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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