Older Judge v Newer Judge

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Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 9:33 pm

What are people's general thoughts about working for an older judge compared to a more recently appointed judge? The older judges have more clerks out in the world to rely on and are more of a known commodity. However, younger judges will be more of a lifelong mentor, and someone to go to bat for you the rest of your career. Presuming all else (like feeder potential) is equal, what are people's thoughts?

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 10:19 pm

One of my recommenders clerked for a feeder who had already been on the bench for years and a SCOTUS justice in his last full term, and he once told me he always wondered if it would’ve been more fun to clerk for a newer judge because by the time he clerked, both of his judges had already seen most issues, written opinions on most topics, and had set opinions about how they felt on most things. A younger judge likely won’t have all that.

I think there are definitely pluses and minuses in both sides, so I would just find judges you want to work for and apply to both. I’m soon clerking for a judge who has been on the bench for less than two years, but next year will be clerking for a judge who has been on the bench for 20+ years. The younger judge has been much more proactive in his outreach and contact since hiring, but being a future clerk for the older judge has already helped me network.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 10:19 pm

[edit: accidental double post]

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by lavarman84 » Tue May 26, 2020 11:16 pm

I think all else being equal, I might lean slight towards the younger judge. But it really depends. If by older you mean 55 to 60 years old, I think I'd lean slightly towards the "older judge." If we're getting up into the 70 to 85 range, yeah, it tilts more towards the younger judge. However, rarely are we confronted a situation where all else is equal. Ultimately, I'd want to clerk for the judge who offers a better quality of life and is a better mentor.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 26, 2020 11:28 pm

One thing to keep in mind is that senior status judges tend to have a more manageable workload. All else equal, I think the sweet spot is a judge who has recently gone senior. Several years of clerks already (so good alumni network), but still several years left (one hopes), and a lighter load.

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floatie

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by floatie » Tue May 26, 2020 11:29 pm

I think there's a sweet spot. A very young judge (40s or even 30s these days) won't have an established network and will likely still be learning the ropes, which can make your clerkship chaotic. And an old judge (75+) won't be able to mentor you for more than 10-20 years, tops, because of biology. But a judge in his/her 50s/early 60s will likely be comfortable enough as a judge for you to have a valuable learning experience and will be a valuble mentor for you for years.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 27, 2020 10:00 am

I clerked for a judge in the judge's final year in active status and am now clerking for that judge's replacement. My experiences have largely mirrored what people have mentioned.

My takeaway is that you should (to the extent you can based on what you know at this point) focus more on who the judge is as a person than whether they are an older versus a newer judge. Working for a good person who's a good boss and a good lawyer is far more important than the stage of that person's career.

That said, clerking for an established judge means that you're clerking for someone with a clerk network already, someone who already has a reputation in the legal community, someone who has chambers processes nailed down already, someone who has seen a lot of issues and will more often know her views on a case earlier, etc. Clerking for a newer judge means that you're among the first clerks, your judge's reputation will be far less established, and you'll do a lot more figuring out as you go in the job. It can also mean your judge feels like she has more to prove and will be working harder at the job to prove herself, in which case you may end up working a lot harder (both because of the newness and having something to prove).

By doing both, I have sort of the best of both worlds: the benefits of clerking for a very established judge and also a judge who will be around for decades to come. I'm not sure I could tell you that one clerkship was "better" than the other, though. I think you end up with a different experience with different pros and cons if you just do the one.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 27, 2020 1:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 10:00 am
I clerked for a judge in the judge's final year in active status and am now clerking for that judge's replacement. My experiences have largely mirrored what people have mentioned.

My takeaway is that you should (to the extent you can based on what you know at this point) focus more on who the judge is as a person than whether they are an older versus a newer judge. Working for a good person who's a good boss and a good lawyer is far more important than the stage of that person's career.

That said, clerking for an established judge means that you're clerking for someone with a clerk network already, someone who already has a reputation in the legal community, someone who has chambers processes nailed down already, someone who has seen a lot of issues and will more often know her views on a case earlier, etc. Clerking for a newer judge means that you're among the first clerks, your judge's reputation will be far less established, and you'll do a lot more figuring out as you go in the job. It can also mean your judge feels like she has more to prove and will be working harder at the job to prove herself, in which case you may end up working a lot harder (both because of the newness and having something to prove).

By doing both, I have sort of the best of both worlds: the benefits of clerking for a very established judge and also a judge who will be around for decades to come. I'm not sure I could tell you that one clerkship was "better" than the other, though. I think you end up with a different experience with different pros and cons if you just do the one.
I had a very similar experience and agree with this entirely. The new judge I clerked for, while a great boss and person, was way more demanding because he was still getting his bearings, had zero experience with a lot of subject matters, and was much more hands-on (I think this is just how he is, not necessarily because he was new at the time).

One of the benefits of the older judge was his deep knowledge of certain subjects. I could ask him anything about a few topics and he would know the answer off the top of his head, know all the relevant authority, and have a strong opinion on it right away. A newer judge will likely (and understandably) not have that kind of encyclopedic knowledge.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 28, 2020 12:03 am

I too clerked for several judges at varied stages of their judge life cycle and would echo everything everyone else said about the broad strokes differences.

Two caveats: judges who previously served as any kind of a judge (whether it's a circuit judge elevated from a district court or a district judge who was previously a state or magistrate judge) will often have considerably better chambers management than your average "new" judge. This particular bench may be new to them, but they've had years of experience sitting on a bench.

To similar effect but opposite result, be a bit wary of new(ish) district court judges who did not have considerable courtroom litigation experience prior to being appointed. There are obviously a few very high-profile examples of this with some of the baby Trump judges, but there were some more under-the-radar instances of judges appointed by Obama who were really hard to work for while getting their sea legs under them in a trial courtroom. Having witnessed it second-hand, it can be a really miserable experience for that judge's clerks.

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Re: Older Judge v Newer Judge

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 28, 2020 6:02 pm

I clerked for a judge in his first term on the bench and then clerked for a judge with 20+ years of experience. I think I enjoyed my experience with the baby judge better because he leaned on his clerks more for both substantive and procedural matters. He didn't have an established way of doing things, so I got to contribute a lot to how he ran his chambers. Also, because he hadn't publicly expressed his views on most legal issues, I felt like we could decide each case as it came to us without having to worry about whether it was consistent with everything he's said on the issue in the past.

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