Interview question -- clerks' questioning? Forum

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Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 9:47 pm

Feeling demoralized after a rough one today... with clerks. (The judge was quite pleasant). Is that to be expected?

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 9:49 pm

As a general rule, clerks are harder interviewers than judges.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 9:52 pm

Yeah, that's really common.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 10:46 pm

It would actually be weird if the judge was tougher than the clerks. Don't worry too much about it. If you don't get the clerkship, the primary reason probably wasn't the interview with the clerks that you felt didn't go as well as it could have.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 10:51 pm

The clerks ask the questions that would be inappropriate for the judge to ask, but he still wants answers to, or perhaps more often the clerks ask whatever questions they think that the judge is too polite to ask.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:08 pm

My district court judge relied on clerks to decipher transcripts to determine how impressive someone's grades truly were, whether the applicant took exceptionally hard or only moderately hard classes, whether the applicant's recommenders are difficult to impress or write glowingly about every student, etc. Particularly with HYS, it can be hard to distinguish between a "solidly above average" H/P ratio and an excellent H/P ratio if you aren't familiar with how the school grading system works.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:29 pm

This is a classic good cop/bad cop dynamic. I did a bunch of district and CoA interviews and, where I interviewed with both judge and clerks, I can’t think of one where the judge questions were tougher than the clerks. “Tougher” here meaning conventional job and school “performance” questions as opposed to “fit” questions.

That said I also found that the clerks would be the ones who asked about interests on the resume most closely.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:46 pm

had an interview with just judge --> is it a good sign if afterwards he tells you to reach out to his clerks for more info? I feel like he wouldn't waste their time if I wasn't in good shape but maybe overthinking

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jun 16, 2022 11:46 pm
had an interview with just judge --> is it a good sign if afterwards he tells you to reach out to his clerks for more info? I feel like he wouldn't waste their time if I wasn't in good shape but maybe overthinking
He probably says that to everyone except in the rare situations in which someone truly has a bad interview. More people have good interviews than there are slots available, so there is going to be nit-picking and some degree of arbitrariness.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 17, 2022 12:00 am

OP here. Thanks everyone. Yeah, I get having clerks asking questions the judge doesn’t want to ask but this was … more than that. I had heard rumblings about this judge’s clerk portion of the interview but didn’t expect the near-beating. Turned me off to the clerkship. Two more tomorrow so hopefully those are better.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 17, 2022 12:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 12:00 am
OP here. Thanks everyone. Yeah, I get having clerks asking questions the judge doesn’t want to ask but this was … more than that. I had heard rumblings about this judge’s clerk portion of the interview but didn’t expect the near-beating. Turned me off to the clerkship. Two more tomorrow so hopefully those are better.
Yeah there are judges who are well-known for really unpleasant, substantive clerk interviews, including Justice Kagan. Nobody likes them, and some clerks can step over the line into rudeness. On the other hand, there are some very prominent judges who essentially don't use interviews as a hiring mechanism, like Justice Ginsburg, who basically hired everyone she interviewed iirc.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 17, 2022 6:18 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jun 16, 2022 10:46 pm
It would actually be weird if the judge was tougher than the clerks. Don't worry too much about it. If you don't get the clerkship, the primary reason probably wasn't the interview with the clerks that you felt didn't go as well as it could have.
I’ve had this happen. It was very weird.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Wild Card » Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:16 pm

It's especially awkward when there are three to four clerks, and they all seem to like you besides one, who visibly feels contempt for you.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm

Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 17, 2022 10:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
Now that I'm on the other side of clerkship interviews, I am continually stunned that I got ANY offer. There are so many qualified applicants that the tiniest little thing can convince me to reject an applicant. It's not really a power trip, more that I know I need to eliminate 99% of applicants and so don't need to bother with anyone I don't consider to be absolutely flawless. At the end of the day, I don't think there's any truly fair way to do these interviews.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 1:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 6:18 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jun 16, 2022 10:46 pm
It would actually be weird if the judge was tougher than the clerks. Don't worry too much about it. If you don't get the clerkship, the primary reason probably wasn't the interview with the clerks that you felt didn't go as well as it could have.
I’ve had this happen. It was very weird.
This happened to me too, but only in the sense that the interview with the judge went for two hours and covered every line of my resume and most of what else had gone on in my 25 years of life. It was a very pleasant conversation, but two hours is a long time. The clerks asked some tougher legal questions but only for 20 minutes, which felt like 5 minutes in comparison.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
This was my experience to a T. Debriefing with my school after, I was told this was a feature, not a bug, of this judge's interviews.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:42 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:39 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
This was my experience to a T. Debriefing with my school after, I was told this was a feature, not a bug, of this judge's interviews.
Unless someone was actively mean and insulting you, I think that it's all fair game. Asking about specific cases, legal doctrines, and obscure hypotheticals-- these are all valuable ways to see how deeply you've considered legal issues.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:42 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:39 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
This was my experience to a T. Debriefing with my school after, I was told this was a feature, not a bug, of this judge's interviews.
Unless someone was actively mean and insulting you, I think that it's all fair game. Asking about specific cases, legal doctrines, and obscure hypotheticals-- these are all valuable ways to see how deeply you've considered legal issues.
Agree that it’s fair game, but the crazy grillings are dumb, which is why 90% of preftigious judges don’t do them. They’re only really common among a certain subset of relatively young Fed Soc judges. You can tell how good someone is at law by everything else in their app, though I guess tbf those Fed Soc judges are reading thinner apps since they hire so early.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:32 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:42 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:39 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
This was my experience to a T. Debriefing with my school after, I was told this was a feature, not a bug, of this judge's interviews.
Unless someone was actively mean and insulting you, I think that it's all fair game. Asking about specific cases, legal doctrines, and obscure hypotheticals-- these are all valuable ways to see how deeply you've considered legal issues.
Agree that it’s fair game, but the crazy grillings are dumb, which is why 90% of preftigious judges don’t do them. They’re only really common among a certain subset of relatively young Fed Soc judges. You can tell how good someone is at law by everything else in their app, though I guess tbf those Fed Soc judges are reading thinner apps since they hire so early.
I am actually a fan of these grillings. I think they help show 1) how an applicant thinks and 2) how they will react when someone disagrees with them. Obviously, you can get a ton of information on how much the person knows about law from their app, but I think that stuff can sometimes be misleading, especially if their recommenders are not people the judge normally takes students from.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:42 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 11:32 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:42 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 10:39 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jun 17, 2022 2:48 pm
Sometimes if you have a particularly insecure clerk they sort of relish this power dynamic of holding your career in their hands and may take joy in the opportunity to slip you up and mark you down for something. Most are very nice though and are either a) doing this at the behest of the judge or b) have a lot of great candidates and need some way to narrow down candidates that softball "fit" interviews won't give them.
This was my experience to a T. Debriefing with my school after, I was told this was a feature, not a bug, of this judge's interviews.
Unless someone was actively mean and insulting you, I think that it's all fair game. Asking about specific cases, legal doctrines, and obscure hypotheticals-- these are all valuable ways to see how deeply you've considered legal issues.
Agree that it’s fair game, but the crazy grillings are dumb, which is why 90% of preftigious judges don’t do them. They’re only really common among a certain subset of relatively young Fed Soc judges. You can tell how good someone is at law by everything else in their app, though I guess tbf those Fed Soc judges are reading thinner apps since they hire so early.
Original anon in this chain. I agree that these crazy grillings are pretty dumb, but it is not the clerk's fault. Although, I put in the particularly insecure one, because someone at my firm mentioned that he withdrew from consideration from a clerkship because a clerk (from a non-HYPS ivy league school) refused to accept for an answer that he went to a state school for undergrad because he liked the school and it was close to home. Could only imagine that there was some insecurity going on there.

Anyways, more to the point. It is perfectly possible to have a challenging but respectful interview. Many judges/clerks (although mostly clerks due to their inexperience interviewing candidates) d0 a poor job separating the two. But a lot of judges/clerks from what I've heard (not like I've interviewed 100s of times so don't have the data) separate the two fairly well.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:13 pm

I think the clerks who get off on the crazy interview grilling (beyond what the judge wanted them to do) grow up to be the interviewers in all other employment contexts who think it's their job to be a jerk to see how you handle pressure.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:16 pm

Law is probably the only field in the world where people are offended at the idea they might be asked real questions in an interview and instead prefer the diet of BS puffery from OCI/OGI.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:16 pm
Law is probably the only field in the world where people are offended at the idea they might be asked real questions in an interview and instead prefer the diet of BS puffery from OCI/OGI.
There's a difference between asking tough questions and being a jerk, but I agree that especially K-JDs can get a really skewed image of interviews based on OCI experiences. Not that there aren't any jerks/tough questioners at OCI, but there's only so much substantive questioning you can do when you're hiring someone after one year of law school for a SA when they've mostly never done that job before.

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Re: Interview question -- clerks' questioning?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 21, 2022 12:54 am

I'll add, as someone who did relatively tough interviews when clerking on a COA, that often the point wasn't to see whether the applicant got the "right" answer. We'd ask challenging questions, for which applicants wouldn't have a prepped answer, just to see how it played out. People give all sorts of responses to these--from completely shutting down, or trying to bluster through, or actively getting offended (all bad) to asking followup/clarifying questions, trying to answer in a way that exposes their thought process even if imperfect, or occasionally being really smart and just giving a solid answer (all good).

My theory is that people who find these interviews to be "unfair" approach them like quizzes, where the point is to give correct answers. They're not, and shouldn't be approached that way.

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