Do competitive judges prefer not to accept clerks interested in transactional law?

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Do competitive judges prefer not to accept clerks interested in transactional law?

Post by getthisbread » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:40 pm

Hi everyone!

I’m a rising 2L currently doing an SA at a V10 firm’s Silicon Valley office. I interviewed for their corporate team but will have the opportunity to do litigation work this summer if I want. Given that I’m interested in a career in transactional law, I hadn’t planned on doing much litigation this summer. However, yesterday in a call with career services, my advisor mentioned in passing that judges hiring clerks might ding students leaning transactional.

I understand that clerkships have next to nothing to do with transactional work. However, I’d like to clerk for its own sake as well as because I’m hoping to keep open the door to academia down the line. Ideally, I’d be shooting for NDCA/Ninth Circuit.

From what I understand, my hard factors should be decently competitive for these courts. I finished 1L around the top 20% of my class at SLS (and maybe higher, since we had only one quarter of grades) and made law review. However, putting these considerations aside, I’m concerned whether my relative lack of interest in litigation will preclude me from getting a competitive clerkship. Should I do a few more litigation-esque activities in the coming years in order to compensate? Thanks in advance for your feedback!


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Re: Do competitive judges prefer not to accept clerks interested in transactional law?

Post by namefromplace » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:06 pm

It's entirely judge dependent, but most will ask you some kind of variant of "why do you want to clerk?" and "where do you see your career going?"

Your answer to the first question is basically "just for prestige," so work on that. I think if you emphasize how you want a mentor, that could be satisfactory for a lot of judges, but being able to [honestly] say you're interested in the judicial decision-making process and want to feel more comfortable in a court will probably go a longer way. That being said, quite a few judges want clerks who want to be professors, so--especially if the judge had a prior career in academia--it can be OK to be forthright with that.

The "where do you see your career going" question will hurt you if it goes against your answer for why you want to clerk. I.e. if you say you want to clerk to better understand rules of procedure and then say you want to do transactional work, that obviously won't really fit.

I think the better question is why you want to clerk. Clerking for a transactional attorney can be somewhat detrimental; you'll get a year of mostly irrelevant experience and then return to your firm with the expectation that you'll be billing at the same level of someone with relevant experience. Furthermore, clerkships--while helpful for professors--are less necessary for professors who want to study and write about transactional law. At my--admittedly non-T14--law school, I think very few of the more transactionally-focused professors clerked.

What would be a good fit, though, would be a clerkship at the Delaware Court of Chancery. That's a well-respected clerkship for corporate academia and will give you loads of legal experience actually relevant to corporate law.

TL;DR: Interest in corporate law won't necessarily preclude you from an N.D. Cal. or 9th Cir. clerkship, but could make the process more difficult with certain judges.

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Re: Do competitive judges prefer not to accept clerks interested in transactional law?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 08, 2020 3:17 pm

Second Delaware. My contracts professor clerked for that court before entering private practice.

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