if you aren't using it as a transition out I don't really see the point ?


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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby Nebby » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:03 pm

jd20132013 wrote:if you aren't using it as a transition out I don't really see the point ?

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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:15 pm

OP here.

That's a fair question and the one I'm struggling with. I see the following potential benefits (real or imagined): more diverse future career options/broader scope of practice (seems plausible), additional selling point in future business development (not sure about this one), enjoyment of the experience (people seem to enjoy it), political credibility (maybe?), having time to decide what one really wants in a career (maybe), 1 year of no billable hours (will still have to work hard, though).

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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby UVA2B » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:27 pm

I could be reading into the way you write too much, but you seem to be considering going to the Fed. Circuit after practicing patent litigation (if I'm wrong, sorry). I personally think there is professional value to clerking on the Fed. Circuit as a patent litigator, considering how much of your work can find its way before those judges. Plus it gives you an 'in' with those judges, so they'll potentially treat you favorably if/when you have to come before them. It probably won't serve a huge professional advance (like being more likely to make partner at your already great job), but that doesn't mean there is no value to it.

As a caveat, I've never clerked, so my opinion deserves all kinds of salt.

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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby Rowinguy2009 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:45 pm

Based on my experience going from firm to district clerkship, the advice that I've given before is that if you want to make partner then mid-career clerking is not worth it because you're breaking up your billing stream, client development, partner relationships, and acquisition of substantive skills/responsibility during the years during which those things are really starting to matter.

If you were in a "make partner or bust" mindset I would give the same advice, but here the clerkship is COA (thus a bit more of a big deal), and you seem to be kind of ambivalent about staying at the firm, so I think this could reasonably go either way. If I had to pick an option I would say that you should take the clerkship.

I ultimately think that this decision should be heavily influenced by what you see yourself doing in the next 3-10 years, which you haven't really told us.


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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby dirkdigler » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:42 am

I am currently clerking for a district court judge in the district where I previously practiced for 3 years as a litigation associate in the satellite office of a large law firm. Enjoyed my time at the firm, received positive feedback, and felt good about partnership prospects, but was starting to feel burned out. I went to a lower-tiered school out of state and wanted to increase my lateral marketability, with the hope of landing at a peer firm headquartered in my city (or a firm with a stronger practice group).

I have enjoyed the clerkship experience so far and am already gaining insights that have made the move worthwhile. I have yet to toss any feelers into the market but have been proactive with strengthening my network leading into the new year. If all else fails I have an offer to return to my old firm.


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Re: Stay or clerk?

Postby lolwat » Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:49 pm

Stream of consciousness post because it's the day before turkey day and I just want to get out of the office

I made a similar decision a year or two ago and would have taken a COA clerkship had a judge hired me. None did. :(

To me, the biggest considerations are (1) whether you're looking to transition and (2) how good your relationship is with your current firm and whether they fully support your clerking for a year and then returning without any hits to partnership prospects, etc.

I generally tend to steer people towards clerking because it's an opportunity that will disappear the longer you are in practice. 3-4 years in, you're still okay. Longer and I doubt even the judges who tend to look for applicants with work experience will be very interested. On the other hand, firms are firms, and with your credentials you're not going to have a difficult time getting back to a good firm and continuing on with your career long term.

In terms of career benefits, if you plan on being a trial lawyer, a COA clerkship probably isn't going to help a bunch, but if you're sticking with more general litigation or trying to transition to appellate litigation, it can help. There are some other benefits to clerking later on depending what your ultimate long long term goals are, like if you wanted to be an appellate judge etc....

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