Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

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Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:10 am

I'm currently a biglaw associate in a major market (NY/DC), and while I'm interested in clerking, I'm struggling with the idea of moving to a random location in the middle of nowhere. I have some interviews lined up in places with limited housing options and nothing to do after hours. I'm on the fence about canceling. Has anyone clerked in an objectively crappy place? How was the year -- still worth it?

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 30, 2018 10:33 am

At some level this question is personal to you. Family considerations trump this.

Me: Went from major market to regional city that most people have heard of but haven't visited. Think Kansas City or Omaha, that kind of thing. Part of the country that was not super interesting to me initially. Still had a good year because 1) judge was nobody famous but a good boss 2) other clerks in courthouse were social and fun and 3) I ended up getting to know the city pretty well (all things considered) and liked a lot of the local feel.

It depends on you. I'm the kind of person that enjoys getting to know new places. Spending a year in, say, Armadillo Texas might be a cool and interesting detour from NY life. But I also knew myself: I applied broadly but sort of kept to regional cities, coasts, and mountains. I admit it's probably easier to have a good year in Boulder, Colorado than in the District of Arkansas.

I don't really have an answer for you but I hope that helps.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:05 am

Yeah, it's really a personal consideration. I've spent my life moving for jobs (had a sort of career before law school) so I was fine going somewhere completely unexpected for a year. Logistics-wise, it was a pain b/c I'm married and my spouse stayed in their city for the year (we didn't expect to stay in the clerkship city so didn't want to move them there, then move again...), but it was also easier b/c I didn't need to move everything I owned. I also knew was going to move away from my law school city regardless so there wasn't the "move away, move back" thing that's sort of psychologically annoying. (So I went to law school in city A, clerked in city B, then got a job in city C, rather than going A --> B --> A.)

I also think most places are interesting for a year, even if living there long term would be objectively crappy (I lived in a tiny rural midwestern town 2 hours from the nearest not very big city for 4 years, I'm glad as hell I don't live there now but it was really interesting and a good experience). But if you're going to hate it, eh. Only you can balance that.

It also depends on why you're clerking. If you're interested in the actual clerking experience, you can get that anywhere - it's much more about the judge you clerk for than the district you're in. If you want it as a credential for government, I don't think where you does it matters (maybe some jurisdictions would be an extra great plus, but you'll get credit for even the middle of nowhere - speaking from personal experience). If you want it for a credential for biglaw, I don't have experience with that so will have to defer to others.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jun 30, 2018 7:34 pm

Not only is it personal to the applicant but it's specific to the job. Some clerkships are people's favorite professional experiences, even decades later. Some are miserable experiences. If you had the former experience, even a year in El Dorado, Arkansas might be worth it to you.

Obviously this is impossible to know in advance but my point is that the location is really a minor consideration in the quality of the experience, I think.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:20 am

As others have noted, depends on a variety of factors. (1) Who is the judge? and is this COA or D.Ct.? (2) Define "middle of nowhere" - do you mean somewhere fun like Minneapolis or Nashville or Kansas City or Austin, or a very remote place with no large urban nexus? (3) Are you single or married/engaged? If the latter, how mobile is your spouse? (4) How badly do you want to be a trial or appellate lawyer?

Keep in mind also that generally speaking, the shittier the place, the less expensive it will be. This means you can realistically live on your clerkship salary, whereas in NY/DC/CA, its impossible to finance loans and maintain an apartment.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby totesTheGoat » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm currently a biglaw associate in a major market (NY/DC), and while I'm interested in clerking, I'm struggling with the idea of moving to a random location in the middle of nowhere. I have some interviews lined up in places with limited housing options and nothing to do after hours. I'm on the fence about canceling. Has anyone clerked in an objectively crappy place? How was the year -- still worth it?


I don't have any particularly targeted advice for you, but as somebody who has lived in "flyover country" for most of my life before moving to a "major market," I can tell you that the locals will be able to smell your contempt for their "objectively crappy" location "in the middle of nowhere" from a mile away. It happens all the time, somebody from (insert east or west coast city here) moves to (insert heartland city/town here) and spends the whole time pining for home. You may not realize how common it is to run into a coastal transplant who repeats (ad nauseum) "NYC is better than this shithole podunk town, and I'd move back in an instant if it weren't for (insert lame excuse here)" for all to hear.

Rather than being in awe of the super-cool, trendy urbanite who has graced their presence, most of the locals won't even give you the time of day, and you'll miss out on the stuff that the locals do. You'll be stuck commiserating with all of the other coastal transplants who spend their lives whining and moaning about how awful their current location is.

My recommendation? Open your mind to the possibility that the "middle of nowhere" may not suck as bad as you think it will. Just the act of setting aside your attitude will make interacting with the locals a much more positive experience.

EDIT: This isn't to say that there aren't some objectively crappy places out there. In some areas, the #1 form of recreation is getting drunk and shooting at road signs. However, that's usually pretty isolated.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:24 pm

OP here. Thanks for the responses, everyone!

I ended up withdrawing my application. I’m not trendy urbanite that’s big city or bust by any means — I actually grew up in a small Southern town. But I realized relocation and the pay cut just weren’t worth it for me if I wasn’t excited about the location.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby lana merakai » Fri Aug 24, 2018 2:01 pm

Yes its worth it. Judicial clerkship is the best thing to happen to your career.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby goingnutslawschool » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:41 pm

Wow. Small town people sound bitter. Instead of trying to make the outsider feel welcomed and convince them that their town is great, they sound sour about it all. Maybe they feel stuck themselves or jealous. Kind of like they have a chip on their shoulder. Too bad.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Wild Card » Sat Aug 25, 2018 7:53 pm

goingnutslawschool wrote:Wow. Small town people sound bitter. Instead of trying to make the outsider feel welcomed and convince them that their town is great, they sound sour about it all. Maybe they feel stuck themselves or jealous. Kind of like they have a chip on their shoulder. Too bad.


lol maybe. I'm a native New Yorker, and these people from upper middle class gated suburban communities come to my city and treat me with indifference or contempt. I don't want them in my city.

NYU and CLS are filled with these socially deviant hicks.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:28 pm

I clerked for two years in a sort of middle of nowhere place for me. Think somewhere that takes 5-6 hours to drive to from the few major cities I have ties to. I had never been to the city where I clerked and knew nothing about it until I got the interview.

It was the best professional experience I ever had and will likely ever had. I loved every day of it. The main reason was because my judge is the most wonderful human being I've met and the best boss I could ever ask for. I also made some really great friends. An underappreciated aspect of clerking in the middle of nowhere that I experienced and other friends experienced elsewhere is that clerks generally become friends for the simple reason that they don't know anyone else. All but one clerk in the entire courthouse had the same experience as I did: zero ties to the city and no friends or family anywhere close by. So, we all became close. I know of people who clerk in major cities who never really interact with anyone outside of their chambers, and I can't imagine that. I still regularly hang out with friends I clerked with and stay in touch with plenty more.

I will say, however, that there were a number of clerks who were unhappy living where we clerked. It's a smallish city and they are major metro/cosmopolitan types. Small town life is not for everyone. It requires an open mind and an ability to find fun in the suburbs.

As for the experience, yes, it is entirely worth it. The procedure is more or less the same in every federal court (local rules obviously can differ, though not much), and you will always learn so much stuff that most lawyers have little experience with. For instance, my firm primarily practices in state court (I'd say about 75% of our cases), and I am the go-to person for federal procedural issues. And of course you learn a lot of the substantive law, though frankly it isn't particularly useful most of the time (I'm never going to litigate a 1983 case, and I can't imagine I'll deal with any First Amendment issues either).

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby totesTheGoat » Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:20 pm

goingnutslawschool wrote:Wow. Small town people sound bitter. Instead of trying to make the outsider feel welcomed and convince them that their town is great, they sound sour about it all. Maybe they feel stuck themselves or jealous. Kind of like they have a chip on their shoulder. Too bad.


Lol. If that's what you got from what I wrote, I don't know what to tell you. If my first introduction to you involved me condescendingly trashing your home city and whining about being stuck there, I bet you'd avoid me the next time we crossed paths. Has nothing to do with being bitter or jealous or unwelcoming. Has everything to do with avoiding people who crap on your entire existence.

My main point was only that these small town people aren't idiots, they can read between the lines. If you go into a small town with an attitude of contempt, they'll have you pegged for what you are in an instant. "Oh there's that big city lawyer, doesn't want nothin' to do with us bumpkins. All he does is whine about how he can't do this or that like back home."

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby goingnutslawschool » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:57 pm

Did not mean for anyone to take offense. Sure, I get what you are saying but it does sound like the people in small towns are making some assumptions about the city folk too. If a small town person complained about missing home, people might think that they are homesick and listen and try to be sympathetic to them. But if a big city person complains about missing the big city it’s an insult to the small town people because the assumption is that they are being looked down on. Sounds like small town people get defensive easily. I’m not a big city person. My hometown is in the medium category. It’s about right.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby nixy » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:40 pm

I mean, there's a difference between "I miss big city X because I miss home" and "I miss big city X b/c this flyover country sucks," and people can tell the difference between the two attitudes. And funnily enough a lot of bit city people have the latter attitude without even realizing it.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby goingnutslawschool » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:40 am

Sure, maybe big city people complain about feeling stuck in fly over country because it’s not their cup of tea but I still wonder why small town people take that as a denigration of themselves. It’s just taking it too personal as if they are being looked down on for preferring the small town life. It’s just a freaking preference and doesn’t mean much more in the big picture. To each their own. If the small town person finds it whiny and annoying and doesn’t want to hang out with the big city person that’s fine but taking it as a put down of them is stretching it. Hey, if someone says my town sucked I’d be like OK but it’s great for me and not necessarily think that they’re putting me down. Again, just my opinion. And my town doesn’t suck, its Austin and it’s pretty cool but not perfect for everyone.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby nixy » Sat Sep 01, 2018 9:21 am

goingnutslawschool wrote:Sure, maybe big city people complain about feeling stuck in fly over country because it’s not their cup of tea but I still wonder why small town people take that as a denigration of themselves. It’s just taking it too personal as if they are being looked down on for preferring the small town life. It’s just a freaking preference and doesn’t mean much more in the big picture. To each their own. If the small town person finds it whiny and annoying and doesn’t want to hang out with the big city person that’s fine but taking it as a put down of them is stretching it. Hey, if someone says my town sucked I’d be like OK but it’s great for me and not necessarily think that they’re putting me down. Again, just my opinion. And my town doesn’t suck, its Austin and it’s pretty cool but not perfect for everyone.

I mean if you don’t get why a person might be offended by someone else’s belief that the town they love in is boring, backwards, offers nothing to do, ugly, lacking in all important respects, etc, then you’re just not very good at understanding human nature. When someone says, in effect, “why would anyone live in this podunk town,” and you do live in the podunk town, and you enjoy the podunk town, there’s an implication that there’s something wrong with you.

And of course that’s not the same for Austin, or any other big city (and Austin is absolutely a big city - just thinking it's medium suggests you aren't very familiar with small towns), because there isn’t a stereotype that big cities are backwards, unsophisticated, and full of hicks.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby Laser Lady » Sat Sep 01, 2018 12:19 pm

nixy wrote:
goingnutslawschool wrote:Sure, maybe big city people complain about feeling stuck in fly over country because it’s not their cup of tea but I still wonder why small town people take that as a denigration of themselves. It’s just taking it too personal as if they are being looked down on for preferring the small town life. It’s just a freaking preference and doesn’t mean much more in the big picture. To each their own. If the small town person finds it whiny and annoying and doesn’t want to hang out with the big city person that’s fine but taking it as a put down of them is stretching it. Hey, if someone says my town sucked I’d be like OK but it’s great for me and not necessarily think that they’re putting me down. Again, just my opinion. And my town doesn’t suck, its Austin and it’s pretty cool but not perfect for everyone.

I mean if you don’t get why a person might be offended by someone else’s belief that the town they love in is boring, backwards, offers nothing to do, ugly, lacking in all important respects, etc, then you’re just not very good at understanding human nature. When someone says, in effect, “why would anyone live in this podunk town,” and you do live in the podunk town, and you enjoy the podunk town, there’s an implication that there’s something wrong with you.

And of course that’s not the same for Austin, or any other big city (and Austin is absolutely a big city - just thinking it's medium suggests you aren't very familiar with small towns), because there isn’t a stereotype that big cities are backwards, unsophisticated, and full of hicks.


Adding on to this, "big city people" don't typically phrase their complaints in terms of personal preferences, but in terms of, to quote OP, "objective[] crapp[iness]." OP didn't say, "Hey, I'm used to a fast-paced city with lots of nightlife and hip restaurants to go to. I've never lived in a nice, peaceful country town before. Do you think I'd be able to make the adjustment to living in a place that's so different from my past experiences -- which might have a lot to offer for other people, but just isn't what I'm used to?" Instead, OP -- like most city folk -- phrases the question as if every reasonable person would agree with his "objective[]" assessment of smaller towns as horrible backwards places that should only be flown over and not lived in, so the only people who would disagree with him are inbred hillbillies who don't know any better because they've never had the benefit of living in a glorious place like a big city before. It's an attitude of inherent superiority, and it's really grating when you constantly encounter it.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby goingnutslawschool » Sun Sep 02, 2018 12:23 am

No absolutely familiar with small towns. And believe it or not heard lots of big city people complain about Austin. But I don’t take it personal. Maybe I don’t understand human nature at all or maybe people on this thread from small towns are a tad bit sensitive about where they’ve come from or where they’ve chosen to live. Have some self confidence in where you grew up and where you’ve chosen to live because it makes you, you. And Keep Austin Weird.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 3:47 am

goingnutslawschool wrote:No absolutely familiar with small towns. And believe it or not heard lots of big city people complain about Austin. But I don’t take it personal. Maybe I don’t understand human nature at all or maybe people on this thread from small towns are a tad bit sensitive about where they’ve come from or where they’ve chosen to live. Have some self confidence in where you grew up and where you’ve chosen to live because it makes you, you. And Keep Austin Weird.


You don't sound like you're very familiar with small towns. As you earlier admitted, Austin isn't a small town. It's not comparable. I didn't grow up in a small town, but I have lived in a small town. Small towns tend to be very close-knit communities. That's what makes the people who live there usually love it. And it's why they are more sensitive about people insulting their town and way of life than somebody like yourself (or myself) who are from cities. To them, it's like you're insulting their family.

Frankly, you've come into this thread with exactly the sort of arrogance that angers people from small towns. You don't get the culture, but you are intent on telling them how they should feel and how they should live their lives. Try to understand instead of trying to tell them why they're wrong. Yes, they're being defensive, but it's not because they feel inferior. It's because they generally see their community as a large part of their personal identity.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby goingnutslawschool » Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:59 am

You don’t know anything about my experience with small towns. And talk about being arrogant. Good grief, people are so defensive that it’s pretty unbelievable. And maybe that’s the problem. Signing off as I think I’ve encountered the small town mentality at its core.

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Re: Is clerking in the middle of nowhere really worth it?

Postby nixy » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:37 am

goingnutslawschool wrote:You don’t know anything about my experience with small towns. And talk about being arrogant. Good grief, people are so defensive that it’s pretty unbelievable. And maybe that’s the problem. Signing off as I think I’ve encountered the small town mentality at its core.

It’s not being defensive when you’ve encountered people who assume that where you’re from is backward, unsophisticated, and full of hicks, which small town people have. Not sure why you insist on dying on this hill by blaming small town people for not liking the stereotypes others apply to them.



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