Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

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Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 02, 2020 11:59 am

Hi. Wanting to express my frustration and see if anyone in the TLS universe has any suggestions. In short, I either need a lifeline or it's time to toss in the towel. I'm at a higher TTT, top 2%, lr e-board, and externed for a district court judge. The only problem is that I have no connections.

None of my doctrinal professors have clerked for any judges in my area (state, district, or circuit) and my school doesn't have a clerkship office or committee. The one person designated to help students find clerkships never clerked herself. The judge I externed for doesn't write letters of rec and I'm unsure of whether they would make any calls on my behalf (though I suspect the answer is no). But the judge has let me list them as a reference. Similarly, one of my adjuncts who did clerk doesn't write letters of rec but is a reference. While I have some decent, personal connections with some of my profs, I'm very unsure if any of them would make any calls for me. Without having anyone to go to bat for me, it seems like my odds of an A3 are slim to none. I came to this school to me a big fish in a small pond, and while I'm now a big fish, I've realized there are no clerkships to be found in my pond.

Is there anything I can do to try and make connections and find an in with a judge. Without having someone call, I feel like my credentials (mostly my school) won't get me out of the stack. Feeling down, but not quite out. I'd love some honest feedback. Thanks.

Necho2

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Necho2 » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:14 pm

Just remember that not clerking the year after graduation isn't the end of the world. You've done everything you possibly can in a very random hiring process (and with some admitted disadvantages that you can't control). Even if the D Ct judge won't write a LOR (which is very common and don't take it personally), the reference will still likely be helpful in trying to get hired to other D Ct judges in the same district. I'd focus on getting to the best BigLaw firm you can, and continue submitting applications on a yearly basis. Some D Ct judges prefer clerks with experience, and your combo of grades, LR, and hopefully a couple of years of practice at a great firm would probably improve your chances.

I'm not sure that this helps, but beyond COA/feeder levels, I don't think making calls necessarily makes or breaks application. In the chambers I clerked in, I cannot recall any calls making much of a difference, although my judge read LORs very carefully and would call all the references for any candidate being seriously considered. The simpler problem is that many judges are picky on schools, and won't necessarily dip to a school that they haven't hired from in the past just because a candidate has a compelling resume. That can be incredibly frustrating, but I just wouldn't worry too much about "making calls" as the be all end all method for getting a clerkship.

To go back to basics- you don't have any geographic restrictions, right? Have you maxed your OSCAR applications to every D Ct judge in the country? At a TTT I do not think you can afford to be picky, and a COA would almost certainly require a D Ct clerkship first.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by nixy » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:24 pm

Calls to judges aren’t the only form of connections. Look for any judge you can find, anywhere, who went to your law school. And really at any level - clerking for a state COA or SC are valuable in themselves and can help you move to a federal jurisdiction.

Also look for judges who went to your undergrad - this will be more/less helpful depending where you went to college, because some schools generate very strong ties between alumni and some don’t, but it’s also worth a shot.

Ask you career office for info about where any grad has clerked in previous years. Those judges hired from your school before, so target them. Again, any level, anywhere.

Unfortunately yeah, your school will make it tougher to get traction. Your career office should be able to dig up some people who’ve clerked, but the fewer they can find, the less likely your chances are, to be brutally honest (it’s doubtless not because no one else wanted to clerk). I say that not to be a downer, but to make clear that it’s not about you, personally. I agree that working first will help. I also think that looking lower than A3 will help to get your foot in the door - again, state judges, but also magistrates.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:44 pm

Have you tried looking through attorneys at the firm where you spent 2L summer? I got an interview with a COA judge basically exclusively off the recommendation of a partner who was a former clerk. And even if they didn't clerk most litigation partners probably know at least some the judges in the jurisdiction; in small jurisdictions it's not unusual for a partner to know every judge at every level in the area.

Fireworks2016

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Fireworks2016 » Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:51 pm

You could possibly network your way to a clerkship interview through your local Federal Bar Association chapter too. If your school doesn't have an established network in place, you need to hustle and build your own.

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lavarman84

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by lavarman84 » Fri Oct 02, 2020 6:42 pm

Out of curiosity, how many applications have you sent out? How geographically flexible have you been? What has been your process/strategy?

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by UnderDogClerk » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:44 pm
Have you tried looking through attorneys at the firm where you spent 2L summer? I got an interview with a COA judge basically exclusively off the recommendation of a partner who was a former clerk. And even if they didn't clerk most litigation partners probably know at least some the judges in the jurisdiction; in small jurisdictions it's not unusual for a partner to know every judge at every level in the area.
OP here. I only know of one partner who clerked, and that was for a state coa. But you make a good point. I have a solid connection with the managing partner, and even though he didn't clerk, he's pretty prominent in the area.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by UnderDogClerk » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:38 pm

lavarman84 wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 6:42 pm
Out of curiosity, how many applications have you sent out? How geographically flexible have you been? What has been your process/strategy?
OP here. I've sent out about 50 applications so far. I'm trying to stay relatively close to the west coast (both me and my fiance are from the WA/OR/ID/MT region).

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mjb447

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by mjb447 » Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:54 pm

UnderDogClerk wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:38 pm
lavarman84 wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 6:42 pm
Out of curiosity, how many applications have you sent out? How geographically flexible have you been? What has been your process/strategy?
OP here. I've sent out about 50 applications so far. I'm trying to stay relatively close to the west coast (both me and my fiance are from the WA/OR/ID/MT region).
Not nearly enough to consider throwing in the towel yet, especially in your situation (at least if you really want to clerk).

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Necho2

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Necho2 » Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:10 pm

Yeah if you led with "only 50 apps" I would have responded very differently in my first post. You need to blanket the district courts that are west of the Mississippi. The process can be so idiosyncratic and luck is so important that you need your application to be in as many different piles as possible. You never know when you'll stumble across a judge who cares way more about grades than school and maybe has a personal connection to something in your background...

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mjb447

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by mjb447 » Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:58 pm

Necho2 wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:10 pm
Yeah if you led with "only 50 apps" I would have responded very differently in my first post. You need to blanket the district courts that are west of the Mississippi. The process can be so idiosyncratic and luck is so important that you need your application to be in as many different piles as possible. You never know when you'll stumble across a judge who cares way more about grades than school and maybe has a personal connection to something in your background...
Makes the advice you (and others) gave about phone calls even more relevant though. Some people get clerkships through well-connected recommenders who make calls and know the right people, but lots of other people succeed through the numbers game, usually with a much larger denominator than OP has.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by LBJ's Hair » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:38 pm

UnderDogClerk wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 12:38 pm
lavarman84 wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 6:42 pm
Out of curiosity, how many applications have you sent out? How geographically flexible have you been? What has been your process/strategy?
OP here. I've sent out about 50 applications so far. I'm trying to stay relatively close to the west coast (both me and my fiance are from the WA/OR/ID/MT region).
that's low for a top 10% T14 student, assuming no connections.

you're at a TTT. gotta cast a way wider net if you really want to clerk.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 05, 2020 5:23 pm

For reference, I graduated in the top 15-20% of my class at HLS, sent out something like 150 clerkship applications, and got five total bites. 50 is not nearly enough. I don't think you need to send them to every judge west of the Mississippi, but I think that you should probably apply to every district judge in the Ninth and Tenth Circuits if you're serious about clerking.

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GoneSouth

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by GoneSouth » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:52 pm

What's your basis for saying that your professors won't make calls for you? Have you broached the topic? If they were willing to right letters of recommendation for you, I'm not sure why they wouldn't be willing to make a few calls to judges you're particularly interested in. It's a common misconception that you can only ask someone to make a call for you if they have a prior connection with the judge in question. Judges get calls all the time from professors they don't know personally, and while those may not be as helpful as a call from the judge's favorite prior clerk, they will usually at least get your application pulled out of the pile and looked at.

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Re: Up the Creek, Looking for a Paddle

Post by Deltaforce11 » Fri Oct 09, 2020 12:08 pm

I am in the same boat as you--starting at biglaw firm, good grades, not T14, currently applying, no real connections, no luck yet.

One strategy I have been using is to look up former clerks on linkedin and do an informational phone call. I recently got one former clerk to call a judge on my behalf and I have been referred to other former clerks for calls. I haven't gotten an interview from that judge yet but who knows! Also, those same clerks are at some great firms and I am hoping they will help with future lateral opportunities. I just try to be as charming as possible on the call.

Good luck!

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