wsag826 wrote:Hi all. I got into Columbia this week and I was wondering how current students feel about (A) clerkship placement and (B) placement into DC firms in comparison to a peer school like Chicago and a big DC placement school like UVA? I know that both are very difficult to get and not at all sure bets at any institution, but I was wondering what your perception was based on experience (either anecdotal or actual). Appreciate any insight you can provide!
I'll venture a response to (A). Art III clerkship placement is all about how much effort you can or want to put into it. People generally but especially on this forum understate how much of that hiring process is sheer energy and obsequious attrition versus the traditional factors, school/grades/ect. Yes, grades matter and there are some judges where it wouldn't even be worth applying without pretty high honors, but having professors who will make calls or at least write strong letters is crucial for just about any judge. I'd say a third of the class is qualified for *a* clerkship but forming the right faculty contacts as a first year can be exceedingly difficult, which is one reason it's increasingly common to secure a clerkship later in law school for a year out from graduation. The process is also just batshit crazy since the collapse of "The Plan" and hiring has become incredibly idiosyncratic and unpredictable. While the school basically hands you a firm job if you show up and smile at EIP, clerkships are entirely self-motivated and that turns a lot of folks off, particularly where they don't see the added value for their corporate practice.
Anne Green is very helpful and her office has become more active in promoting clerkship opportunities and making calls to judges. There's also been a faculty push to make professors more accessible to students and more helpful in navigating and supporting the clerkship application process, esp for women who are traditionally under-represented. It's definitely still a work in progress. We can't even get all CLS faculty to have office hours or submit grades.
One distinguishing factor from a school like Chicago remains that most people applying to clerkships are applying to SDNY or 2nd Circuit, and that's where many of the faculty network lies. If you are committed to spending a year in chambers, you can do it but it'll take some commitment and it'll be easier the more geographic flexibility wrt "flyover" districts you have. There's also a whole discussion to be had about "ties." When I was applying to law school I had similar questions and concerns to yours, but what you realize is, because it's so individualized and the application process requires so much energy, it's really difficult to talk about "placement" and "chances" in an objective fashion to a pre-law student who, unless they worked for a judge or at a court in the past, probably doesn't even know what a clerkship really entails and whether they'd actually want one besides the fact that schools release data on them and ppl on top-law-schools.com say they're prestigious.