How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

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How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 04, 2020 2:11 pm

(Anon because it contains information about a judge.)

Hi, all. I am from a T2 with good connections with a federal judge who used to be a president of a national prestigious organization. I will likely end up clerking for him in the District Court. However, he also could use his connections to help me out if he so chooses.

I know that some opportunities are closed to me because of my school rank, but how much does a clerkship help that out? I know that I can't go and expect something at Cravath, but I imagine it helps a little bit. Also, would it help me get into a Circuit clerkship? I know this is broad, but any experience or general knowledge is appreciates.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by lavarman84 » Fri Sep 04, 2020 2:52 pm

It depends on your grades and how connected your judge is. A circuit clerkship isn't off the table if your judge is very tight with some circuit judges and you have the requisite grades. Same with large law firms. It can provide quite a boost. I know a friend of mine who attended a T2 landed a V20 firm in his desired market after his D. Ct. and COA clerkships.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by shoebox » Fri Sep 04, 2020 2:55 pm

A federal clerkship definitely helps make up for going to a lower ranked school in the job market.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:06 pm

I am in the top ten percent now; two people transferred out who were in the top ten percent. My goal is top five percent by the time I graduate. What was your V20 friend's strategy?

What does a clerkship + T2 make me an equal to? CCN? MVPB?

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:10 pm

It'll help, but how much it helps will depend on who the judge is and/or where you're clerking. A district judge in Wyoming probably won't have the same pull as someone on SDNY/DDC/NDCal, but generally a clerkship is a decent boost. And if your judge has close connections to any of the COA in the circuit, you might have a good shot if you've got the requisite grades.

I just wanted to add that even if you're super tight with a judge, that's not a guarantee that you'll get a clerkship with that judge. When you officially apply, make sure you take it just as seriously as any other federal judge.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:06 pm
What does a clerkship + T2 make me an equal to? CCN? MVPB?
Again, it's going to depend on the clerkship. If we're talking about a flyover district, it might bump you up to ~T1. If we're talking SDNY/DDC, maybe lower T14 (noting, of course, that we're comparing apples & oranges here and these are very imprecise equivalences).

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 05, 2020 3:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:06 pm
What does a clerkship + T2 make me an equal to? CCN? MVPB?
Again, it's going to depend on the clerkship. If we're talking about a flyover district, it might bump you up to ~T1. If we're talking SDNY/DDC, maybe lower T14 (noting, of course, that we're comparing apples & oranges here and these are very imprecise equivalences).
It's not straightforward. I wouldn't think in equivalencies, as though a district court clerkship makes you like a candidate from X school. It's more that clerkships can open certain doors. In some situations, a T2 school + clerkship might make you *more* competitive than a T14 degree with no clerkship (e.g., an AUSA position where they really value clerkships). In other situations, a T14 degree with no clerkship will still be better (e.g., at some law firms that don't really hire from your school). Certainly, a clerkship will help someone from a less prestigious school, though. How much it helps will depend on the circumstance.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by lavarman84 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 3:45 pm
It's not straightforward. I wouldn't think in equivalencies, as though a district court clerkship makes you like a candidate from X school. It's more that clerkships can open certain doors. In some situations, a T2 school + clerkship might make you *more* competitive than a T14 degree with no clerkship (e.g., an AUSA position where they really value clerkships). In other situations, a T14 degree with no clerkship will still be better (e.g., at some law firms that don't really hire from your school). Certainly, a clerkship will help someone from a less prestigious school, though. How much it helps will depend on the circumstance.
Agreed. The reality of attending a lower-ranked school is that some judges, firms, and partners will never give you the time of day. Your clerkship won't change that. But it will carry a lot of weight with other people. That's why it's impossible to equate it to a degree from another school.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by kawhi818 » Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:53 am

How about let's say a UT/UCLA/Vandy/WashU plus a SDNY/EDNY/DDC clerkship? Same logic?

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by nixy » Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:19 am

lavarman84 wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:05 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 3:45 pm
It's not straightforward. I wouldn't think in equivalencies, as though a district court clerkship makes you like a candidate from X school. It's more that clerkships can open certain doors. In some situations, a T2 school + clerkship might make you *more* competitive than a T14 degree with no clerkship (e.g., an AUSA position where they really value clerkships). In other situations, a T14 degree with no clerkship will still be better (e.g., at some law firms that don't really hire from your school). Certainly, a clerkship will help someone from a less prestigious school, though. How much it helps will depend on the circumstance.
Agreed. The reality of attending a lower-ranked school is that some judges, firms, and partners will never give you the time of day. Your clerkship won't change that. But it will carry a lot of weight with other people. That's why it's impossible to equate it to a degree from another school.
Yes, I agree with all this. I will note that anecdotally, based on postings here and elsewhere on the internet, some people who have ended up in federal clerkships (usually DCt) who have not had traditional biglaw credentials have struggled to get biglaw gigs after clerking; having a clerkship didn't get them anywhere with firms that wouldn't hire from their school to begin with. It doesn't transform your resume entirely. A clerkship + T2 doesn't make you the equivalent of CCN or MVPB; you're a T2 grad with a clerkship. But it's certainly better than not doing the clerkship.

And this is true whether you're school is a T2 and your clerkship is flyover, or whether your school is T20 and your clerkship is snazzy. Someone with a T20 degree is already in a decent position, in that fewer employers just flat out won't hire from that school, even if they might normally want a higher GPA than they would from CCN or something. An SDNY gig is good if, for instance, you want to do biglaw in NYC b/c that's where firms will be litigating and firms know what that means and how to evaluate it (conversely if you wanted to go work in Idaho or something they'll probably go "big city clerkship, great" rather than care much that it's SDNY). It's not going to magically transform you into a CCN grad so for those few employers who would never hire from your school, it may not make any difference (or it may, if your judge has enough sway with them). But I can't imagine the T20/SDNY-EDNY-DDC grad is going to struggle. (They just likely wouldn't have struggled that much without the clerkship, either.)

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:25 am

kawhi818 wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:53 am
How about let's say a UT/UCLA/Vandy/WashU plus a SDNY/EDNY/DDC clerkship? Same logic?
I mean, there are very few employers that wouldn’t consider a Vandy grad with a DDC clerkship, but yeah, same general logic: don’t think in equivalencies. Some employers really value clerkships, and the Vandy grad with a clerkship will be in a better place than a person from a higher ranked school with no clerkship. Other places typically only hire from certain schools. And some (e.g., certain lit boutiques) mostly hire people with BOTH a top school and a fancy clerkship, so one or the other might not quite cut it.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by shoebox » Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:47 am

There is definitely a group of people in the industry that won't hire a T2 grad no matter where they clerked. Clerkships won't make those biases go away. But there are also a lot of people, who aren't as wedded to the traditional prestige indicators, who will look more favorably on the high performing T2 grad with a federal clerkship than they will undistinguished T14 grads. So I agree with the above posters that it's definitely not as simple as saying a T2 degree + clerkship = top X school degree, but the clerkship definitely opens some doors for a lower-ranked school grad that would have otherwise been closed.

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by nixy » Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:44 pm

Let me also clarify something I was thinking about when I posted above - it's not just T2 but T2 and your own qualifications (often grades). Often clerkships correlate with grades, but not always. A T2 grad with less than top of the class grades may get a clerkship through connections (and I don't mean just pure nepotism, but maybe they interned with a judge and really impressed them, or their grades aren't spectacular but maybe they're a veteran with great military experience that the judge likes, that kind thing), but for firms that hire based on school + grades, this T2 grad may not be a great candidate despite the clerkship. If, however, you're a T2 grad who gets a COA clerkship locally b/c you're #1 of #2 in your class, you may well have great options, especially in that market. So if you get a clerkship because you have all the traditional kinds of qualifications (top grades, law review, etc), you may be in a different situation from someone who gets a clerkship without those qualifications (which is less likely, but possible).

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Re: How much does an Art III clerkship help "make up" for school prestige?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sat Sep 12, 2020 6:16 am

People in this thread so far are talking about firms, which makes sense given the OP, but I would also note that top-10% with a district clerkship is a good place to be for a lot of fedgov stuff, JAG, etc. For a lot of (not all!) public-sector hirers, that's a stronger profile than "median at Harvard with a thin resume."

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