SCOTUS clerkship application timing

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questionasker2019

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SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by questionasker2019 » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:43 pm

I have a question about the timing of SCOTUS applications. I'll be clerking for a district court judge, then a gap year, and then a circuit court judge. All those will be September-September gigs. My circuit judge isn't a top feeder, but he's sent some before.

Here's the question: If I had strong support from my district court judge, could I apply even before I started the second clerkship? I assume my circuit judge then couldn't play any role, which I assume could be fatal. I know it's a longshot anyway, but I'm trying to balance the work it takes to put together my application (and to get my recommenders, etc. to make calls) vs. the chance that lightning might strike. And I'd prefer not to take another gap year after my second clerkship.

But do most people do something else between their last clerkship and SCOTUS? I think that SCOTUS clerks start in July, so maybe if you have a 1 year gig starting later than that, you need to take some amount of time for a gap year. I'm not very solid on application timing mechanics in general, so even a general overview of the current conventional wisdom about when one should apply would be useful. Thanks in advance!

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 21, 2020 4:20 pm

questionasker2019 wrote:
Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:43 pm
I have a question about the timing of SCOTUS applications. I'll be clerking for a district court judge, then a gap year, and then a circuit court judge. All those will be September-September gigs. My circuit judge isn't a top feeder, but he's sent some before.

Here's the question: If I had strong support from my district court judge, could I apply even before I started the second clerkship? I assume my circuit judge then couldn't play any role, which I assume could be fatal. I know it's a longshot anyway, but I'm trying to balance the work it takes to put together my application (and to get my recommenders, etc. to make calls) vs. the chance that lightning might strike. And I'd prefer not to take another gap year after my second clerkship.

But do most people do something else between their last clerkship and SCOTUS? I think that SCOTUS clerks start in July, so maybe if you have a 1 year gig starting later than that, you need to take some amount of time for a gap year. I'm not very solid on application timing mechanics in general, so even a general overview of the current conventional wisdom about when one should apply would be useful. Thanks in advance!
[Moderators: I posted anonymously for obvious reasons. If I cannot stay anonymous, kindly delete my post. Please do not out my account. Otherwise I cannot do this in the future.]

SCOTUS clerk here. Questionasker, I could not give credible advice without additional information. Namely: school tier; class rank; competitiveness of your circuit clerkship; quality of your letters of recommendation; pedigree of your recommenders; political leanings.

questionasker2019

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by questionasker2019 » Fri Aug 21, 2020 5:42 pm

Appreciate the reply. I'll give as much info as I can. I'm YHS, so I have no idea what class rank I was. I'll say that my transcript is not perfect. If I had to guess, top 10% right now (though really I think you'd need to adjust for degree of difficulty of classes and I don't really know how to do that). I would say the circuit judge is in the top ~10 or so of feeders. So he/she's not an uber feeder, but he/she is no slouch. The district clerkship is in a competitive district (DDC/SDNY/ND Cal), but my judge is not one of the district court feeders a la Boasberg, Furman, etc.

In terms of letters, I have one professor who has a rep for being connected with some of the justices who would be enthusiastic (but not necessarily at the "this kid is brilliant" level). And just for argument's sake, let's assume that my district judge would be very enthusiastic--I've heard he/she's willing to go to bat for people and knows a couple of justices. So I think he/she would be my primary advocate, though he/she wouldn't be writing a letter.

Otherwise, I have two letter-writers who are also thought to be connected to the justices (though really I have no idea) but I don't know that either of them would be very enthusiastic. (I think the letters are the weakest part of my application.) And I have a couple of profs who would probably be willing to call--at least one of whom, again, supposedly has pull with a couple of the justices--but that's more speculative.

And I'm liberal. I also think my background before law school would help a little, though I don't think it would move the needle very much.

While I'm at it, I'll elaborate a bit on a point I made in my last post. I'm doing my second clerkship September 2022-23. So I'm out for OT 2023 and the earliest I could do would be OT 2024. So maybe this is moot because I wouldn't even need to apply before I started the 2nd clerkship.

So a general timing question while we have you: What's your sense of the best time to apply in general? (I've seen advice on this before, but I've also heard that it can bounce around a lot so you can't necessarily be sure that what you hear one year will persist to the next.) Thanks again for doing this!

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:13 pm

Separate from OP, but also curious:
Graduated last year, just about to clerk for district then COA. Did gap year at V5 firm. Both judges have sent like 3-5 to SCOTUS over 10 years.
CCN
Top 3-5%
Letters of rec strong but just good profs at CCN not all-stars
Liberal

When do I apply? Is there anything I can do to help my application?

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:37 pm

Also separate and hoping to get answers on this, thank you SCOTUS clerk anon!

Rising 3L, set to clerk for one of the top conservative feeders immediately after graduation
YHS
Top 10%
Strong (but not necessarily superlative) letters from heavy hitters
Conservative

Any thoughts on application timing and ways to help the application would be much-appreciated!

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:43 pm

questionasker2019 wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 5:42 pm
Appreciate the reply. I'll give as much info as I can. I'm YHS, so I have no idea what class rank I was. I'll say that my transcript is not perfect. If I had to guess, top 10% right now (though really I think you'd need to adjust for degree of difficulty of classes and I don't really know how to do that). I would say the circuit judge is in the top ~10 or so of feeders. So he/she's not an uber feeder, but he/she is no slouch. The district clerkship is in a competitive district (DDC/SDNY/ND Cal), but my judge is not one of the district court feeders a la Boasberg, Furman, etc.

In terms of letters, I have one professor who has a rep for being connected with some of the justices who would be enthusiastic (but not necessarily at the "this kid is brilliant" level). And just for argument's sake, let's assume that my district judge would be very enthusiastic--I've heard he/she's willing to go to bat for people and knows a couple of justices. So I think he/she would be my primary advocate, though he/she wouldn't be writing a letter.

Otherwise, I have two letter-writers who are also thought to be connected to the justices (though really I have no idea) but I don't know that either of them would be very enthusiastic. (I think the letters are the weakest part of my application.) And I have a couple of profs who would probably be willing to call--at least one of whom, again, supposedly has pull with a couple of the justices--but that's more speculative.

And I'm liberal. I also think my background before law school would help a little, though I don't think it would move the needle very much.

While I'm at it, I'll elaborate a bit on a point I made in my last post. I'm doing my second clerkship September 2022-23. So I'm out for OT 2023 and the earliest I could do would be OT 2024. So maybe this is moot because I wouldn't even need to apply before I started the 2nd clerkship.

So a general timing question while we have you: What's your sense of the best time to apply in general? (I've seen advice on this before, but I've also heard that it can bounce around a lot so you can't necessarily be sure that what you hear one year will persist to the next.) Thanks again for doing this!
SCOTUS clerk here.

I would not apply until October or November 2022. Based on this information, I fear you would struggle to get an interview without your circuit judge. Trying (and failing) to get an interview only lowers your stock. My advice: Work very hard for your district court judge. Get a sterling recommendation. Do something productive during your gap year. Stay professionally active. Network. Volunteer. Write something. Dazzle your circuit judge during your first two months. Mail your applications. Focus your recommenders' phone calls on the justice or justices most likely to consider you.

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 22, 2020 2:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:13 pm
Separate from OP, but also curious:
Graduated last year, just about to clerk for district then COA. Did gap year at V5 firm. Both judges have sent like 3-5 to SCOTUS over 10 years.
CCN
Top 3-5%
Letters of rec strong but just good profs at CCN not all-stars
Liberal

When do I apply? Is there anything I can do to help my application?
SCOTUS clerk here.

I would give you the same advice I gave Questionasker. Wait until you have started your circuit clerkship. Apply in October or November. You will need strong phone calls, likely from both judges, to have a fighting chance. Dazzle with your hard work and dependability. Do not give your judges any cause for doubt when they call their bosses to fight for you.

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 22, 2020 2:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:37 pm
Also separate and hoping to get answers on this, thank you SCOTUS clerk anon!

Rising 3L, set to clerk for one of the top conservative feeders immediately after graduation
YHS
Top 10%
Strong (but not necessarily superlative) letters from heavy hitters
Conservative

Any thoughts on application timing and ways to help the application would be much-appreciated!
SCOTUS clerk here.

Start by asking your judge. The top feeders did not get to the top merely by chance. If your judge has no advice, I would recommend applying during your 3L year if, and only if, you have (A) strong ideological bona fides; and (B) at least one "heavy hitter" professor willing to make calls before you start your clerkship.

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Re: SCOTUS clerkship application timing

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 22, 2020 6:44 pm

Different person - top 5% HYS, about to start circuit clerkship right after graduating but my circuit judge hasn't fed at all, but my district judge that I'll clerk for the following year is one of the top couple district judges in the country in feeding. Should I wait until I start my district judge clerkship?

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