"Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

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"Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 23, 2020 11:58 pm

I'm currently looking at interviews in both one of the most selective districts in the country and in a much less "prestigious" district where I plan to practice in a fairly insular but not tiny market (think WDNC, EDLA, D. Colo.). On the one hand, a year to network, learn local law, and work a relatively light load in my favorite city sounds great. I've got a CoA so I'm not hurting for prestige. On the other, I worry that I won't learn as much in a district that sees a lot less high-level litigation and I assume that an elite district court is the sort of credential that stays with you. I'm particularly interested in the perspectives of practicing litigators but comments from anyone would be appreciated.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:20 am

I am but a lowly rising 3L with a "less prestigious" district court clerkship lined up post-grad, but I found the following insight from a current COA clerk in the "clerks taking questions" thread very instructive:

I do not think that the average 11th Cir. judge, e.g., cares about or considers or knows anything about the “prestige” of an EDVA/EDNY/NDILL/NDCA clerkship. Maybe the clerks would. CoA judges would be more interested in an in-circuit D.Ct. clerkship most likely, from my experience. The concept of “Prestige district courts” outside of SDNY and maybe, maybe DDC, is really one that’s limited to law students (and maybe some law clerks screening apps for the judge).

It obviously depends on your end goals, but if your intent is to practice in a "fairly insular" market, then hell, I'd pour my all into building connections in that market. If the alternative is literally SDNY or DDC, then it might be a closer call.

lavarman84

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by lavarman84 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:08 am

I'd say it depends to me on how certain you are that you will practice and stay in that city.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by texanslimjim » Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:45 am

The concerns you've identified don't really matter. The idea that certain districts are more "elite" or "prestigious" isn't much of a thing. For district judges the network matters a lot, and so clerking for someone local to where you want to practice is probably more valuable than clerking for someone on the other side of the country because you read on an internet forum the latter was prestigious.

And the exact cases you'll see and work on as a D. Ct. clerk are a crapshoot. Sure, SDNY has more fancy lawyers and high-dollar cases than anywhere else, but that's divided between more judges (plus seniors and magistrates) than anywhere else, too. Every district has its share of chaff civil cases and criminal matters. Unless you want to do patents, you should not be choosing between districts based on speculation as to what the docket will look like during your clerkship.

Pick based on where you want to spend a year, assuming you already have post-clerkship employment lined up. If not, the calculus changes significantly, because post-clerk job hunting will be much easier in one of the major markets than WDNC.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by nixy » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:46 am

I agree that the difference in “prestige” between different districts is wildly overblown. If you already have a job lined up for after clerking in the city where you want to work, and you’re certain that it’s a job that will definitely be there after your COA and that you definitely want, you can do what you like. If you think you might want/need to change jobs in that city, I’d pick the local clerkship. If you think you might actually want to look elsewhere, maybe go with the “prestigious” district, but as you noted, you’ll also have a COA so I don’t think it’s as crucial. You could still pick the local clerkship and be completely fine. I sort of disagree with the last point in the post above mine - if you don’t have employment lined up in the district where you want to practice, then definitely take the local clerkship. I think clerking in a district is an excellent opportunity to make connections and job search.

And I also agree there isn’t a radical difference in the work you’re going to do and what you’ll learn. What exact cases you’ll see in a year is based on the luck of the draw, and at a certain level, litigation is litigation. The value of a clerkship is showing you how the different moving parts fit together, not learning specific legal doctrines. One thing you also learn quickly as a clerk (no matter where you are) is that there are a LOT of really bad lawyers out there whose work you will be reviewing.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:01 am

Not to derail but I’m in a somewhat similar situation except I already accepted for the smaller district (think of cities like new orleans, seattle, denver) for 22 and just got an offer to interview for CDCal/NDCal/NDIll for 21. I don’t plan on practicing in either and am currently looking for a COA (which at this point would most likely by for 23) , which I should have the credentials to get (interviewed with a 2/9 judge in NYC/SF/LA so I figure if that doesn’t work out I should be competitive enough to get something for 23 if I’m not picky). Also, my DC firm seems fine with me returning after 3L for a year before leaving to clerk for two.

Should I decline the new interview I got or take it and roll the dice on clerking three times?

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by nixy » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:00 am

I'd decline the interview, personally. I don't think 2 DCt clerkships is really a value-add over one, even if the second one is "fancier." (Which I don't really believe in, in a vacuum.) If you're getting COA interviews now and you've already got a DCt clerkship, I don't think doing another is going to increase your chances. I also think that if you want to go back to your firm, having a year of experience/connections will be easier than if you're gone for three years and they don't even remember who you are (I realize you may well want to change firms by then, too, but still). Plus I think it's easier to come back in as a 4th year if you've had some actual firm experience than if you've done nothing but clerk.

I don't think doing three clerkships is necessarily bad for you and if you think you'd just enjoy the experience and really want to, go for it. I just don't think it really adds much.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:18 am

nixy wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:00 am
I'd decline the interview, personally. I don't think 2 DCt clerkships is really a value-add over one, even if the second one is "fancier." (Which I don't really believe in, in a vacuum.) If you're getting COA interviews now and you've already got a DCt clerkship, I don't think doing another is going to increase your chances. I also think that if you want to go back to your firm, having a year of experience/connections will be easier than if you're gone for three years and they don't even remember who you are (I realize you may well want to change firms by then, too, but still). Plus I think it's easier to come back in as a 4th year if you've had some actual firm experience than if you've done nothing but clerk.

I don't think doing three clerkships is necessarily bad for you and if you think you'd just enjoy the experience and really want to, go for it. I just don't think it really adds much.
If you're concerned about the financials as well, spending one year in the firm before doing your clerkships might help generate savings and whatever else you need.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by mjb447 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:20 am

I also would probably decline the interview - I see little to no upside.

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:34 am

Ended up declining it; thanks!

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Re: "Prestigious" district or smaller district where I'll practice?

Post by Anon-non-anon » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:56 am

Decline, save $$. Pay in clerkships goes up a decent amount each year of experience you have, so skipping the earliest one is great in that regard, especially if you'll continue to clerk and won't be getting a bonus for years after.

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