Biglaw, Clerkships, Job Searches

Open Thread: Law Clerks’ Post-Clerkship Employment Prospects

Summer is just around the corner, with Memorial Day just a few weeks away. Summer associates are starting to arrive at law firms. Meanwhile, in government, many law clerks are getting ready to leave chambers. Summer is traditionally the season when clerkships turn over. (At the Supreme Court, July is the magic month for the changing of the guard.)

What does this mean? Well, it means that clerks need to start thinking about their post-clerkship plans. Many will return to law firms where they summered or worked full-time before clerking. But others — such as clerks who got no-offered as summer associates, or who weren’t happy with their prior firms — are looking for new opportunities.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the job market for law clerks is improving. One friend of mine, who took a second clerkship last year after having a tough time finding a position with a law firm (despite excellent credentials), went back on the job market a few weeks ago — and promptly wound up with three offers.

But not all clerks are sitting pretty….

Back in February, we conducted a survey for our Career Center. The good news: 43 percent of firms are interviewing clerks for fall 2010 positions. The bad news: less than half of the judicial clerk respondents indicated that they had an post-clerkship offer for employment yet. (Other findings appear here.)

The survey was conducted several months ago, though, and the legal hiring market can change quickly. Have things improved since then?

Not for one discouraged law clerk reader:

My one year clerkship for a federal judge in a major city in the Northeast is up in the fall. I have sent over 340 targeted applications to firms above the Mason-Dixon Line and along the Eastern Seaboard. So far, no more than a few unsuccessful interviews (all of which I realized within minutes of the interview that the firms were looking for people with more experience, something that should have been obvious to them from my resume – thanks for wasting all of our time and not offering to compensate me with the expenses associated with the interview that clearly wasn’t going to go anywhere), many no-responses, and way too many “while your credentials are very impressive and we have no doubt that you will find suitable employment, we are not in a position to offer you an interview at this time”s.

Recruiters avoid responding to my inquiries like the plague, and other more experienced attorneys I have spoken with tell me to “hang tough” and that if they could do it over again they wished they had done a clerkship. The law school’s promise of exiting the clerkship with valuable experience and a $180K starting salary and a $50K bonus sounded like quite a treat. Alas, I’ve sunk so low that at this point, I would even consider writing for ATL.

Um, thanks?

Are other law clerks encountering similar difficulty in the job hunt? Or is our correspondent an outlier? Please discuss the state of the job market for folks finishing up clerkships, in the comments.

UPDATE: In the comments, some of you wondered about our correspondent’s reference to “a $180K starting salary.” We asked him about this, and he responded: “It was a rough estimate assuming class credit given for the clerkship.”

In that case, he should have referenced a starting salary of $170K, the market rate for a second-year associate, not $180K. Only a handful of firms pay above $170K for second years.

Earlier: Career Center: Clerkship Survey Results
Clerks: Can’t Go Home Again?

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