Can Clerks Come Home Again? It Depends at WilmerHale.

Wilmer Hale logo.JPGThere has been a lot going on at WilmerHale recently. Summer associates are coming, regular associates are “transitioning.” The uncertainty has made some WilmerHale alumni who are currently clerking wonder if they can return to the firm when their clerkships end.
Above the Law has received reports from current clerks who were expecting to be hired back by WilmerHale after their clerkships are over. Some tipsters report that WilmerHale has decided not to rehire any of its former associates who took a year off to clerk. We know that many clerks are worried about being in a similar situation, so we asked WilmerHale clarify its position on rehiring clerks. The firm gave us this response:

All former summer associates who received an offer and then went on to clerk after graduation from law school have been invited to join the firm as associates. The firm, however, does not tell associates who leave for a clerkship that they can return after their clerkships are complete; rather, former associates must reapply to the firm, and we have not historically given offers of employment to all former associates at the conclusion of their clerkships. This year, we extended offers to some but not all of the former associates who inquired about returning; in addition, we have hired a small number of very promising judicial clerks who had not previously been with the firm.

So, if you clerk before you start at the firm, you are golden. But if you worked for a couple of years and then decided to clerk, best of luck.
Despite the difficulties clerks are facing when trying to get back into the Biglaw market, there are still many people who want to cool their heels as a clerk. One deferred incoming WilmerHale associate was so happy to receive a clerkship that the firm posted his gushing thanks on its internal website.
More details after the jump.

On the WilmerHale internal website, the firm is happy to promote a success story:

This past April, our 2009 incoming associate class was notified that the firm was postponing fall start dates until 2010. In a Managing Partner Update sent to staff on April 13, 2009, Co-Managing Partners Bill Lee and Bill Perlstein stated that the delay of the fall start dates was necessary to “address issues arising from this unprecedented economic crisis and to allow us to offer a meaningful experience to the lawyers already here, as well as to this new class of lawyers when they join us.”
Some of our incoming associates have secured clerkships to bridge the gap until they officially join the firm in 2010. One such incoming associate, [Redacted], secured a six-month clerkship with [Redacted]. After obtaining the clerkship, [Redacted], who will reside in our Boston office, sent an email to Legal Personnel, thanking the firm for the help in obtaining this “dream come true.”

Let’s check out the gushing thanks. This “thank you” letter reminds me of what happens when I give my dog barbecue chicken. The future clerk writes:

I always thought that WilmerHale was the perfect fit for me, and knew that working at the firm would be a fantastic way to start my career. Yet even with my incredibly high opinion of the firm, I could not have imagined that I would find so much generosity, so much kindness, and so many instances of individuals going above and beyond what was necessary. As you know, I would have preferred to start working at WilmerHale the day after I graduated law school. I was therefore somewhat dismayed to learn of my March start date, but decided that the deferral was not going to be an obstacle, but an opportunity. With your help, the opportunity that I envisioned has turned into nothing short of a dream come true. That may sound hyperbolic, but I mean every word: I think most people would say that I will be a far better lawyer for having this unusual six-month clerkship than I would have been had I been able to start working at the firm in the fall. I have heard such good things about Judge [Redacted], and I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to clerk for her!

Upon reflection, this does sound “hyperbolic.” Hyperbolic with just the faintest hint of desperation, like a perfume that sticks to a long discarded blouse.

I cannot thank you enough for your help in making this all happen. Thank you for the time you put into talking with me, for your efforts in helping me comply with the ethical rules, and for facilitating a certain phone call on my behalf. (I sent [Redacted] a note by mail yesterday, and would have sent this by mail but feared that my thank you cards did not contain enough space for everything I wanted to say. Plus, my handwriting is barely legible.) As I said in my note to [Redacted], I saw or heard many surprising things in my time between the chambers of Judge [Redacted], Judge [Redacted] and Judge [Redacted]; the most surprising moment of all was when Judge [Redacted] told me that [Redacted] had called her on my behalf. Thank you for making that happen! Now my only concern is living up to whatever [Redacted] (and Judge [Redacted], who also spoke to Judge [Redacted]) said I was capable of!

Get. A. Room.

Thank you for everything. I was always eager to return to a firm that I knew to be full of the best lawyers in Boston. I am now doubly excited to return to a firm that I know to be full of the best people…anywhere. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you soon and seeing you back at the office in March.
Yours truly,

There’s a thin line between love and psychosis. For everybody’s sake, I really hope WilmerHale’s promise to rehire all of their incoming associates who decided to clerk before starting at the firm is ironclad.
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Getting the Message Across to WilmerHale Associates
Clerks: Can’t Go Home Again? (Or: An open thread about post-clerkship job prospects.)

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