It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

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It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:13 pm

I'm considering applying for clerkships about a year from now as a first year associate.

I'm on track to finish with 16 H's and 10 P's (FWIW I assume that I will get 2 H's and 1 P this semester). I have a STRONG upward grade trend--I got 1 H 1L Fall and 4 H's total during 1L, but have H'd 9 of my last 10 classes. That 1 P was Fed Courts, though. Anyway, my GPA will wind up being a 3.6X, to the extent that it matters.

I am a step or two below EIC of a more notable secondary journal. I had three years of prior work experience, two of which were highly specialized at a federal agency. I will be at a pretty good firm in DC.

I am a member of either ACS or FedSoc, though not a particularly active one.

I can get the requisite 3 rec letters, including one from a "celebrity" professor.

I know I'm out of the running for "feeder" COAs, and frankly most of the DC / 2nd / 9th. I also know I'm somewhere better than "district court clerkship in flyover country" territory. But I've received a lot of conflicting information as to where in the big gulf I fall.

I also know a fair number of people in a similar boat--above-median grades, solid extracurriculars, and an overall very good resume--who are mulling clerkships too.

So, what can I expect? Is somewhere like EDNY or EDVA doable? DMass? COA in a less-popular circuit? Senior status COA judge in a more-popular circuit?

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby SoCalTacos » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:36 am

Why not just apply and see what happens? I think everyone here makes too much of a stink over the particulars.

I couldn't get some easy district courts, but then got random COA interviews I didn't expect, etc...

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:35 am

I think you're far closer to flyover district than you might think. Not seeing much special about your description of your application. Possibly if you're a Fed Soc member, you might find a slightly more prestigious position with a judge who really values that. Otherwise, don't put a ton of stock into the HLS bias on here and apply very broadly.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby hlsperson1111 » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:02 am

You are in "apply very broadly, including to flyover district courts" territory. For what it's worth, I had somewhat better but not outstanding grades at HLS (ended 1L with 6H/4P; ended 3L with 18 H including 3 DS and 7 P) and clerked for a senior district judge somewhere in the Ninth that wasn't ND Cal or CD Cal. I know people with worse grades who ended up with COA and top district courts, but I also know people with better grades who struck out or ended up in weird places. And the poster before me is right - your resume is fine, but there's not much that will get you pulled out of the pile.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:55 am

Your grades are too low for 2/9/DC, and too low for much of SDNY/DDC/NDCA, but not necessarily all judges. I would apply broadly to district court clerkships in the second band of selectivity (DNJ/EDPa/EDVA/EDCA/SDCA/NDIL/ect.) and any judges your professors have particularly close contacts with in more competitive districts and the circuits. Once you break that original barrier and land a d ct clerkship, COAs will open up.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:08 am

You're not a lock for interviews anywhere, even for flyover district court judges. But there are plenty of people with your grades clerking in every COA except the DC Circuit. (And there are some FedSoc people with your grades clerking for very highly regarded conservative judges.)

You're in a zone where professor connections will matter a ton. If you're close with any of your recommenders I would ask for help from them first. If not, you should apply extremely broadly.

Some people have reservations about applying broadly because they worry about potentially getting an offer for a less-desirable spot before their preferred judges start hiring. That's a valid concern; you'll have to decide if that concern outweighs the risk of striking out altogether.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:20 pm

OP here.

Thanks for the advice so far guys. I've pretty much had my suspicions confirmed: (1) apply broadly, and (2) expect a wide and seemingly random variance in terms of outcome. That's fair. From my own anecdotal experience I know someone with roughly my grades, but also LR, who's on a COA. I also know folks who struck out with roughly my credentials. As someone who has only just begun seriously considering clerkships I wasn't sure whether those were extreme outliers. But from this thread and looking at past TLS threads and going to OCS the process seems just as random and arbitrary as those outcomes would entail. So that's cool I guess.

Also, re: "flyover country". I'm from a part of the country that most would consider flyover country, so my definition is probably a bit different. It seems like HLS students and TLSers use it to mean "a clerkship anywhere but the 7 or 8 most desirable coastal cities plus Chicago," whereas to me it's more like Wyoming or Nebraska or something. So to me somewhere like Minneapolis or Columbus or Buffalo or Indianapolis or [insert X mid-sized city HLS grads generally don't go to] isn't quite "flyover country." Which I guess is fine since I have to "apply broadly" anyway.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:03 pm

Worth noting that applying as an alum opens some doors and closes others. More than a few judges look for people with a year or two of biglaw under their belt. Check those spreadsheets they post on the bench blog for "experience preferred." You'll also have the advantage of being able to apply to off-cycle clerkships and last-minute openings.

But I'd be wary of taking a clerkship somewhere random (i.e., somewhere you don't intend to remain) as a first- or second-year associate without a strong grasp of your firm's policy on hiring clerks back. Some places have a stated policy, others an informal assurance, others nothing at all. It's one thing if you've got a guaranteed offer to return, but jumping ship to clerk doesn't make much sense if you'll end up reapplying to DC firms after a year in Minneapolis/Columbus/Buffalo.

To add to the pile of anecdotal evidence, I had similar grades (nearly identical to the 18H anon above). Applied with some non-clerkship experience, got interviews on the 2nd/9th/elsewhere and I ended up taking a COA.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:35 pm

OP again. ^ This makes a lot of sense.

For what it's worth, I'd like to stick close to DC. I think I'd ideally land something in E.D. Va. or D. Md. or possibly even 4th Cir. since it's all a crapshoot anyway.

My firm encourages clerkships from what I can gather. I met a couple of midlevels over the summer who clerked as 2nd or 3rd years and then came back to the firm. Definitely a nice option to have.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:47 pm

How much does a prior district court clerkship improve COA chances?

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:How much does a prior district court clerkship improve COA chances?


At another of HYS but I'd say quite a lot. I think most people in my class who are clerking on a COA in a major city are going to a D. Ct. first. Sometimes they're in the same place, other times not, but from experience it became significantly easier to get interviews in the same circuit once I had my D. Ct. clerkship lined up. Having a district clerkship lined up also makes things easier because you're applying another year out, which helps given the breakdown in hiring over the past couple years and how far out spots have filled up.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:25 pm

I had a similar experience at HLS and ended up with a clerkship. Similarly to you, I don't consider all non-coastal cities "flyover" and am clerking in the second-largest midwestern city. I had geographic ties, which likely helped because I was able to interview with several judges there, as well as a NDIL judge in Chicago.

I second the advice that recommendations are going to be very useful. In particular, if you feel close and comfortable with at least one of your recommenders, maybe you could explain some of the reasons for the upward trajectory. The recommender could exercise their judgment as to whether to include some of those details in the letter. I have heard several people comment that the LOR I received from a professor who did so was outstanding.

Maybe think about ways in which you can tie your prospective clerkship to your overall career trajectory, since you want to return to a firm. Did you want more exposure in patent or biomedical cases (Minneapolis)? More exposure to certain criminal cases (Detroit, on an international border)? Those are oversimplified but just examples of what to consider.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:18 pm

hlsperson1111 wrote:For what it's worth, I had somewhat better but not outstanding grades at HLS (ended 1L with 6H/4P; ended 3L with 18 H including 3 DS and 7 P)


What are you talking about? this has to be close to Manga, what was your numerical GPA? it had to have been at least above a 3.8 and magna is somewhere above a 3.9 and below a 4.0. Regardless, cum luade is somewhere between 3.5 and 3.6 and that is the top 40%. You are closer to 10% than 40%.

How is graduating near the top 10% of the class not outstanding grades? when your grades are this good outside of feeders are judges really parsing GPA's or are they looking more at resume and fit? Are judges really turning down one of the top 50 graduates of Harvard because they didn't have the grades? if so, this is the stupidest system I have ever heard of in my life.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby TFALAWL » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:33 pm

I really think that 90+% of HLS grads could get a district court if they waited patiently enough (perhaps 2-3 years out of school) and applied broadly.

Someone will bite. Hell, even I pulled it off somehow and I didn't go to HLS :p

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby hlsperson1111 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:
hlsperson1111 wrote:For what it's worth, I had somewhat better but not outstanding grades at HLS (ended 1L with 6H/4P; ended 3L with 18 H including 3 DS and 7 P)


What are you talking about? this has to be close to Manga, what was your numerical GPA? it had to have been at least above a 3.8 and magna is somewhere above a 3.9 and below a 4.0. Regardless, cum luade is somewhere between 3.5 and 3.6 and that is the top 40%. You are closer to 10% than 40%.

How is graduating near the top 10% of the class not outstanding grades? when your grades are this good outside of feeders are judges really parsing GPA's or are they looking more at resume and fit? Are judges really turning down one of the top 50 graduates of Harvard because they didn't have the grades? if so, this is the stupidest system I have ever heard of in my life.


I graduated cum laude and had a GPA of 3.88, and I wasn't on law review. Having been on both ends of the clerkship hiring process, that is not a profile that will get you pulled from the pile without something extra in most courts of appeals or top district courts. I'm not saying it's not a strong resume - it probably would have gotten you pulled from the pile in my chambers - but there are a lot of really qualified candidates out there.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:54 am

hlsperson1111 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
hlsperson1111 wrote:For what it's worth, I had somewhat better but not outstanding grades at HLS (ended 1L with 6H/4P; ended 3L with 18 H including 3 DS and 7 P)


What are you talking about? this has to be close to Manga, what was your numerical GPA? it had to have been at least above a 3.8 and magna is somewhere above a 3.9 and below a 4.0. Regardless, cum luade is somewhere between 3.5 and 3.6 and that is the top 40%. You are closer to 10% than 40%.

How is graduating near the top 10% of the class not outstanding grades? when your grades are this good outside of feeders are judges really parsing GPA's or are they looking more at resume and fit? Are judges really turning down one of the top 50 graduates of Harvard because they didn't have the grades? if so, this is the stupidest system I have ever heard of in my life.


I graduated cum laude and had a GPA of 3.88, and I wasn't on law review. Having been on both ends of the clerkship hiring process, that is not a profile that will get you pulled from the pile without something extra in most courts of appeals or top district courts. I'm not saying it's not a strong resume - it probably would have gotten you pulled from the pile in my chambers - but there are a lot of really qualified candidates out there.


I'd second this—there are a lot of really qualified people, and magna from HLS sticks out way more than cum laude. In a lot of chambers cum laude will still get pulled, but in more competitive places no absent something else that really distinguishes the applicant.

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Re: It's another "HLS clerkship chances" post

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:12 pm

FYI in case you're losing hope, I have very similar stats to yours at HLS (about a 3.6, 13H 8P right now, meh position on meh journal, no LR/BSA/HLAB, sort of interesting work experience but nothing special) and I got a COA clerkship (not on the 2nd, 9th, or DC circuit, but not on the 6th, 8th, or 11th either). No district court clerkship. Might be unusual but just letting you know it happens. The judges pick applications out of the pile for random reasons. Get good recommendations and a good writing sample.



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