Consider it official: the federal clerkship hiring season is now underway. For 2Ls, that is.
As we reported back in June, “[t]he Law Clerk Hiring Plan is pretty much dead, at least in its strictest version, and it seems like every judge is going his or her own way.” As a result, ambitious 2Ls around the country have already started applying to their favorite federal judges.
Some applicants have been emailing judges directly with materials, and others have been submitting hard-copy applications. They’ve had to do this because OSCAR, the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review, has refused to release the clerkship applications of 2Ls.
Until now. Let’s take a look at what was just posted over at the OSCAR website….
The following post went up this morning over at the OSCAR Blog:
Based on a number of judges abandoning the Federal Law Hiring Plan (Hiring Plan) and feedback from the law schools, the OSCAR Working Group judges recently recommended de-linking OSCAR from the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. As of November 4, 2013, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) opened OSCAR to second-year law school students and now releases their finalized applications at the time of submission, rather than holding them until a specified date.
Trees around the world are breathing sighs of relief. Since 2Ls have already started applying and judges have already started hiring, there’s no point in making things unnecessarily difficult for them. OSCAR saves a ton of paper and also helps judges process the applications they do receive with greater efficiency (e.g., by allowing them to filter according to various criteria).
More from the announcement:
Additionally, the OSCAR Working Group will carefully consider providing first-year law school students’ access to OSCAR at its annual November meeting.
Hiring 1Ls as law clerks? Yikes. That’s as scary as our Halloween costume contest finalists. But what can you do? I’m reminded of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s quip about how early he starts recruiting law clerks: “At birth.”
OSCAR is now asking for more from the judges who choose to rely upon it:
As judges are now free to accept online applications from law students at any time, OSCAR will now require judges to populate the “Hiring Practices” field of their online judge profile to inform potential applicants of their hiring preferences. The Administrative Office will work with judges and chambers staff to ensure that these profiles are informative and up-to-date.
These changes in OSCAR will contribute to the federal judiciary’s goal of providing a transparent recruitment process in law clerk hiring, which is important to judges, law schools, and applicants alike. As part of this effort, the Administrative Office Director, Judge John D. Bates, sent a communication to all federal judges informing them of these changes and encouraging judges to use OSCAR to accept applications online, post their positions, and maintain a current judge profile that communicates their hiring preferences. Even judges who do not recruit through OSCAR are encouraged to maintain a judge profile to broadly communicate clerkship openings and hiring preferences.
Requiring judges on OSCAR to be clear about their hiring practices is a good thing. As I previously wrote, “[t]he best applicants can hope for, in the absence of any standardized approach to law clerk hiring, is transparency. Ideally judges should provide clear and comprehensive information about their own particular approaches to hiring clerks. Thanks to this nifty thing called the internet, it’s not that hard.”
Good luck to the applicants and the judges who are now going through the law clerk hiring process. To quote The Hunger Games (affiliate link) — which I just read over the weekend and strongly recommend, even for not-so-young adults — “may the odds be ever in your favor.”
UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): Here are some thoughts from Professor Carl Tobias, who has written extensively about the federal judiciary:
I think that these changes will help the students and schools that advise them but much remains unclear so the new season could be chaotic. A number of circuit judges are already posting 2015 clerkships. Major issues are when most district judges will accept applications and hire and whether they will await third semester grades. It remains unclear how many judges will wait for fourth semester grades and may depend on how many move early.
In short, stay tuned.
(You can read the full OSCAR announcement, which includes information for the OSCAR Program Office in case you have any questions, at the link below.)