Monday, September 28, 2009

Is Clerkship Hiring Really *That* Bad?

All signs point to yes. There's an interesting thread at the Volokh Conspiracy where current clerks are discussing the applications that they have received. Consensus: it's not a good year to be applying for clerkships.
As a clerk for a federal judge, and the first one in our chambers to sort through and catalog the applications, I've noticed that we've received literally double the number of applications received two or three years ago. (In fact, I might be looking at your application right now, Mr(s). hopeful applicant.) The same is true for most of the other chambers. Moreover, the number of "top-tier" and "bottom-tier" applicants have both increased, as has the number of applications with firm experience.
And
It's brutal. From what I understand, 2/3 of the judges in one of the more prestigious appellate circuits had already completed their hiring by the time the official hiring plan started. I'm at a top school and one of the top students here - law review, externships, etc. - didn't even get an interview there. I lined up mine this summer (so I suppose I was part of the problem, from the perspective of those conforming to the rules) hiring plan be damned.
And
Current COA clerk in a "flyover" but nonetheless desirable circuit. The credentials of the people who interviewed this year (and those who we ultimately hired) were nothing short of absurd. Other than applicants from HYS, we didnt interview anyone who wasn't top 3-4% at a T14. Several had secondary degrees as well (MAs, PHDs, etc). I was top 10% or so at a lower-end T10 with journal managing board, moot court, strong summer work experience, and a previous D.Ct. clerkship, and I am certain I wouldn't have even been interviewed this year. What a difference a year makes.
Of course, as one of the above comments suggests, a lot of this is because so many alumni have been applying - using their "experience" to snap up opportunities that would have otherwise gone to graduating law students (i.e. current 3Ls). And, let's not forget all those folks that were unscrupulous smart enough to apply early.

Not news, really, for anyone who has been listening. The top students in our class are struggling to get clerkship interviews, let alone actual clerkship interviews. The lucky ones have their 2L summer position to fall back on . . .

How's it going for you, fellow Class of 2010'ers? Feel free to sound off - anonymously if you wish - in the comments.

Related:
Volokh Open Thread for Current Judicial Clerks

Previous:
Getting Your Clerkship Before Labour Day: It's Not Just for Graduates Anymore

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Unless it's a feeder judge, clerkships are a total waste of time. [My firm] will likely not be giving bonuses for clerkships much longer, and we certainly can't guarantee you a job after your clerkship."

- Senior Litigation and Managing Committee Partner and former 7th Circuit Clerk at V10 Firm.

Anonymous said...

Oh really. Sounds like a firm that doesn't guarantee a job even to those with offers.

Anonymous said...

So, according to post #1, clerking is a "total waste of time" because a) bonuses and b) post-2L summer job offers will no longer be guaranteed at one V10 firm? I'm going to go ahead and disagree. Not everyone is doing a clerkship just because they want the bonus money, and several people are probably doing them because they want another chance to go out on the job market post-clerkship (either b/c they were no-offered or b/c they didn't like the firm where they have said offer). In fact, doing a clerkship because you are motivated by the bonus money is horrible financial logic, because it would be better financially to not do the clerkship. Plus, post 1 completely ignores the fact that a) clerkships actually represent an opportunity to learn and b) many high quality firms continue to require/desire appellate clerkship experience if you want to do appellate work.

Anonymous said...

Total BS.

The bonuses may dry up a bit at the mid-level places, but clerking still equals a post-clerkship job. Who's getting hired instead of them, a fresh-faced graduate? Get real...

Anonymous said...

it's also a great way to generate self-worth and uncompromised feelings of superiority. siriously.

Anonymous said...

"Clerkship still equals post clerkship job"???

What fantasy world are you living in? Are you saying that if you clerk, you're somehow guaranteed a job somewhere afterwards? That may be the case if it's a feeder or otherwise super prestigious judge, but clerking in, for example, the district of Kansas doesn't guarantee a damn thing!

Post 1 is right. I've heard the same thing. Obviously appellate work or academia are special instances, but if you wanna do general lit or esp corporate, non-feeder clerkships are probably a waste of time. And as for "learning more," 3 years of law school is plenty; meanwhile circuit court clerkships teach you ZERO about practicing in a big firm's lit practice.

Anonymous said...

2:49, clerking will at least teach you how to write stuff that's not complete dreck--a skill that most of you LR&W pass/fail slackers lack entirely.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, clerking in Kansas might not help you get a job in NYC. But go "slum it" at a district court in NC and see if you have trouble getting hired in Richmond at market. Ditto for other places.

If you're class of 2010, and probably '11, clerking is probably the most useful thing you can do to get back into BigLaw. You think people waiting this out at the PD's office are going to have a leg up? Maybe the people at mid-size firms in state court?

People who clerk are going to be the first ones onto the lifeboats here, no question.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the top 3%, LR editorial board, *very* solid LOR's from professors that have made calls on my behalf. I applied to over 125 judges including a bunch in areas with local ties. So far I have 3 interviews with CoA judges and 0 offers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should have applied beyond the CoA then...

Anonymous said...

@1:21,

Excuse me!?? I think I worked hard enough to earn the right to limit my clerkship applications to CoA judges. I suggest you take a recess from drinking and the softball diamond for a few minutes a week to actually read a casebook or two before you offer me any advice.

Anonymous said...

10:10,

you are the reason why people think UVA is a douchey place. jump off your high horse. maybe the reason you dont have an offer is because youre a tool. the only right youve earned is to shut the hell up.

Anonymous said...

It didn't help that Career Services didn't even check the list of judges on CARS for judges who ONLY HIRE CAREER CLERKS. I've gotten responses to about half my applications that say the judge doesn't hire graduating 3Ls as clerks at all, ever. How the hell do you miss that, Ruth?

Anonymous said...

To first comment: I wouldn't feel the least bit bad about leaving that firm in the dust if I were you. Clerkships have been valuable for lawyers far longer than Big Law has been around, and they will continue to be useful both for the experience and for the connection long after Big Law dies and blows away. Don't get bullied into taking a job you're only going to be at for < 3 years anyway at the expense of a clerkship that will help you for the rest of your career.

Anonymous said...

@10:10

Who says "editorial booard?" Trying to deceive much?

COA clerk here, lower-ranked than you (still on LR), but really put off by your attitude. Take it easy, for your own good.

Anonymous said...

11:37-
are you kidding me? clerkships (as we know them) will go away way before the concept of a law firm with over 150 lawyers (ie, "biglaw") goes away!

as noted, many judges only hire clerks who have been out of LS for at least 2 yrs and/or career clerks. pretty soon, most judges won't want the new ls grad w/o any experience who simply got a high gpa b/c he typed fast.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:10

I'm sure your wining attitude and shining personality will carry you through those 3 interviews.

But given that you work so hard, I'm sure you have a big law job to fall back on when you don't get a clerkship because you thought non-CoA judges were beneath you.

Try turning down the entitlement.

Anonymous said...

Douches on this thread notwithstanding, UVA 3Ls are doing very well on the whole in the clerkship search this year. More 3Ls have already been hired by COA judges than were last year. There are still some well-credentialed people who have yet to pin something down, but that always happens.

Some of them will get something eventually (slow your roll), and others won't. But on the whole, it has not been a bad year for UVA.

Anonymous said...

You guys do know that 10:10 is just someone mocking 9:29 and not a serious post?

Also, 11:31, that's ridiculous. I'm a 2L and was thinking about going to talk to Career Services about off-plan hiring (so as to avoid this mess next year), but I'm seriously questioning whether they'll help.

Anonymous said...

Off-plan hiring as a 3L = honor code violation = auto-expulsion = lose your clerkship.

Anonymous said...

And now for the lower end of the spectrum.

I'm a 3L at the median. I've lined up 1 interview with 1 state Supreme Court justice in the flyover state where I worked two summers. The other eight have either not contacted me or already hired other clerks. For obvious reasons, I didn't bother applying at the federal level.

Speaking of flyovers, you know the Career Services line re the promise of looking for jobs at mid-sized regional firms? I hope you have better luck with that than I did.

I worked at two such places this summer. One hired no member of the summer class. The other, where I had worked for two summers, passed me over for top graduates of the local tier-3 schools.

My days are currently spent in undiluted resentment of the $160,000 mistake that was my decision to attend this law school.

In sum, federal clerkship rejects, your lives could be worse.

Anonymous said...

9:38

Going to law school is probably the worst decision I ever made

Anonymous said...

4:54:

Going to law school wasn't the worst decision I ever made, paying sticker price for UVA Law was.

Anonymous said...

4L, below-median, clerkship my judge attributed to the fact that my writing sample didn't have typos. canceled 3 more interviews when i got this job. oh but my point is, everyone at my court just started 2-year clerkships-->no positions for '10 graduates here!

Anonymous said...

UVA is doing quite well this year. We have about 11 COA clerks this year, with some on the 2nd/DC/9th Cir, as well as some feeders even. This year's class has done even better than last.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

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