Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Clerks

This is a couple of days late, but I'm sure everyone's gotten the e-mail from Terry re applying for clerkships. Well, let's hear the collective wisdom on that one.



Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Well, I set up the letters before leaving to start the summer like the guide suggested. I'm trying to compile a list of good district judges now from all sorts of hearsay and arcana. I'd be thrilled to hear any suggestions folks have. I'll start sharing, and will try to revise as I learn more (and please do contribute what else you other folks learn!):


Judges I have heard are great, and have also heard nothing bad said about them:

Walker, NDCal
Illston, NDCal
Fogel, NDCal
Whyte, NDCal
Alsup, NDCal (work starts at 7 am though)
Levi, EDCal
Young, DMass
Robinson, DDel
Rakoff, SDNY
Gleason, EDNY
Ellis, EDVa

Other judges I have heard are good from only one source, or whom I have heard something good and bad about:

Weinstein, EDNY (everything good, but senior)
Scheinlen, SDNY
McMann, SDNY
Chin, SDNY
Kaplan, SDNY
Koeltl, SDNY
Lynch, SDNY
Ware, NDCal
Breyer, NDCal
Smith, NDCal
Patel, NDCal
Wilken, NDCal
Jensen, NDCal (everything good, but senior)
Pregerson, CDCal

Judges I've heard only bad things about:

Lamberth, DDC


I also saw Judge Hogan in action earlier this week; he seemed pretty sharp based on one hearing.

5/27/2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

I forgot to add:

List 1: great.

Greenaway, DNJ

List 2:

Gertner, DMass (Swift is the faculty contact)

Armen, you surely know CDCal?

5/27/2006 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have thought you were an appellate man, Fletcher....

5/27/2006 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have any interest in the East Coast, Steffan Underhill (D.Conn.) is supposedly awesome. My friend clerked for him and said he was "the best judge ever." And this guy is not prone to hyperbole.

5/27/2006 7:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

I might send out some appellate applications, but I thought I'd do the bulk of the research on the more realistic chances and the more practical experience for becoming a litigator.

5/27/2006 9:02 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

A few district judges I know a little bit about:

I watched Jeffery White (ND Cal) in action a month or so ago and I thought he was very good. Respectful of the lawyers but also very firm and definite about what he did and did not want to have going on in his courtroom. He oftentimes puts lawyers on the equivalent of a chess-clock and does not let them go over their alloted time. Not to be confused with Whyte (about whom I know nothing).

Breyer (ND Cal) also seems terrific; I'm externing for him in the fall, so probably won't be a candidate to clerk for him, but I'd certainly recommend him to others, based on the few minutes that I spent with him in an interview.

Eldon Fallon (ED Louisiana) is supervising the consolidated federal Vioxx product-liability cases in New Orleans. He's also in the final mopping-up stages of the Propulsid litigation (which I think is how he got chosen for Vioxx). I know a couple of people connected with litigation before him who have said he's excellent. Working for an MDL transferee judge is said to be its own special thing (i.e. LOTS of documents and administrative crap to deal with), but the nice thing about Fallon is that he maintains a regular non-MDL docket as well.

5/28/2006 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a former clerk. Here's my advice:

1) District Court clerkships are more fun, interesting and practical. Unless you have a really good reason for doing an appellate court clerkship (and the "prestige" by itself isn't enough), go to a District Court judge.

2) Among District Court clerkships, the sweetest positions are with Senior District judges who are still very active, and who sit by designation on appellate panels. That way you get experience at both levels, and you get the benefit of the judge's extensive experience.

3) Unless you're near the top of the class, it's best to apply to a large number of judges if you really want a decent shot. Try to hit every major metropolitan area.

4) You've got to do something to stand out. We interviewed many clerks who had very strong records, but who were very forgettable.

5) I don't have any good advice on how to do this, but for most judges it's imperative to establish the right mood during the interview. Judges and their staff want somebody who will be enjoyable to work with, so try to be relaxed, and strike an appropriate degree of casualness. Think of it as a conversation with a friend.

6) There are a small number of judges you should absolutely stay away from, because the hell of working for them isn't worth whatever experience you'll get. Unfortunately, the only way to hear about them is word of mouth, and clerks many are reluctant to badmouth their judges.

7) Good luck! And do realize that luck plays a HUGE role in the process. Don't take it personally if you don't get a position.

8) Try as hard as you can to get a clerkship; don't make a half-assed attempt at it. I had the experience of a lifetime clerking; I absolutely loved it. I had a very close relationship with the judge, my co-clerk became one of my best friends (still is), and we had some amazing cases. I wouldn't give it up for anything.

9) If you're lucky enough to get a position, savor it. You won't wield that kind of power again for another 20 years, if ever. Everytime I walk into a federal courtroom, I'm jealous of that person sitting there in the clerk's chair.

5/29/2006 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Alsup, NDCal (work starts at 7 am though)"

Be aware that Alsup will work you (and treat you) like a slave. If you're female, you're likely to get hammered. I got an interview with him, but canceled it after I found out how he treated one of my friends as an extern (basically treated her like absolute shit, reduced her to tears, etc.)

My advice: Stay away.

5/29/2006 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jensen, NDCal (everything good, but senior)"

Jensen is great. Very friendly, a great deal of experience on the bench. But it's a little too cushy. If you WANT to go home at 4 pm everyday, then great. If you relish working and getting more cases to work on, look elsewhere.

The comment above -- "but senior" -- might be relevant to Jensen, but be aware that many senior judges are AWESOME to work for.

Many still work a great deal, and with fewer clerks, you're load is just as heavy. They also have a greater ability to control their docket, so they get few dogs and more interesting cases.

Plus, the judge can teach you more than most judges, has a great deal of respect from his/her peers, may sit on appellate panels, etc.

My advice is to seek out the great senior judges at the district court level, and put them at the top of your list.

5/29/2006 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Sean said...

I can only concur with Isaac about Jeffrey White (NDCal): I observed him in court on Friday & he was sharp and fair. Unfortunately, my understanding is that he has permanent law clerks, so strike him from the list.

5/29/2006 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Be sure to closely proofread any materials provided by CDO (i.e. sample cover letters and judges' addresses). CDO didn't update the sample cover letter last year, and some applicants sent out cover letters with the wrong dates.

2. Be sure to check on the federal judicial clerks web site to see whether a judge has specific application requirements (i.e. undergrad transcript, class rank, writing sample of 12 pages or less, LSAT score (!)). The site will also tell you who isn't hiring, which can save you time and money.

3. Pick up your recommendation letters as soon as they're ready and make sure that you have one for each judge, and that all of your letters are presentable. Because faculty services prepares thousands of these, mistakes are understandably made.

4. The word most frequently used to describe the process is "crapshoot." Some extremely talented and qualified individuals from the class of '06 did not receive clerkships. You'll hear it a million times, but apply broadly. (That means apply outside of CA and NY.)

5. If you applied mostly to district judges, don't freak out if you don't receive many calls on the first day judges can schedule interviews. Although many circuit court judges will call on that day, district court judges may take several days and even weeks to make interview appointments.

6. Don't wait until the last minute to take care of your OSCAR applications. You will probably have to scan your transcript at various resolutions in order to get it to post on OSCAR and still be readable. Also, weird stuff may happen to your resume and writing sample when OSCAR converts them to PDF.

7. Contact your recommenders, if you haven't done so already, and be sure to send them your resume, transcript, and possibly a brief explanation of why you want to clerk and any noteworthy things you did as a student in the recommender's class.

8. I could go on and on, so the best thing to do is contact people who have recently gone through the process and ask them to give you the lowdown. (Preferably soon, before we're all consumed with studying for the bar.) Also, if there are former clerks at your summer job, they probably would be glad to help you build your judges' list and to read your writing sample.

6/02/2006 3:06 PM  
Anonymous tom's friend from michigan said...

all i can say is the clerks i work with seem incredibly happy (and are pleasant, social people), my judge has already gone out with the externs to lunch at a laid back burger joint, and everyone in the office only has good things to say about him. (Klausner, CDCal...)

6/02/2006 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips anonymous! Could you please clarify what you meant about the recommendations being "presentable" - is that relating to the outside envelope or did you have access to the letters themselves?

6/03/2006 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By "presentable," I mean that you should make sure that faculty services placed all of your recommendations in sealed, Boalt Hall envelopes, that the envelopes aren't torn, mangled, etc., and that judges' names are spelled correctly. They're cranking out thousands of these under time pressure, and mistakes can be made.

I should also note that faculty services doesn't mess around with deadlines. They will lock the door to the mailroom promptly at 5 p.m. on the day that applications are due.

6/04/2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I just had an epipheny...I will not be applying for clerkships this year. It just really makes a lot more sense for me to apply next year.

1. I will have far better papers to submit as writing samples, especially if I get into Choper's SCOTUS seminar.

2. By the time I start I will have one year of work experience under my belt, ergo, higher pay, and a more competitive resume.

3. My classmates will be starting their clerkships and may end up interviewing me...depending on who I get, this may or may not be a good thing.

4. Simpsons and the law on resume

5. Possible break times during early years of legal career to be used for traveling purposes.

6/06/2006 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Make sure you spell epiphany correctly in your application.

6/07/2006 7:26 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Well with an extra year I can learn to spell all sorts of cool sounding SAT words.

6/07/2006 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uhm, take it from someone who went through this hell last year (as a 3L) and who is going through it again now (while studying for the bar): do it now or wait _two_ years. You cannot imagine how impossible it would be to apply the first time around, get all your materials together, proofread your cover letters, rewrite your writing samples, etc. while studying for the bar. Not possible.

You will never have an easier time in your life than your 2L summer. Not when you're working 9-9 at a firm and sure as hell not when you're studying for the bar (and if you are really on top of things and get your applications out early, you will be doing interviews while studying for the bar as well).

6/07/2006 10:55 PM  

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