2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

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Fireworks2016

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2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Fireworks2016 » Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:54 pm

Currently working as a term clerk in district court for a two-year term... have an opportunity to clerk for a Court of Appeals judge afterwards, but she only takes on clerks willing to commit to two-year terms.

Am I crazy for considering it? Crazy to decline it?

Long term, I'm angling for a government position (AUSA would be the dream), but am likely to first land in a firm whenever I finish clerking. My student loans are super manageable (like 25k), and I'm not super concerned about foregoing two years at firm-level pay because I was relatively young when I got my JD and don't have plans to get married or have kids or anything soon.

But I also know that firms balk at four years' of clerking because its supposed to be an indicator that I don't want to litigate or be in practice? Is that the case even when clerking in a 2+2 scenario? I'd probably be willing to negotiate down a class year since obviously I won't have depo/discovery experience.

Anyway, thought I'd open it up to the wisdom of TLS. Thanks!

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:26 pm

I would seriously consider what you expect to gain from the appellate clerkship before committing to another two years. I am finishing up my third year clerking and it was a significant obstacle in the job search. You should expect to drop much more than “a class year” if you are planning on going to a firm. While it’s very context- and firm-specific, my guess is you’d be looking mostly at offers to come on as a second or third-year associate (so, one year of credit per clerkship, not per year clerking, at best). You just won’t be in a position to handle matters in the way mid-level associates do after so many years without any practice experience.

All that said, you need to evaluate how big of an impact the second clerkship will have on your long-term career goals. Take a look at the USAO where you want to work and figure out if most of the assistants are former appellate clerks. If they are, are you willing to work two years in exchange for the potential boost to your application, knowing how competitive AUSA slots are?

I don’t think firms will balk at hiring you, but you will be in a position to explain why you clerked for so long. Since you’re relatively young and have much less debt than I did, it might be a good idea for you, but only do it if you’re ready to start as a junior associate making much less than your former classmates. Of course, the clerkship bonus helps with that as well.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:27 pm

I think a firm would be very hesitant about hiring someone with 4 years of clerking, especially if that person didn't have any firm experience. (Did you go straight from law school to district court?)
If you did get a firm position, I would recommend being willing to drop two class years. Going from law school to a third year, for example, would possibly be setting yourself up to fail.

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think a firm would be very hesitant about hiring someone with 4 years of clerking, especially if that person didn't have any firm experience. (Did you go straight from law school to district court?)
If you did get a firm position, I would recommend being willing to drop two class years. Going from law school to a third year, for example, would possibly be setting yourself up to fail.


Can you explain your last statement?

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:46 pm

Different anon, but presumably they mean that clerking doesn’t teach you the skills a typical associate has by their third year, and that if you came in as a third year you’d fuck yourself by having to deal with expectations you can’t live up to yet.

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Different anon, but presumably they mean that clerking doesn’t teach you the skills a typical associate has by their third year, and that if you came in as a third year you’d fuck yourself by having to deal with expectations you can’t live up to yet.


No I got that. I suppose I was looking for more specifics. What types of expectations would there be, or things that you’d be asked to do as a “third year” that you wouldn’t be able to figure out through clerkship experience or asking questions or whatever else?

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:04 pm

Oh, that makes sense. I suspect it would be kind of hard to do the negotiating between partners/senior associates and 1st years that a more mid-level type does without knowing the personalities/firm culture and practices involved.

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Oh, that makes sense. I suspect it would be kind of hard to do the negotiating between partners/senior associates and 1st years that a more mid-level type does without knowing the personalities/firm culture and practices involved.


What type of negotiating? What specifically are you negotiating?

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:23 pm

I'll try to steer a middle course here but echo what others have said that it boils down to what your career goals are. A minority of people do end up clerking for four years whether it's at the state or federal level or a combination of both and some do complete repeat clerkships at the same level for whatever reason. This isn't a question whether you'll get a firm job - a firm in your dj's market and, to a broader extent, your circuit court judge's one will be happy to have you. To that end however, it's highly doubtful that you will receive class credit/compensation for all four years of clerking. Most firms who target clerks will provide bonuses/class credit for two years - usually at the dj or COA level and less so for magistrates although it does happen. On that scale, you'd be looking to come in as a third-year. That is why many on these boards advise against clerking beyond the two year mark . . . it's financially not worth it knowing that a firm won't bring you in at beyond a third-year level. If that is something you are comfortable with then clerk away . . . the writing experience is valuable. If finances are an issue, it's a loss comparatively speaking and a waste of professional years.

As far as the USAO offices are concerned . . . keep in mind that these jobs involve a combination of prestige/skill development that largely comes down to the US Attorney's preferences and the office. A COA clerkship might automatically open the door in one office, but a lack of skill development would hold you back in another. USAO hiring is a very black box process. If you haven't practiced before, my suggestion would be to get some white collar criminal defense/gov't investigation firm gig and get into court through that practice group or pro bono work so you get the baseline courtroom experience most USAOs value. A COA clerkship is a great pragmatic step towards appellate AUSA positions, but a USAO will be reluctant to train you from the ground up if you've never been in a courtroom or had some motion practice exposure.

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Re: 2 Years @ D. Ct. AND 2 years at COA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:18 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I think a firm would be very hesitant about hiring someone with 4 years of clerking, especially if that person didn't have any firm experience. (Did you go straight from law school to district court?)
If you did get a firm position, I would recommend being willing to drop two class years. Going from law school to a third year, for example, would possibly be setting yourself up to fail.


Can you explain your last statement?


What I meant was, if you get 3 years of credit and went straight to clerking from law school, you'll be entering as a rising fourth-year associate. Clerking gives you the big-picture sense of litigation, but you'll have no experience in some of the nitty gritty of big law firm litigation practice.

As a fourth year associate, there would be expectations about what you'd be able to handle as far as depositions, responses to subpoenas, document production, doc review design, etc. You may be able to get by asking questions and learning quickly, but I would be worried about gaps in your knowledge of things that are presumed for a fourth year associate to know.

That said, if you're going to a firm just to do appellate litigation, then I wouldn't worry about it, since the skills for a COA clerkship experience would be more directly transferable.



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