To all of our law student readers who are in the middle of hunting for federal judicial clerkships, good luck. Right now we are at the height of clerkship application season, at least for those judges who follow the official (but non-mandatory) law clerk hiring plan. For those judges who follow the Plan to the letter, this past Friday at noon was the first date and time when judges could contact third-year applicants to schedule interviews, and this coming Thursday at 10 a.m. is the first day and time when judges can interview and make offers to 3Ls.

That’s for judges who follow the Plan with maximum strictness. But how many judges actually do that?

Let’s discuss how the clerkship process is unfolding this year — and hear from those of you who are going through it….

It’s hard to say exactly how many judges follow the Plan, since there’s no official authority monitoring this. It would be interesting if some official entity were to undertake a survey of Plan adherence. Scholars could also conduct such a study; the clerkship application process has actually been the subject of significant academic commentary. See, e.g., this paper and this one.

What are we hearing anecdotally? It seems that many judges wait until around the time of the Plan deadlines, which gives them access to a wide pool of potential talent, but then move slightly early — by a few hours, or a few days — to secure a small advantage over the competition.

Plan adherence seems to be strongest in New York and Washington. On courts such as the Fifth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, many judges have already completed their clerk hiring for the 2013-2014 judicial year. But on the New York and D.C. district courts and on the Second Circuit and the D.C. Circuit, many judges are only moving now (either in total compliance with the Plan or slightly early, as discussed).

How does this year’s process compare to last year’s? According to one source of ours, who monitors the process quite closely, “Reports of Plan’s immediate death are exaggerated, at least as it applies to district judges. Appellate judges seem to be hiring 3Ls at a faster rate than last year, but we’re not seeing drastically faster hiring by district judges.”

Interesting. After top law schools like Stanford and Georgetown openly abandoned the Plan, one might have expected the whole system to fall apart. But it seems that it hasn’t — at least not yet, and at least not completely.

Will the powers that be get together and try to institute some new and improved law clerk hiring plan for next year? It might be a good thing if this were to happen. As Professor Dave Hoffman explains over at Concurring Opinions, the current system, which relies upon “private and expensive networks of information about what judges are up to,” has a wide range of drawbacks.

Let’s try to set up an alternative network of information about what’s going on in the world of law clerk hiring. To our readers who are going through the clerkship process now, what can you tell us? Feel free to share information with us — opinions about whether the process makes sense, information about which judges are done hiring and which ones aren’t — in the comments, or by email. Thanks.

Federal Judges Law Clerk Hiring Plan [Official Website]
The Legitimacy Crisis in Federal Law Clerk Hiring [Concurring Opinions]

Earlier: Clerkship Application Season: Open Thread (2011)
Clerkship Application Season: Open Thread (2010)
Clerkship Application Season: Open Thread (2009)


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