Biglaw, Clerkships, Job Searches

Clerks in Paradise? Maybe Not When It Comes To Hiring

Palau American Samoa Above the Law blog.jpgSome people clerk for the experience. And some people clerk for the experience. From an interesting article entitled “Clerks in Paradise,” which appeared in last month’s American Lawyer:

[Some go clerk for feeder judges, and some go clerk for] courts in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and other tropical locales in the Pacific Ocean. These former United Nations trust territories have legal systems similar to those of the United States, and appeals from their courts traditionally lie with U.S. courts. Many of these territories invite American law graduates to spend a year or two working in their courts as clerks and counsel.

The pull of the Pacific can be powerful.

When Timothy Schimpf accepted a position as court counsel in Palau, a nation of more than 300 islands that became independent in 1994, he turned down a permanent job as a trademark attorney with the federal government. “It’s absolutely worth it to take a chance and go do something outlandish,” he says.

The $40,000 salary he earned in Palau wouldn’t go far in America, but life in the Pacific Islands had its perks. From Schimpf’s government-provided beachfront housing, after-work swims and kayak sessions were easy.

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig. Read more — about clerking in paradise, and about the current job market for law clerks applying to large law firms — after the jump.

Another tale of clerking in the tropics:

[W]hat about adjusting from lagoon to big-firm life? That was the challenge for McDermott Will & Emery Chicago associate Michael Weaver, who spent last year as a law clerk at the High Court of American Samoa. The biggest source of culture shock? “Business casual in American Samoa is a little different,” Weaver says. He wore sandals and a polo shirt to work every day except on Fridays. That’s when judges and litigants donned traditional Samoan skirts, called lavalavas, and Aloha shirts — what mainlanders call Hawaiian shirts. Stylish, perhaps, but a little impractical when the winter wind comes whipping off Lake Michigan.

With applications coming due over the next few months, aspiring clerks will be fueled by tropical daydreams as they compose résumés, track down recommendations and draft writing samples.

If you think “clerking in paradise” might be for you, contact information for Pacific Island clerkship coordinators appears at the end of this article.
Meanwhile, back on the mainland, there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that the Biglaw job market for judicial law clerks — usually highly sought after by firms, and wooed with ever-increasing clerkship bonuses — may be softening. In our open thread on law clerk hiring, this comment was representative:

I wonder if the current perilous state of law firm economics is hurting the market for clerks. Rumblings are that it might be… i.e., “we just aren’t looking to bring on that much talent, even if it clerked, since we don’t have any work for the people we already have on payroll.”

Some anecdotal evidence to that effect, from tipsters:

My former firm recently informed me that they would not hire me when my clerkship ends in August. I spent one year in the New York office of a large national firm upon graduation, and am currently a district court clerk in Boston. I had kept in touch with various partners at the firm over the past few months, thinking I would return.

But when I asked about rejoining the firm in January, I was told by the head of litigation that they would not be hiring associates in “my position” seven months hence. So much for loyalty!


A certain large New York law firm is not hiring any law clerks this year, despite having held a clerks’ reception a few weeks ago. Sources at the firm have confirmed that they are in fact not hiring, and that [the form email letter I received] is not just a polite rejection letter.

I find this a little odd, since they seemed interested in soliciting applications at their clerks’ reception (which was held after the usual deadline for summers to accept offers). Perhaps a sign of a business slowdown?

Finally, one current law clerk — someone who already graduated from law school, and who applied for permanent employment at the firm after her clerkship — received this somewhat inept rejection message from Baker & Hostetler:

Dear Ms. X:

Thank you for your interest in Baker & Hostetler LLP. Although we were impressed with your qualifications, we regret to advise you that we were unable to offer you an interview for our summer associate program.

We appreciate your interest in Baker & Hotstetler LLP and wish you every success as you further pursue your legal studies.

Human Resources Manager

So which firms are still seeking clerks to join their ranks? If you know, feel free to mention them in the comments.
Clerks in Paradise [American Lawyer]
Earlier: Law Clerk Recruiting: Open Thread

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