Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

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Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 13, 2019 4:36 pm

Hi all,

I am a 2L at HLS and I am splitting this summer between an elite lit boutique and BigLaw (both in NYC). I only recently started thinking seriously about doing a clerkship so I know very little currently about the whole process and would greatly appreciate any help/guidance. For financial reasons, I can afford doing only a single clerkship for the 2020 cycle but don't understand too well the differences between district and COA clerkships in terms of hours and substance.

Grade-wise, I currently have 3 DS, 7 H, and 5 P. I don't have grades yet from this past semester but I am expecting 3 H and 1 P. I can get recs from three semi-famous professors who were former SCOTUS clerks. I am only interested in COA and district clerkships with liberal/moderate judges in Boston, NYC, and DC. Given how competitive these three locations are, do I have a realistic shot, especially given I am not on LR? If so, how should I go about sending in applications? Should they be sent out in order of preference or all at once as soon as the OSCAR portal opens? Thanks a lot!

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 13, 2019 5:00 pm

Apply widely within your parameters. Some CA2 judges (including mine) require (in practice) being on Law Review; others don't, especially if your grades are high enough. In terms of substance/day-to-day work, the COA is more solitary and involves long-form writing (think drafting bench memos analyzing issues for the judge, and first drafts of opinions/summary orders); the D. Ct. involves more dynamic work coordinating with the parties themselves (scheduling TROs, trial motions, quick one-off legal research topics, etc.). The time investment will vary based on the specific judge more so than the court.

CA2 judges are following the new agreement, in theory, which means you should send apps to everyone you'd be willing to clerk for asap once the window opens. Based on your grades/no LR, some will be uphill climbing (Livingston, Katzmann, maybe Kearse, Lynch), while others are viable if you can get your app noticed somehow (e.g., having a professor make a call to chambers).

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 13, 2019 5:10 pm

I think you have an OK chance of getting a district court clerkship and an outside chance of a COA clerkship within your geographic parameters. Your chances would go up a lot if you broadened your geographic parameters even a tiny bit (e.g., you included First Circuit judges in RI, Second Circuit judges in CT, Third Circuit judges in Newark, Fourth Circuit judges in DMV).

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 14, 2019 4:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think you have an OK chance of getting a district court clerkship and an outside chance of a COA clerkship within your geographic parameters. Your chances would go up a lot if you broadened your geographic parameters even a tiny bit (e.g., you included First Circuit judges in RI, Second Circuit judges in CT, Third Circuit judges in Newark, Fourth Circuit judges in DMV).


I second this. I had almost identical grades at HLS at this point in LS and ended up with district and circuit clerkships in two of the locations and circuits referenced by the anon I'm quoting.

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 8:06 am

I'm familiar with the hiring practices of several of the most competitive lib/mod judges in the DC and NY courts you're interested in, and the general minimum floor for considering HLS applicants was that the number of DSs should at least equal the number of P's. So for each P, the judges would want to see a DS. And that was the floor - many applicants who met that cutoff were barely considered beyond that, and the ones that got hired tended to more like a 2:1 ratio of DSs to Ps (and often a max 2 or 3 Ps total over 3 years). Now these were among the most competitive judges in their respective districts/circuits, so I don't know how much more relaxed that is for some of the less competitive judges in those courts, but I would imagine the floor is pretty high everywhere given how strong the pool of applicants is.

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 10:34 am

HLS alum here. Your grades will not prevent you from being considered by any judges in the locations you described, with the exception of some of the most competitive judges (as mentioned by other posters). That said, your grades will also not be so dazzling that you can be complacent, and lack of law review hurts a little. Hopefully you've shown serious leadership and commitment to either a secondary journal or some other organization or activity, as that will help significantly (at least for some judges).

Strong recommendations will be key. Not just who they are, but what they say about you. Clerks and judges see a lot of recommendations. It is easy to tell a recommendation that was thrown together where the professor barely knows the person but the person happened to get a good grade in the class, for example. And if professors are willing to call for you, that's an easy way to get your application pulled out of the pile and get a second, careful look.

Given all that, I agree with the suggestion to apply widely within your parameters. Only apply to judges you are seriously interested in, but if that means the liberal/moderate judges in Boston, NY (SDNY + EDNY), and DC, you have 50+ judges to apply to. Apply to all, and you'll definitely have a realistic shot. And if you're committed to clerking and feeling risk-adverse, broaden that a little (DNJ and CA3 in Newark; CA4 in DMV; etc.)

As far as District Court versus COA -- only you can answer that question. If you're looking to focus on appellate law (particularly in one of the big DC shops) or are focused on "prestige" and are thinking of litigating for a few years and then moving to government, academia, non-profit, etc. -- COA is definitely the right choice. If you think you're most likely to want to spend your career as a trial lawyer, the district court experience might be more valuable for day-to-day insight, particularly if you are clerking in the district you primarily plan to practice in. (E.g., A D. Mass. clerkship isn't as useful for NY biglaw. Knowing the SDNY judges, the court house, the practices, local rules, etc., really comes in handy.) Do you want to dive deep on a couple dozen big, important questions during your year, or see discovery issues, motion practice, and trial?

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2019 5:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm familiar with the hiring practices of several of the most competitive lib/mod judges in the DC and NY courts you're interested in, and the general minimum floor for considering HLS applicants was that the number of DSs should at least equal the number of P's. So for each P, the judges would want to see a DS. And that was the floor - many applicants who met that cutoff were barely considered beyond that, and the ones that got hired tended to more like a 2:1 ratio of DSs to Ps (and often a max 2 or 3 Ps total over 3 years). Now these were among the most competitive judges in their respective districts/circuits, so I don't know how much more relaxed that is for some of the less competitive judges in those courts, but I would imagine the floor is pretty high everywhere given how strong the pool of applicants is.

Just a single data point here, but a good friend from HLS got quite a few interviews in 2d Cir/SDNY (and was ultimately hired in both) with equal DSs & Ps. Not the absolute most competitive judges, though, and s/he had strong recs + good pre-law work experience.

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Re: Clerkship Chances for HLS 2L. COA or District?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 16, 2019 12:52 am

Boston-based former clerk (from another district/circuit) here. I can’t chance you because I haven’t seen enough HLS resumes, but I can recommend that you apply to all the D. Mass. judges in Boston, including the Republican appointees. It’s a very moderate bench on the whole and Gorton is probably the only judge who would be considered “conservative” by national standards—and when people call him “conservative” they mean “stickler for tradition and tough sentencer” rather than “right wing ideologue.” Most Gorton clerks I’ve met are Democrats who think the world of him.

There’s also a sentiment among at least some D. Mass. judges that if you want to clerk for the court, you should be willing to clerk for any judge and thus should apply to all of them (it’s acceptable to exclude Worcester and Springfield, of course). I received an email from a judge I didn’t apply to telling me another judge had forwarded my application and asking if I wanted to interview.



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