Massachusetts Superior Court Rescinds Clerkship Offers

Mass seal.JPGJust at the moment, a NASCAR driver that has lost control of his car and is 0.3 seconds from colliding with the wall is in a slightly safer position than a third year law student. The latest terrible news (subscription) comes from the Massachusetts Superior Court:

With this year’s budget cutbacks at the Trial Court, 25 third-year law students are scrambling for jobs instead of preparing for fall clerkships at the Superior Court.
The would-be law clerks lost their promised jobs last fall when the Trial Court instituted a hiring freeze, according to Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara J. Rouse.
According to one prospective clerk, who asked not to be named for fear of hurting future job leads, the court’s decision to rescind the clerkships was extremely ill-timed.

According to the story, officials knew there would be a hiring freeze as early as last November or October. But they are just getting around to telling the would-be clerks:

According to a statement issued by Rouse in response to questions from Lawyers Weekly, the clerkship offers “always are contingent on funding.”
In light of the 2009 fiscal issues, “we made the conditional nature of the offers even more clear,” Rouse writes. “The absolute hiring freeze implemented by the Trial Court in mid-October and the deteriorating nature of the state’s fiscal condition has precluded the hiring of any new personnel. … I regret that we are unable to benefit from the assistance of these qualified, capable individuals, however, we are managing unprecedented cuts and difficult decisions across the judicial branch.”

Is there some claim, perhaps based on a theory of reliance (i.e. promissory estoppel), that could be relevant here? More details after the jump.

We think at least one law student interviewed by Mass Lawyers Weekly has been reading a lot of Above the Law comment threads:

The law student acknowledges that the letter offering the clerkship contained conditional language, but maintains that the court should have been clearer about its budget problems. Had it done so, the student would have taken a job at a law firm and would not be unemployed now.
“They insulated themselves by saying, ‘This is conditional funding,'” the student says. “But the message was, ‘Don’t worry about that.'”
The future lawyer adds: “I relied on what they told me. If you rely on something to your detriment, as I did here, then I might be entitled to some damages.”

One of these days, a law student is actually going to sue somebody based entirely on the Restatment (Second) of Contracts. That day will double as “blogging nirvana” day.
In the meantime, what the heck are the 25 Mass Superior Court clerks supposed to do now? Seriously. Is James Sokolove hiring? Denny Crane? What about the Duck Boat people? Aren’t things bad enough for young lawyers without firing kids just after they graduate from law school?
Good luck 3Ls. Hopefully the economy will recover soon.
Superior Court rescinds job offers to would-be clerks [Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly] (subscription)
Earlier: Maybe Deferred or Laid Off Associates Do Have a Breach of Contract Claim

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