Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Clerkship Chat

Per commenter request, I'm creating this thread to let students ask questions about the unpleasant clerkship application process and to let alums share words of wisdom. I don't have any unique advice. I'll just echo what CDO emphasizes: be shameless about working every connection you can possibly think of. Getting your resume to the top of the pile is half the battle. Otherwise, cross your fingers, say a prayer, wish upon a star, do a clerkship rain dance, etc. Good luck!

Labels:

40 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First Q: anyone know when the hell grades are due?

6/03/2012 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second Q: what kind of grades do you need from Boalt to clerk?

6/03/2012 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it has changed a lot in recent years. It used to be top 10% for CoA and top 25% for D.Ct., but last year it seemed more like 5% and 10%, respectively.

I believe a number of Top 10% types applied and didn't get clerkships.

6/03/2012 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Is it worth it to apply without academic distinctions then?

6/03/2012 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@9:39 - I'm going to be honest, unlike CDO. The answer is probably not.

That being said the actual cost in terms of time and effort to mail is very little in the scheme of things - so why not. But honestly, I know of know one not in the top 25 that did not get a clerkship.

6/03/2012 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But honestly, I know of know one not in the top 25 that did not get a clerkship."

Huh?

I imagine what this meant to say is: "I know of no one not in the top 25% who got a clerkship." To that end, I agree: if you are not in the top 25%, don't bother. Back in 09, I applied to as many clerkships as I could (pretty much every district court that would take online OSCAR apps, as well as a large number of paper ones). I got one call, and didn't end up getting it. I was very much NOT in the top 25%.

That said, I would say apply if it is something you want to do. You don't want to be in the position two years from now wondering what could have happened.

6/04/2012 9:00 AM  
Blogger Jackie O said...

@9:39 - I think it depends on whether you a) have some strong connection to a judge or clerk b) are willing to clerk in a traditionally less desirable location (especially if you're from there) and c) are willing to suffer the application process knowing that you will likely not be successful.

6/04/2012 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jackie O is right on. If there's hope outside the top 25%, it rests in connections, flexibility, and endurance. Good luck.

6/04/2012 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question for those of us who have graduated and are entering BigLaw: Does it make sense to apply for fall 2013 clerkships now or should we wait until we start work? Or does it not matter and I'm overthinking it. Shooting for less popular spots and would go anywhere.

6/07/2012 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:19 here with another question. A couple people told me that they have friends who volunteered with judges before entering practice. I'm wondering if anyone here has done this and knows what the protocol is for landing a spot. Sounds like a good way to get experience, make a connection and a cool thing to do before work starts.

6/08/2012 11:29 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

11:19, I think it makes more sense to apply now than it does to wait until you start work. Applying now will put you ahead of rising 3L applicants on the hiring plan. That will improve your chances more than having "firm job" on your resume.

I'll ask a friend who spent a year at a firm before clerking to share his input as well.

Volunteering with judges probably means externships. The CDO will be very helpful on how to apply for those.

6/08/2012 11:40 AM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

11:19--You should apply now. Judges who don't follow the plan often hire in the late Spring/early Summer. You will be too late if you wait until the Fall; all the spots will be filled by 3Ls. You have the right idea by being flexible in terms of location. Don't forget the state courts. I've heard it's more fun to clerk on a state high court than on a COA.

11:29--Start your law firm job ASAP. Volunteering will not get you much--I suspect you will be treated as an intern and have little contact with the judge. Also, post-JD volunteering looks like you can't get a paying job. And given the cost of a J.D. and the current economy, getting paid and paying down loans is the only sensible route.

9:00 (and before)--I don't know about last year, but I think some 2011 graduates landed COA clerkships without being in the top 10%. (They were still like 15%, though.) Once your grades reach a certain threshold, it is all about the connections--yours and your recommenders. Flexibility is also VERY important. Funnily enough, it's often the people with the highest grades that are the most disappointed by the hiring process. Because they tend to focus all their energy on only a few judges (i.e., Ninth Circuit or CDCA/NDCA district judges) and then are despondent when they strike out.

6/08/2012 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In top 25%, applied to over 200 judges all across the US, didn't get so much as an interview. Unless you have almost all HHs this process is an incredibly boring, wasteful, and time consuming process. Because Boalt doesn't have a real grading system and wont even disclose cumulative rank, we get hosed by schools that actually have them.

Bottom line: total waste of time,one of the many prices we pay for not having grades at Boalt.

6/08/2012 2:08 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Because Boalt doesn't have a real grading system and wont even disclose cumulative rank, we get hosed by schools that actually have them.

What is that statement even based on? My understanding is that no other peer school ranks students, even for clerkship. Sure, everyone knows what a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar means, but there's not actual ranking.

6/08/2012 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any advice on memo versus brief versus comment on the writing sample? I know the clerkship guide suggests memo or brief/motion for trial courts, and note or comment for appellate. I have a solid one of each, but I truly feel as though my moot court brief is my best piece of writing. Does that trump?

6/08/2012 2:31 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Here is my take on this though other, smarter people may disagree.

A federal judge will receive hundreds of applications from people in the top 25% of their class. If that's you, then trying to up your odds by sending out a huge number of applications will not be productive. That's because the more applications you send, the more generic they become. And the more generic they become the less the applicant stands out from the hundreds of other top 25% applicants who are doing the same thing.

Your goal should be to look different than the people with your credentials who are spamming the judges. A better strategy is to target a particular set of judges (be realistic and think about courts outside the highly coveted coastal areas) and do all you can to show you did your homework. That means communicating with former clerks, using professor calls, tailoring your cover letter to the individual judge, etc. The farther you are from the top 5% the more you need to be using these strategies, because generic letters (which amount to applying solely on the strength of your transcript) are going to make you look just like everyone else.

That's just my take. It's based on my experience as an applicant (I interviewed with the judges I targeted most and was ignored by the judges I spammed with generic materials) and as a clerk screening applications. Others may have had different experiences.

6/08/2012 2:41 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

2:31, use your best writing unless you have some reason to think that a particular judge has a preference.

The judges/clerks may assume that your moot court brief (or any other law school writing for that matter) was a collaborative effort that may not reflect your own personal writing ability. If you are the sole author, you should make that clear.

6/08/2012 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

boalt was amazing to me and i'm too broke to actually donate $; so I'll do this instead:

email me at Amit_Agarwal at cacd dot uscourts dot gov

That email should work over the next year.

i'm working in cd cal right now and i'm happy to share my perspective on what clerking is like in a district court. this is like my fourth week on the job (i started two days after my crim pro final because my judge wanted me to!), but i'm having a total blast and couldn't ask for a better gig.

6/10/2012 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick's advice is 100% spot on.

If you are in the top 5 -10%, you should play the numbers game. Sending out a ton of applications will likely garner you at least a few call backs. You should, of course, also put in extra effort to target a few specific judges who particularly appeal to you.

If you are in the top 25%, however, a mass mailing should not be your only strategy or even your primary strategy. You need to put in a ton of effort talking to former and current clerks and you need to convince professors to call your target judges for you. Your grades are not going to get your name pulled out of the pile; it has to be something else.

Finally, I want to take a second to remind 2Ls that Bolt alumni are more than happy to talk to you about clerking. I'm frankly surprised that I haven't received more calls/e-mails from 2Ls.

6/11/2012 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In re 8.35: Boalt 2Ls, please stop calling me and call that guy instead. (see what I did there?)

6/12/2012 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Abs Pipe said...

I think it has changed a lot in recent years.The answer is probably not for other.

6/12/2012 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:35: what state are you in so we can figure out how to reach you? :)

6/12/2012 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing to be aware of is the alumni directory is out of date. I tried contacting someone who couldn't offer advice anymore and specifically mentioned how they told CDO to remove them from the list. Very understandable but still kind of a bummer.

6/13/2012 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Echoing 8:35. I spent about 2 years at a firm before leaving for a district court clerkship.

The benefits of clerking after time at a firm are manifold, in my opinion:

1) While some judges seem to really still like hiring people right out of law school, there are an increasing number who prefer to hire clerks with work experience. Your experience at a well-known firm can begin to outweigh not being in the top 10% or on law review;

2) In your first year out of law school, you'll still probably have at least a few friends from Boalt who are scattered around the country at various clerkships. Those are the judges you can really target, as (like many have already said) if you're not a Coif allstar, you'll need somebody on the inside pulling for you. But every judge gets so many applications that clerks will be DELIGHTED to bring their judge the application of someone they know personally. There's no shame in working it;

3) Clerking is incredibly educational no matter when you do it, but MAN, you can really appreciate (better) how awesome it is being the Court after a few years in private practice. It becomes a true win-win situation: a break from law firm work at a time when you might be really ready for one, and an opportunity to open significant additional doors for the future.

6/13/2012 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because Boalt doesn't have a real grading system and wont even disclose cumulative rank, we get hosed by schools that actually have them.

- - -

That's probably not true at all. Boalt changed away from cumulative ranking specifically because cumulative ranking is bad in the clerkship process.

OSCAR allows chambers to sort by rank - as in, automatically exclude anyone below 5%, 10%, etc. By being a "non-ranking" school, chambers have to actually look at our resumes. In order to be "non-ranking" by OSCAR standards, we had to give up cumulative ranks.

It seems like a fair trade-off to me. Especially with the Distinctions, which if you are bother to apply for clerkships, you probably have prominently displayed at the top of your resume.

6/14/2012 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the person who says "unless you have all HHs, it's a waste of time" - that's untrue. I am mostly Ps and had four district court interviews and two COA interviews. In the end, I didn't get an offer for the term I applied for, but I still had a shot. And got asked if I would clerk the following term (which I didn't want to do). So really, this is an individualized process and it depends on your resume, your credentials, how broadly you apply, and whether or not this is something you really want to do. I really, really wanted to clerk. So, I applied everywhere and sucked up the awful application process and went for it. I don't regret it, and if you want to do it, I suggest you at least try.

6/15/2012 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person who got a half dozen Art III clerkship interviews (two with federal appellate judges) with MOSTLY Ps is *not representative*

NOT REPRESENTATIVE AT ALL.

They must have had a very unusual situation, i.e., J. Fletcher or someone like that going to bat for them.

6/16/2012 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:52, if you wouldn't mind, I'd be interested in your response to 7:28. Right now I believe both of you.

6/16/2012 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@11:38 - Not 7:28 or 1:52 here. But 7:28 is correct. Having mostly P's will make it near impossible to get a State Supreme Court or Federal District Court clerkship - let alone COA.

Basic rule of thumb: if you're outside the top 25 - you odds are slim for anything. Sorry - but that's the truth :/.

6/16/2012 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:52 here. No, I'm not representative. I have a really interesting work history (and I actually mean it when I say that). I never intimated that I was representative. My point was not to say that all Ps = clerkship. My point is to say that if you TRULY, TRULY want to clerk, then it is worth the hell of the application process because you just NEVER KNOW. You don't know what someone is looking for. You don't know if there's something on your resume that someone just eats up. This whole process is so individualized, so nuanced...that if you want to clerk AT ALL, then it's worth it to apply. Doesn't mean you will get interviews or a clerkship, but there is a chance.

7:28, work on your reading comprehension and don't be so quick to jump down someone else's throat. You missed the entire message.

6/19/2012 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:52 again - I also ignored the federal hiring plan and went rogue with some professors backing me. Some judges hated it, some didn't care, and some told me to reapply on plan. So my strategy was more aggressive than most and I had landed a couple interviews before the plan even started.

6/19/2012 2:54 PM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

First off, congrats to 1:52. Landing a clerkship often requires a lot of hustle.

That said, I don't agree with the advice to apply, regardless of grades, because "you never know." The application process is arduous, costly, and disheartening when it doesn't work out. Federal judges receive a deluge of applications from those who aren't remotely competitive. If you are in the bottom third at Boalt (like one out of every three of your classmates), then you're probably in this category.

There are exceptions, of course. But those applicants usually benefit from strong political or personal connections. Ethnicity can also play a factor. But you already know if you have these advantages or not. So it's not really a "you never know" scenario.

One more point: I don't think the interesting resume goes that far. It certainly helps. But if your grades aren't there, then the fact that you had an interesting job for 3-4 years after college won't make much difference. Unless you were working at the White House (see above).

6/20/2012 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is meant mainly for 1L and 2L boalties. My advice is if you want to clerk, and you really, really, want it, I think you can get it. Remember, you go to a TOP school and you are pretty darn amazing already, or else you wouldn't have self-selected to apply for such a competitive position. No, Boalt is not Harvard or Yale where they hand out clerkships like candy (for realz). But see below for how-to:

(1) Top 5%: you're set. Go for the gold - the most competitive clerkships. Have a few safety CoA's (or if district court is your thing, go for the desirable areas & most competitive ones).

(2) Top 10%: apply everywhere. you will get a fair share of interviews (probably 5-7), esp if you have the "connected profs" making phone calls for you.

(3) Top 15-25%: apply everywhere. Research your judges. There is a good chance you'll get a clerkship, especially if you have the connections Patrick described above. If not, a mass mailing will likely get you some interviews. If you don't get a clerkship in 2013, reapply in the Spring for 2014 and you will have even better luck, primarily because your application will not be one of thousands crossing the judge's (or judge's secretary, more likely) desk. Keep an eye out for recently appointed judges, and apply to them right after they get confirmed (but not before) to start, if the timing is right (ie, Aug. 2013 and onward). Contact former and current Boalt clerks; others you know who clerked; work every potential connection, even ones you didn't know you had. Keep at it and you will have success.

(4) Below top 25%: work the connections; apply to judges whose backgrounds are similar to yours. Go for state courts; magistrates; bankruptcy; tax courts. You can apply to district courts (esp if you narrowly missed top 25% and have pretty solid grades), but you really have to broaden your search to non-traditional clerkships.

6/22/2012 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with above advice - I'm not top 25%, but I targeted a very specific (albeit random, east coast) city and got interviews with every single judge I applied to, and ended up getting an offer. Now, I'm probably not that far off the top 25%, but I'm not in it, and that's all I know. I knew I was applying to a random, non-Boalt typical location, so I scoured both Boalt Alum and my undergrad alum lists until I found people to talk to who had clerked for the judges I was interested in (or even had clerked for judges in other DCs in that state - who were often helpful enough to put me in touch with people from the specific court I was looking at) and I took time to talk to each of those people. I also applied early - call now! A lot of judges are not on plan and are already hiring! - and in my applications, let those judges know I would be in their area in August. Once one had contacted me about an interview, I called all the others to let them know I'd be interviewing, and all the others found time for me too.

I was only applying to about 9 judges, because of the very specific area I was targeting, and it made it easier for me to put in the extra effort with those judges. That extra effort over the summer really paid off. If you know this is your situation, I would highly, highly recommend getting going now, lest you get edged out in September. Yes, grades matter, but don't let that discourage you if it's what you really want to do!

6/25/2012 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Work your connections and the alumni network. Clerks (who tend to screen the first round of applications for judges) protect their own. Boalt does not have a great track record with many judges and does not have the brand of the top 4 schools. But we're getting better. And current and former clerks are on the frontlines.

2) Individualize every single cover letter you send out. It sucks. It takes a ton of time. But it's important. Find a reason that you want to work for that judge. Some judges receive over a thousand applications for three slots. You need to give them a reason that you are good fit with them (be it geographic, academic interest, anything). Just doing a mass mailing will be easier but much, much less fruitful. I customized 115 cover letters.

3) Get good grades, be organized, and start early. Be tough.

7/25/2012 9:53 PM  
Anonymous solar panel said...

I think some 2011 graduates landed COA clerkships without being in the top 10%. (They were still like 15%, though.) Once your grades reach a certain threshold, it is all about the connections--yours and your recommenders. Flexibility is also VERY important. Funnily enough, it's often the people with the highest grades that are the most disappointed by the hiring process.

7/27/2012 1:39 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

In my haste of deleting SPAM, I zapped the comment below, which seems non-SPAM.

"electrical wire said...

I knew I was applying to a random, non-Boalt typical location, so I scoured both Boalt Alum and my undergrad alum lists until I found people to talk to who had clerked for the judges I was interested in (or even had clerked for judges in other DCs in that state - who were often helpful enough to put me in touch with people"

8/06/2012 10:18 AM  
Anonymous pain therapy said...

You should, of course, also put in extra effort to target a few specific judges who particularly appeal to you.
I believe a number of Top 10% types applied and didn't get clerkships.

9/12/2012 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we get an update on how the 3Ls are doing this cycle?

9/12/2012 11:53 AM  
Anonymous lexington ky insurace said...

I truly believe that if you're active doing weight bearing exercises and obtaining metal through as several raw foods as you'll be able to, you’ll be simply fine.

5/11/2014 4:50 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home