District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship? Forum

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District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:03 am

Is it worth it to do a district court clerkship after an appellate clerkship? I intend to return to my V10, work in Biglaw for 4-5 years, and then exit to government. I mainly don't want to clerk twice because of the financial loss, but is this shortsighted? How much do you actually learn from a district court clerkship that you do not learn from an appellate clerkship?

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:28 am

I did a district court clerkship after an appellate. I learned more about writing and analysis from the appellate clerkship (also standard of review), and I learned a lot more about the nuts and bolts of trial in the district court clerkship. (Some of this was due to the differences between the two judges - I know people on the same appellate court who learned less about writing and analysis because their judges were less interested in mentoring than mine, though they still learned a lot just by doing the work.)

If by government you mean AUSA, I think a district court clerkship is more directly helpful. Most AUSAs I know who did an appellate clerkship also did district, or got hired into an appellate position (which is great but it limits your opportunities, I think). But I do know a couple of line attorneys who only did COA, and this is the kind of thing that can vary by office/USA priority anyway. So I think you have to weigh your own personal priorities (some people will be unhappy unless they accumulate every possible gold star to get them to the next position, some people have other priorities. Your financial concerns are perfectly reasonable).

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 11:11 am

I did district after court of appeals. It was absolutely worth it. You learn a whole other set of skills and are exposed to a totally different aspect of the federal judiciary. The only reason you shouldn't do it is if you need the biglaw money for that one year.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 2:44 pm

Are you a post-grad/working in big law yet? I would get some job experience before deciding if you want to commit to a second clerkship.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 6:59 pm

District court clerkships are very different from appellate clerkships if that’s your question. They’re really not even the same job. But whether it’s worth it for you is a personal question.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 2:44 pm
Are you a post-grad/working in big law yet? I would get some job experience before deciding if you want to commit to a second clerkship.
No, I will be clerking right out of school. What is the benefit of working before the second clerkship?

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 01, 2022 11:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 2:44 pm
Are you a post-grad/working in big law yet? I would get some job experience before deciding if you want to commit to a second clerkship.
If OP waited two cycles before applying to major districts, they likely would be looking at clerking in 2026 or 2027 unless they could grab a spot with a new appointee. People do it but there’s a downside.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Fireworks2016 » Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:36 am

Don’t do them back to back if you’re concerned about the financial hit.

Clerk —> firm —> Clerk —> GOV

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 12:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 10:56 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 01, 2022 2:44 pm
Are you a post-grad/working in big law yet? I would get some job experience before deciding if you want to commit to a second clerkship.
No, I will be clerking right out of school. What is the benefit of working before the second clerkship?
To make sure you really want to. Clerkships teach you a lot, but perhaps their best value is their reputation-boost. You're going to get that reputation-boost from a CoA clerkship, and might find that one year of clerking is enough for you. Basically, you're committing to two years of clerkships (and the monetary sacrifice) without knowing what clerking will be like. That's a gamble I definitely would not make. After your CoA clerkship, you'll be well positioned to get a district court clerkship, so I would not rush if I were you.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm

I just graduated and am doing a COA and then a district court clerkship in a competitive circuit (ddc, sdny) back to back. I think back to back is better than the gap because you 1) don’t have any lifestyle creep from your big law stint and 2) have more continuity in your career. Most top students do multiple clerkships nowadays, in my experience. The only reason not to is if you know you want to be a big law litigation partner, are only clerking for the credential, AND need the money from the extra year as a big law associate. I think unless all three are true for you, it makes sense to pursue a district court clerkship.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm

Double post

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm
I just graduated and am doing a COA and then a district court clerkship in a competitive circuit (ddc, sdny) back to back. I think back to back is better than the gap because you 1) don’t have any lifestyle creep from your big law stint and 2) have more continuity in your career. Most top students do multiple clerkships nowadays, in my experience. The only reason not to is if you know you want to be a big law litigation partner, are only clerking for the credential, AND need the money from the extra year as a big law associate. I think unless all three are true for you, it makes sense to pursue a district court clerkship.
I want to gently and politely expand on the bolded text. You should clerk at a district court instead of spending your post-CoA year in big law if you think that the learning experience a d ct clerkship offers will be worth the roughly $150K that your decision will cost you. Law students have imperfect and incomplete information about what clerking will be like, let alone two years of it, and so I think it is bold to make such a commitment prior to graduating law school and/or starting a clerkship.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:47 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm
I just graduated and am doing a COA and then a district court clerkship in a competitive circuit (ddc, sdny) back to back. I think back to back is better than the gap because you 1) don’t have any lifestyle creep from your big law stint and 2) have more continuity in your career. Most top students do multiple clerkships nowadays, in my experience. The only reason not to is if you know you want to be a big law litigation partner, are only clerking for the credential, AND need the money from the extra year as a big law associate. I think unless all three are true for you, it makes sense to pursue a district court clerkship.
I want to gently and politely expand on the bolded text. You should clerk at a district court instead of spending your post-CoA year in big law if you think that the learning experience a d ct clerkship offers will be worth the roughly $150K that your decision will cost you. Law students have imperfect and incomplete information about what clerking will be like, let alone two years of it, and so I think it is bold to make such a commitment prior to graduating law school and/or starting a clerkship.
This. A few years of biglaw taught me that a second clerkship, was, indeed worth accepting a large salary drop (especially assuming, knock on wood, the clerkship can get me to a place where I never have to think about biglaw again). But I was not ready to convince myself to give up that much money straight out of law school.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2022 8:24 pm

Nothing wrong with COA, firm for 1/2 years, then District. Caveat though if you want to make partner at your firm which in that case I'd honestly just do Circuit then enter as a second year and then just work there until Partner/Counsel/they kick you out.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 03, 2022 12:38 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:47 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm
I just graduated and am doing a COA and then a district court clerkship in a competitive circuit (ddc, sdny) back to back. I think back to back is better than the gap because you 1) don’t have any lifestyle creep from your big law stint and 2) have more continuity in your career. Most top students do multiple clerkships nowadays, in my experience. The only reason not to is if you know you want to be a big law litigation partner, are only clerking for the credential, AND need the money from the extra year as a big law associate. I think unless all three are true for you, it makes sense to pursue a district court clerkship.
I want to gently and politely expand on the bolded text. You should clerk at a district court instead of spending your post-CoA year in big law if you think that the learning experience a d ct clerkship offers will be worth the roughly $150K that your decision will cost you. Law students have imperfect and incomplete information about what clerking will be like, let alone two years of it, and so I think it is bold to make such a commitment prior to graduating law school and/or starting a clerkship.
I mean it might be bold, but it’s also now the norm in elite lit circles, for better or for worse. Also circuit courts aren’t much like district courts so a circuit court clerkship will not necessarily put you in a better position.

Anecdotally, I know very few people who regret clerking on a trial court unless they got a terrible judge, which is largely an avoidable risk.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 4:47 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 02, 2022 3:34 pm
I just graduated and am doing a COA and then a district court clerkship in a competitive circuit (ddc, sdny) back to back. I think back to back is better than the gap because you 1) don’t have any lifestyle creep from your big law stint and 2) have more continuity in your career. Most top students do multiple clerkships nowadays, in my experience. The only reason not to is if you know you want to be a big law litigation partner, are only clerking for the credential, AND need the money from the extra year as a big law associate. I think unless all three are true for you, it makes sense to pursue a district court clerkship.
I want to gently and politely expand on the bolded text. You should clerk at a district court instead of spending your post-CoA year in big law if you think that the learning experience a d ct clerkship offers will be worth the roughly $150K that your decision will cost you. Law students have imperfect and incomplete information about what clerking will be like, let alone two years of it, and so I think it is bold to make such a commitment prior to graduating law school and/or starting a clerkship.
I think this sort of implicates two different issues. First, either a person doesn’t know themselves and their work preferences enough yet to know how they will handle two years of clerking. They don’t know themselves well enough to realize that the close quarters/semi isolation, lack of variety in the work and the fact that it’s all research and writing, and responsibility of clerking will make them miserable even for a year, let alone two (though I think district court and circuit court are different enough that you could dislike one and like the other). Or conversely they will find it unacceptably frustrating to be “on the sidelines” so to speak, rather than doing the work themselves. Or they want more autonomy rather than being subject to the judge’s decisions. Or they’re tired of chasing brass rings and want just to establish their career already. I think those are some of the main reasons why people don’t like clerking, but I also think they are things that many people *are* able to self-assess for.

The second issue is the possibility of getting a crappy judge and having a miserable experience. There are steps someone can take to try to avoid this, but sometimes it’s entirely out of your control, which sucks. I don’t think this is a reason to avoid clerking, though, as much as to be really careful about picking a judge.

With respect to the first issue, I think people need to think seriously about what they do/don’t like in a job, and not forge ahead with clerking just because it seems like the required brass ring. But I also think, as someone with work experience before law school, that it’s not quite as mysterious as the quoted post suggests. And as someone who was probably older than the average grad, a year or even two of work you don’t like that much isn’t always a bad trade off for what you can get out of the experience. I’m not saying be miserable; no one needs to suffer. But a couple of years of clerking isn’t really that big a deal in the course of an entire career.

(Full disclosure: I clerked for two years and it was a great experience for me, so that’s obviously my bias. There was still a big learning curve - I think that’s kind of unavoidable - but I don’t feel like clerking was this thing I didn’t know enough about before I started that there was no way to know how I was going to like it or whether I’d want to spend 2 years on it.)

All that said - I may be waxing overly philosophical and it’s not that deep but much more about the money you’re passing up. That’s fair, that’s a personal decision. I knew I wasn’t going to biglaw after, and made more in my second clerkship than I’d ever made before going to law school, so for me that was never an issue. But it’s totally fair if that is an issue for others.

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 03, 2022 12:50 pm

Value of district court after appellate also depends on the firm you're going to, IMO. If you're going to be a massively levered firm doing investigations etc on a team with 20 associates, you'll probably learn a lot more at the district level and that might be totally worth the $$$ you'll lose, and year credit you'll get.

if you're going to be on a 3-4 person case teams doing substantive legal writing as a second year, think I'd rather just go to the firm

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Re: District Court Clerkship after Appellate Clerkship?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:49 am
I think this sort of implicates two different issues. First, either a person doesn’t know themselves and their work preferences enough yet to know how they will handle two years of clerking. They don’t know themselves well enough to realize that the close quarters/semi isolation, lack of variety in the work and the fact that it’s all research and writing, and responsibility of clerking will make them miserable even for a year, let alone two (though I think district court and circuit court are different enough that you could dislike one and like the other). Or conversely they will find it unacceptably frustrating to be “on the sidelines” so to speak, rather than doing the work themselves. Or they want more autonomy rather than being subject to the judge’s decisions. Or they’re tired of chasing brass rings and want just to establish their career already. I think those are some of the main reasons why people don’t like clerking, but I also think they are things that many people *are* able to self-assess for.

The second issue is the possibility of getting a crappy judge and having a miserable experience. There are steps someone can take to try to avoid this, but sometimes it’s entirely out of your control, which sucks. I don’t think this is a reason to avoid clerking, though, as much as to be really careful about picking a judge.

With respect to the first issue, I think people need to think seriously about what they do/don’t like in a job, and not forge ahead with clerking just because it seems like the required brass ring. But I also think, as someone with work experience before law school, that it’s not quite as mysterious as the quoted post suggests. And as someone who was probably older than the average grad, a year or even two of work you don’t like that much isn’t always a bad trade off for what you can get out of the experience. I’m not saying be miserable; no one needs to suffer. But a couple of years of clerking isn’t really that big a deal in the course of an entire career.

(Full disclosure: I clerked for two years and it was a great experience for me, so that’s obviously my bias. There was still a big learning curve - I think that’s kind of unavoidable - but I don’t feel like clerking was this thing I didn’t know enough about before I started that there was no way to know how I was going to like it or whether I’d want to spend 2 years on it.)

All that said - I may be waxing overly philosophical and it’s not that deep but much more about the money you’re passing up. That’s fair, that’s a personal decision. I knew I wasn’t going to biglaw after, and made more in my second clerkship than I’d ever made before going to law school, so for me that was never an issue. But it’s totally fair if that is an issue for others.
I am the poster you are replying to and I want to say that your post is excellent and well worth reading for anyone making this decision. A lot of what you said with respect to the first issue resonates with me, though I disagree that I could have anticipated a lot of it for two reasons. First, I think some might know that clerking is or isn't for them ahead of time, but experience will be the real teacher. (I acknowledge your point that I may not have "known myself" well enough to make this decision as a law student, but I think I had fairly incomplete information as many law students will). More importantly, chambers vary markedly in the culture with respect to a lot of the points you mention (isolation, autonomy), and there are enough barriers to acquiring chambers-specific information prior to applying that make "figure it out ahead of time" fairly unrealistic.

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