PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

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PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:57 am

Hi everyone. I'm a panicky public interest 3L looking for some perspective. After literally a year of job applications, all the movement is happening really suddenly in my job search. I applied to clerkships half-heartedly under lots of pressure from my school career advisor, with little success, then poured my heart into an ill-fated fellowship proposal, and most recently have been churning out legal aid applications and dealing with long interview delays due to COVID-19. Less than a week ago, I was looking at jobs outside the legal market for fear that this crisis economy would not turn up a single legal job for me. I am 100% committed to public interest work, and I think I'm a pretty strong candidate (though I have lost some confidence over the months). I'm particularly interested in working on issues affecting children and families, including education law, child advocacy, and various intersectional legal services.

I had an interview late last week with an education law initiative at a legal aid place that would allow me to do both individual advocacy and systemic litigation -- a combination I hoped to work toward in my career but didn't expect to be able to do right out of school. I loved the team, and they seemed to really like me. No guarantees that I'll get an offer, but my gut felt good. It's a position on a small team that has limited (but secure-for-now) funding, so odds are there won't be a similar available position anytime soon.

The problem is that, mere days before that interview was scheduled, I heard back, out of the blue, from a state supreme court judge (same state as the education job) with whom I'd interviewed in OCTOBER, asking if I was still interested. I said yes, given that no other job had yet materialized, and the courts seemed like a secure option in this crazy climate. Now that I've realized how great this education law job is, though, I'm having cold feet about putting the clerkship first. I have heard mixed reviews about this judge, although I liked her personally, but I'm concerned by the enormous gap between my interview and this next step. What does that mean about the judge? About me? I'll admit that I'm not too excited about the clerkship, but I know I could do anything for a year, and I'm aware of all the good skills that come from clerking. No offer from the judge, but I know she's calling my references, and I want to be prepared with an answer if she does offer me a clerkship.

I'm getting very conflicting advice from various people about how to weigh these two potential opportunities. (Again, they're both only potential as of now, but I do have a backup legal aid job offer, which I'm very grateful for -- and need to get back to in a matter of days!) To make matters more complicated, doing the clerkship would mean going long-distance in my serious relationship, while the "dream job" is where both my partner and I already live. I don't want to be short-sighted, but it's hard because I don't really know exactly what my 5- or 10-year goals are -- just that I want to be doing PI things in some sort of litigation capacity.

Questions I'm thinking about:
-Would I be crazy for withdrawing my clerkship application now? Will I burn bridges with this judge?
-Should I ask the "dream job" what they think about me clerking? If so, should I ask as soon as possible? Or wait for them to make an offer?
-How much benefit would I actually get in the PI world by doing a state court clerkship? Is that benefit diminished if I were to already have a cool job option? Basically, this seems like my only shot to do this exact "dream job" because of its funding, so the whole "do-the-clerkship-because-you-can-always-get-the-other-job-after" argument isn't watertight.
-What are the odds that the job market will actually be worse in a year?
-How should I factor in the fact that the bar exam is so uncertain? The "dream job" and the backup job both offered to let me start on time and give me time off to study if the bar ends up being postponed. I don't know about the clerkship.

Thanks for any and all insight!

nixy

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by nixy » Tue Apr 14, 2020 8:04 am

I don’t think it’s crazy to withdraw from the judge, and it shouldn’t burn too much of a bridge, but if you decide to, you should probably do it as quickly as possible and not wait for an offer. (And I’d fudge slightly and say that you have an offer for a permanent position that better fits your career goals, or something along those lines.)

I’m a big proponent of clerking, and if you went that route you’d likely be completely fine, but I tend to agree that the PI dream job is an unusual job opportunity and it wouldn’t make sense to pass on it. And I suspect that clerking wouldn’t be compatible with the dream job (I also wouldn’t advise asking them about it before you have an offer).

I say this mostly bc you have the legal aid job as a backup, so even if the dream job doesn’t pan out, you have something and won’t be jobless if you turn down the clerkship and then the dream job doesn’t happen. And because I think that for the kind of PI you seem to be looking at, the actual PI work is probably more helpful than clerking.

My other thought is that while we don’t know what the hell is going to happen with the economy, it makes a little more sense to go for something that doesn’t have a fixed end date in the middle of what might be a truly shitty economy. This isn’t clear cut - a truly shitty economy might mean that your dream job would have to lay you off at some point as well, obviously there are no guarantees. But I would probably feel more comfortable taking something that’s theoretically permanent right now. Reasonable minds could disagree though (about all of this).

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by albanach » Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:26 am

I think there's a genuine possibility the economy, or at least legal hiring, will be worse in a year. For that reason I err Tuesday l towards taking the job if it's on offer.

The 2008 crash was still affecting hiring in 2012-3013. If you're thinking longer term about joining the judiciary, the clerkship might make more sense, but otherwise I'd go for long-term employment.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:10 pm

An interesting dilemma. I would take the SSC clerkship, but there are good reasons to get into practice now.

If you took the SSC clerkship, it would sort-of make sense to immediately start applying for federal district court positions for 2021. That gives you a two-year runway for the economy to improve, and you'll be a much better lawyer at the end of your clerkships. If you are horrified by the idea of clerking twice, then maybe going straight to practice is the right move for you.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by lavarman84 » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:24 pm

I'd say PI dream job. Problem is that you don't have an offer. Pulling out of the SSC clerkship without an offer seems like a mistake to me. The SSC judge hasn't offered yet either, so you have some time. And most judges aren't going to demand you accept on the spot. What's the expected timeline on the PI dream job?

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:33 pm

Thanks, everyone. This is all very helpful input. I'm leaning toward withdrawing from the clerkship, but as has been pointed out, I'm sort of scared to do that without an official offer from dream job. I have heard (from my career advisors) that you canNOT say no to a judge, and I'm feeling especially beholden because I reached out last week to get the ball rolling with her. I told dream job that I have until this Friday to get back to backup job, so I assume they are operating on that timeline, but so is the judge -- so I'm afraid the judge will get back to me first. How horrible would it be to ask for a day to consider a clerkship offer, reach out to dream job in the meantime, and then decline the clerkship offer? My career advisor would freak out if I did that, but it is my life, and I can see few other options at this point.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by lavarman84 » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, everyone. This is all very helpful input. I'm leaning toward withdrawing from the clerkship, but as has been pointed out, I'm sort of scared to do that without an official offer from dream job. I have heard (from my career advisors) that you canNOT say no to a judge, and I'm feeling especially beholden because I reached out last week to get the ball rolling with her. I told dream job that I have until this Friday to get back to backup job, so I assume they are operating on that timeline, but so is the judge -- so I'm afraid the judge will get back to me first. How horrible would it be to ask for a day to consider a clerkship offer, reach out to dream job in the meantime, and then decline the clerkship offer? My career advisor would freak out if I did that, but it is my life, and I can see few other options at this point.
That's bullshit career advisers tell you because they're looking out for themselves. Unless you accept the job, you can say no. If you do accept, yeah, you can still technically say no, but it's a bad look. But if the judge offers you and gives you a week or two to accept, you are still able to decline the job.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:46 pm

lavarman84 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, everyone. This is all very helpful input. I'm leaning toward withdrawing from the clerkship, but as has been pointed out, I'm sort of scared to do that without an official offer from dream job. I have heard (from my career advisors) that you canNOT say no to a judge, and I'm feeling especially beholden because I reached out last week to get the ball rolling with her. I told dream job that I have until this Friday to get back to backup job, so I assume they are operating on that timeline, but so is the judge -- so I'm afraid the judge will get back to me first. How horrible would it be to ask for a day to consider a clerkship offer, reach out to dream job in the meantime, and then decline the clerkship offer? My career advisor would freak out if I did that, but it is my life, and I can see few other options at this point.
That's bullshit career advisers tell you because they're looking out for themselves. Unless you accept the job, you can say no. If you do accept, yeah, you can still technically say no, but it's a bad look. But if the judge offers you and gives you a week or two to accept, you are still able to decline the job.
Yeah, I sense that it's bullshit, but the problem is that I already told the judge (on the advice of said career advisor) that the clerkship would be my top choice, so I feel like she's expecting me to accept on the spot. I'm just hoping that this global crisis will make the judge more understanding that circumstances can change.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 14, 2020 12:48 pm

nixy wrote:I don’t think it’s crazy to withdraw from the judge, and it shouldn’t burn too much of a bridge, but if you decide to, you should probably do it as quickly as possible and not wait for an offer. (And I’d fudge slightly and say that you have an offer for a permanent position that better fits your career goals, or something along those lines.)

I’m a big proponent of clerking, and if you went that route you’d likely be completely fine, but I tend to agree that the PI dream job is an unusual job opportunity and it wouldn’t make sense to pass on it. And I suspect that clerking wouldn’t be compatible with the dream job (I also wouldn’t advise asking them about it before you have an offer).

I say this mostly bc you have the legal aid job as a backup, so even if the dream job doesn’t pan out, you have something and won’t be jobless if you turn down the clerkship and then the dream job doesn’t happen. And because I think that for the kind of PI you seem to be looking at, the actual PI work is probably more helpful than clerking.

My other thought is that while we don’t know what the hell is going to happen with the economy, it makes a little more sense to go for something that doesn’t have a fixed end date in the middle of what might be a truly shitty economy. This isn’t clear cut - a truly shitty economy might mean that your dream job would have to lay you off at some point as well, obviously there are no guarantees. But I would probably feel more comfortable taking something that’s theoretically permanent right now. Reasonable minds could disagree though (about all of this).
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply so thoughtfully. I appreciate all of these considerations. I am leaning toward withdrawing my clerkship application, but I'm nervous to do so without the dream job offer yet. Do you think a permanent backup job is better than a one-year clerkship at this point? (I think maybe, but it feels harder to explain to others.)

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by objctnyrhnr » Tue Apr 14, 2020 1:20 pm

One important data point that’s missing is how “good” the clerkship opportunity is and what your chances/willingness would be to leverage it into a fedclerk position for the following year. Or put another way, if you told me you were debating between this gig and a fedclerk position, i would say absolutely fedclerk (due to the universally recognized prestige) and that you should just figure the rest out later.

Let’s say that the ssc gig is at the mass supreme judicial court or above (prestige wise), I think you probably just have to take the clerkship. Even if it isn’t, you might want to research exit outcomes for that court’s alums.

For what it’s worth, I took a clerkship over another public sector gig I really wanted that gave me an early offer and if I had done the opposite, it would have been a horrible mistake.

Having been through it, I think that clerking for a year has an amazing effect on your ability to litigate throughout your career, your instincts, your writing, etc.

Another question is how plentiful this job or these types of PI jobs might be? If you are at a level worth hiring now, you’ll be even stronger post clerkship. How many did you apply to and get rejected for which you’d be as excited as you are about this one? Assume that if they’re still around in a year post clerkship, you’ll likely get an interview.

Lastly, best of both worlds might be to request a deferral for a year at the PI job. They might say no, but it’d preserve a bridge in the future because most would recognize that a SSC clerkship is often a gif that shouldn’t be turned down.

Sorry for the long post. Just trying to give you some things to think about as you make the tough decision.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by mjb447 » Tue Apr 14, 2020 1:24 pm

I'd probably decline the clerkship (but, like nixy said, I'd try to do it before she offers the job). Clerking is rewarding, but you shouldn't do it unless it's also useful to your career, and you've got a shot at doing exactly the kind of work you want to be doing. Even if you don't get that job, you've got something at legal aid that might be a better fit for moving into that space eventually and won't require you to look for a job this time next year.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by nixy » Tue Apr 14, 2020 1:43 pm

I just think that taking a clerkship now is a very different proposition from taking a clerkship during a more normal economy. Personally, I think that right now, a permanent job is better than a one-year clerkship (and I think for your goals, the case is arguable even under more normal circumstances). Also, if you're competitive for clerkships now, you'd likely still be competitive after a couple of years of job experience once we all have a better idea what the economy is doing, so nothing rules out applying in future. And I think a lot of public interest positions are less frequently available than clerkships are.

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Re: PI Dream Job vs. State Supreme Court Clerkship (2020 Grad)

Post by Ohiobumpkin » Sat Apr 18, 2020 11:25 am

Just accept the job offer that comes first. If the SSC judge offer first, accept it. If the education PI job offer is made first, accept that. Whichever job you do not accept, immediately inform the other employer that you have accepted another position.

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