General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

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FlatFootFlewsy

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General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by FlatFootFlewsy » Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:11 pm

Quick background: I graduated from an unranked law school in the top 15% of my class with LR/Moot Court/etc... After graduation, I did two years for a SSC Justice. Then I spent a couple years in private practice for a boutique litigation firm. I then did two years for a District Court Judge and am now with a COA judge for a one-year term. I'm done clerking after this year. I reached my goal, and now its time to return to private practice.

I'm starting to look at post-clerkship jobs and was hoping to get some feedback. I have no experience with BigLaw, so this is all rather new to me. I didn't do a SA at a BigLaw firm because I had no interest at the time, so I worked instead for boutique litigation firms. My goal all along was to try to get a District Court and COA clerkship. It took me a lot longer than most people to get there since I didn't go to a good law school, but here I am. I was hoping people who have gone through the BigLaw hiring process could give me some guidance:

1. How early is too early to start applying? I have good connections with BigLaw in my state; however, there just isn't a huge BigLaw presence and I'm willing to relocate. I don't want to do DC/NYC/Atlanta, so I'm focused more on markets like Houston, Seattle, Denver, etc... I know that limits me some, but I just have zero desire to go to the DC/NYC/Atlanta markets. Is it too early to start sending out applications now? I know COVID-19 has changed things, but I'd like to go ahead and get the ball rolling as soon as I can.

2. If I get an offer to interview with an out-of-state law firm, do they frequently (or ever) offer assistance with travel costs? That may be a completely stupid question, but I just don't know the answer. Nor do I know if there would be any ethical problem with accepting airline tickets/hotel/etc... for interviews. Obviously, I would run it by my Judge first, but I just wanted to see if it was even anything offered by firms or allowed by the general ethics rules before doing that.

3. Has anyone noted any trends with hiring judicial clerks during the COVID-19 pandemic? I know it has obviously impacted law firms just like any other businesses, but I don't know to what degree.

Thanks for your time. These may all be really stupid questions, but this is all very new to me. I spent all of my time focusing on getting to the COA and haven't had time to really think about what to do *after* my last clerkship. I have very good in-state connections, so I'm not worried about being unable to find a job. I just want to make sure I see what is out there before committing to staying here. The biggest firm in my state gives out like a $10K clerkship bonus, and most other "BigLaw" firms here give no clerkship bonuses at all, so I'm very interested in seeing what is available being my state.

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:05 am

Right now is a very, very bad time for post-clerkship hiring because firms don't want to dish out clerkship bonuses—there are even several firms who are refusing to hire back former SAs/associates who had post-clerkship return offers before COVID. I would encourage you to not limit yourself to the smaller legal markets that you've listed, because (1) they hire fewer people to begin with and (2) many of those markets have been harder hit by COVID because of lower workflows compared to the big NYC/DC shops. Unless you have a legitimate geographical restriction (like a spouse's job or something) you should be applying VERY broadly.

Usually, firms will reimburse costs associated with traveling for interviews, but right now almost all firms are conducting interviews remotely, so you probably won't incur any travel costs through the end of the year (not sure what firms will do next year).

It's not clear from your post when your COA clerkship will end, but keep in mind that a lot of firms outside of the V10 deferred incoming associates to January/February. So, with that many new associates starting in January, hiring might become less active as you get closer to that time (plus you've got OCI coming up in the winter, too). Usually you would start appying about 7-9 months before the end of your clerkship, but right now I would encourage you to start applying as soon as you can.

FlatFootFlewsy

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by FlatFootFlewsy » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:05 am
Right now is a very, very bad time for post-clerkship hiring because firms don't want to dish out clerkship bonuses—there are even several firms who are refusing to hire back former SAs/associates who had post-clerkship return offers before COVID. I would encourage you to not limit yourself to the smaller legal markets that you've listed, because (1) they hire fewer people to begin with and (2) many of those markets have been harder hit by COVID because of lower workflows compared to the big NYC/DC shops. Unless you have a legitimate geographical restriction (like a spouse's job or something) you should be applying VERY broadly.

Usually, firms will reimburse costs associated with traveling for interviews, but right now almost all firms are conducting interviews remotely, so you probably won't incur any travel costs through the end of the year (not sure what firms will do next year).

It's not clear from your post when your COA clerkship will end, but keep in mind that a lot of firms outside of the V10 deferred incoming associates to January/February. So, with that many new associates starting in January, hiring might become less active as you get closer to that time (plus you've got OCI coming up in the winter, too). Usually you would start appying about 7-9 months before the end of your clerkship, but right now I would encourage you to start applying as soon as you can.
Thanks so much for the response. I will look at expanding my target markets. I've just never had any desire to go to DC/NYC. Just not my cup of tea. But it seems like it's something I'll have to give serious consideration to given the way the market is now.

Is the best strategy just to mass mail cover letters/resume/reference list/writing sample to firms? It looks like many firms have email contacts listed and some have job portals online. Is paper/mail better, or do the firms that put up email contacts really want everything to go through that person?

I didn't think about the effect of COVID on interviewing. That's a good point about virtual interviews. Glad to know, at least, that firms do reimburse travel expenses when necessary. Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything in the judicial law clerks ethics handbook about accepting travel expenses.

Anon-non-anon

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by Anon-non-anon » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:49 am

Ideally, apply the winter before your clerkship ends and don't stop until you've accepted an offer. If you're ending this fall, I would apply to every biglaw spot that has an actual opening right now and see where the chips fall. I would also apply to any other firm you have a particular interest / connection to, given the times. Most firms have a recruiting contact on the website and what they request, and if not, I'd just start with a resume and transcript attached to an email that serves as your cover letter. I think paper would be silly to use right now.

Also, apply to every big shop in the states you have connections to and want to return to. You'll likely do remote interviewing if at all, but if in person, firms usually pay for travel. Just talk to your judge if any application moves forward and the firm has cases before the court.

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:51 pm

Anon-non-anon wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:49 am
Ideally, apply the winter before your clerkship ends and don't stop until you've accepted an offer.
Yes, this makes more sense to me than what Anon wrote above (i.e., apply ASAP).

I'm worried that if I send an application at the wrong time, firms will flat out reject me, or put my application to the side and forget about it, rather than say, "Oh, we're still unsure about our hiring needs at the moment; please apply again in December or January," etc.

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:40 pm

FlatFootFlewsy wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:03 am

Thanks so much for the response. I will look at expanding my target markets. I've just never had any desire to go to DC/NYC. Just not my cup of tea. But it seems like it's something I'll have to give serious consideration to given the way the market is now.

Is the best strategy just to mass mail cover letters/resume/reference list/writing sample to firms? It looks like many firms have email contacts listed and some have job portals online. Is paper/mail better, or do the firms that put up email contacts really want everything to go through that person?

I didn't think about the effect of COVID on interviewing. That's a good point about virtual interviews. Glad to know, at least, that firms do reimburse travel expenses when necessary. Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything in the judicial law clerks ethics handbook about accepting travel expenses.
Definitely mass mail using the contact info available on the firm's website. I've found that email is preferable to the job portal, but if the job portal is all you have available, use that. It also helps if you know a current associate or partner who can help flag your application and/or pass along your resume. This is where some of your judge's former clerks can be helpful.

Also re: timing of applying, while I personally would apply sooner rather than later, I don't think there's any harm in waiting until winter, and I see the merit of the other poster's suggestion regarding waiting until then. It's certainly possible that firms will wait to see how things shake out during OCI (which has been moved to January at many law schools).

Anon-non-anon

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Re: General Post-Clerkship Hiring Questions

Post by Anon-non-anon » Tue Aug 25, 2020 9:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:51 pm
Anon-non-anon wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:49 am
Ideally, apply the winter before your clerkship ends and don't stop until you've accepted an offer.
Yes, this makes more sense to me than what Anon wrote above (i.e., apply ASAP).

I'm worried that if I send an application at the wrong time, firms will flat out reject me, or put my application to the side and forget about it, rather than say, "Oh, we're still unsure about our hiring needs at the moment; please apply again in December or January," etc.
Yeah I think November is really the earliest firms are thinking about clerks for next year, and probably later this year given all that's going on. That said, don't miss the early window (November / December / January) or stop once you have some bites. Things can go south fast and you don't want to start the process again with new firms in March / April or later. Some fellowships will start hiring very soon thoguh if you're interested in that stuff.

That said, applying very early prob wouldn't hurt, you'd just want to give them a nudge when normal hiring starts if they don't reject you. What I would do now is try to network with people at firms you're interested in. Having a gap between an informational interview and applying makes it seem less transnational too, IMHO.

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