Associate Advice, Clerkships, pls hndle thx

Pls Hndle Thx: Secret Clerkship

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to


I was wondering if you could do a post about when/how we should tell our firms that we have accepted a clerkship offer — particularly if the clerkship is not a super prestigious one (i.e., fed magistrate), and if we have not yet started at the firm (in my case, because I chose to defer for a year).

I am nervous about telling my firm, before I start, that I plan to leave to clerk less than one year after starting.  Even after starting, I have heard stories of people who tell their firm they are clerking getting taken off of all interesting work (the explanation being that they may not be there by the time the matter goes to trial).  Please advise!

— My Baby’s Got a Secret

Dear My Baby’s Got a Secret,

Today is Day Two of Rosh Hashana — an especially bad day to tempt fate. You see, on RH, God tentatively pencils you into either the Book of Life or the Book of Death. Not that I’m accusing God of stealing the whole concept from One-Minute Mysteries and Brain Teasers, but  honestly it DOES sound suspiciously like the riddle on page 43 with the doors to heaven and hell and one of the guards is a liar and you can only ask one question…

In any event, after Rosh Hashana, you have five business days to get God to change his mind before he gets it signed and notarized by Oprah on Yom Kippur and it becomes final. And during this crunch time, you don’t want to be doing shady things, like withholding important information from your firm or hanging around playgrounds in tuxedo shoes.

But even if your timing wasn’t horrible, you should tell your firm about the clerkship now anyway. True, you may not get that plum Celebrex doc review right now, but at least you have a chance of being staffed on that gem when you return from your clerkship. If you wait until the last minute to tell your firm, you may get “great” doc review experience upfront, followed by your clerkship, but you’ll wind up with an internship at  Merry Maids, because your firm will most certainly NOT take you back. And let’s face it, a magistrate clerkship is about as prestigious as herpes. Your best bet is to tell your firm about the clerkship soon after you start so you don’t get screwed with the Book of Death or even worse,  face unemployment in 5772.

Happy Rosh Hashana. May the new year bring you me everlasting youth and obscene riches.

Your friend,


Attorneys truly are amazing creatures. You can learn everything about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you with their sheer willingness to take s**t and come back asking for more.

The bonds of fellowship between law firm and associate have been completely severed. Your firm can fire you or defer you or leave you to be raped and pillaged by Orcs whenever it wants. And yet, because you’re an attorney, you feel some kind of strange loyalty towards the firm? Some kind of desire to “do the right thing” and be upfront with them? Why? They’re not being upfront with you… or are you so addled that you think they’re actually telling you the full story about their business and your job security?

Now, I don’t think that the firm will fire you because you got a clerkship. I don’t think that they will take you off of all “interesting work” (though in fairness that’s because there’s no such thing as “interesting work” when you are a first year). But if you think there’s even a chance that anything bad could happen if you tell them, then why tell them at all until the absolute last minute? Seriously, what’s in it for you?

Here are the downsides of not telling them:

Potential Problem: They’ll be angry
Solution: What the hell do you care? You’re be out of there for a year.

Potential Problem: They’ll be less inclined to hire you back after your clerkship.
Solution: Don’t fool yourself; whether or not the firm hires you back in 2012 has everything to do with the legal economy in 2012 and almost nothing to do with you.

Am I missing any problems here? Check that, am I missing any problems here that don’t have anything to do with feelings, emotions, or some other form of Care-Bear-morality that law firms long ago stopped extending to their associates?

Do what’s best for you. You owe them nothing. And trust me, your firm is fully aware that it owes you nothing.

— Saruman of Many Colours

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