Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

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Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:54 pm

Hi all,

forgive me if I am naïve in this matter, but I just got a federal judicial clerkship with a Magistrate judge for post-law school in a well-respected (big city) district. I think that this is a good opportunity, but there seems to be a sentiment floating around (whether true or not I don't know) that these aren't anywhere close to as good for your career as a federal district court judicial clerkship. Obviously it is not as prestigious as CoA, but that is a little more obvious to me.

Is a clerkship with a magistrate judge worth it? I think I have a decent shot at some BigLaw offers/governmental honors offers, but I don't know what to do, so I thought I would ask y'all. Also, I would be interested to know if anybody is aware of any firms that offer a clerkship bonus based off of a magistrate federal clerkship. Thx!

Some info that may help:
- I love the area
- I don't love the subject matter that the judge needs help with (habeus corpus, social security issues)
- The pay is just fine for me for a year
- I eventually want to go elsewhere, where my wife's family lives, so I wouldn't want to live where the clerkship is permanently

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:26 pm

I think some more context here would be helpful before anyone can give you a useful answer, because whether a clerkship with a magistrate judge will be useful depends in large part on how you're situated. Can you say a bit more about the kind of law school you went to, how you performed (percentile), what year in law school you are, what things you've done during your summers (did you SA at a firm? Did you get an offer if so?), whether you want to do litigation work, and how far away your ideal city is from the clerkship (i.e., same region, or same state, or many states away?). In general, the less rock star your credentials, the more you want litigation, and the closer that magistrate judge is to where you want to live, the more useful it will be to you. So, for example, if you want to do corporate biglaw or SEC investigations in NYC as a T14 alum and s/he sits in Las Vegas, it won't be helpful at all.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby 20181989 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:28 pm

Quick $0.02: Generally, mag. clerkships aren't considered as prestigious as A3 clerkships. But there are arguments to doing them. (1) A mag. clerkship may help you land an A3 clerkship. (2) Certain magistrates can be held in very high esteem in their districts (on par with, or more esteemed, than some A3 judges). But identifying these magistrates requires local knowledge and the views of area practitioners. So make sure you do your homework.

Ed.: (3) Clerking for a maj. often puts you in the middle of discovery fights, which can consume much of a young litigator's time. So there's an obvious and substantial upside to learning discovery litigation inside the machine.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 30, 2018 1:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think some more context here would be helpful before anyone can give you a useful answer, because whether a clerkship with a magistrate judge will be useful depends in large part on how you're situated. Can you say a bit more about the kind of law school you went to, how you performed (percentile), what year in law school you are, what things you've done during your summers (did you SA at a firm? Did you get an offer if so?), whether you want to do litigation work, and how far away your ideal city is from the clerkship (i.e., same region, or same state, or many states away?). In general, the less rock star your credentials, the more you want litigation, and the closer that magistrate judge is to where you want to live, the more useful it will be to you. So, for example, if you want to do corporate biglaw or SEC investigations in NYC as a T14 alum and s/he sits in Las Vegas, it won't be helpful at all.


OP here, and here comes my shotgun answers to the questions posted above:

I honestly am a sub par student (barely top 1/2) at a school ranked in the 50s-60s. I just started my 3L year. I've done externships at FINRA and the SEC, as well as a fall extern at a very prestigious USAO office (think SDNY, EDNY, NDCA, etc.). I've got very strong softs as well (recommendations, prior experience). The state where I would like to live is fairly close, although not right next door. I would like to litigation.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 30, 2018 1:59 pm

Original Anon here. Thanks - helpful answers. Is this clerkship offer for next year (i.e. right after you graduate), and do you otherwise not have a current employment offer (i.e., an offer from a SA gig)? If the answer to both is yes, the pros of doing it are guaranteed employment and a year to look for a job while you have one. And I believe magistrate clerkships are included as clerkships that allow you to apply for post-grad government honors programs that usually must be applied for right out of school.

If you have a gap year, however, I would be more skeptical because I think that will make it harder for you to find a job in between, at least outside of a fellowship (fixed) or a biglaw firm (large enough to tolerate new attorneys coming and going). To that end, where is your law school in relationship to both where you ultimately want to be and where the clerkship would be? If your law school is where you ultimate destination is, and the clerkship will take you away from that legal market, the clerkship will make it harder to find a job unless you can secure post-clerkship employment this year, because you won't have much time during the clerkship year to drive/fly back to interview. However, if the law school is no where near it, I think this washes out.

I do think the clerkship will help you as an essentially median alum of a 50-60s law school - I clerked on one of the districts you mentioned, and the magistrate clerks in my district were on average much "better" credentialed (law schools and grades-wise). So I do think it bumps up your profile. And if the judge is a good boss, you'll learn a lot about being an effective lawyer even if the substance of the work you do every day isn't always desirable. I would say the main thing is just to be sure to use this year to start networking in your ultimate destination now. If you accept, use the clerkship as an excuse to start networking - I'll be away for a year but am eager to find a job after, etc.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:06 am

Former mag clerk here - I was a t-14 student but was well, well below median, so my career prospects were not great (hiring was okay when I graduated, but not like it is now). So for me, it was a great opportunity, I was able to move on from there to other federal work that I like and I think if I had really tried I could have gotten a district court clerkship afterward.

I did no habeus and almost no SS work when I was clerking--that stuff suuuuucks. I did have to handle a lot of pro se litigation, which could be annoying but honestly wasn't too bad. Otherwise it was mostly discovery motions and other early-stage litigation stuff. Kinda boring after a year, but worth it for me. If I had the credentials to maybe get into an honors program, I wouldn't be so quick to recommend it. If you're looking for more government work down the road, it's probably a good idea.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 31, 2018 1:19 pm

I have heard from several prominent litigators that magistrate clerkships are more valuable than A3 clerkships in terms of learning useful skills and setting yourself apart from other job seekers, especially if you are looking for to be a non big-law litigator (government, other public interest, etc.)

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have heard from several prominent litigators that magistrate clerkships are more valuable than A3 clerkships in terms of learning useful skills and setting yourself apart from other job seekers, especially if you are looking for to be a non big-law litigator (government, other public interest, etc.)


I've heard this to too, and it's surely true for nuts and bolts discovery litigation. But I've never seen any evidence that firms or federal agencies act on this premise in hiring.

ETA: The same is true of D.Ct. vs. COA clerkships, and people routinely say it. But with few exceptions, COA clerkship is a stronger credential.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:46 pm

BlackAndOrange84 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have heard from several prominent litigators that magistrate clerkships are more valuable than A3 clerkships in terms of learning useful skills and setting yourself apart from other job seekers, especially if you are looking for to be a non big-law litigator (government, other public interest, etc.)


I've heard this to too, and it's surely true for nuts and bolts discovery litigation. But I've never seen any evidence that firms or federal agencies act on this premise in hiring.

ETA: The same is true of D.Ct. vs. COA clerkships, and people routinely say it. But with few exceptions, COA clerkship is a stronger credential.


It is true that a COA clerkship is one of the best credentials you can have, and having COA plus Magistrate might be the best way to position yourself, but given that COAs are unlikely for most, a fed magistrate gig is still a worthwhile credential. For certain jobs, will it make you more desirable than someone with the same background + COA? No. Will it make you more desirable than someone with the same background and no clerking experience? Yes.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:It is true that a COA clerkship is one of the best credentials you can have, and having COA plus Magistrate might be the best way to position yourself, but given that COAs are unlikely for most, a fed magistrate gig is still a worthwhile credential. For certain jobs, will it make you more desirable than someone with the same background + COA? No. Will it make you more desirable than someone with the same background and no clerking experience? Yes.


My take is that an MJ clerkship's abstract value as a credential is pretty low (i.e. the boost just having the resume line gives you for any lawyering job). That's why, and I think this is the consensus advice here, that the value of an MJ clerkship is largely situational. The problem with the anon's quoted advice is that it isn't at all clear that an MJ clerkship is more "worthwhile," in the abstract, than working Biglaw for that year. The big caveat to my low-value credential argument is that if the situational things that really matter for MJ clerkships are there, it can be a great opportunity (e.g., respect for that MJ, that you want to be in that market, the work that gets passed on to the MJ, does the MJ go to bat for his clerks to get them jobs, planning on using as stepping stone to D.Ct. clerkship). All that said, there are places where MJ clerkships seems to be more appreciated. Anecdotally, it seems like I've seen that federal agencies like MJ clerks and maybe PD offices too. Maybe if you're gunning for a position like that an MJ clerkship will make sense, but again we're in the territory of "whether or not an MJ clerkship is worthwhile is highly situational."

Also, I don't know if you all have looked over the last few post-clerkship hiring threads, but I think a lot of people are surprised at how little boost they seem to get from D.Ct. clerkships. If that's true for a run of the mill district court clerkship, it's doubly true for MJ clerkships.

Also, please quit the damn anon abuse so we can evaluate your knowledge and credibility. God forbid you have to attach your low-value comments to a pseudonym with a posting history.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 06, 2018 5:29 am

B&O, I think your war against the Anon feature is a little overdone. Indeed, in the mods' announcement of the rules for the Anon feature, they specifically say that arguing with people about the appropriate scope of the Anon use is itself a violation of the policy:

Moderators may announce when they have taken action against a poster, but this is only for transparency, not to invite debate about the anon policy. Do NOT post in the thread itself about whether or not something violates the anon abuse policy; this is considered thread derailment and may get you banned as well. There are other places you can do this, such as PM or an appropriate Lounge thread such as this one: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=146657

Failure to follow any of these rules may result in being outed (even if your post contains sensitive information), and/or banned. The anon feature exists to foster on-topic discussion in this forum, not for repeated debate over the anon feature and the scope of its use. Please keep this in mind.


Seems like many Anon posters here identify their relevant knowledge/experience in their posts, and when ludicrous hot takes are made, they're appropriately batted down. Like it or not, I post here more because I can do so anonymously, whether or not you always think it's strictly necessary to do so. And for the most part, the OPs seem appreciative that their questions are answered and aren't concerned that the responses are often Anon. So why don't we just focus on helping people and leave it to each poster to decide when to Anon and when not to? Otherwise, I suspect the likely effect will just be fewer people willing to take time to give their thoughts on people's situations.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby lavarman84 » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:48 am

If you aren't posting identifying information, you are misusing the anon feature. The point of anon is to protect people from being outed when they're posting personal information. The point of putting a username behind the post is to allow people to evaluate the credibility of the poster. BlackandOrange is right. People are abusing the anon feature like crazy right now, and it is making it more difficult to determine which posts are credible and which are not. Why do you need to hide behind anon to post non-identifying information? You already have a pseudonym when you post normally.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:B&O, I think your war against the Anon feature is a little overdone. Indeed, in the mods' announcement of the rules for the Anon feature, they specifically say that arguing with people about the appropriate scope of the Anon use is itself a violation of the policy:


Cute quote, how about the actual scope of the policy, which I'm not arguing about (nor am I arguing against the anon feature itself, just abuse of it—nice reading comp fail): "The anonymous post feature is meant for serious, judicial clerkship-related questions that could reveal something about the poster to future employers. This can include information about grades, where a person has interviewed/received job offers, and other information that might identify them to future employers. The anonymous feature is not meant to be used as a shield for voicing unpopular opinions, demeaning others, sock puppetry, or otherwise being a jerk."

With the number of bad, anonymous takes that have had to be put down recently it's fair to call them out not just for their substantive weaknesses but for the wildly unnecessary use of anon, which itself suggests that the poster in question may not be as authoritative as their post might suggest. If a mod wants to warn me against calling out anon abuse within an otherwise largely substantive comment as thread derailment, that's fair and I'll listen to them. But not to you.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:13 am

I want to add one more thing. This may seem like a quixotic crusade against a relatively harmless thing, but let's talk for a second about what's at stake on this forum. People come here for advice on significant career and life decisions. Not infrequently, people actually act on advice given here, and not just original posters but people who come by later and read older posts. Commenters owe it to the people seeking advice to give them a basis to evaluate the quality of the advice given, including by not using anon unless actually necessary. (This also permits other posters to call out a lack of knowledge or experience, strengthening the collective advice provided.) So fuck your comfort in posting anonymously rather than pseudonymously, this isn't about you.

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Re: Is a Federal Clerkship w/ Magistrate worth it?

Postby TFALAWL » Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:01 am

Given your credentials, a Mag clerkship is not a bad outcome. I'm a current D. Ct. clerk who worked two years at a v-15. I was not willing to consider Mag because my firm flat out told me that they wouldn't take me back -- so I would not recommend for folks in my shoes.

HOWEVER, mag clerks get probably the most practical experience out of all clerkships -- you'll come out understanding discovery better than any mid-level at a firm. BL firms will most likely not hire you right away, but leverage your experience to get into a smaller shop and/or a district court clerkship.

At this point, i've seen several attorneys from schools outside the top 100 inch their way into a BL firm, or something that pays similar, (think v100+, or regional, but who cares) after a few years of cutting their teeth moving up the ladder through gigs similar to this.

Good luck! You'll have a great experience and even if you don't have the resume, be confident that your skillset will land you somewhere.



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