How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

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enidwexler
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How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:00 pm

...straight out of law school?
Last edited by enidwexler on Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby Doorkeeper » Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:46 pm

Very, very difficult.

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catholicgirl
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby catholicgirl » Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:48 pm

Doorkeeper wrote:Very, very difficult.

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enidwexler
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:59 pm

catholicgirl wrote:
Doorkeeper wrote:Very, very difficult.


Is there any reason in particular why ACLU fellowships are so highly coveted? (As opposed to other civil rights organizations like Lambda Legal. Or are fellowships with Lambda Legal also very, very difficult to get?)

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:23 pm

All public interest fellowships are very, very difficult to get. (And the other downside is that you're not guaranteed a job with that organization once your funding is gone. At least, as I understand it.)

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Doorkeeper
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby Doorkeeper » Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:24 pm

enidwexler wrote:
catholicgirl wrote:
Doorkeeper wrote:Very, very difficult.


Is there any reason in particular why ACLU fellowships are so highly coveted? (As opposed to other civil rights organizations like Lambda Legal. Or are fellowships with Lambda Legal also very, very difficult to get?)

Lambda is also difficult, but ACLU is basically the most difficult civil rights NGO to get in the country.

I've heard from friends who have worked there that you normally need a CoA clerkship to be competitive for their litigation offices.

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enidwexler
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:34 pm

Doorkeeper wrote:I've heard from friends who have worked there that you normally need a CoA clerkship to be competitive for their litigation offices.


So, you'd typically clerk first, then fellow? (Sorry for the stupid questions - first-generation college student & 0L here.)

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:34 pm

Not dumb at all - sorry if I sounded snotty. You certainly could clerk before doing a fellowship. Many fellowships I've seen require you to develop a project that you'd undertake during 2 years of work with an organization, which is one of the things that makes the applications so difficult - it's more involved than throwing a resume and cover letter into the pool. Clerking would give people more time to work up a project. (Though it's also/even more that clerking is a stellar credential all on its own, of course.)

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enidwexler
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:47 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Not dumb at all - sorry if I sounded snotty. You certainly could clerk before doing a fellowship. Many fellowships I've seen require you to develop a project that you'd undertake during 2 years of work with an organization, which is one of the things that makes the applications so difficult - it's more involved than throwing a resume and cover letter into the pool. Clerking would give people more time to work up a project. (Though it's also/even more that clerking is a stellar credential all on its own, of course.)


Gotcha. So, a typical PI career trajectory might look something like: clerk to fellow to staff attorney to senior staff attorney to general counsel?

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cinephile
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby cinephile » Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:50 pm

I know a guy who got one from a T30. I have no idea what his grades were, but I know he was very public interest oriented and came into law school with a public interest full-ride.

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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:23 am

enidwexler wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Not dumb at all - sorry if I sounded snotty. You certainly could clerk before doing a fellowship. Many fellowships I've seen require you to develop a project that you'd undertake during 2 years of work with an organization, which is one of the things that makes the applications so difficult - it's more involved than throwing a resume and cover letter into the pool. Clerking would give people more time to work up a project. (Though it's also/even more that clerking is a stellar credential all on its own, of course.)


Gotcha. So, a typical PI career trajectory might look something like: clerk to fellow to staff attorney to senior staff attorney to general counsel?

That would be one path - I don't really know enough to know if it's typical. I think it varies, too - I know of PI orgs who take people out of law school or out of a clerkship, but others that don't seem to. Sorry not to be more helpful.

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enidwexler
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:22 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
enidwexler wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Not dumb at all - sorry if I sounded snotty. You certainly could clerk before doing a fellowship. Many fellowships I've seen require you to develop a project that you'd undertake during 2 years of work with an organization, which is one of the things that makes the applications so difficult - it's more involved than throwing a resume and cover letter into the pool. Clerking would give people more time to work up a project. (Though it's also/even more that clerking is a stellar credential all on its own, of course.)


Gotcha. So, a typical PI career trajectory might look something like: clerk to fellow to staff attorney to senior staff attorney to general counsel?

That would be one path - I don't really know enough to know if it's typical. I think it varies, too - I know of PI orgs who take people out of law school or out of a clerkship, but others that don't seem to. Sorry not to be more helpful.


No! This is all very helpful - thank you. I'm also curious how much more difficult it is to get a clerkship on a Court of Appeals versus a District Court.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:07 pm

enidwexler wrote:No! This is all very helpful - thank you. I'm also curious how much more difficult it is to get a clerkship on a Court of Appeals versus a District Court.

Search on the legal employment forum for clerkship threads, because there's a lot out there about this, but FWIW: a COA clerkship is, generally speaking, quite a bit more difficult than a district court - what stats exactly you need to get a COA clerkship varies according to your school, but very very good ones, usually. I went to a T1 and the only person from my class who got a (local) COA clerkship was the #1 student (and brilliant. and nice). In the couple of classes ahead of me, there's been maybe 1 person per class, if that, and they are generally going to be in the top 5-10 students. District court is still difficult, but not as difficult (we usually send maybe 5 max per class to local district courts? maybe less). These are pretty much all with local judges (in the same circuit at the least, usually the same district) - it's very unusual for our students to get clerkships outside of our market (some of that's self-selection - people generally want to stay here - but a lot of is is that law schools generally have regional pull, not national. At a bottom T1/top t2, your clerkship chances will be best in the area you're attending).

That said, because the hiring is so personal/idiosyncratic, it's not always entirely about numbers. I'm clerking for a district court and I was not in the top 5-10 students (nor in the top 5-10% of the class), but I clerked for a state court judge first, and had various pre-LS WE that happened to catch my judge's eye. I know someone else who got a district court clerkship because they interned with a state judge who loved them, who then got appointed to the federal bench and was happy to hire a known quantity (this person's grades/rank were probably similar to mine). I've seen other people here talk about getting clerkships beyond what their numbers would suggest - again, usually because they had some experience that caught the judge's eye, or they had connections. It's hard to bank on this if you don't have great stats, of course, because you don't know what might catch a particular judge's eye (although connections are a bit easier to rely on. :wink: ). And some people with excellent numbers don't get anything, for whatever reason. (Another student in my class who was at one point also ranked #1 got no federal clerkship interviews.)

It also seems possible to sort of "work your way up" - if you start off with a lower-level clerkship, you can sometimes trade up. I don't remotely have COA grades (see above), but I have had a bunch of people (clerks/judges) tell me I should apply for a COA for after the district court, because at that point, it would be about my experience (state appellate & federal district) rather than my stats per se. Now, I didn't apply, so I'm not sure how true this is, and you have to trade off how many years you're willing to put off a permanent job for clerking - but the connections you get through clerking at one level can help bump you up to the next (I know I wouldn't have got this clerkship without the state one).

(also, I'm not sure actually doing a COA clerkship is always an absolute prereq - sometimes it's just having that level stats. If you chose do to a district court clerkship, for example, but had COA-level stats, I doubt not actually having done the COA would make a big difference.)

Hope that makes sense...

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enidwexler
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby enidwexler » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:18 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
enidwexler wrote:No! This is all very helpful - thank you. I'm also curious how much more difficult it is to get a clerkship on a Court of Appeals versus a District Court.

Search on the legal employment forum for clerkship threads, because there's a lot out there about this, but FWIW: a COA clerkship is, generally speaking, quite a bit more difficult than a district court - what stats exactly you need to get a COA clerkship varies according to your school, but very very good ones, usually. I went to a T1 and the only person from my class who got a (local) COA clerkship was the #1 student (and brilliant. and nice). In the couple of classes ahead of me, there's been maybe 1 person per class, if that, and they are generally going to be in the top 5-10 students. District court is still difficult, but not as difficult (we usually send maybe 5 max per class to local district courts? maybe less). These are pretty much all with local judges (in the same circuit at the least, usually the same district) - it's very unusual for our students to get clerkships outside of our market (some of that's self-selection - people generally want to stay here - but a lot of is is that law schools generally have regional pull, not national. At a bottom T1/top t2, your clerkship chances will be best in the area you're attending).

That said, because the hiring is so personal/idiosyncratic, it's not always entirely about numbers. I'm clerking for a district court and I was not in the top 5-10 students (nor in the top 5-10% of the class), but I clerked for a state court judge first, and had various pre-LS WE that happened to catch my judge's eye. I know someone else who got a district court clerkship because they interned with a state judge who loved them, who then got appointed to the federal bench and was happy to hire a known quantity (this person's grades/rank were probably similar to mine). I've seen other people here talk about getting clerkships beyond what their numbers would suggest - again, usually because they had some experience that caught the judge's eye, or they had connections. It's hard to bank on this if you don't have great stats, of course, because you don't know what might catch a particular judge's eye (although connections are a bit easier to rely on. :wink: ). And some people with excellent numbers don't get anything, for whatever reason. (Another student in my class who was at one point also ranked #1 got no federal clerkship interviews.)

It also seems possible to sort of "work your way up" - if you start off with a lower-level clerkship, you can sometimes trade up. I don't remotely have COA grades (see above), but I have had a bunch of people (clerks/judges) tell me I should apply for a COA for after the district court, because at that point, it would be about my experience (state appellate & federal district) rather than my stats per se. Now, I didn't apply, so I'm not sure how true this is, and you have to trade off how many years you're willing to put off a permanent job for clerking - but the connections you get through clerking at one level can help bump you up to the next (I know I wouldn't have got this clerkship without the state one).

(also, I'm not sure actually doing a COA clerkship is always an absolute prereq - sometimes it's just having that level stats. If you chose do to a district court clerkship, for example, but had COA-level stats, I doubt not actually having done the COA would make a big difference.)

Hope that makes sense...


Thank you SO much. This was extremely helpful!

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Captain Hammer
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Re: How difficult is it to get an ACLU fellowship...

Postby Captain Hammer » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:45 pm

enidwexler wrote:Is there any reason in particular why ACLU fellowships are so highly coveted?

The ACLU is one of the most successful, consistently well-funded, and visible PI orgs in the country. That kind of funding and exposure means people want the ACLU to represent them, which means they can have their pick of the cases with the highest chances of success, or the cases with the biggest potential gain. Between the high-profile cases they handle and their visibility, everyone in PI wants to work there, which means they get flooded with applicants and can pick and choose the best and brightest among them.

Even for just a term-limited fellowship, getting one not only says that you got two years of experience at the ACLU, it also says had what it took to get an ACLU fellowship in the first place. It's one of those things that stands out on any PI-themed resume.

enidwexler wrote:(As opposed to other civil rights organizations like Lambda Legal. Or are fellowships with Lambda Legal also very, very difficult to get?)

These days, fellowships with any PI orgs with money to fund them are pretty hard to get. It's gotten worse in the last few years.

The economy is weak, and a lot of people have this idea that they can take shelter in temporary work like clerkships and/or fellowships until hiring picks up everywhere. Maybe the public defender won't take you now, but they're sure to take you in 2 years after you've done a prestigious fellowship and gotten some experience as an attorney, or so the theory goes... Back when jobs were more freely available, many people would skip things like clerkships or fellowships and go straight to the job they wanted, but if they can't get that job straight out of law school now, they'll turn to those things as intermediate steps.

Basically I would expect any kind of PI internship to be extremely hard to get until the economy improves enough that funding starts flowing back into the less visible PI orgs that make up the bulk of PI opportunities. Each public defender's office or legal services office may have each hired only a few people a year, but collectively every PD and legal aid bureau in the country were hiring far more people than the ACLU did, until their funding dried up.

(Fun fact: Many legal aid bureaus were largely funded from the interest earned by IOLTA accounts. Since it's considered unethical for a lawyer to profit off money he's holding for his client, he/she would hold client funds in an IOLTA account and the interest accrued would go to fund non-profits such as legal aid bureaus. But with interest rates close to 0%, IOLTA accounts have stopped generating any interest to pay out. I know personally of at least one major city's legal aid bureau that had to lay off a third of its staff because of the sharp decrease in IOLTA money.)

The ACLU, Lambda Legal, etc. have money and/or sponsors willing to keep funding fellowships, but most PI orgs have had their budgets squeezed dry. Until those orgs start getting significant funding again, they won't be hiring anytime soon, which makes the funded fellowships at least a temporary shelter for those who can get them. For now, ACLU fellowships aren't just coveted status symbols; they're lifeboats on the Titanic.




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