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Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 5:50 pm
by Anonymous User
I've already accepted a federal appellate clerkship for 2023-2024 and just accepted an invitation to interview for a state supreme clerkship for 2021-2022. I'm a little on the fence about whether I still want the state supreme clerkship because of the awkward gap it would create between clerkships. I've also already committed to return to my summer firm, although they didn't give me a start date, so I don't know if it would technically be reneging if I told them I'm going to clerk for 2021. My other concern, although this is slightly less pressing I guess since I don't have any district court offers in hand, is that I'd still like to clerk for a federal district court, but don't want to do a third clerkship.

Mainly because of the weird timing, I'm wondering if I made a mistake in accepting this interview invitation. I was caught off guard on the phone and just said yes to an interview kind of instinctively. Would it be unacceptably awkward of me to just withdraw my application right after my interview so I don't put myself in a position where I have to turn down an offer (if I get it)? Or am I overplaying these concerns about timing?

Re: Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:04 pm
by Anonymous User
First off, it would not be inappropriate to renege on the interview and withdraw your application. It happens all the time, and the judge is probably interviewing a few other candidates and will not have an issue picking one more to fill your interview "spot." All you would need to do is call or email the judge's contact (most likely the judge's career clerk or judicial assistant) and say that you're no longer available for a clerkship in 2021-2022 and that you'd like to withdraw your application. It happens all the time, and you don't need to justify why you're withdrawing the application.

To answer your other question, having to fill a one year "gap" in between clerkships is not unheard of, but it can be awkward, and not all firms are receptive to that. I've heard of people who have made it work, and others who have had to re-interview at their old firms to get their spot back. There are also people who use that one-year gap to do a fellowship or some other temporary position where it would not be as disruptive to leave, but if you do that, it'll probably be difficult to make it back to your firm.

From what you've said, I'm not sure how much you'd gain from doing a state supreme court clerkship, since you'll already get appellate experience during your COA clerkship. I agree with you that it makes much more sense to try and get a federal district court clerkship, which won't be hard since you clearly have excellent credentials. Hiring for federal district court clerkships is also a little slower than COA hiring, so you should expect to see more positions open up for 2022-2023 term district court clerkships in late 2020-early 2021. And although you won't be bound to the hiring plan anymore, some judges will still interview everyone on the hiring plan schedule (so, June 2021 for you).

Having back-to-back clerkships would also be much less disruptive for you if you want to go back to your firm. It's pretty common to work for a year at a firm, leave for one or two years to do clerkships, and then come back (or go to another firm depending on what you want to do).

Re: Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:18 pm
by Wild Card
why would it be a gap year?
just apply for jobs with the state supreme on your resume, and omit the CoA clerkship.

Re: Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:40 pm
by cheaptilts
Just renege if you have no strong reason to do a state appellate clerkship.

Re: Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:58 pm
by Libya
Unless it is some SSC judge that it would be amazing to clerk for (e.g. Liu) I'd renege on the interview; and even if it was an amazing SSC judge I'd thing long and hard since the value add seems minimal. I think you have a good shot a D. Ct. before/after your COA considering you got the appellate gig already, and that is probably more valuable if you want to practice in the federal system.

Re: Year-long gap between clerkships

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 10:44 pm
by nixy
I think if you've decided you wouldn't want the clerkship even if offered (which is fine), then just cancel the interview, as people have said. It's much better not to waste people's time, and just to say your plans have changed and you need to withdraw. (Also, if you withdraw right after the interview, that could imply that you found the interview a bad experience, and that's probably not a good impression to leave.)

I think SSCs can be great experiences, but given your federal COA, the biggest value-add of a SSC would be, I think, if you wanted to change markets and network/target employers in the SSC state, which it doesn't sound like is the case.

You also probably have plenty of time to apply for DCts for '22-'23 (or even '24-25, although that probably doesn't make much financial sense unless you really want to use that time to pivot to government or something. But still, you have options pending).