Federal Circuit Portability

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Federal Circuit Portability

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:56 am

Hey folks--I'm a recent grad clerking in a patent/civil-heavy district (N.D.Cal/D.Del/E.D.Va/N.D.Ill.) for a year and then the Fed Circuit after. I have a tech background and am interested in patent litigation, but I'm also trying to keep an open mind since I don't have much (any, really) real experience. If, down the road, I end up more interested in general lit or appellate work, do these credentials still carry weight? I'm less concerned about the district court since I'll certainly still see the usual mix of crim/con law/civil but more wondering by how much the Fed Circuit clerkship won't be as portable compared to the numbered/DC circuits. Really just hoping it's not the case that the credential doesn't really matter if I don't end up doing patent lit.

If it's helpful background as to why I went for it if I wasn't 100% committed to patent lit, I was an OK but not great candidate (T1, top 10%) so didn't want to take any COA opportunity for granted, I'd heard awesome things about the Fed. Cir. judge from prior clerks, and am a huge dork and genuinely enjoy thinking about the law. I think with the legal field mired in uncertainty right now, I'm just a bit worried that this credential may entirely lose its value if I end up not doing patent lit. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated--many thanks!

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Re: Federal Circuit Portability

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:54 pm

Fed. Cir. clerks are very highly coveted by law firms with patent lit practices and those clerkships do kind of box you into patent lit/international trade. It would still be valuable for a general/commercial lit practice since patent issues do come up in commercial cases, too. I don't think it'll be enough to get into an appellate practice at a top firm, though. Those practices are usually dominated by former SCOTUS/2/7/9/DC clerks.

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polareagle

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Re: Federal Circuit Portability

Post by polareagle » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:54 pm
Fed. Cir. clerks are very highly coveted by law firms with patent lit practices and those clerkships do kind of box you into patent lit/international trade. It would still be valuable for a general/commercial lit practice since patent issues do come up in commercial cases, too. I don't think it'll be enough to get into an appellate practice at a top firm, though. Those practices are usually dominated by former SCOTUS/2/7/9/DC clerks.
Generally agree with the above but not the bolded, which is just TLS-think (though including the 7th is somewhat novel). SCOTUS/DC Circuit yes, the others not more than any other numbered circuit, and the Fed. circuit seems just as valuable as the others.

For evidence, look at the appellate associates in the DC offices of the top 5 appellate firms per Vault (I'm sure you could look at chambers as well but this was easy to pull). If more than one associate, number in parens:

Gibson: 1st; 2d (2); 3d (3); 4th; 5th (7); 6th (5); 7th (4); 9th (4); 10th; Fed (3); DC (5); SCOTUS (4)
Williams & Connolly: (does not break associates out by practice group but all the SCOTUS clerks clerked on the D.C. Circuit)
Jones Day: 3d; 5th; 6th; 9th (3); 11th (2); DC (5); SCOTUS (12)
Kirkland: 3d; 4th (2); 7th; 10th (2); 11th; DC; Fed (2); SCOTUS
Wilmer: 1st; 3d; 4th; 9th; DC; Fed; SCOTUS (2)

Based on this review, the D.C. Circuit (and SCOTUS) have an advantage across the board. The 5th Circuit is especially popular at Gibson. Looking at this limited sample, you might say that the second and eighth circuits underperform the average. From having actually looked through, it's clearer than ever that judge matters more than circuit. I believe *all* the 7th circuit clerks at Gibson were from Sykes. The 10th circuit clerks are nearly all Tymkovitch. Etc, etc.

In practice, judges matter, circuits do not (except for the D.C. Circuit).

Pennoyer v. Meh

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Re: Federal Circuit Portability

Post by Pennoyer v. Meh » Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:12 pm

polareagle wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:31 pm
Based on this review, the D.C. Circuit (and SCOTUS) have an advantage across the board. The 5th Circuit is especially popular at Gibson. Looking at this limited sample, you might say that the second and eighth circuits underperform the average. From having actually looked through, it's clearer than ever that judge matters more than circuit. I believe *all* the 7th circuit clerks at Gibson were from Sykes. The 10th circuit clerks are nearly all Tymkovitch. Etc, etc.
It'll be very interesting to see if this changes over time, especially as it comes to the power of individual judges (for example, do the Trump all-stars like Stras or Willet start feeding a little bit more to prominent firms)?

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Re: Federal Circuit Portability

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 10, 2020 12:37 pm

polareagle wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:31 pm
The 5th Circuit is especially popular at Gibson.
FWIW, Gibson has an idiosyncratic free-market assignment system with a pretty open appellate group, which means the location/prestige of your clerkship doesn't matter as much. You don't get "hired into" any practice group. I'm sure it helps to be a SCOTUS/CADC clerk, but it's mainly about building relationships once you get your foot in the door. If a partner likes you, I doubt they'd refuse to give you assignments because you "only" clerked on CA8 or something.

Not that you should plan your clerkship based on job prospects at one firm if you're not hired at that firm yet, but just saying.

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Re: Federal Circuit Portability

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 10, 2020 3:50 pm

polareagle wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:31 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:54 pm
Fed. Cir. clerks are very highly coveted by law firms with patent lit practices and those clerkships do kind of box you into patent lit/international trade. It would still be valuable for a general/commercial lit practice since patent issues do come up in commercial cases, too. I don't think it'll be enough to get into an appellate practice at a top firm, though. Those practices are usually dominated by former SCOTUS/2/7/9/DC clerks.
Generally agree with the above but not the bolded, which is just TLS-think (though including the 7th is somewhat novel). SCOTUS/DC Circuit yes, the others not more than any other numbered circuit, and the Fed. circuit seems just as valuable as the others.

For evidence, look at the appellate associates in the DC offices of the top 5 appellate firms per Vault (I'm sure you could look at chambers as well but this was easy to pull). If more than one associate, number in parens:

Gibson: 1st; 2d (2); 3d (3); 4th; 5th (7); 6th (5); 7th (4); 9th (4); 10th; Fed (3); DC (5); SCOTUS (4)
Williams & Connolly: (does not break associates out by practice group but all the SCOTUS clerks clerked on the D.C. Circuit)
Jones Day: 3d; 5th; 6th; 9th (3); 11th (2); DC (5); SCOTUS (12)
Kirkland: 3d; 4th (2); 7th; 10th (2); 11th; DC; Fed (2); SCOTUS
Wilmer: 1st; 3d; 4th; 9th; DC; Fed; SCOTUS (2)

Based on this review, the D.C. Circuit (and SCOTUS) have an advantage across the board. The 5th Circuit is especially popular at Gibson. Looking at this limited sample, you might say that the second and eighth circuits underperform the average. From having actually looked through, it's clearer than ever that judge matters more than circuit. I believe *all* the 7th circuit clerks at Gibson were from Sykes. The 10th circuit clerks are nearly all Tymkovitch. Etc, etc.

In practice, judges matter, circuits do not (except for the D.C. Circuit).
OP here. Can't believe I didn't think to check this! This is awesome--thank you for taking the time to collate the data. Your point about the judge making a bigger difference seems borne out by what I'm seeing as well now that I'm looking. Glad to see that the Fed. Circuit seems at least as helpful as the others if the numbers are any indication.

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