Question about clerkships

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ilikebaseball
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Question about clerkships

Postby ilikebaseball » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:56 pm

Idk where else to ask, because I'm still a 0L. I think this is sort of the route that I'd like to go down. However, I can't for the life of me find straight information (it all varies) about some of these questions, so I'd figure that someone here could provide some insight

Do local clerkships give someone a great chance at a law firm job after? Obviously a SCOTUS gig looks great, but if you are a clerk on a smaller scale, do you still have a great chance at landing jobs in that general area? Example: If I was to clerk in Dallas, even on a small scale, would I have a good chance at getting a firm job after in Dallas? Or would I need to land a clerkship on a larger scale?

After one clerks and lands a firm job, does that person start out at bottom pay, or does that person get the same pay as one would if they had worked in the firm for 2 years?

What goes into the decision on who to hire? Is it almost entirely based on 1L grades?

Is it possible to be competitive for a good clerkship at a T50 school?

Thank you for the insight

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mi-chan17
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Re: Question about clerkships

Postby mi-chan17 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 4:29 pm

Current Dist. Ct. clerk here. I'll try to answer your questions, as best I can, though I am kind of confused that a 0L is already so positive they want to spend time clerking.

ilikebaseball wrote:Do local clerkships give someone a great chance at a law firm job after? Obviously a SCOTUS gig looks great, but if you are a clerk on a smaller scale, do you still have a great chance at landing jobs in that general area? Example: If I was to clerk in Dallas, even on a small scale, would I have a good chance at getting a firm job after in Dallas? Or would I need to land a clerkship on a larger scale?


This depends entirely on what you mean by "local clerkships." There are varying levels of perceived prestige, but they don't necessarily fall along a "local/non-local" line, whatever that might be.

If you're hoping to go to a biglaw firm, then the general hierarchy is Fed COA > Dist. Ct. > SSC. There is some variation there, and that is due to proximity. If I wanted biglaw in Texas, I'd probably shoot for a D. Ct. in Texas over a state intermediate appellate court in Texas. On the flipside, I'd probably take Texas Supreme Court over D. Iowa. If you had a choice between a state trial-level clerkship in Texas and D. Iowa, D. Iowa would likely be the better choice (assuming you had actual ties to Texas, which will probably be required anyway).

At the opposite side of things: If you want to work at some small, two-person general lit shop, then clerking at the state trial level would be fine.

ilikebaseball wrote:After one clerks and lands a firm job, does that person start out at bottom pay, or does that person get the same pay as one would if they had worked in the firm for 2 years?


Depends on the firm. Most biglaw firms give a clerkship bonus (depending on the type of court you clerked on and for how long) and most give some form of class credit. It might be for the entire time you clerked (ie. if you clerked for two years, you start as a "third-year associate," albeit without any of a third-year associate's skills) or for part of it (starting as a second-year associate instead).

ilikebaseball wrote:What goes into the decision on who to hire? Is it almost entirely based on 1L grades?


It depends a great deal on the judge. Clerkship hiring is extremely idiosyncratic, because every judge hires individually (or nearly all) and can have their own quirks. A lot of it, especially for federal clerkships, is grades, with lesser emphases on: law review, publication, moot court, etc. Judges who prefer alumni clerks look at work experience, too. School, of course, plays into your clerkship application as well.

ilikebaseball wrote:Is it possible to be competitive for a good clerkship at a T50 school?


Yes, but you'll need to do extremely well and you'll probably have a better shot with judges in your area than elsewhere. No matter what your grades are, though, clerking isn't something you can count on.
Last edited by mi-chan17 on Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ilikebaseball
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Re: Question about clerkships

Postby ilikebaseball » Mon Jan 26, 2015 4:55 pm

Great advice. How many different judges to most "wanna be" clerks apply for? I feel like, to even have a small shot, you'd have to apply to a ridiculous amount.

Also, I really wanna clerk in Dallas (considering SMU or UT), would SMU be a viable option for that? Not that it will completely influence my decision, but I don't wanna be counted out just because I choose SMU over UT due to already living here and getting more $$ and stuff.

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mi-chan17
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Re: Question about clerkships

Postby mi-chan17 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:43 pm

ilikebaseball wrote:Great advice. How many different judges to most "wanna be" clerks apply for? I feel like, to even have a small shot, you'd have to apply to a ridiculous amount.

Also, I really wanna clerk in Dallas (considering SMU or UT), would SMU be a viable option for that? Not that it will completely influence my decision, but I don't wanna be counted out just because I choose SMU over UT due to already living here and getting more $$ and stuff.


It's not uncommon to hear of clerkship applicants applying to over 100 judges in a cycle, because OSCAR makes it fairly simple and there's little to lose if you're geographically flexible.

I would caution you that your chances of getting to clerk in the specific city you want to, or even in the specific district you want to, are very slim. Just as a heads up.

I don't know about the particulars for the judges that sit in Dallas. I know we have a couple alumni around who clerked in Texas, and I expect they would know better than I. A quick glance at LST tells me, however, that SMU sent four students into federal clerkships (nearly all of whom, we can assume, were at or near the top of their class) and sent four into local/state clerkships. By contrast UT sent thirty-four students into federal clerkships, and fourteen into local ones. They likely had to do well too, but as you can see there was slightly more wiggle room for clerkship applicants at UT than at SMU.

timmyd
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Re: Question about clerkships

Postby timmyd » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:11 pm

3L at UT here with a fed dist clerkship in Western dist of La. after graduation.
Clerkship hiring is driven, primarily on grades and scholarly achievements, but a lot of it depends on what part of the country you are attempting to clerk and what the individual judge values (note: I am only focusing on federal clerkships).
As a general rule of thumb, it seems to me that the more populated the area or city you wish to clerk, the more competition there will be and the less local connections will matter. In Louisiana, for example, judges often prefer to hire from local law schools or other law schools in the fifth circuit. I think there are two main reasons for this. First, these judges in smaller cities are more likely to have gone to the local law school as opposed to the Harvards or Yales. Second, I believe that these judges are sometimes skeptical of kids coming from an "elite" law school to somewhere like Shreveport or Monroe Louisiana and prefer to hire top of the class local kids they believe will stick around the area after clerking.
For somewhere like Dallas, obtaining a federal clerkship at any level, even magistrate, will likely be very competitive. Students from the T14 will be vying for these positions, as well as top of the class kids at UT/SMU/UH. UT does pretty well with federal clerkships, better than some of the t14 schools and comparable to Vandy. I think, however, that to be competitive for Dallas or Houston, one would still need to be top 10% of the class, whereas for areas such as Beaumont or Laredo, you may be able to be competitive being in the top 20% (a lot of judges in the more rural stations of Texas seem to love hiring UT kids, perhaps more so than t14 counterparts, but I have no objective evidence to support that). As a reference point, I obtained my clerkship with grades placing me in the top 15-20% of the class, but no law review. If, as a 1L, your absolute goal is to clerk at the federal level, you need to go to HYS to fully maximize chances. Around 10% of the student population at UT acquires a federal clerkship, but this does not necessarily correspond to the top 10% of the people in the class, many of whom likely wish to enter private practice for financial reasons or because they are transactionally minded.

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kalvano
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Re: Question about clerkships

Postby kalvano » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:50 am

From SMU you'll need to be around top 5% and LR to have even a shot. I think only one or two of the local district court judges even look at applications from SMU students.




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