Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

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Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Feb 16, 2021 6:27 pm

I'm looking into applications to clerk for Circuit Court judges for the 2023 term or later, and am wondering if anyone has any insights on learning more about Senior Judge hiring practices (particularly for those that do not post on OSCAR). I'm planning on focusing on Senior Judges and to apply widely because I'm assuming my background wouldn't leave me very competitive for many Circuit Court judges (CCN, ~top 25/30%, LR, clerkship with A3 (non-district court) judge). How do I know which judges (if any) are reasonably within my range, and does anyone have any resources (beyond reaching out to chambers one-by-one) to learn more about non-OSCAR judges' hiring practices?

Barrred

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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Barrred » Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:22 pm

First, I'll quibble with your premise: I wouldn't assume that clerkships with "senior judges" as a group are easier to get than active judges (nor is it necessarily true that active judge clerkships are harder/busier than senior judge clerkships, since some senior judges take full caseloads, and chambers practices vary widely). For example, a clerkship with Judge O'Scannlain is still harder to get than one of the lesser known active CA9 judges. So if I were you, I would not limit myself to senior judges, just apply broadly.

But to your question, for judges that don't post on OSCAR, i'm not sure you really need to figure out their hiring practices, since it wont really change how you apply (there is no single resource, to my knowledge, outside maybe resources compiled by your law school's clerkship office). Just send paper applications to those judges chambers around the same time you send out your other applications, including the standard application components (cover letter, resume, writing sample, law school/undergrad transcript, 3-4 letters of recommendation sent under separate cover).

Iowahawk

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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Iowahawk » Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:48 pm

Barrred wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:22 pm
First, I'll quibble with your premise: I wouldn't assume that clerkships with "senior judges" as a group are easier to get than active judges (nor is it necessarily true that active judge clerkships are harder/busier than senior judge clerkships, since some senior judges take full caseloads, and chambers practices vary widely). For example, a clerkship with Judge O'Scannlain is still harder to get than one of the lesser known active CA9 judges. So if I were you, I would not limit myself to senior judges, just apply broadly.

But to your question, for judges that don't post on OSCAR, i'm not sure you really need to figure out their hiring practices, since it wont really change how you apply (there is no single resource, to my knowledge, outside maybe resources compiled by your law school's clerkship office). Just send paper applications to those judges chambers around the same time you send out your other applications, including the standard application components (cover letter, resume, writing sample, law school/undergrad transcript, 3-4 letters of recommendation sent under separate cover).
Agreed. If you hypothetically made a list of the hundred least competitive COA judges, it would be a healthy mix of senior and active judges. It would be a huge mistake to not apply to seniors for any applicant, especially a marginal one, but I don’t think there’s ever a reason to exclusively apply to them.

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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:35 pm

Iowahawk wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:48 pm
Barrred wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:22 pm
First, I'll quibble with your premise: I wouldn't assume that clerkships with "senior judges" as a group are easier to get than active judges (nor is it necessarily true that active judge clerkships are harder/busier than senior judge clerkships, since some senior judges take full caseloads, and chambers practices vary widely). For example, a clerkship with Judge O'Scannlain is still harder to get than one of the lesser known active CA9 judges. So if I were you, I would not limit myself to senior judges, just apply broadly.

But to your question, for judges that don't post on OSCAR, i'm not sure you really need to figure out their hiring practices, since it wont really change how you apply (there is no single resource, to my knowledge, outside maybe resources compiled by your law school's clerkship office). Just send paper applications to those judges chambers around the same time you send out your other applications, including the standard application components (cover letter, resume, writing sample, law school/undergrad transcript, 3-4 letters of recommendation sent under separate cover).
Agreed. If you hypothetically made a list of the hundred least competitive COA judges, it would be a healthy mix of senior and active judges. It would be a huge mistake to not apply to seniors for any applicant, especially a marginal one, but I don’t think there’s ever a reason to exclusively apply to them.
As a general rule, though, senior judges will get fewer applications than active judges per slot. You can similarly find smaller applicant pools by looking in flyover cities, at judges who offer 2-year terms, and at clerkships that start at odd times (not between late July and early October). None of this is a hard and fast rule (see O'Scannlain as a super-competitive senior and Wilkinson as one of many super-competitive small-town judges). But there will generally be many more people looking to clerk for an active judge in a big city for 1 year beginning after the bar exam than for a senior judge in Sioux Falls for 2 years beginning on January 1.

Barrred

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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Barrred » Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:35 pm
Iowahawk wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:48 pm
Barrred wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:22 pm
First, I'll quibble with your premise: I wouldn't assume that clerkships with "senior judges" as a group are easier to get than active judges (nor is it necessarily true that active judge clerkships are harder/busier than senior judge clerkships, since some senior judges take full caseloads, and chambers practices vary widely). For example, a clerkship with Judge O'Scannlain is still harder to get than one of the lesser known active CA9 judges. So if I were you, I would not limit myself to senior judges, just apply broadly.

But to your question, for judges that don't post on OSCAR, i'm not sure you really need to figure out their hiring practices, since it wont really change how you apply (there is no single resource, to my knowledge, outside maybe resources compiled by your law school's clerkship office). Just send paper applications to those judges chambers around the same time you send out your other applications, including the standard application components (cover letter, resume, writing sample, law school/undergrad transcript, 3-4 letters of recommendation sent under separate cover).
Agreed. If you hypothetically made a list of the hundred least competitive COA judges, it would be a healthy mix of senior and active judges. It would be a huge mistake to not apply to seniors for any applicant, especially a marginal one, but I don’t think there’s ever a reason to exclusively apply to them.
As a general rule, though, senior judges will get fewer applications than active judges per slot. You can similarly find smaller applicant pools by looking in flyover cities, at judges who offer 2-year terms, and at clerkships that start at odd times (not between late July and early October). None of this is a hard and fast rule (see O'Scannlain as a super-competitive senior and Wilkinson as one of many super-competitive small-town judges). But there will generally be many more people looking to clerk for an active judge in a big city for 1 year beginning after the bar exam than for a senior judge in Sioux Falls for 2 years beginning on January 1.
I'm not sure I agree with your general rule regarding senior judges, at least "per slot" as you say. I'd be willing to say that, on the whole, senior judges get fewer applicants in absolute numbers than active judges. But given that many senior COA judges only have 2-3 clerks, the number of applicants "per slot" might be the same as active judges with 4 clerks---such that competition is still relatively high despite the lower absolute number of applicants.

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Anonymous User
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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:18 pm

Barrred wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:46 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:35 pm
Iowahawk wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:48 pm
Barrred wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:22 pm
First, I'll quibble with your premise: I wouldn't assume that clerkships with "senior judges" as a group are easier to get than active judges (nor is it necessarily true that active judge clerkships are harder/busier than senior judge clerkships, since some senior judges take full caseloads, and chambers practices vary widely). For example, a clerkship with Judge O'Scannlain is still harder to get than one of the lesser known active CA9 judges. So if I were you, I would not limit myself to senior judges, just apply broadly.

But to your question, for judges that don't post on OSCAR, i'm not sure you really need to figure out their hiring practices, since it wont really change how you apply (there is no single resource, to my knowledge, outside maybe resources compiled by your law school's clerkship office). Just send paper applications to those judges chambers around the same time you send out your other applications, including the standard application components (cover letter, resume, writing sample, law school/undergrad transcript, 3-4 letters of recommendation sent under separate cover).
Agreed. If you hypothetically made a list of the hundred least competitive COA judges, it would be a healthy mix of senior and active judges. It would be a huge mistake to not apply to seniors for any applicant, especially a marginal one, but I don’t think there’s ever a reason to exclusively apply to them.
As a general rule, though, senior judges will get fewer applications than active judges per slot. You can similarly find smaller applicant pools by looking in flyover cities, at judges who offer 2-year terms, and at clerkships that start at odd times (not between late July and early October). None of this is a hard and fast rule (see O'Scannlain as a super-competitive senior and Wilkinson as one of many super-competitive small-town judges). But there will generally be many more people looking to clerk for an active judge in a big city for 1 year beginning after the bar exam than for a senior judge in Sioux Falls for 2 years beginning on January 1.
I'm not sure I agree with your general rule regarding senior judges, at least "per slot" as you say. I'd be willing to say that, on the whole, senior judges get fewer applicants in absolute numbers than active judges. But given that many senior COA judges only have 2-3 clerks, the number of applicants "per slot" might be the same as active judges with 4 clerks---such that competition is still relatively high despite the lower absolute number of applicants.
Very fair point. Although I might caution against applying to a senior judge who hires only 2 clerks unless the judge also has at least one career law clerk. A judge allotted only two total clerks is likely hearing a 25% caseload, and while you still get the line on your resume and many of the benefits of clerking, it's not going to be as good an experience as clerking for a judge who is carrying a caseload closer to what active judges carry. That should mean a smaller applicant pool, but if you're competitive I'd encourage you to try for a busier judge. Senior judges who carry a 75% caseload still get 4 clerkship slots, which on a busy circuit is close to an ideal setup! (And of course many seniors carry 100%)

Anonymous User
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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Feb 18, 2021 12:51 am

People have been talking a lot about case loads and that’s important—if possible, always try to feel out a senior judge’s case load before applying if you think you stand a strong chance at getting it. I was put in the awkward position of turning down an offer from a senior judge when I didn’t find out until the interview how severely reduced their case load was. I get the impression it’s usually not a problem, as probably most of the judges who even bother to keep senior status instead of retiring outright will try to keep a reasonable clerk to case ratio, but there are certainly a few who are functionally almost retired.

Anonymous User
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Re: Finding Senior Judges (COA) to Clerk For

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Feb 22, 2021 3:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:18 pm
Very fair point. Although I might caution against applying to a senior judge who hires only 2 clerks unless the judge also has at least one career law clerk. A judge allotted only two total clerks is likely hearing a 25% caseload, and while you still get the line on your resume and many of the benefits of clerking, it's not going to be as good an experience as clerking for a judge who is carrying a caseload closer to what active judges carry. That should mean a smaller applicant pool, but if you're competitive I'd encourage you to try for a busier judge. Senior judges who carry a 75% caseload still get 4 clerkship slots, which on a busy circuit is close to an ideal setup! (And of course many seniors carry 100%)
Not sure where you're getting those figures from. I clerked for a senior circuit judge who had two clerks and a JA. He carried a 65% caseload. He was concerned that he'd lose his third third staffing position and have to drop down to just one clerk if his caseload dropped much below that. I don't remember if the cutoff was at 60% or a little lower, but it was definitely miles away from the 25% figure you're citing. Perhaps this is circuit-specific, but in the circuit where I clerked, your numbers aren't correct. Also, I've clerked for three different circuit judges, and clerking for this senior judge was the best of all possible clerking experiences.

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