Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims Forum

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Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 12, 2024 11:31 pm

upper t14 student, median, LR board

I have interviews for a District Court in a flyover state--think Arkansas, Dakotas, Wyoming, etc.--and one for the Court of Federal Claims in DC. I'm preparing for the interviews and am not sure which I'll take if I receive offers from both.

My goal is to work for a federal agency in the long term, especially DOJ. I have my heart set on a particular DOJ component that does primarily criminal work. I would 100% go for the honors program right after finishing the clerkship (or another one after that). My fear is that the applicability of the CFC's docket to the subject I'm interested in might not be very limited to nonexistent. This could impact the strength of my app and my preparation for the work. I've never considered the Federal Programs / Tax branches that argue before the CFC.

On the other hand, it seems like the CFC experience is basically the same as a district court despite the specialized jurisdiction. The question is if the exit opportunities for fedgov that's unrelated to its docket are as good as they would be for a generic district, especially in DC.

I like the idea of building a life in DC very much and would almost certainly leave the flyover state after finishing a clerkship there.

Which should I go for if I get both?

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 17, 2024 2:38 pm

District no contest

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 17, 2024 3:04 pm

I’ll try not to out myself, but I did a flyover district court clerkship. It set me up nicely for Honors afterwards doing criminal work. The experience handling a federal felony docket is not comparable to what you would do in the Court of Federal Claims. Unless you want to do CFC-adjacent work, I would recommend the district court.

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 17, 2024 3:39 pm

Do district, but make sure to ask about how the judge runs chambers. In some district court clerkships you might not touch much criminal work. If you really value that experience, you should know whether you'll have it going in.

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 18, 2024 12:12 pm

Career-wise, district and it’s not close. They are not comparable in experience. Whether that’s worth a year out of DC is up to you, but most people who do not have e.g. a spouse and kids find a year somewhere random is worth it and even fun.

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2024 2:26 pm

Also - consider the “flyover district”

Some of these judges have exciting MDL, Class actions.

Some of these districts had huge manufacturing communities where interesting environmental cases come up.

Some of these districts sit on a boarder with another state that leads to interesting work.

Some of these districts have huge companies that get sued a ton in the jurisdiction (think Walmart).

Also, if your judge is on judicial committees - you could get interesting work to assist on.

Flyover districts are definitely different in the variety of the work/experience and my experience was fantastic.

Most importantly, if you clicked with the judge and know they are a good boss that is a huge consideration!

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 04, 2024 1:13 pm

As you pointed out, the fact that CFC is an all-civil docket makes a difference given your interest in criminal. But—especially if you don’t get offered the district but do get offered CFC—it’s worth considering. A lot of judges and clerks at CFC have DOJ connections, and I don’t think it’s just to the branch that argues in front of that court.

On a similar note, don’t underestimate the benefit of living in DC for networking and for a sort of local prestige. Claims tends to place well into DC roles (both DOJ and firms), perhaps enough that if you asked me to guess without looking, it’d be close to a toss-up whether I’d guess a Wyoming district places “better,” despite also being great experience.

I think there’s an extent to which some lawyers, especially law students, exaggerate the difference between clerkships that are actually quite close in value. While a district probably edges out for your situation, I’d hate to see others interested in DC firms or DOJ assume the same is true for them.

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Re: Flyover District Court vs. Court of Federal Claims

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 11, 2024 11:05 am

Clerked in Claim, now doing civil litigation at DOJ. Some points to consider about claim.

Pros:

- The cases are on average more interesting within the types of cases filed in Claims. The government is pretty reasonable about settling when it’s gonna lose and pretty persuasive about when it has a slam dunk. So a lot of the matters that get to trial or MSJ briefing are thorny and difficult.
- For similar reasons discovery disputes are rare.
- Predictably adequate lawyering on at least one side of the v. in every case, and usually both.
- Very low caseload compared to district courts. You won’t really work late or weekends for most judges unless you have a rapid TRO in a bid protest case.
- They have exclusive jurisdiction over a few very lucrative practices that have groups at most D.C. BigLaw firms. GovCon in particular.
- D.C. runs on networking and you’re right there in the middle.

Cons (aside from prestige):
- No juries, so you won’t get any practical insight into jury selection, instructions, etc.
- The downside of rare discovery disputes is that you get very little exposure to discovery practice, which leaves you far less prepared for a huge aspect of litigation than district and magistrate clerks.
- While the cases can be very interesting, the jurisdiction is very narrow. They may have billion dollar tax and takings cases, but you’ll never touch a tort or a criminal case.
- Class actions work differently so you will have to learn more than district court clerks if you got to to a firm that handles those from either side.

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