Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

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Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:05 pm

Slightly above median HYS and about to start a district court clerkship in a fly-overish district (its a large legal market but outside the first few tiers of really competitive cities.)

Between being in a flyover district far from the legal market that I am going to end up in and having a judge whose not known for really being a mentor to their clerks, I feel like I may end up missing out on some of the main benefits of clerking. I'm returning to the firm I summered at and expect to be relatively happy at the firm, but I've been toying with the idea of applying for a circuit court clerkship for the 21-22 term and then using that to pivot to either a bigfed job or to a smaller lit boutique. Ideally I would be able to make this decision after clerking (so I can find out if I actually enjoy clerking...), but because clerkship hiring begins so earlier I feel like I have to make a decision within the next few months. I would be targeting the circuits in the Northeast for personal reasons (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) Ordinarily I would think I'm out of the running for these clerkships, but I've heard that already having a district clerkship will give my resume at least a little bit of a boost.

I have two questions:

1) Would I realistically be in the running for these circuits given my situation?
2) Would this be worth it given my goals - I can't decide how much a COA clerkship would give me a boost up for these types of transitions vs. just applying directly from the firm around my fourth year.

Thanks!

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2018 2:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Slightly above median HYS and about to start a district court clerkship in a fly-overish district (its a large legal market but outside the first few tiers of really competitive cities.)

Between being in a flyover district far from the legal market that I am going to end up in and having a judge whose not known for really being a mentor to their clerks, I feel like I may end up missing out on some of the main benefits of clerking. I'm returning to the firm I summered at and expect to be relatively happy at the firm, but I've been toying with the idea of applying for a circuit court clerkship for the 21-22 term and then using that to pivot to either a bigfed job or to a smaller lit boutique. Ideally I would be able to make this decision after clerking (so I can find out if I actually enjoy clerking...), but because clerkship hiring begins so earlier I feel like I have to make a decision within the next few months. I would be targeting the circuits in the Northeast for personal reasons (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) Ordinarily I would think I'm out of the running for these clerkships, but I've heard that already having a district clerkship will give my resume at least a little bit of a boost.

I have two questions:

1) Would I realistically be in the running for these circuits given my situation?
2) Would this be worth it given my goals - I can't decide how much a COA clerkship would give me a boost up for these types of transitions vs. just applying directly from the firm around my fourth year.

Thanks!

Given that you have your application materials already, it doesn't hurt to send out apps and decide whether you want to do these clerkships at the interview stage. It could also be beneficial just to see if you're competitive for them in the first place. My guess is that you are, especially with a district court clerkship.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 28, 2018 6:28 pm

You might be competitive for some judges in the First Circuit. Don't think slightly above median will permit you to be competitive in Second circuit unless you have a professor with a connection. Sam thing to a slightly lesser degree in the Third Circuit. If you really want a COA clerkship, you likely need to look beyond the Northeast.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 29, 2018 11:04 am

I defer to others about the wisdom of it, but I generally think anyone who wants to pursue a career in litigation and litigation-related endeavors or crim would benefit from a COA clerkship.

In terms of how to get it, I'd say it depends on whether you're slightly above median at SLS or at HLS (I'm guessing you didn't go to YLS because I've never heard of anyone there talk about a "median" GPA or would even know what that is). If you're SLS, I think your chances aren't bad, because there are relatively fewer SLS folks that clerk on the 1st-3d circuits, and so you should especially focus on (a) judges with Stanford connections (undergrad or law); (b) judges who have previously hired SLS alums; and (c) judges whom your recommenders know/have sent clerks to before. Median at SLS with several years of experience and a district court under your belt would set you apart from a lot of applicants for any of the non-highly-competitive CoA judges.

If you're slightly above median at HLS (which is my guess, because SLS folks also don't really conceive of things in terms of a "median" GPA), then I think your odds will be longer, simply because HLS credentials are far more common on 1st-3d and there's just so many more credible HLS folks in the pool given the school size and the geographic proximity (slightly above median at HLS means that there are ~250 students a year with grades as good as yours, all other things equal). If you are HLS, I would focus much more on the rural CoA judges and have your recommenders do so as well. On CA2, for example, judges like Wesley, Pooler, and Hall do not have the same applicant pool as Livingston, Katzmann, and Calabresi, and they like students who have a demonstrated interest in being in a more rural/remote environment and wanting to be part of a more intimate clerkship family for a year. Here, your "flyover" district court clerkship could help you, especially if it's in a more rural part of the country (e.g. Denver as opposed to Dallas) and if you emphasize that you liked being in an environment different from the usual Acela corridor legal markets. I still think it will be hard, but that's where I'd put my energy if you have limited time/resources/recommender attention. This strategy would also work if you're SLS, so if you are, I'd do both.

Good luck!

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby hlsperson1111 » Sun Jul 29, 2018 8:04 pm

I agree with the post above. If you went to HLS, I think it makes a material difference whether you graduated cum laude (I say this as someone who went to HLS and reviewed resumes/interviewed candidates while clerking).

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:54 am

Original anon:

As was accurately deduced I did go to HLS, which it sounds like puts me in the following position:

1) Probably going to be fairly difficult to get a COA clerkship
2) Probably no significant harm in at least applying since I've got the material

I'm still not sure how helpful it would actually be career-wise, but it seems like I should probably just apply and see what happens. I was honestly pretty surprised to pull off the district court clerkship with my resume - so if everything falls flat with this round of applications I won't be too surprised or disappointed.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:10 pm

I'm the anon who guessed HLS:

To follow up, how willing would your district court judge be to go to bat for you? Make phone calls or directly email judges? What about your recommenders? To some degree, whether this is a waste of time depends on whether your recommenders are eager to go to bat for you and whether they are invested in seeing you clerk on a circuit court. Getting phone calls from HLS professors and/or your district court judge saying glowing things about you could really make the difference for a prospective hiring judge, so while I don't think there's any harm to applying everywhere, I would talk to your recommenders, figure out if they have any particular connections to any of your target judges, and focus everyone's energy there. You'd be surprised how much the concerted effort of several enthusiastic recommenders can move the needle on an app that, on paper, doesn't look all that different from everyone else's. On the other hand, tepid letters and/or non-committal recommenders can hurt you, so it will probably be important to know whether your recommenders are invested in seeing this happen.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:27 pm

.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 18, 2018 10:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm the anon who guessed HLS:

To follow up, how willing would your district court judge be to go to bat for you? Make phone calls or directly email judges? What about your recommenders? To some degree, whether this is a waste of time depends on whether your recommenders are eager to go to bat for you and whether they are invested in seeing you clerk on a circuit court. Getting phone calls from HLS professors and/or your district court judge saying glowing things about you could really make the difference for a prospective hiring judge, so while I don't think there's any harm to applying everywhere, I would talk to your recommenders, figure out if they have any particular connections to any of your target judges, and focus everyone's energy there. You'd be surprised how much the concerted effort of several enthusiastic recommenders can move the needle on an app that, on paper, doesn't look all that different from everyone else's. On the other hand, tepid letters and/or non-committal recommenders can hurt you, so it will probably be important to know whether your recommenders are invested in seeing this happen.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 19, 2018 5:01 pm

Original OP

I posted a lengthier follow up to that question when it was first asked, but was worried about how much potentially identifying info it had so I ended up deleting it when it seemed that the thread had died out.

The gist of it is:

For professors, I don't think they would really take the initiative if I just straight up asked them [just based off their personalities, also two of the three are not considered traditionally well connected professors] but I do think if I came to them with a really narrow list of a few judges and they happened to have connection with one or two they would place a call to help get my resume pulled from the pile.

For my judge, its hard to tell since I'm not in chambers yet, but I've been told my judge will act as a strong recommender. Its hard to tell based off former clerks because I do not match the profile of most of the former clerks [they tended to be top students from lower ranked school who returned to their home markets.] Another issue is that the judges connections are likely stronger with the circuit where they are located and a different circuit where they sit by designation with some frequency rather than my targeted circuits.

Based off the feedback I've gotten, it seems like I'll really have to see how much my judge is willing to / able to help and then see if I can get some additional help from profs once I have a targeted list. I also think that to have a realistic shot I may have to expand my search to circuits where my judge is better connected [which may or may not be possible based on personal complications.]

Please don't quote, and thanks for the help.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:42 pm

I'm the same HLS guesser as before - that sounds about right to me. I think personal connections will be necessary to get you out of the heap of applicants. Unless moving back to the part of the country you're going to be clerking for is out of the question, I would definitely apply to judges in the same Circuit that your judge has relationships with. A strong rec from a fellow judge gets most judges' attention, because judges are even better qualified to say what makes a good clerk than are professors. At the end of the day, you have to decide how much it's worth it to you, but I think that's your best in. Just be sure to knock it out of the park your first few months of the clerkship, and when the timing feels right, broach the possibility of applying to circuit clerkships with your judge and see how s/he reacts. My experience in the past has been that if you present it as a conversation rather than a direct ask, potential recommenders will more comfortably tell you their honest feelings about what they think is appropriate for you and what they might be willing to do.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 19, 2018 11:59 pm

Original OP:

Thanks for all the advice. The idea of having to wait a bit and feel things out with my judge actually makes me feel a bit better about the entire process because it means I can actually figure out if I like clerking / want to clerk for a second year before putting in all the work. A lot of this is driven about feelings of inadequacy about my own clerkship, and at a certain point I probably just have to get over the dumb law student mentality that what I'm not doing enough and totally fucking up my future career chances.

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Re: Would it be worth trying for a Circuit clerkship?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:55 am

FWIW, I clerked in a "flyover" district far from where I ended up, and still got a ton out of the experience (both personal-growth-wise and professionally).



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