Am I aiming too high?

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Am I aiming too high?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 25, 2020 7:50 pm

Hi all,

I'm a 2L applying to clerkships on plan and am in the process of finalizing my judge list. Am freaking out a little bit because I'm worried I've put too many competitive districts on my list. Was wondering if anyone can give a sense of whether it seems like I'm aiming too high?

At HLS with 4Ps and 2DS's; the rest Hs. On exec board of secondary journal. Brief and unremarkable pre-law school work experience. Rec letters are probably OK, nothing special.

I'm hoping to apply to ~100 district clerkships and a handful of state judges. Right now I have several SDNY/EDNY judges on my list, even though I know it's a longshot. Outside of New York I'd prefer to be in D.Mass, DNJ or PAE for personal reasons, but I know those are all popular markets. I'm trying to fill out the rest of my list with judges in the midwest/south since I'd prefer not to be on the West Coast, but I'm a little confused about what counts as a flyover district — for example, how popular should I think of cities like Madison or St. Louis? I also wonder if there's a risk in just randomly picking judges across the country based on where I don't think other people want to live, in case I do get an interview and the judge ends up asking where else I applied/what my logic was re: applying to the places I did.

nixy

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by nixy » Mon May 25, 2020 10:15 pm

Re: picking judges at random - everyone does this (who isn't dialed into specific judges already based on connections or so stellar they have nothing to worry about). If you get an interview, you research the location and come up with a reason to want to be there. If you have no apparent connection to a given region, you are less likely to get an interview with judges who actually care about those kinds of connections to begin with, so it will be less of a thing. Some judges want clerks who want to be in the area long-term, but others don't care, and you will probably have a better shot with the latter. I think for the latter it's perfectly fair to say something about how you wanted to apply broadly and you're taking the opportunity to live somewhere different for a year for the experience before you settle into practice.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Mon May 25, 2020 10:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 7:50 pm

I'm trying to fill out the rest of my list with judges in the midwest/south since I'd prefer not to be on the West Coast, but I'm a little confused about what counts as a flyover district — for example, how popular should I think of cities like Madison or St. Louis? I also wonder if there's a risk in just randomly picking judges across the country based on where I don't think other people want to live, in case I do get an interview and the judge ends up asking where else I applied/what my logic was re: applying to the places I did.
I don't really understand your clerkship application strategy. If you can't get a desirable clerkship, just like, wait a year or two and re-apply with experience. (Honestly it's better that way -- you can use it as a career reset to switch firms.) Or like...don't clerk at all? Plenty of litigation partners at V10 firms didn't, let alone corporate etc.

Like, you go to Harvard and will presumably be working at a brand name law firm. A district court clerkship in the Eastern District of Wisconsin will do nothing for you, professionally. It's not gonna impress anyone at your firm, the judge won't have contacts in New York, and for all you know she could be a huge asshole, which would make it a miserable experience.

If you just want to use the clerkship as a chance to explore a random place for a year, by all means apply all over. But if you'd strongly prefer to stay within the Acela Corridor, don't feel obligated to send apps to fucking Missouri district courts lol

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 25, 2020 11:25 pm

I don’t think SDNY/EDNY is a longshot with those grades; you’re not a shoe-in, but you’ve got a shot. I have slightly higher grades and am being pretty picky in terms of judges and geography (100 or so judges, including COAs and all the feeders; all in cities).

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue May 26, 2020 3:38 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 7:50 pm
[...] I'm a little confused about what counts as a flyover district — for example, how popular should I think of cities like Madison or St. Louis?
[+] Spoiler
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HTH

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 10:46 am

I think you won’t have problems. I also think if you consider Madison or Milwaukee flyover country and a useless clerkship like a previous poster you desperately need to get out of your NYC bubble. D Minnesota, SD and ND Ohio, ED and WD Missouri, ED Michigan, SD Indiana, and ED Wisconsin all have major cities with competitive clerkships. Some people might not want them obviously but plenty of students at Chicago, Michigan, and Northwestern, not to mention the half a dozen other good Big Ten law schools, do. WD Wisconsin and SD Iowa also have some of the nicest midsize cities in the country and are good “safeties” (and I would probably take Madison over many major cities just based on where would be fun to live for a year) but I think you’ll get one somewhere larger if you’re choosing just based on city size. And you can easily reverse commute to Hammond, IN from Chicago so it’s surprisingly competitive (eg Judge Simon hires early and is pretty UChicago-heavy iirc).

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Wild Card » Tue May 26, 2020 11:47 am

You can and should apply broadly.

The other day, I asked myself: would I really want to live in El Paso? I looked at the courthouse and the environs using Google Maps. I withdrew my application.

When you're applying, you're desperate, but when you stop to think, you realize.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:46 am
I think you won’t have problems. I also think if you consider Madison or Milwaukee flyover country and a useless clerkship like a previous poster you desperately need to get out of your NYC bubble. D Minnesota, SD and ND Ohio, ED and WD Missouri, ED Michigan, SD Indiana, and ED Wisconsin all have major cities with competitive clerkships. Some people might not want them obviously but plenty of students at Chicago, Michigan, and Northwestern, not to mention the half a dozen other good Big Ten law schools, do. WD Wisconsin and SD Iowa also have some of the nicest midsize cities in the country and are good “safeties” (and I would probably take Madison over many major cities just based on where would be fun to live for a year) but I think you’ll get one somewhere larger if you’re choosing just based on city size. And you can easily reverse commute to Hammond, IN from Chicago so it’s surprisingly competitive (eg Judge Simon hires early and is pretty UChicago-heavy iirc).
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.

I'm not saying this to be a dick. just giving people a dose of reality about like, the instrumental value of a non-metro district court clerkship, because their clerkship offices won't.
Last edited by LBJ's Hair on Tue May 26, 2020 6:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 6:27 pm

Wild Card wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 11:47 am
You can and should apply broadly.

The other day, I asked myself: would I really want to live in El Paso? I looked at the courthouse and the environs using Google Maps. I withdrew my application.

When you're applying, you're desperate, but when you stop to think, you realize.
For the record, El Paso is an amazing city with excellent cultural and outdoor activities that absolutely merits a year or two.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 6:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:27 pm
Wild Card wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 11:47 am
You can and should apply broadly.

The other day, I asked myself: would I really want to live in El Paso? I looked at the courthouse and the environs using Google Maps. I withdrew my application.

When you're applying, you're desperate, but when you stop to think, you realize.
For the record, El Paso is an amazing city with excellent cultural and outdoor activities that absolutely merits a year or two.
Accidental anon, feel free to de-anon.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by lavarman84 » Tue May 26, 2020 6:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:27 pm
Wild Card wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 11:47 am
You can and should apply broadly.

The other day, I asked myself: would I really want to live in El Paso? I looked at the courthouse and the environs using Google Maps. I withdrew my application.

When you're applying, you're desperate, but when you stop to think, you realize.
For the record, El Paso is an amazing city with excellent cultural and outdoor activities that absolutely merits a year or two.
This. I have the highest opinion of the El Paso/Las Cruces metropolitan area. Glad you said it. I was weighing whether it was worth responding.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by lavarman84 » Tue May 26, 2020 6:39 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.
I can't agree with this advice. The "experience" a lot of people will get out of a federal D. Ct. clerkship will be invaluable to a career as a litigator. No, clerking in some random district likely won't get your foot in the door of NYC biglaw if you couldn't get there previously. But if you could get there previously, it's not going to be detrimental to your career.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by nixy » Tue May 26, 2020 7:23 pm

Yeah, I get that people weighing these questions are probably moving in more rarefied air than I am, but I don't think a DCt clerkship is ever a waste of time, nor do I think you learn "more" at a firm - you just learn different stuff (also, it's not like SDNY/EDNY magically teach you more than a clerkship anywhere else does) (obviously if you're looking for connections in NYC, sure, NYC clerkships are better, but that's not the only measure of a clerkship).

Or to put it another way - either the experience of clerking is valuable in itself, or it's not. If it is, then clerking anywhere is useful, even if some clerkships may be that degree more useful to your personal circumstances. If it's not, then lol why even bother.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by mjb447 » Tue May 26, 2020 7:35 pm

Yeah, not all district court clerkships are as inherently shiny a credential as an SDNY clerkship, but having some familiarity with how a chambers operates and what chambers thinks about is invaluable to a career as a litigator, wherever it happens.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by herbaria » Tue May 26, 2020 10:41 pm

You are most certainly not "aiming too high." Your grades are near magna, and while not having LR hurts a bit, you would still be competitive for many non feeder COAs and will be in the conversation for virtually every district judge in the country. I might go so far as to say that applying to non-competitive (relatively speaking) districts is a bit too conservative, although i suppose that's not really a thing in this game.

Now if you were targeting only 2d/9th/DC circuit judges, then yeah, maybe you'd be overplaying your hand a bit. but top 25% from HLS and non-terrible recs, WE etc. is certainly at the upper edge of the applicant pool among all but the uber-elite feeder judges. You're in good shape.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Wed May 27, 2020 1:12 am

lavarman84 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:39 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.
I can't agree with this advice. The "experience" a lot of people will get out of a federal D. Ct. clerkship will be invaluable to a career as a litigator. No, clerking in some random district likely won't get your foot in the door of NYC biglaw if you couldn't get there previously. But if you could get there previously, it's not going to be detrimental to your career.
Seems like I'm in the minority on this, which is fine

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by cheaptilts » Wed May 27, 2020 8:35 am

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 1:12 am
lavarman84 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:39 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.
I can't agree with this advice. The "experience" a lot of people will get out of a federal D. Ct. clerkship will be invaluable to a career as a litigator. No, clerking in some random district likely won't get your foot in the door of NYC biglaw if you couldn't get there previously. But if you could get there previously, it's not going to be detrimental to your career.
Seems like I'm in the minority on this, which is fine
For the record, I agree with you.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by herbaria » Wed May 27, 2020 10:50 am

cheaptilts wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 8:35 am
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 1:12 am
lavarman84 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:39 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.
I can't agree with this advice. The "experience" a lot of people will get out of a federal D. Ct. clerkship will be invaluable to a career as a litigator. No, clerking in some random district likely won't get your foot in the door of NYC biglaw if you couldn't get there previously. But if you could get there previously, it's not going to be detrimental to your career.
Seems like I'm in the minority on this, which is fine
For the record, I agree with you.
TBH even though I disagree, this attitude is probably beneficial on net because it leads to more of these Midwest/Southern clerkships going to top students at regional T1s who actually want to be there, while students at HYS etc. who think mid- and small-market clerkships aren't worth it either get the "desirable" clerkships they want in NYC/DC/SF etc. or don't clerk at all, which is fine because they'll just go work at a V10 and have good career options anyway.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by cheaptilts » Wed May 27, 2020 11:17 am

herbaria wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 10:50 am
cheaptilts wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 8:35 am
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 1:12 am
lavarman84 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:39 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 6:20 pm
I mean, if you're gonna litigate in NYC, you should probably care (a little) what NYC lawyers think of your clerkship lol.

if you wanna clerk for like, the "experience," those clerkships you listed sound great.

if you wanna clerk for your career in NYC, you shouldn't waste their time with a district court clerkship in a random state with a judge no one has heard of. you'll learn more, make more connections, and make more money just working at your firm.
I can't agree with this advice. The "experience" a lot of people will get out of a federal D. Ct. clerkship will be invaluable to a career as a litigator. No, clerking in some random district likely won't get your foot in the door of NYC biglaw if you couldn't get there previously. But if you could get there previously, it's not going to be detrimental to your career.
Seems like I'm in the minority on this, which is fine
For the record, I agree with you.
TBH even though I disagree, this attitude is probably beneficial on net because it leads to more of these Midwest/Southern clerkships going to top students at regional T1s who actually want to be there, while students at HYS etc. who think mid- and small-market clerkships aren't worth it either get the "desirable" clerkships they want in NYC/DC/SF etc. or don't clerk at all, which is fine because they'll just go work at a V10 and have good career options anyway.
My opinion only is that a young litigator is probably better off spending a year at Cravath than spending a year clerking on the Eastern District of Arkansas if their ultimate goal is to work in NYC biglaw for as long as they can. While clerking is certainly *valuable* inasmuch as you learn how a chambers works, I think TLS really oversells how much NYC employers value clerkships in tertiary markets. (And I'm not talking Philly, Raleigh, Miami, Columbus here. I'm talking really small-market towns).

Each individual needs to evaluate the trade-offs. But, for example, I'm not sure that a cum laude graduate from Duke is better off spending her first year clerking in New Bern, NC or Beaumont, TX or Jefferson City, MO--for a random judge, in an entirely random city--as opposed to simply starting at her biglaw firm. The trade off in compensation is substantial, even with a clerkship bonus. She's not opening any "new doors" in private practice through clerking, because those clerkships will likely not raise her profile with the east coast boutiques in NYC (and DC). And she misses out on a year of networking/development at her firm.

I also don't fully agree with the "clerking is clerking is clerking" trope that this board usually employs. Each district is VERY different with respect to the sorts of cases that appear on the docket; the quality of lawyering in both the plaintiff and defense bar; the quality of the judges; and the quality of the AUSAs, quite frankly. Obviously others may disagree. Indeed, it seems like my opinion is the minority.

Other markets may be different. Chicago or LA or SF or Houston may place a different emphasis on the value of ANY clerkship. But I'm not sold that clerking ANYWHERE is worth the trade-offs for a young lawyer in DC/NYC who already has an offer at a fine firm and who has fine grades.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by cheaptilts » Wed May 27, 2020 11:25 am

Nothing in the post above should be construed as diminishing the inherent value derived from working closely with a federal judge; drafting opinions and orders; watching how a court system works; getting to see lawyers practice in court everyday; etc.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by nixy » Wed May 27, 2020 1:27 pm

To be clear, I'm not claiming clerking in the ED Ark is going to get you *further* with *NYC biglaw employers* than not clerking. I'm just saying I don't think it's going to hurt you - like others have suggested, you'll be judged on the qualifications you already have. I agree that something like ED Ark isn't going to be a golden ticket to get you into elite/any NYC biglaw if you don't already have the chops to do so, but if you do have those chops, I don't think people will somehow think less of you for clerking in ED Ark.

A random clerkship can be a big help if you want to get into government work, though. And I think it's valuable experience for its own sake (but admittedly, I did not have the horrorshow experience that some people can have, so it's a risk).

And as for the OP, I would think it totally fair to prioritize more pertinent jurisdictions over less. They may not need to go anywhere to get a clerkship (but some people do, and for some people, it's worthwhile).

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by galba » Wed May 27, 2020 8:06 pm

Another vote for the idea that clerking in a non-metro district is not especially helpful for career progression in NYC biglaw. More strongly, while nobody is going to "look down on" someone who clerked in that sort of district (and nobody in this thread has claimed that will happen), I think it's usually not a good idea for someone set on NYC biglaw to do such a clerkship.

It's simply not true that—even setting aside "prestige" and networking opportunities—a clerkship in SDNY or another major city is interchangeable with one in (say) a rural border state. It's absolutely valuable to see how the sausage is made in chambers, no matter where located. But learning the ins and outs of a district court that mostly sees drug and immigration cases and the occasional low-value commercial dispute is just not going to be massively relevant to practice as a lit associate at Cravath. And if your goal is to last for a while at an NYC firm, a year there—making connections, hopefully impressing people—is going to be more useful to you than a clerkship in a random non-metro district.

(To forestall the inevitable "but I had a beautiful time in my Wyoming clerkship, why are you such a snob"—I am only talking about the effect on an NYC biglaw litigation career. There are obviously many reasons to do a clerkship beyond career impact, and I'm not addressing those at all. I also have no basis to assess the upthread claims about impact on government employment or employment anywhere other than NYC biglaw, which is obviously relevant to many people. Finally, I'm assuming that one has the option to return to a good NYC firm instead of clerking; if that's not the case, calculus is likely different.)

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by Iowahawk » Thu May 28, 2020 10:33 am

ED Ark, rural border districts with minimal civil dockets... I think the straw districts have gotten pretty far from the original topic of this thread, places like SD Ohio that have biglaw firms and no shortage of sophisticated commercial lit but that are geographically far from NY and less competitive than e.g. NDIL.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu May 28, 2020 11:50 am

Iowahawk wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 10:33 am
ED Ark, rural border districts with minimal civil dockets... I think the straw districts have gotten pretty far from the original topic of this thread, places like SD Ohio that have biglaw firms and no shortage of sophisticated commercial lit but that are geographically far from NY and less competitive than e.g. NDIL.
Agreed. "Flyover" is a geographic term. It means between the Rockies and the Appalachians. The reason it's a snide (albeit funny) term is that it occludes immense cultural, economic, etc. diversity. All OP has to do to avoid border districts and such, where sophisticated civil lit might be thin on the ground, is not apply to those.

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Re: Am I aiming too high?

Post by cheaptilts » Thu May 28, 2020 12:20 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 11:50 am
Iowahawk wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 10:33 am
ED Ark, rural border districts with minimal civil dockets... I think the straw districts have gotten pretty far from the original topic of this thread, places like SD Ohio that have biglaw firms and no shortage of sophisticated commercial lit but that are geographically far from NY and less competitive than e.g. NDIL.
Agreed. "Flyover" is a geographic term. It means between the Rockies and the Appalachians. The reason it's a snide (albeit funny) term is that it occludes immense cultural, economic, etc. diversity. All OP has to do to avoid border districts and such, where sophisticated civil lit might be thin on the ground, is not apply to those.

The problem is that most NYC employers likely think of ED Ark and SD Ohio in a similar light. So, again, without taking into account the inherent benefits of a clerkship in the abstract, a young litigator hellbent on NYC biglaw should consider whether a clerkship in SD Ohio is worth missing a year of biglaw salary, networking, and development at her current firm (and worth the potential downsides of living in a new, random city without friends or family or SOs close) because her employer (and many other private law firms in NYC) will not care one way or another about the SD Ohio clerkship.

There’s pros and cons to every decision. I think some of us are just pushing back on the notion that the pros of doing *any* clerkship vs. starting at a firm outweigh all the cons.

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