Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

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Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 12:31 pm

Current Fed. Magistrate clerk. I was in Biglaw for 1.5 years prior. I’m currently applying to 2022-2023 term District Court clerkship positions.

Recently, I saw a posting for a state Supreme Court clerkship position in my home state. A few questions:

1. Is it worth it for me to apply? I don’t really want to go back to Biglaw, but I don’t know how valuable it would be for me to do two non-Article III clerkships. Generally looking to go into public service in some capacity (or maybe a midlaw firm for a bit first).

2. Would this hurt/help me get a job with the Feds (e.g., an AUSA)?

3. If I were offered the state Supreme Court clerkship and took it, would it make sense to try and clerk for a District Judge afterward? Would having served as a Fed. Magistrate Judge then a state Supreme Court justice help me get an Article III clerkship? Would employers think it odd that I clerked for three years, two of which were non-Article III?

Any related advice is also appreciated.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Wed May 05, 2021 12:52 pm

Below is a non-exhaustive list of questions/considerations to help you hone your decision on this:

First major question is what type of SSC are we talking about? A NY/MA/CA? Or like Vermont? Obviously on the more competitive end of the spectrum, it’ll do more for you. In fact some speculate that CA might be seen as better than many fedclerk gigs.

Next question is whether it’s the same state in which you wanna get a job. Assuming you want to get a public sector job in the same state, it’ll give you a big leg up for (for example) some of the more competitive position at that state’s AGs office. However if you’re talking about a SSC in a flyover state, I’m not sure how much it’ll help you for a coastal/competitive state AGO.

Next thing is what your alternative gig is. If you have the option to do white collar stuff at a v50 for a couple years rather than do SSC while chasing the brass ring of A3, then that’ll probably help more for an ausa gig if that’s the ultimate goal.

Finally, yeah like assuming your ultimate goal is A3, then surely another clerkship will help. That being said, A3 is typically more of a means to an end rather than an ultimate goal. So you are going to need to weigh your best case scenario if you do this (SSC to A3 after fedmag) against the opportunity cost (career wise and financially) from doing this. I mean 3 clerkships does start to raise some eyebrows. Plus it’ll be that much longer before you actually start doing whatever it is you wanna do (ie “practicing law”).

Anyway hope that was helpful. FWIW, I went fedclerk in competitive district then had an interview for a very competitive SSC (think one of the 3 I named above). I actually withdrew because I just didn’t want to do 2 clerkships unless one was fed COA.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 1:04 pm

I think public service would look very favorably on as many clerkships as possible, whereas biglaw firms would frown on that.

USMJ > SSC > USDJ or
SSC > USMJ > USDJ

is not unheard of. I know exactly two people who pursued such a path.

If your legal career is going to be 30-50 years long, then clerking for three or four years is a worthwhile long-term investment, as I see it.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed May 05, 2021 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 2:00 pm

If you want to go back to your home state, I think a local SSC clerkship is very valuable - those justices will have lots of connections, including former clerks, who are local. I think this is especially if you want to do something other than pure biglaw, as I think the more you move out of biglaw, the more help connections are. (This is based on clerking for a state COA and knowing quite a few people who did local SSCs.) Obv connections help in biglaw, too, but I think an "in" is more important in other, smaller kinds of jobs.

I'm afraid I don't think non-federal clerkships are *that* interesting to the feds. It will signal you're a good writer, but it probably won't add much to having biglaw credentials and experience, as well as the magistrate experience. However if the specific judge has relevant connections, that's always helpful, so it depends.

I think having been a mag clerk and a SSC clerk will definitely help getting an AIII clerkship, and I know some people who've done similar paths. I think if you want to, you can spin it and get useful experience out of it; I don't think you *have* to add the AIII clerkship to succeed, but if you want to do it, it won't hurt you - some people will probably find 3 clerkships odd or unnecessary, but I think you can assuage that concern if it's something you really want to do. (I will say that the vast majority of AUSAs I know have either done a district court clerkship or come out of state prosecution - I do know one who came from a mag clerkship, but they went to the USAO in the same district and had worked for the mag for a while, so had gotten to know people.)

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 3:51 pm

In my flyover home state, an SSC clerkship is probably roughly equal in prestige and job utility to a federal district court clerkship. It would be seen as excellent preparation by the top firms in the market, especially if you clerked for one of the justices with elite firm backgrounds, and local government jobs like the state AG. They tend to go to people in the top 10% at the in-state law schools or natives of the state at T14s. Ymmv though, it will depend heavily on the state. A big difference though is that federal district court clerkships are more portable/prestigious out of state.

I would amend the list of top SSCs to include Texas, Delaware, and individual judges with national reputations on other SSCs (Tom Lee from Utah being the paradigm example right now).

Personally I would not want to clerk three times, maaaybe if one was a federal COA.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 4:29 pm

I was a SSC clerk in a non-competitive state. My justice had immense connections within the state and hooked the clerk after me up with a federal district court clerkship in the state. (I had a similar opportunity but didn't pursue it). She didn't even have to apply for the federal clerkship - it was basically our justice making a phone call to the district court judge: "hey, do you want one of my clerks for your next term?"

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 6:58 pm

OP here. Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Based on what everyone said, I think it would be a good idea to at least apply. Returning to my home state would be nice, and also I would be getting appellate experience.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm

Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 14, 2021 5:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm
Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?
Different poster. In my experience, NJ is close to MA and NY. I would rank SSC clerkships: CA / feeder justices (just Lee, at the moment?) >> Del. Ch. > MA / NY / NJ / TX / AK > the rest.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 14, 2021 5:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm
Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?
Imo ranking SSCs is kind of dumb--in Minnesota nobody will prefer a New York Court of Appeals clerkship to a Minnesota Supreme Court clerkship and vice versa--but I would say CA/DE/Tom Lee > NY/MA/NJ/TX... in that the former ones are federal-equivalent-ish even out of state/region.

Edit: Believe it or not this was not written by whoever wrote the prior comment! I might also put NY and TX a hair ahead of the rest.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 15, 2021 9:22 am

IMO, NY is overdue for a downgrade. It has not been a pioneer in a long, long time; its caseload has (apparently) plummeted; and much of its job is functioning as a proxy intermediate appellate court, because New York's intermediate appellate courts do not make much actual law.

A clerkship on NJ Supreme is probably a much better learning experience at this point.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 15, 2021 12:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm
Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?
I suppose it depends a little bit on what the basis of your grouping is. If the metric is purely lay prestige then I'd say CA is a hair above the others on account of Justice Liu hiring predominantly feeder candidates. The other courts--MA and NJ--have a few justices who consistently hire top 10% from T6 but those are not feeder stats. If your metric accounts for substantive experience making the law of the land in a state then I concur with the anon saying that NY likely falls out of the grouping and NJ likely hops ahead of MA. The court has issued several important decisions in the past few years that have served as the intellectual framework for most other states and SCOTUS as well (see, e.g., the eyewitness ID case, the cell site data case, the establishment clause case, etc.) MA has also issued some important 2A and crim pro decisions recently. So I think if what you want is the most prestigious court possible on your resume, then it's probably CA, and, really Liu, or bust. If you don't have feeder stats and/or you're looking for substantive exposure to making law and grappling with issues of first impression then I'd look beyond CA to MA and NJ and to a certain extent TX.

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 15, 2021 1:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat May 15, 2021 12:09 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm
Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?
I suppose it depends a little bit on what the basis of your grouping is. If the metric is purely lay prestige then I'd say CA is a hair above the others on account of Justice Liu hiring predominantly feeder candidates. The other courts--MA and NJ--have a few justices who consistently hire top 10% from T6 but those are not feeder stats. If your metric accounts for substantive experience making the law of the land in a state then I concur with the anon saying that NY likely falls out of the grouping and NJ likely hops ahead of MA. The court has issued several important decisions in the past few years that have served as the intellectual framework for most other states and SCOTUS as well (see, e.g., the eyewitness ID case, the cell site data case, the establishment clause case, etc.) MA has also issued some important 2A and crim pro decisions recently. So I think if what you want is the most prestigious court possible on your resume, then it's probably CA, and, really Liu, or bust. If you don't have feeder stats and/or you're looking for substantive exposure to making law and grappling with issues of first impression then I'd look beyond CA to MA and NJ and to a certain extent TX.
California is certainly not "Liu or bust." Cuellar is also an established feeder and Kruger will surely become one if she's not nominated to be a SCOTUS justice first. Last I checked, those three are the only California justices that hire term clerks. The only state court clerkships that compete are Tom Lee (for conservatives) and Delaware (for Wachtell associates).

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Re: Is a State Supreme Court Clerkship Worth It?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 15, 2021 10:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat May 15, 2021 1:22 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat May 15, 2021 12:09 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 5:10 pm
Is the NJ Supreme up there with MA/CA/NY Ct. of Appeals?
I suppose it depends a little bit on what the basis of your grouping is. If the metric is purely lay prestige then I'd say CA is a hair above the others on account of Justice Liu hiring predominantly feeder candidates. The other courts--MA and NJ--have a few justices who consistently hire top 10% from T6 but those are not feeder stats. If your metric accounts for substantive experience making the law of the land in a state then I concur with the anon saying that NY likely falls out of the grouping and NJ likely hops ahead of MA. The court has issued several important decisions in the past few years that have served as the intellectual framework for most other states and SCOTUS as well (see, e.g., the eyewitness ID case, the cell site data case, the establishment clause case, etc.) MA has also issued some important 2A and crim pro decisions recently. So I think if what you want is the most prestigious court possible on your resume, then it's probably CA, and, really Liu, or bust. If you don't have feeder stats and/or you're looking for substantive exposure to making law and grappling with issues of first impression then I'd look beyond CA to MA and NJ and to a certain extent TX.
California is certainly not "Liu or bust." Cuellar is also an established feeder and Kruger will surely become one if she's not nominated to be a SCOTUS justice first. Last I checked, those three are the only California justices that hire term clerks. The only state court clerkships that compete are Tom Lee (for conservatives) and Delaware (for Wachtell associates).
Cuellar's fed once, like Liu I think, but I wouldn't call either an established feeder. Regardless yeah California is definitely not Liu or bust. And I think Lee > Liu/Cuellar for feeding if you're looking at the level of individual judges, though that's in large part because it's become much harder for liberals to clerk on SCOTUS in general.

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