Why Circuit Court?

Seek and share information about clerkship applications, clerkship hiring timelines, and post-clerkship employment opportunities.
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are sharing sensitive information about clerkship applications and clerkship hiring. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned."
Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:04 pm

I have an interview with a competitive circuit court judge soon. I'm interested in the clerkship because it's in my home state, I want to improve my legal research and writing skills, and I'm interested in litigation (possibly impact/appellate litigation as well). I also might be interested in legal academia and clinical teaching. As a 2L, I really don't know much about appellate and impact litigation beyond the very basics. I have no idea how to answer the "why circuit court" or "how does this clerkship relate to your future goals" question that will come up. Any concrete suggestions would be much appreciated. :D

User avatar
kellyfrost

Platinum
Posts: 6361
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:58 pm

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby kellyfrost » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:01 am

You either came to the absolute best place to ask this question and there will be someone out there who will give you a great answer or advice, or the collective wisdom of TLS is going to shit all over this thread.

Too early to tell how this is going to play out, but I will be following just to see.
Last edited by kellyfrost on Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:19 am

kellyfrost wrote:You either came to the absolute best place to ask this question and there will be someone out there who will give you a great answer or advice, or the collective wisdom of TLS is going to shit all over this thread.

Too early to tell how this is going to play out, but I will be following just to see.

Going back to the question, do you have any suggestions or are you just here to see how the party plays out...?

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29317
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:26 am

KF, you could have just followed thread for that reason without announcing it to the board in a post that added nothing to the thread.

OP, I think the reasons you've given for applying are perfectly good reasons to give in an interview. Both district and circuit court clerkships hone your writing/research skills, but I think you can argue that at the appellate level you go more in-depth than at the district court level. Further, if you want to do appellate litigation, a circuit court clerkship lets you see what goes on behind the scenes in appellate litigation in a way that a district court doesn't. Besides, a lot of the reasons why you'd clerk apply to either level - get to see how judges think, get a behind the scenes look at litigation (an appellate clerkship can prepare you for trial litigation by acquainting with you with the issues that commonly arise on appeal, thus helping you to be aware to avoid them).

I can't speak to how a clerkship would relate to impact litigation compared to any other kind of litigation, but I would think the same benefits apply.

Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.

User avatar
kellyfrost

Platinum
Posts: 6361
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:58 pm

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby kellyfrost » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:51 am

Anonymous User wrote:
kellyfrost wrote:You either came to the absolute best place to ask this question and there will be someone out there who will give you a great answer or advice, or the collective wisdom of TLS is going to shit all over this thread.

Too early to tell how this is going to play out, but I will be following just to see.

Going back to the question, do you have any suggestions or are you just here to see how the party plays out...?


I’m actually interested in the answer.
Last edited by kellyfrost on Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:I have no idea how to answer the "why circuit court" or "how does this clerkship relate to your future goals" question that will come up.


Obviously anecdotal, but I've yet to be asked this question (3 district, 1 CoA). Unclear if this follows the general trend, but it seems to make sense, as most of the potential answers are fairly predictable / uniform. I wouldn't stress too much about it - your answers are fine, and it's tough to give a "bad" answer in any event. Think about your goals, talk to some former clerks to see what it's like to work in a judge's chambers, and give your answer a few minutes of thought. That seems plenty sufficient.

User avatar
mjb447

Silver
Posts: 1276
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:36 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby mjb447 » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:46 am

Your current answers are a decent start - you may not stand out from the crowd much, as your answers are pretty standard and general, but they’re not really bad or wrong. The more specific you can be, the better, probably (although, like Nony indicated, you don’t have to give concrete plans or goals if you don’t have them).

You may also get asked if you have reasons for applying to that specific judge, in which case geographic ties and the judge’s background can be good topics.

flashdril

New
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:50 pm

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby flashdril » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:57 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.


I think for a "competitive" circuit court judge OP might want to step their game up a little bit? I agree that they don't expect everything from a 2L - so for example "I might want to go into academia," if expanded, could be part of a good answer. But I was told not to say things like "I want to improve my writing and research" especially for competitive judges; they want to hire someone who is already exceptionally competent, not someone they're going to have to train.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29317
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:18 am

flashdril wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.


I think for a "competitive" circuit court judge OP might want to step their game up a little bit? I agree that they don't expect everything from a 2L - so for example "I might want to go into academia," if expanded, could be part of a good answer. But I was told not to say things like "I want to improve my writing and research" especially for competitive judges; they want to hire someone who is already exceptionally competent, not someone they're going to have to train.

That's fair, and my experience isn't with "competitive" judges, although I think any judge is going to have to train any candidate, even if they're already excellent researchers/writers (unless they've clerked before). I meant more with regard to not knowing specific future plans yet, not lack of ability - I think it's good to have a plan but it's fair to be open about not being sure what all legal jobs entail and which will be best for you.

(Though I also don't think that "I want to improve my research/writing" has to suggest you're not already exceptionally competent - you could couch it as "I want to spend a year intensively researching/writing" or "I want to learn how to write for a court" or just "I want to take my research and writing skills to the next level," but since the job is research/writing I don't think it's ever bad to signal an interest in that. I also agree with the person above who suggested these questions don't come up that much though - I kind of suspect most competitive judges know exactly why someone is interested in their clerkship.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:49 am

flashdril wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.


I think for a "competitive" circuit court judge OP might want to step their game up a little bit? I agree that they don't expect everything from a 2L - so for example "I might want to go into academia," if expanded, could be part of a good answer. But I was told not to say things like "I want to improve my writing and research" especially for competitive judges; they want to hire someone who is already exceptionally competent, not someone they're going to have to train.


As someone who will be clerking for a very competitive circuit judge, and know several others, this is false. You were told wrong. Every single judge knows they're hiring brand new law grads who have no idea what they're doing, and pride themselves on mentoring their clerks. This is especially true of the judges who were professors (think Calabresi, Scirica, and Wilkinson). No one expects term clerks to be competent. I've been told by one feeder that they should do 2 year clerkship, because the clerk gets all the benefit the first year and the judge finally gets the benefit the second. Now, you shouldn't tell a judge you're looking for a mentor. But it is perfectly fine to say you want to further improve your already string writing skills or see how litigation works from the judges perspective or something similar.

flashdril

New
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:50 pm

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby flashdril » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
flashdril wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.


I think for a "competitive" circuit court judge OP might want to step their game up a little bit? I agree that they don't expect everything from a 2L - so for example "I might want to go into academia," if expanded, could be part of a good answer. But I was told not to say things like "I want to improve my writing and research" especially for competitive judges; they want to hire someone who is already exceptionally competent, not someone they're going to have to train.


As someone who will be clerking for a very competitive circuit judge, and know several others, this is false. You were told wrong. Every single judge knows they're hiring brand new law grads who have no idea what they're doing, and pride themselves on mentoring their clerks. This is especially true of the judges who were professors (think Calabresi, Scirica, and Wilkinson). No one expects term clerks to be competent. I've been told by one feeder that they should do 2 year clerkship, because the clerk gets all the benefit the first year and the judge finally gets the benefit the second. Now, you shouldn't tell a judge you're looking for a mentor. But it is perfectly fine to say you want to further improve your already string writing skills or see how litigation works from the judges perspective or something similar.

I'm glad to hear this! I've heard that same 2 year clerkship point. I think the point I was (poorly) trying to get to was that if this is a competitive judge, I think you need to go in with something stronger than "I want to clerk so I can become a better writer."

The ways Mouse worded it above were much better, and another piece of advice I've heard is to have a non-selfish (for lack of a better word) reason for clerking.

I will say I got the "why do you want to clerk" question in a D. D.C. interview, both judge and clerks.

Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:40 pm

OP here. Thanks for the responses. I'm concerned about this question because I was asked these types of questions repeatedly (by literally everyone, including the judge) when I did a district court interview.

Nony, your response is exactly what I was looking for -- thanks! :D

Anonymous User
Posts: 313002
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Why Circuit Court?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:
flashdril wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Keep in mind you're not really going to be expected to know more than your average informed 2L, so while you can't be clueless, judges realize that you don't have everything figured out yet.


I think for a "competitive" circuit court judge OP might want to step their game up a little bit? I agree that they don't expect everything from a 2L - so for example "I might want to go into academia," if expanded, could be part of a good answer. But I was told not to say things like "I want to improve my writing and research" especially for competitive judges; they want to hire someone who is already exceptionally competent, not someone they're going to have to train.


As someone who will be clerking for a very competitive circuit judge, and know several others, this is false. You were told wrong. Every single judge knows they're hiring brand new law grads who have no idea what they're doing, and pride themselves on mentoring their clerks. This is especially true of the judges who were professors (think Calabresi, Scirica, and Wilkinson). No one expects term clerks to be competent. I've been told by one feeder that they should do 2 year clerkship, because the clerk gets all the benefit the first year and the judge finally gets the benefit the second. Now, you shouldn't tell a judge you're looking for a mentor. But it is perfectly fine to say you want to further improve your already string writing skills or see how litigation works from the judges perspective or something similar.


I agree with all of this except that you shouldn’t tell a judge you are looking for a mentor. My judge takes clerk mentorship extremely seriously and looks for people who want to build a career-long relationship with him/her, so telling him/her this at an interview would be a positive. But as always, this all depends on the judge—my judge signaled this before the interview by sending me an impressively detailed list of what each and every one of his/her clerks from 15+ years on the bench had done since their clerkship, and then all the past clerks I reached out to mentioned mentorship in the first minute of conversation.



Return to “Judicial Clerkships?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.