What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for? Forum

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What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:42 am

Hello! I've applied to 20 clerkships thus far, which I know isn't a lot, but before I continue I realize that I probably could use a reality check on what types of clerkships I'm competitive for.

At the risk of getting a little too specific about myself:

1. Recent CCN grad
2. Law review (including ad board)
3. A few law review publications
4. 3.55 GPA
5. Went into "unicorn" PI fellowship immediately after law school, where I work on a mix of impact litigation and policy advocacy.

I'm currently living in the NYC metro part of New Jersey, married with a kid, and have thus far only been applying to 2d Cir., 3d Cir., D. Conn., S.D.N.Y., E.D.N.Y., D.N.J., and E.D. Pa. (where I grew up). I basically want to have to avoid moving my family around a bunch of times over the next decade, hence why I've limited myself to these courts. But, these courts are obviously among the most competitive, so I'm wondering if I'm shooting myself in the foot by limiting myself to this area given my stats. I know I'm basically not in the running for the circuit court clerkships, but what about the district court ones?

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:51 am

I probably would have pulled your application for my judge in DNJ and you likely would have gotten an interview, but it's not like you'd be an absolutely crazy candidate we'd have to grab, so you'll probably have a tougher time in SDNY/EDNY/2d/3d unless you have a connection.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 12:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:51 am
I probably would have pulled your application for my judge in DNJ and you likely would have gotten an interview, but it's not like you'd be an absolutely crazy candidate we'd have to grab, so you'll probably have a tougher time in SDNY/EDNY/2d/3d unless you have a connection.
I see, I see. That's at least somewhat encouraging to hear. I certainly don't feel entitled to any interviews, but it's a bit disconcerting sending out these applications and not knowing where I stand in the eyes of those reviewing me. If I could ask a related question: What type of writing sample did your judge prefer? My clerkship office told me my note is fine, but it seems a little long and academic. Would a memo work better? I understand every judge is different.

Also, I had a very strong 2d Circuit connection. Knew the judge personally, on very friendly terms. Applied to them. Silently rejected, lol. So, that doesn't bode well for me.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 3:56 pm

consider clerking for a magistrate judge in the sdny or edny.

public interest firms like these.

you could also parlay it into a district court clerkship, and then a court of appeals clerkship.

the problem is timing. most judges (at all levels) have already filled up their spots.

I remember seeing MJ McCarthy (sdny) hiring for a term to start soon, but she's in white plains. MJ Kuo (edny) also is hiring for a term to start soon.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 6:24 pm

This may not be helpful, but I would not be very surprised if you got a district clerkship outside SDNY, and probably mildly surprised if you got SDNY or a circuit clerkship. The reality is that you can't predict with any more granularity than this, notwithstanding any "soft" factors such as prior relationships with a judge.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm

You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 1:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:42 am
Hello! I've applied to 20 clerkships thus far, which I know isn't a lot, but before I continue I realize that I probably could use a reality check on what types of clerkships I'm competitive for.

At the risk of getting a little too specific about myself:

1. Recent CCN grad
2. Law review (including ad board)
3. A few law review publications
4. 3.55 GPA
5. Went into "unicorn" PI fellowship immediately after law school, where I work on a mix of impact litigation and policy advocacy.

I'm currently living in the NYC metro part of New Jersey, married with a kid, and have thus far only been applying to 2d Cir., 3d Cir., D. Conn., S.D.N.Y., E.D.N.Y., D.N.J., and E.D. Pa. (where I grew up). I basically want to have to avoid moving my family around a bunch of times over the next decade, hence why I've limited myself to these courts. But, these courts are obviously among the most competitive, so I'm wondering if I'm shooting myself in the foot by limiting myself to this area given my stats. I know I'm basically not in the running for the circuit court clerkships, but what about the district court ones?
You need to apply to more judges, there are about 40 for SDNY alone. A 3.55 at CLS or NYU over the course of 3 years isn't particularly impressive though and wouldn't be anywhere near close to competitive for my judge, but they are on the more selective side. We wouldn't care about law review, not sure if all of the judges are like that though.

If you are at an impact litigation shop, a lot of people there should definitely know some of the new judges Biden appointed - reach out to your coworkers that have clerked and get them to fill you in on the details of how to apply and who they have connections with.

For writing samples, a note is way too long for my judge. I'd say we like to read something that is about 15 pages maximum, and now that you have work experience, you should have much better work product to present.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 6:03 am

Thank you for the responses thus far! I'm not too surprised to hear that I'm not very competitive for SDNY. Unfortunately, it's tough to apply to many judges at this point since not many appear to be taking applications. I'm guessing a lot more will be next year? And it's good to know that my note isn't a good writing sample; I think my clerkship office did me dirty there.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 6:03 am

Thank you for the responses thus far! I'm not too surprised to hear that I'm not very competitive for SDNY. Unfortunately, it's tough to apply to many judges at this point since not many appear to be taking applications. I'm guessing a lot more will be next year? And it's good to know that my note isn't a good writing sample; I think my clerkship office did me dirty there.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 1:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take

The reality which I have also seen from my judge (SDNY/CA2) is that graduates from CLS/NYU face a tougher set of standards than graduates from H/Y/S, in part because the grading system at H/Y/S makes it easier to create an impression rather than a precise measure of high grades, especially after 1L. Of course, intra-school, other factors like professor recs (and if the professor is a Big Deal or knows the judge somehow) and Law Review can then play a role because applicants are on the same system against each other. But the grading scale differences inter-school do influence things, though I personally tried to look past that when sifting for my judge.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take
We get flooded with apps from tremendous candidates, and a lot of them are post-grads as well. Having looked at quite a few Columbia/NYU transcripts though, I don't think a 3.8 is top 5% - it's quite easy to boost GPAs 2L/3L year. A lot of emphasis is put on 1L grades.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:26 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take
We get flooded with apps from tremendous candidates, and a lot of them are post-grads as well. Having looked at quite a few Columbia/NYU transcripts though, I don't think a 3.8 is top 5% - it's quite easy to boost GPAs 2L/3L year. A lot of emphasis is put on 1L grades.
I would guess that 3.8 is around top 3-5% during 1L and like top 10% 2/3L. That being said, these is a big difference bertween a 3.8 with tough classes and a 3.8 with 4 seminars per semester.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 6:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:26 pm
We get flooded with apps from tremendous candidates, and a lot of them are post-grads as well. Having looked at quite a few Columbia/NYU transcripts though, I don't think a 3.8 is top 5% - it's quite easy to boost GPAs 2L/3L year. A lot of emphasis is put on 1L grades.
I meant RBG award recipients. I believe there were 17 or 18 members of the Class of 2021 who achieved that accomplishment.

If emphasis is put on 1L grades, I'm royally screwed. I managed to achieve one A and one A-.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 5:26 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take
We get flooded with apps from tremendous candidates, and a lot of them are post-grads as well. Having looked at quite a few Columbia/NYU transcripts though, I don't think a 3.8 is top 5% - it's quite easy to boost GPAs 2L/3L year. A lot of emphasis is put on 1L grades.
Anecodtally at NYU law, 3.8 is probably still closer to top 5% than top 10% by the time you graduate.

Edit: was curious and did some research and top 5% by time of graduating is actually 3.8 approximately according to the clerkship office at NYU
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Dec 09, 2021 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by namefromplace » Wed Dec 08, 2021 10:31 pm

Re: what kind of writing sample to send, judges have different preferences and everyone will give you different advice. If you don't know those preferences, I think the best practice is to send in a note and then a short (sub-10 pages, ideally around 5) piece of practical writing that hasn't been edited by anyone other than you. That will cover most of the ground as far as what judges want to see. If, for whatever reason, the judge says you can only send in one writing sample, a decent-ish rule of thumb is a note for appellate judges (so they can ask you more substantive questions about it/get a better sense of how you think) and a practical piece for trial judges (so they can get a sense of your ability to write clearly and succinctly).

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 09, 2021 10:14 am

A lot of the game is about connections. You should reach out to professors that you worked with at school who are well-connected. A call will get your application pulled from the pile, which will help bypass those who would screen you out because of your grades. I had very good paper credentials but wholeheartedly believe (and actually for my Circuit clerkship know because my judge later told me) that it was the call that got me the interview. I think a lot of law students think grades and law review, etc., will be enough and don't spend the necessary time building relationships with professors while in school which puts them at a major disadvantage.

Some judges are also very PI supportive, so your fellowship would be a good factor for them - you just have to do some research and figure out who they are. One that comes to mind immediately is Judge Carney on the 2d Circuit, though she is also very grade sensitive, so you might not be a good fit there. I also agree that a magistrate clerkship can be a good option. EDNY magistrates do more than SDNY magistrates, so that can be a way to focus. For the writing sample, we always preferred a memo over a note because it is much more indicative of the kind of work you will be doing, from magistrate through Circuit-level judges. I don't think you have no chance, but I also don't think you're a shoe-in. Just work your connections and keep applying.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Dec 10, 2021 10:38 am

namefromplace wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 10:31 pm
a decent-ish rule of thumb is a note for appellate judges (so they can ask you more substantive questions about it/get a better sense of how you think).
Thank you. For a few judges, I've sent excerpts of the first couple parts of my note, because I was unsure if sending a 40-page writing sample would be too much. Should I just be sending the whole note?
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 09, 2021 10:14 am
A lot of the game is about connections. You should reach out to professors that you worked with at school who are well-connected. A call will get your application pulled from the pile, which will help bypass those who would screen you out because of your grades. I had very good paper credentials but wholeheartedly believe (and actually for my Circuit clerkship know because my judge later told me) that it was the call that got me the interview. I think a lot of law students think grades and law review, etc., will be enough and don't spend the necessary time building relationships with professors while in school which puts them at a major disadvantage.

Some judges are also very PI supportive, so your fellowship would be a good factor for them - you just have to do some research and figure out who they are. One that comes to mind immediately is Judge Carney on the 2d Circuit, though she is also very grade sensitive, so you might not be a good fit there. I also agree that a magistrate clerkship can be a good option. EDNY magistrates do more than SDNY magistrates, so that can be a way to focus. For the writing sample, we always preferred a memo over a note because it is much more indicative of the kind of work you will be doing, from magistrate through Circuit-level judges. I don't think you have no chance, but I also don't think you're a shoe-in. Just work your connections and keep applying.
I unfortunately spent my time at law school getting to know the wrong professors, it seems. I have close connections with a few professors, mainly those who focus on my fields of interest. However, I've attempted to discuss clerkships with them all, and none of them really came across as the type to recommend students to judges. Ah well, maybe I can ask my coworkers if they know judges.

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Re: What type of clerkship should I realistically be aiming for?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Dec 11, 2021 1:47 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 11:23 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:55 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Dec 07, 2021 10:34 pm
You wouldn’t get pulled by my (selective but not feeder) SDNY judge. Our cutoff at NYU and Columbia seems to be something like 3.8, and ideally on track for RBG at CLS.
Man, that's tough. Really speaks to how difficult SDNY is. I know some feeders with the same demands from CLS/NYU lol.
It surprises me too considering that that'd be approximately the Top 5% at Columbia, give or take
Anon you're replying to (I'm not one of the anons above, this is my second comment on the thread). Yes, top 5% and a COA clerkship are basically the two key boxes you need to check to get interviewed with us. We also scrutinize transcripts and will not take clerks with seminar-heavy loads. My judge doesn't care that much about LR, fancy recs, future career plans, ideology, interview skills, or regional ties, though, and by no means do all SDNY judges have the same grades uber alles mindset. But if you want to be extremely, unreasonably picky on grades you can be on SDNY, the applicant pool is so strong that you're like "how on earth did I get hired" when you see it.

It's definitely easier for HYS students to hide their real rank, and harder for CCN students to. The judge is very aware of that though, and we tend to hire more people from CCN. Part of that is also that it's significantly easier to hire RBGs than all-stars with equivalent transcripts at HYS if you're not a feeder, as the latter tend to end up with feeders.

If you don't have the grades, a call is theonly way to get pulled. You probably still won't be hired, but you'll get off the pile and onto the judge's desk, and you never know.

Fwiw I'd rather read a note than a memo, but that will really depend on the judge and chambers. Sending both is probably a decent option. If you do send a note, and even if you don't, expect to be questioned on it in some depth in the interview.

I don't know that I'd enjoy clerking for an SDNY magistrate--expect mostly discovery disputes, pro se stuff, and Social Security cases. No meaningful criminal docket, and they seem to be even more overworked than the DJs. The magistrates themselves are very impressive people, though, and most are thoroughly AIII caliber. EDNY is likely a better experience, as the DJs there refer all non-dispositive civil matters to MJs.

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