Constitutional law

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
User avatar
Br3v
Posts: 4174
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Constitutional law

Postby Br3v » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:11 pm

In the real world, what is it?

The closest thing I can imagine to it is being a civil rights trial attorney, or appellate work?

How hard is it to land appellate work? Does one need work experience post law school to work their way up to that?

In biglaw, can one do anything that could be considered "constitutional law" under its most generous definition? What would that be?

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:02 pm

I'll take a crack at this.

Br3v wrote:In the real world, what is it?

Something very few lawyers will ever get the chance to do.

More usefully, consider that interpreting the Constitution is left to the Supreme Court, and when they won't address an issue, each circuit Court of Appeals. To actually do something that affects constitutional law in any meaningful capacity means arguing before one of those courts. Or it means influencing those courts in some other way, such as writing amicus briefs or law review articles.

Br3v wrote:The closest thing I can imagine to it is being a civil rights trial attorney, or appellate work?

Just think of it as any appellate lit that touches constitutional issues. Appellate civil rights seems to be the most highly coveted work, and such jobs are incredibly scarce. Other than that, constitutional law professor.

Br3v wrote:How hard is it to land appellate work? Does one need work experience post law school to work their way up to that?

It's nigh impossible. There are a few law firms or government positions that specialize in appellate lit and will give you the chance to at least occasionally work on live constitutional law cases. To even be considered for those jobs, you need a federal appellate clerkship.

Br3v wrote:In biglaw, can one do anything that could be considered "constitutional law" under its most generous definition? What would that be?

As just mentioned, a few BigLaw firms have appellate lit practices. You mainly do research and writing, at least for your first several years.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:06 pm

Also, this is from a parody but it's close to the truth: "There are only three people in the country who regularly practice Constitutional Law, and they all graduated from Harvard in the 1970s. Are you able to get into Harvard Law School? Do you have access to a time machine?"

Swimp
Posts: 493
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 9:32 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby Swimp » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:14 pm

vanwinkle wrote:Also, this is from a parody but it's close to the truth: "There are only three people in the country who regularly practice Constitutional Law, and they all graduated from Harvard in the 1970s. Are you able to get into Harvard Law School? Do you have access to a time machine?"


To be fair, 90% of the TLS userbase could probably get into HLS in the 1970s if we could go back in time and apply with our current stats (take the LSAT percentile and give everyone equivalent scores on the old scale).

User avatar
Br3v
Posts: 4174
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Constitutional law

Postby Br3v » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:17 pm

vanwinkle wrote:I'll take a crack at this.

Br3v wrote:In the real world, what is it?

Something very few lawyers will ever get the chance to do.

More usefully, consider that interpreting the Constitution is left to the Supreme Court, and when they won't address an issue, each circuit Court of Appeals. To actually do something that affects constitutional law in any meaningful capacity means arguing before one of those courts. Or it means influencing those courts in some other way, such as writing amicus briefs or law review articles.

Br3v wrote:The closest thing I can imagine to it is being a civil rights trial attorney, or appellate work?

Just think of it as any appellate lit that touches constitutional issues. Appellate civil rights seems to be the most highly coveted work, and such jobs are incredibly scarce. Other than that, constitutional law professor.

Br3v wrote:How hard is it to land appellate work? Does one need work experience post law school to work their way up to that?

It's nigh impossible. There are a few law firms or government positions that specialize in appellate lit and will give you the chance to at least occasionally work on live constitutional law cases. To even be considered for those jobs, you need a federal appellate clerkship.

Br3v wrote:In biglaw, can one do anything that could be considered "constitutional law" under its most generous definition? What would that be?

As just mentioned, a few BigLaw firms have appellate lit practices. You mainly do research and writing, at least for your first several years.


I remember why I first made an account on TLS, for insight like this. Thank you for this information.

So it seems if I wanted to do appellate litigation my best shot is to go to best school I can and aim for a fed clerkship? I understand this still wouldn't "secure" me anything, and a fed clerkship is incredibly hard to get, but if you were in my shoes would this me a sensible plan of attack?

Also, I have the understanding that appellate lit is incredibly hard to break into from you explanation which is what I suspected. Would you say this is about the same type of difficulty as say pursuing legal academia? More difficult to accomplish? Less? Or rather is it pretty much the same people that are the only ones with either option (HYS, journal, clerkship) I am more interested in the appellate part of that question for this thread, but I am using something that I already have a general idea of how hard it is to pursue (academia) to gauge it.

Would moot help at all?

Also, I have seen that parody and thought of the quote before I read your second comment lol.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:28 pm

Br3v wrote:So it seems if I wanted to do appellate litigation my best shot is to go to best school I can and aim for a fed clerkship? I understand this still wouldn't "secure" me anything, and a fed clerkship is incredibly hard to get, but if you were in my shoes would this me a sensible plan of attack?

In my mind there's no such thing as a "sensible" plan of attack if you only want to do appellate lit. You don't just need a federal clerkship, you need a fed appellate clerkship, and those are intensely competitive. No matter where you go (even HYS), you'll need to get very good grades, and my standard lecture to 0Ls is "you can't predict what kind of grades you'll get, so never count on getting good grades".

Basically, don't go to law school if your goal is to do constitutional law. Go if it's your best-case scenario and you'd be happy otherwise, but don't go if it's all you want to do.

Br3v wrote:Also, I have the understanding that appellate lit is incredibly hard to break into from you explanation which is what I suspected. Would you say this is about the same type of difficulty as say pursuing legal academia? More difficult to accomplish? Less? Or rather is it pretty much the same people that are the only ones with either option (HYS, journal, clerkship) I am more interested in the appellate part of that question for this thread, but I am using something that I already have a general idea of how hard it is to pursue (academia) to gauge it.

It's pretty much the same people; clerkships and appellate lit are gateways to academia anyway.

Br3v wrote:Would moot help at all?

It's practically a prerequisite. Any appellate judge will be flooded with clerkship apps from kids who did moot court; if you didn't you might stand out in a bad way.

Br3v wrote:Also, I have seen that parody and thought of the quote before I read your second comment lol.

:lol:

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:31 pm

Swimp wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:Also, this is from a parody but it's close to the truth: "There are only three people in the country who regularly practice Constitutional Law, and they all graduated from Harvard in the 1970s. Are you able to get into Harvard Law School? Do you have access to a time machine?"

To be fair, 90% of the TLS userbase could probably get into HLS in the 1970s if we could go back in time and apply with our current stats (take the LSAT percentile and give everyone equivalent scores on the old scale).

Probably not. USNWR didn't start ranking law schools until the late 80s, and there were fewer law schools back then. That made it easier for them to screen people in other ways, like, say, mostly accepting only those from Ivy UGs.

As much as people hate on the USNWR rankings and their focused on student numbers, they sort of helped democratize admissions.

User avatar
Br3v
Posts: 4174
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Constitutional law

Postby Br3v » Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:13 pm

vanwinkle wrote:Go if it's your best-case scenario and you'd be happy otherwise, but don't go if it's all you want to do.

My situation. Thanks.

User avatar
kalvano
Posts: 11720
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:24 am

Re: Constitutional law

Postby kalvano » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:22 pm

You can technically practice constitutional law as a criminal attorney. Though you're limited to 4th, 5th, and now and then an 8th amendment argument.




Return to “Law School FAQ”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests