Why do clerkships?

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crazi4law
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Why do clerkships?

Postby crazi4law » Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:40 am

Why are federal clerkships so coveted?

If my goal is to maximize earning potential, should I just focus on BigLaw?

User has been outed and warned for posting in the Judicial Clerkship forum as a 0L.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:15 am

Clerkships definitely have a much more significant impact early in your career rather than later, but it's possible for a clerkship to forever change the trajectory of your career. If you just want to maximize income, you need to make yourself indispensable to clients by developing an expertise in a particular area of law. Either that, or you just need to develop relationships with clients on a personal level such that you will always be a source of work to a firm. A clerkship definitely doesn't necessarily help you with either of these goals, in terms of giving you a skill set that no one else has or giving you the social skills necessary to hook clients. But it can help you in reaching these goals by giving you a network of former clerks, some of whom will likely be exceptional in a number of areas of law.

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bk1
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby bk1 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:51 am

Thread moved to appropriate forum.

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Lovely Ludwig Van
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby Lovely Ludwig Van » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:20 pm

Interested in this as well. It seems the overwhelming consensus is federal clerkship > straight to biglaw.

Exactly what skills do federal clerks have that make them so sought after by firms and worth paying bonuses to? Thanks.

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ph14
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby ph14 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:49 pm

Mainly for the resume line. I've talked to multiple partners that have told me that it's not worth it to give a clerkship bonus but that they would never stop doing it simply because they would miss out on top candidates.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:50 pm

This gets debated quite a lot so I know there are old threads here that address this question. But FWIW, clerkships allow you to:

- improve your research and writing skills, because (especially in appellate clerkships, but also in district court) that's what you spend all your time doing. If you work for a judge who cares about writing and is good at it, you can get invaluable feedback on your work (I thought I was a good writer in law school but I am a MUCH better writer after clerking, thanks to my judge). Even if you work for a judge who doesn't actually care, you learn a lot from churning out a lot of product.

- learn how a judge's chambers works from the inside, which is not perspective you can otherwise get. For firms, if you clerk for a judge they appear in front of regularly, knowing how that judge thinks can be an advantage.

- give you an overview of a really wide range of practice areas, more so than I think you can get in a year at a firm (for instance, I'm going to a job in criminal law based entirely on my exposure to criminal cases during my clerkships, because during law school I didn't think I wanted to do criminal law). This includes a crash course on the kinds of motions/issues that come up most frequently in both civil and criminal litigation.

- (ideally) get a really valuable mentor. Judges generally have a lot of legal experience and know lots and lots of people. Having one on your side is a good thing.

- step into a ready-made network of past and future clerks. You can always call up someone who clerked for a judge you clerked for and they'll be happy to talk to you.

- apply to certain employers that won't look at people who haven't clerked, e.g. some litigation boutiques, most USAOs. (Note: I'm not sure how reliably doing a federal clerkship will on its own get you into biglaw if you don't otherwise have the qualifications, but mostly because I'm not that up on the biglaw route. Obviously most people who have credentials to get a clerkship have biglaw credentials, so... I have seen 2 friends translate state court of appeals clerkships into biglaw gigs, due to their amazing hustling, but it was a small market so I don't know how to translate that more generally.)

Are these benefits worth the financial tradeoff if you're heading to biglaw anyway? That's something everyone has to decide for themselves. Personally, I'm going fedgov - my clerkship salary and permanent job salary are basically identical - so for me it wasn't really about maximizing the old earning potential as much as getting the career path I wanted.

Also, does this make clerks really that much more valuable to firms/better employees than non-clerks? I have no idea, but since biglaw firms are such credential whores, they seem happy to pay for clerks.

gregfootball2001
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby gregfootball2001 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:54 pm

Just a 1L, but there are a few factors that make it a good idea.

It's another level of validation. If you went to a good school, people think you're smart. You might not be, but in general, people that go there are smart, so people think you are. Ditto w/clerkships - if you get one, you're probably really smart and a great writer. It's easier for a firm to pick you out of the masses of law students and hire you, or pick you out of the crowd of associates and give you better work, because you've been validated by someone else.

You get another circle of relationships. That partner that clerked for the 5th circuit is now interested in you because you did too - now you get the interesting case instead of the next guy. It doesn't mean anything more, in this case, than the fact that the higher-ups think it's important, and therefore you're looked upon as better than others.

It's another level of prestige. Firms like saying that they have X amount of CoA clerks in the firm. Potential clients like hearing that the associate helping out is someone that worked with famous Judge so-and-so on the X Circuit. If potential clients like it, firms like it. What firms like, they pay for.

In most cases, it's a good experience. These are the people who decide the cases you spend umpteen hours working on. Getting to know the process better, seeing how the sausage is made, can help. Seeing how a particular judge does it, if you're going to be in that area, might be even more helpful.

There are more, but this is just off the top of my head.

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ph14
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby ph14 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:55 pm

gregfootball2001 wrote:Just a 1L, but there are a few factors that make it a good idea.

It's another level of validation. If you went to a good school, people think you're smart. You might not be, but in general, people that go there are smart, so people think you are. Ditto w/clerkships - if you get one, you're probably really smart and a great writer. It's easier for a firm to pick you out of the masses of law students and hire you, or pick you out of the crowd of associates and give you better work, because you've been validated by someone else.

You get another circle of relationships. That partner that clerked for the 5th circuit is now interested in you because you did too - now you get the interesting case instead of the next guy. It doesn't mean anything more, in this case, than the fact that the higher-ups think it's important, and therefore you're looked upon as better than others.

It's another level of prestige. Firms like saying that they have X amount of CoA clerks in the firm. Potential clients like hearing that the associate helping out is someone that worked with famous Judge so-and-so on the X Circuit. If potential clients like it, firms like it. What firms like, they pay for.

In most cases, it's a good experience. These are the people who decide the cases you spend umpteen hours working on. Getting to know the process better, seeing how the sausage is made, can help. Seeing how a particular judge does it, if you're going to be in that area, might be even more helpful.

There are more, but this is just off the top of my head.


This is a nice post.

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Lovely Ludwig Van
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby Lovely Ludwig Van » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:36 pm

Thanks for the responses. I'm starting to get a better understanding for why it's beneficial for law grads to do clerkships, still not quite clear though on why it's worth it for firms to pay them extra to do it, other than prestige and every once in a while having an insider on a district/circuit judge.

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ph14
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby ph14 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:37 pm

Lovely Ludwig Van wrote:Thanks for the responses. I'm starting to get a better understanding for why it's beneficial for law grads to do clerkships, still not quite clear though on why it's worth it for firms to pay them extra to do it, other than prestige and every once in a while having an insider on a district/circuit judge.


It isn't anymore, I don't think. But no firm wants to stop paying a clerkship bonus because they'd lose out on top candidates.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Why do clerkships?

Postby TatteredDignity » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:38 pm

ph14 wrote:
Lovely Ludwig Van wrote:Thanks for the responses. I'm starting to get a better understanding for why it's beneficial for law grads to do clerkships, still not quite clear though on why it's worth it for firms to pay them extra to do it, other than prestige and every once in a while having an insider on a district/circuit judge.


It isn't anymore, I don't think. But no firm wants to stop paying a clerkship bonus because they'd lose out on top candidates.


Fresh grads clearly aren't worth $160k, either. But again, no one wants to be the first one to blink.




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