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SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Oct 05, 2021 6:00 pm

I'm a 2L at a T20. Top 1% after 1L, and I've accepted a clerkship with a semi-feeder following graduation.

I didn't expect to have this sort of opportunity, and I've got mixed feelings: part of me wants to take my foot off the gas; part of me doesn't know how (or how to feel okay with chilling). I don't want to look back in ten years and wish I was willing to work just a little harder for a few months here and there, but I also don't want to look back in ten years and wish I had spent more time on friends/family/fitness/fun.

Curious to hear from grads of non-T6 schools who may have been in a similar position. If you decided to keep up the work, or if you decided to let the foot off the gas, how do you feel about it now?

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by namefromplace » Tue Oct 05, 2021 10:55 pm

Even with a clerkship with a semi-feeder, you're still a long shot for SCOTUS, especially coming from a T20. An average SCOTUS term will have 2-4 non-T14 clerks, and those often have very special connections or work/academic experience.

It's unclear to me what you mean by "keep up the work." I'm assuming you mean law review/keeping up grades. There are advantages to maintaining high grades/academic participation throughout your whole law school experience that are unrelated to SCOTUS candidacy. For example, it could make a difference in applying for other jobs later in your career, or if you decide that you would like to apply for, say, a competitive district court clerkship. High performance in classes can also lead to better connections with professors who will be able to open doors for you later. But, now that you have a great clerkship confirmed, the benefits to continued high performance are marginal.

So the answer to this question depends on how much effort you think it will take you to maintain high grades and how much you value the related benefits. While one of those benefits is an increased chance at SCOTUS, you're essentially looking at a 0% chance rising to a 1% chance. I wouldn't put much stock into it. Nor should you ever kick yourself for not gunning for SCOTUS.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Oct 06, 2021 8:31 am

Yeah to be honest you’re still a pretty extreme long shot for SCOTUS unless maybe if you’re conservative and at Notre Dame. If you’re conservative and seriously interested in SCOTUS I would take a shot at splitting next summer with one of the conservative litigation boutiques (Consovoy, Cooper, or Lehotsky) or the Becket Fund, which will help with connections. You’ll also almost certainly need a second clerkship, either with an appellate feeder/semi-feeder or one of the top conservative DJs (Cronan, Kovner, Pacold, McFadden, Friederich, Nichols would be the shortlist).

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:05 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Oct 05, 2021 6:00 pm
I'm a 2L at a T20. Top 1% after 1L, and I've accepted a clerkship with a semi-feeder following graduation.

I didn't expect to have this sort of opportunity, and I've got mixed feelings: part of me wants to take my foot off the gas; part of me doesn't know how (or how to feel okay with chilling). I don't want to look back in ten years and wish I was willing to work just a little harder for a few months here and there, but I also don't want to look back in ten years and wish I had spent more time on friends/family/fitness/fun.

Curious to hear from grads of non-T6 schools who may have been in a similar position. If you decided to keep up the work, or if you decided to let the foot off the gas, how do you feel about it now?
Your judge will be much happier if you continue to try and stay ambitious, a lot of the ones that hire early get annoyed when their future clerks start coasting and lose all interest in school. If you really want SCOTUS, and you are from a T20, your goals should be maintaining your valedictorian status, becoming FedSoc President, networking like crazy, and getting a clerkship with a bonafide feeder judge. It should be much easier once you've cracked the door open with a semi-feeder. I also have to disagree with some of the judges listed by a previous poster - if you want SCOTUS, you really want a second appellate clerkship with a feeder or a DDC judge. Pacold and Cronan are great judges, but I don't think Pacold will more feed often than one-off people, and I doubt Cronan will ever feed as he never clerked for SCOTUS, clerked for two liberals, and isn't particularly ideological in hiring.

By networking, aside from getting rave reviews from all your professors and the Dean of your school, I also mean doing all the conservative fellowship programs. Also this including looking at doing post-grad things like the Coleman Fellowship, going to a conservative DC office like Jones Day, Sidley, Gibson for 2L summer, maybe Kellogg Hansen for Gorsuch, and also splitting or doing part time work with the conservative boutiques. We can quibble about how much these things matter individually, but in the aggregate they'll all help.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:55 am

OP. I'm less focused on "how" and more on "whether" given what a long shot it is, especially for someone in my position.

I'm certainly not planning on coasting, but there are things I might work harder at/make different choices about if I'm keeping the pedal to the metal: fewer practical opportunities and more black letter law classes (in addition to Fed Courts/Admin/Evidence/Remedies/etc.), a more ambitious law review submission, being an RA, etc. And, yes, studying more instead of socializing.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Jchance » Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:26 am

Research shows that people often regret things they didn't do than the things they did, even if the latter did not turn out well. I agree with the above posters and say keep gunning.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Oct 06, 2021 1:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:05 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Oct 05, 2021 6:00 pm
I'm a 2L at a T20. Top 1% after 1L, and I've accepted a clerkship with a semi-feeder following graduation.

I didn't expect to have this sort of opportunity, and I've got mixed feelings: part of me wants to take my foot off the gas; part of me doesn't know how (or how to feel okay with chilling). I don't want to look back in ten years and wish I was willing to work just a little harder for a few months here and there, but I also don't want to look back in ten years and wish I had spent more time on friends/family/fitness/fun.

Curious to hear from grads of non-T6 schools who may have been in a similar position. If you decided to keep up the work, or if you decided to let the foot off the gas, how do you feel about it now?
Your judge will be much happier if you continue to try and stay ambitious, a lot of the ones that hire early get annoyed when their future clerks start coasting and lose all interest in school. If you really want SCOTUS, and you are from a T20, your goals should be maintaining your valedictorian status, becoming FedSoc President, networking like crazy, and getting a clerkship with a bonafide feeder judge. It should be much easier once you've cracked the door open with a semi-feeder. I also have to disagree with some of the judges listed by a previous poster - if you want SCOTUS, you really want a second appellate clerkship with a feeder or a DDC judge. Pacold and Cronan are great judges, but I don't think Pacold will more feed often than one-off people, and I doubt Cronan will ever feed as he never clerked for SCOTUS, clerked for two liberals, and isn't particularly ideological in hiring.

By networking, aside from getting rave reviews from all your professors and the Dean of your school, I also mean doing all the conservative fellowship programs. Also this including looking at doing post-grad things like the Coleman Fellowship, going to a conservative DC office like Jones Day, Sidley, Gibson for 2L summer, maybe Kellogg Hansen for Gorsuch, and also splitting or doing part time work with the conservative boutiques. We can quibble about how much these things matter individually, but in the aggregate they'll all help.
Cronan, Kovner, and Pacold all hire less ideologically than McFadden or Friedrich but still have most of their clerks coming from Fed Soc semi-feeders. I think Bress has sent a lot of his clerks to all three of Cronan, Kovner, and McFadden, for example. (Also lol at the idea that e.g. Kavanaugh wouldn’t hire from a senior Trump DOJ political appointee because he counterclerked for Katzmann.) But yeah get Friedrich or a true appellate feeder if you can obviously from a SCOTUS perspective (though a DJ probably makes more sense for all other purposes).

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Dcc617 » Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:20 pm

Do you want to be a scotus clerk? Why? If it’s pure prestige or whatever then maybe assess your priorities? This is your life.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by nixy » Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:32 pm

I feel like wanting to be a SCOTUS clerk is one of most defensible forms of prestige whoring. I mean yes, it's about the prestige, but I would love to see behind the scenes at SCOTUS. Most people don't even try because they don't have a realistic shot, not because it wouldn't be a fascinating job.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:56 am

Recently talked about this with a SCOTUS-bound friend. The district court vs. double appellate thing is something a lot of Fed Soc candidates face as a fork in the road, knowingly or unknowingly. The trouble is that even Fed Soc-friendly district judges tend to hire on-plan so people hiring off-plan get the bird in the hand vs. the bush problem. That’s also probably why certain Fed Soc district judges end up hiring a lot of liberals—they aren’t willing to compromise on grades and a lot of the top Fed Soc students don’t apply because they’re already locked up in double appellate gigs and understandably don't want three non-SCOTUS clerkships. With the growth of DDC feeder DJs though I don’t see why the NY ones and Pacold (who've been on the bench for significantly shorter fwiw) aren’t options if you’re willing to take a risk by waiting for the Plan. Sullivan also hired a lot of liberals but still fed the conservatives he hired semi regularly. And district judge clerkships are much different career experiences with different benefits (and almost certainly more useful ones for most students—there’s a reason top liberal students tend to do SDNY/DDC over double appellate).

Anyway this is more of a meditation on the Fed Soc process generally, OP should obviously go for a true feeder if possible because they’re not a traditional candidate who can take a risk. Best of luck OP.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Joachim2017 » Thu Oct 07, 2021 10:48 am

Dcc617 wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:20 pm
Do you want to be a scotus clerk? Why? If it’s pure prestige or whatever then maybe assess your priorities? This is your life.
If you have a reasonable chance to actually be a SCOTUS clerk (which is not everyone), you go for it, *whatever* your priorities now might happen to be. There's an anti-prestige sentiment on this board, whatever that means, but the opportunities having that credential opens for you are so, so, so much greater than anything else in law, including typically seen "prestigious" appellate clerkships like CA2/9/DC, that any personal feelings of/against prestige are laughably irrelevant. The practical effects, whatever your "true" or deep inner reasons for gunning for it, just totally swamp out any "you should not go for prestige for the sake of prestige" sentiment anyone tells you that you ought to be instilling in yourself.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by nixy » Thu Oct 07, 2021 12:25 pm

I think it's totally fair *not* to want to be a SCOTUS clerk. I'd imagine very few people who have a reasonable chance at it (which is already a small number) don't want to, because someone willing/able to do the stuff to get the reasonable chance is probably someone who's going to want the job, but even if you are competitive, nothing says you have to apply. If you're competitive, you probably already have a ton of brass rings and will have a completely lovely career even without trying for SCOTUS.

I don't think anyone has to justify wanting to SCOTUS clerk, but I also don't think everyone who has a shot absolutely *has* to apply, either.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 07, 2021 12:34 pm

SCOTUS clerk is the most glittering addition to your resume that you can get as a 20-something lawyer, and not to mention, if you get it, it's likely that the biglaw SCOTUS clerk hiring bonus by then will be in the neighborhood of $500,000.

I had grades that were probably borderline SCOTUS eligible if I gunned hard - but I ended up taking an offer from a non-feeder circuit judge and then coasting for the rest of the law school. I don't exactly regret it, but in hindsight I wonder what if I had really committed to trying, just to see if I could pull it off. The resume and the money are pretty good perks.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Joachim2017 » Thu Oct 07, 2021 2:31 pm

Well, maybe we're at the margins now, but I disagree with the post above the last one. If we limit our set to the folks who have a shot, I think it's very, very bad advice to say you should feel free to not go for it. Of course, no one's holding a gun to your head; you won't not get employed if you don't; it's not even that you won't "have a lovely career" without it. The perspective is pragmatic and practical and based on your best interests long-term notwithstanding your present feelings/preferences/interests: from a third-party, external perspective, the right thing to do is to gun for it. And that applies even if you know you won't like the job, heck, even if you know you'll hate the job.

You don't know what you'll want your career to be 5 years from now, let alone 10 or 15 years from now; you may want to switch practices or your career entirely. You may decide to try for academia, or switch from private to public interest, or even move out of the law. I've seen first-hand what the difference in optionality is between folks who have that particular credential as opposed to those who have the next closest thing -- there's a wide space between them. Given the networking, experience, credential, signaling, and short-term signing bonus, just to mention a few of the effects, it's hard to overstate how much more optionality you have going forward, whether in private practice, government, academia, etc. Just to give one example, I was talking to a partner at a Big Law firm who made a general statement about associates today and his firm's approach, and then noted, "except for SCOTUS clerks, of course." And this was not a partner at a litigation-heavy practice -- it was coming from a hard-nosed commercial practice. Even there, the credential stands out.

So yeah, you should do what you love and not feel pressured to chase the next brass ring and yada yada. But to the extent there is such a thing as objectively good and bad things to do, as a practical matter, it's objectively bad advice not to gun for SCOTUS if you're in the set of people we're talking about (again, not sure if OP really falls into that set; my 2 cents are really aiming at undermining some of the subjectivist and/or anti-prestige mentality I've seen in this thread).

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by nixy » Thu Oct 07, 2021 2:40 pm

I’m never going to advise someone not to go for it. And I don’t think most people with a shot would have to be encouraged to apply, so I agree this is really on the margins. I just think that for the rare case where someone actively doesn’t want the job, that’s fine. If someone says, “should I?” I’m pretty much always going to say yes - as noted above, I think it’s kind of the one job you never have to justify wanting. But if someone doesn’t want the job, that’s fine. There are still more qualified people than there are openings, so let the 99.5% of qualified people who do want it duke it out. Not everyone cares about this kind of optionality (though I’ll grant you that the vast majority will).

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Dcc617 » Thu Oct 07, 2021 4:47 pm

So OP is a 2L. That means that they are looking at centering this goal for the next what, 4 or 5 years? Picking classes, studying, picking opportunities and stuff for this goal.

I think they should have a good reason for this sort of sacrifice and focus. And if they do get, what then? What do they want to do with their life?

Advice would obviously be different if this were someone with all the credentials already debating tossing their hat in the ring.

OP is still in the situation where deciding to go for it will require sacrifice and govern their academic and professional life for a long while.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:24 pm

I just want to point out that OP is at a T20, not HYS + LR + Coif/magna. Even with a summa honors, T20 without SCOTUS clerkship vs T20 with SCOTUS clerkship makes a huge difference in terms of options… just saying.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:24 pm
I just want to point out that OP is at a T20, not HYS + LR + Coif/magna. Even with a summa honors, T20 without SCOTUS clerkship vs T20 with SCOTUS clerkship makes a huge difference in terms of options… just saying.
s/he also has ... two semesters of grades. this whole "SCOTUS or no" conversation is pretty premature.

OP, if you want to slack off for the next two years, fine, w/e. most people with good grades, your position don't, because like ... what else would they do, go to a bar 5 nights a week? keep doing your best in your classes, write a good LR note, and this question will likely just answer itself a year or two from now.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by nixy » Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:24 pm
I just want to point out that OP is at a T20, not HYS + LR + Coif/magna. Even with a summa honors, T20 without SCOTUS clerkship vs T20 with SCOTUS clerkship makes a huge difference in terms of options… just saying.
Of course it does, and like I said, I bet very few people would turn down the chance to try. But if someone wanted to not try for it, that's fine too. No one is required to maximize their options, particularly to this nth degree (they just can't complain about not doing so later).

More to the substance of the question, I agree with LBJ's hair that the question may be premature. I also, personally, think it's sort of silly to condition continuing to gun solely on a shot at SCOTUS - if that's the only reason you'd make some of the proposed choices about classes, activities, how much you study, etc., it's probably not worth it. I also don't think those things are really transformative or require some kind of material sacrifice, though, honestly. The major burden people have suggested to this point would be applying for/attending all those conservative fellowship programs, and we don't know if that's even a viable path for the OP.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Oct 08, 2021 3:34 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 8:15 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 07, 2021 7:24 pm
I just want to point out that OP is at a T20, not HYS + LR + Coif/magna. Even with a summa honors, T20 without SCOTUS clerkship vs T20 with SCOTUS clerkship makes a huge difference in terms of options… just saying.
s/he also has ... two semesters of grades. this whole "SCOTUS or no" conversation is pretty premature.

OP, if you want to slack off for the next two years, fine, w/e. most people with good grades, your position don't, because like ... what else would they do, go to a bar 5 nights a week? keep doing your best in your classes, write a good LR note, and this question will likely just answer itself a year or two from now.
I don't think it's premature at all. There is a huge difference between trying to be summa/Coif/valedictorian to stay in the hunt for the last 60% of law school vs. taking the (presumably) biglaw offer in hand along some random CA8 clerkship and coasting harder than you have ever coasted. Those are both decisions OP could probably make right now and they result in vastly different lifestyles over the next 1.5 years or so.

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Re: SCOTUS: Regret going for it? Not going for it?

Post by nixy » Fri Oct 08, 2021 3:50 pm

Honestly I think this is overblown. I don’t think people’s performance varies quite that much, or that someone who gunned for the top of 1L would even really end up doing that little work even if they decided to coast. Goodness knows grinding doesn’t guarantee putting you at the top of the class. Plus the OP has already said they don’t plan to coast, they’d just make different choices about where to put their time.

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