Clerking From Lower Ranked School

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PiersonvPostMalone

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Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby PiersonvPostMalone » Mon Nov 05, 2018 2:54 pm

Just to start, I am in the top 1% of my class at a school in the 90-100 range. I'm also on law review, involved in moot court, etc. I know a clerkship is achievable, but I was wondering if anyone else out there clerked from a similar background and how the experience went for them. My concern is that my school does place a few clerks (into State Supreme Court or Fed. Dist. Ct.), but I was looking to expand beyond the typical judges my school sends people to.

If anyone has advice, feel free to send it my way. I recognize that applying as broadly as possible and to as many places as possible would be my best option, but if anyone with a similar background went straight to a Circuit Court or broke out of the typical judges their respective schools place with, I would be interested in hearing your story.

Thanks.

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:40 pm

My fed COA judge would look seriously at the #1 or #2 student from just about any T100 school who applied (we got maybe half a dozen applicants like this in my year). I think we even interviewed one or two such students. Honestly, being on law review probably wouldn't have cut it for my judge -- we were looking at non-T14 candidates who were either EIC or on law review e-board. And even so, I'd say that you would need really sparkling recommendations to have made it to our interview pile. FWIW, this was a fairly desirable COA judge on the 2/9/DC Circuit.

Assuming you can't change anything about law review at this point, your recommendations / recommenders are going to be crucial for your chances. Also, it's worth targeting your "local" judges. A 2nd Cir. judge is going to generally prefer a top Cardozo student over a top Houston student, all else equal. That advantage is going to go up pretty substantially once you leave the big cities.

PiersonvPostMalone

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby PiersonvPostMalone » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:49 am

Hey thanks for the info. I probably should've said I'm currently a 2L so I haven't had an opportunity to run for E-board on law review yet, but we'll see. At least what you've said seems pretty encouraging considering that's a desirable district and desirable judge. Thanks again

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:13 am

PiersonvPostMalone wrote:At least what you've said seems pretty encouraging considering that's a desirable district and desirable judge. Thanks again


Not to burst your bubble, but the previous poster said "I think we even interviewed one or two such students." One or two candidates in lower ranked schools maybe got interviews.

I went to a similarly ranked school to you. I was top 3%, LR, led Moot court, judicial internship, published, tons of moot court wins including a writing award for a brief. Really really strong recs. Out of 80+ apps, I got 2 interviews and those 2 were only because of school/networking connections. Meaning I did not get a single look just because of a resume in a pile.

Its a hard, frustrating slog. The good news: I have a clerkship with an incredible judge that I am very excited for. Be flexible about location and timing. Be willing to re-apply once you have work experience. Be willing to apply for positions a year or two removed from law school. Network, talk to everyone. The bad news: I was one of the only ones in my class to get one (maybe the only?), including people ranked higher than me. I'm not trying to discourage you or be a pessimist, but I think the process would have been less painful/frustrating if I had gone in with more realistic expectations of how my school rank would affect my chances.

lavarman84

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby lavarman84 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:09 am

PiersonvPostMalone wrote:Just to start, I am in the top 1% of my class at a school in the 90-100 range. I'm also on law review, involved in moot court, etc. I know a clerkship is achievable, but I was wondering if anyone else out there clerked from a similar background and how the experience went for them. My concern is that my school does place a few clerks (into State Supreme Court or Fed. Dist. Ct.), but I was looking to expand beyond the typical judges my school sends people to.

If anyone has advice, feel free to send it my way. I recognize that applying as broadly as possible and to as many places as possible would be my best option, but if anyone with a similar background went straight to a Circuit Court or broke out of the typical judges their respective schools place with, I would be interested in hearing your story.

Thanks.


Apply broadly, but I wouldn't stick your nose up at the judges who are your best bets. As for the COA, you'll stand a better chance if you get a D. Ct. clerkship. But you have an outside shot at one if you stay among the top few students in your class. Of course, connections are going to really matter there.

groob

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby groob » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:25 am

I went to a school even lower ranked than you, and I happily took the district court clerkship and a federal circuit clerkship from the judges that usually hire from my school. Trust me, lots of doors are open for you afterward.

BlackAndOrange84

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:21 am

Something to add: if you get the district court clerkship first and then do a round of applications to COAs you may find you get more traction outside of the usual judges for your school (though I second the opinion that you shouldn't pass those opportunities up). A good friend who was in the top 5 students at a somewhat higher ranked school (but not T20) hadn't gotten any traction with COAs and almost immediately landed one well outside of where the school typically places. I'd also add, do everything you can to get on the law review executive board—in my experience it matters much more for students not coming from T14 schools.

PiersonvPostMalone

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby PiersonvPostMalone » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:45 pm

Hey, thanks again for the feedback.

Also, don't worry about it. You're not bursting my bubble. I was just hoping to hear that my application would have a shot (or at least not get immediately thrown out) at a COA or a district that my school doesn't usually send people to, not that I'd have a great chance. I'm also not scoffing at the few clerkships that people often go to, but I have a conflict with one of the judges and the others are not as feasible for me. So while I still plan on applying to these judges, I am trying to consider how I'd fare elsewhere. I certainly would accept a clerkship with one of the usual judges if offered, but I would just prefer to branch out. So I appreciate the feedback because you all seem to have successfully gone through this process.

lavarman84

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby lavarman84 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:27 pm

PiersonvPostMalone wrote:Hey, thanks again for the feedback.

Also, don't worry about it. You're not bursting my bubble. I was just hoping to hear that my application would have a shot (or at least not get immediately thrown out) at a COA or a district that my school doesn't usually send people to, not that I'd have a great chance. I'm also not scoffing at the few clerkships that people often go to, but I have a conflict with one of the judges and the others are not as feasible for me. So while I still plan on applying to these judges, I am trying to consider how I'd fare elsewhere. I certainly would accept a clerkship with one of the usual judges if offered, but I would just prefer to branch out. So I appreciate the feedback because you all seem to have successfully gone through this process.


Your grades + class rank will give you opportunities elsewhere. You'll just have to accept that you're going to need to apply broadly and deal with a lot of no's from judges who simply won't hire from your law school. Without a D. Ct. clerkship, the COA will be difficult to land if you don't have connections and aren't #1 in your class. It's not impossible, but it'll be difficult.

I am speaking from experience here. I was one of the top students at a school that is at the bottom of T1. I was able to get interviews with D. Ct. judges all over the country. I ended up accepting a clerkship with a judge on the other side of the country. After getting that clerkship, I applied for COAs and got a solid number of interviews with judges all over the country. I landed a clerkship with a judge outside the region of my LS. That all said, it look a long time to land my COA clerkship, I received a lot of rejections, and I believe getting a strong LOR from my D. Ct. judge is what ended up being the difference maker for me.

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 14, 2018 8:18 pm

Lots of good advice on here. I will just add that your best bet is if one of your instructors knows a judge well calls that judge and recommends you. I was top 15% at a law school that usualy hovers around 80-100 and EIC of a secondary journal. Landed an interview on the recommendation of a professor (who had previously clerked for the judge). I likely would have received an offer for the next term (based on the Judge and recommender’s comments) had another opportunity not arisen that was better for my particular situation.

Bottom line, you can apply broadly; it doesn’t hurt. But your best bet (based on your situation) is a personal recommendation from someone the judge knows and respects. This can at least get you in the door for an interview.

flyoverlawclerk47

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby flyoverlawclerk47 » Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:14 am

Volume and persistence. I was top 25% at a T2 (80-100), executive board of law review, moot court, supreme court clinic, and a research assistant to two professors. I applied to close to 200 judges, had approximately 10 interviews, and landed clerkships with a magistrate judge and a district judge. Both clerkships are located within the district where I went to law school, and both judges are alumni of my alma mater. That said, I had interviews, or offers to interview in other districts where I had no connections.

I would agree that judges close to your law school would provide a worth wild experience. But to the extent you want to clerk elsewhere, you're more than capable of doing that (within reason). Good luck.

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 18, 2018 3:42 am

I went to a school that is now ranked somewhere in the bottom half of the top 100 schools. I was in the top 5 (not 5% - 5) of my class. My second clerkship was for a semi-feeder on 2/9/DC (I did not clerk at SCOTUS). A first clerkship will help get the second.

I would focus on law review leadership and publications. Keep your grades up, too. Connections help, but I did fine under the old hiring plan for my first clerkship (which is slightly different from the current hiring plan). Get your profs to pick up the phone for you, even for judges they don't know. Get yourself pulled out of the pile.

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Redamon1

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby Redamon1 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:14 am

Some chambers won't look at applications from non-T14 schools, unless the application is recommended by a contact, or a professor calls. In those cases, the application is pulled from the pile for a look.

So, apply broadly, use your networks (if possible), and have professors call.

Good luck!

PiersonvPostMalone

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby PiersonvPostMalone » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:28 am

I appreciate all of the honesty and personal experience. This is exactly what I was looking for.

A couple more questions, if any one feels they could weigh in. Does it matter if a professor doesn't have a connection with the judge? Or will calling alone, if the professor goes to bat for you, be enough to get someone out of the pile? At least one of my recommenders has judges that he/she knows personally, but I'm unsure about the other (who probably knows my work to a greater extent).

Also, do you think having the Dean of your law school speak on your behalf might be more useful? Should I try to get a letter of recommendation from the Dean (I know him/her well enough for a letter, but not as well as the two professors).

lavarman84

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Re: Clerking From Lower Ranked School

Postby lavarman84 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:21 pm

PiersonvPostMalone wrote:I appreciate all of the honesty and personal experience. This is exactly what I was looking for.

A couple more questions, if any one feels they could weigh in. Does it matter if a professor doesn't have a connection with the judge? Or will calling alone, if the professor goes to bat for you, be enough to get someone out of the pile? At least one of my recommenders has judges that he/she knows personally, but I'm unsure about the other (who probably knows my work to a greater extent).

Also, do you think having the Dean of your law school speak on your behalf might be more useful? Should I try to get a letter of recommendation from the Dean (I know him/her well enough for a letter, but not as well as the two professors).


1. Yes, it matters if the professor has a connection. It makes the call a lot more likely to make a difference.
2. Calling even if they don't might get you out of the pile, but it's a lot less likely. If they do have a connection, it almost certainly will.
3. If the Dean can write a strong letter, I think it's a good thing. And if the Dean can't write a stronger letter than another recommender, the Dean making a call on your behalf certainly won't hurt you.



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