Clerkships

The freeze is melting away.

A friend who is a federal clerk just texted me: “I’m gonna buy new bras!”

Oh yes, it’s time federal clerks got back to the good life. A memo just went out from Senior Judge Thomas Hogan who heads the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Hogan informed the system that the freeze on promotions, step increases, and cash awards for federal clerks has been lifted for this year.

It’s cool to be a federal clerk again! Well, it’s cool to be a federal clerk on a two-year or long term clerkship, again.

But maybe only for this moment. Austerity could rear her ugly head right around the corner….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

It’s hard to conjure up bad stuff to say about clerking. It’s an honor, and an all-expense-paid ticket on an exclusive legal gravy train. If you’re lucky enough to clerk for a federal district or circuit court judge, you can rest assured you’re looking good and feeling good.

You might even shoot the moon and sing with the Supremes. In that case, you’re good to go: You’ll never have to practice actual law again. You can sign up now to teach a seminar on “Law and Interpretive Dance” at Yale or attend sumptuous international human rights conferences hosted by African dictators. Life is good at the top. Imagine the stimulation of interacting one-on-one with the mind of a Clarence Thomas (and acquiring access to his porn collection.) You could be the clerk who builds an ironclad case striking down universal access to healthcare — or witness the day Justice T opens his mouth to speak during oral argument….

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Being a justice of the United States Supreme Court is a pretty great gig. You get to attend glamorous events like Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. You get to wear a snazzy black robe on said occasions.

Sure, there’s some work involved. SCOTUS opinions can be loooong! But at least the justices have their trusty Supreme Court clerks, three dozen or so of the nation’s brightest young legal minds, to help get everything done.

Thanks to everyone who responded to our recent request for tips about law clerk hiring activity at SCOTUS. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned, shall we?

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Many months have passed since our last report on the hiring of Supreme Court law clerks. We are getting ready to do a new report. If you have SCOTUS clerk hiring news for October Term 2012 or October Term 2013 that we have not yet reported, please email us (subject line: “SCOTUS Clerk Hiring”). In order to check whether or not we’ve already reported a particular clerk hire for OT 2012 or OT 2013, please go back and review our last hiring report before contacting us.

In the meantime, we have a special gift for you. Last July, we shared with you the Supreme Court’s official list of law clerks for the October Term 2011 (i.e., the clerks currently toiling at One First Street). We noted at the time that “this list does not include law school and prior clerkship information, which the [Public Information Office] will release later this year.”

We now have that updated list of OT 2011 Supreme Court law clerks, featuring law school and prior clerkship data, courtesy of the Public Information Office. Let’s look at the list, and count up which law schools and feeder judges sent the most folks over to One First Street….

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Mountain Dew: a mouse could not survive in this environment, according to PepsiCo counsel.

* Pepsi lawyers offer a creative (if disturbing) defense to a lawsuit by a man who claims he found a mouse in his Mountain Dew. [Madison County Record via The Atlantic Wire]

* Will birther queen Orly Taitz get to depose — i.e., “rupture the jurisprudential hymen” — of President Barack Obama? That would be kind of awesome. [Columbus Ledger-Inquirer]

* Professor Ann Althouse raises an interesting “who decides?” question about Cleveland’s controversial ban on trans fats. [Althouse]

* Please, lawyers, stick to cocaine. Allegations of crystal meth usage are très déclassé. [NewsOK.com]

* Kudos to Kirkland & Ellis for coming to the defense of lesbian and gay public employees in Michigan. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* It seems that the Montana Supreme Court isn’t a fan of the Citizens United decision. [Huffington Post]

* Jamin Soderstrom, a (rather cute) former S&C associate and current Fifth Circuit clerk, has written a book (affiliate link) analyzing the qualifications of presidential candidates and the relationship between résumés and presidential success. [Tex Parte Blog]

* If you’re a law professor / blogger who wants to get a rise out of fellow profs, write posts in praise of Paul Campos (just voted our 2011 Lawyer of the Year — congrats again, Professor Campos). [PrawfsBlawg]

Your bonus is freedom.

Here at Above the Law, we spend a lot of time talking about bonuses to associates working in Biglaw firms. As you might have noticed from our bonus coverage over the past month or so, the size of these payouts is underwhelming to many who are receiving them.

But that coverage only deals with those few, those happy few, who are lucky enough to receive any type of bonus whatsoever. For many in and around Biglaw, their bonus this year will be $0. Their spring bonus will not exist. And they won’t even have Cravath to blame for it.

We’re talking about paralegals. We’re talking about secretaries. We’re talking about government lawyers and law clerks and a bunch of other people who worked really hard in 2011 and might get no bonus at all.

We feel your pain….

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[We were going to call this post something like "Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Beats Cravath Too." But then we felt bad for singling out Cravath for paying unsatisfying bonuses, when so many other Biglaw firms have followed suit. So we went with a tamer title instead.]

Just as it did last year, the powerhouse litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey announced associate bonuses that put the bonus scales of most other firms to shame. Happy Holidays, Susman Godfrey associates!

(By the way, Susman is a firm that celebrates the season in high style. The holiday party of its New York office, catered by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, is already legendary, even though it’s of fairly recent vintage.)

So, the Susman bonuses — what are we looking at here?

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Ever since the UC Irvine School of Law opened its doors in 2009, the fledgling institution has been garnering rave reviews. It has already been labelled one of the most selective schools in the country. Every single member of its inaugural class had a job last summer. And that same first class goes to school for free.

Over the weekend, the emerging West Coast powerhouse added a new impressive statistic to its quickly filling trophy case. This year, the school boasts one of the highest federal clerkship placement rates in the country.

Keep reading to see which elite law schools have been edged out by UC Irvine….

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Congratulations to the 2012 Bristow Fellows, who learned of their selection earlier this month. These one-year fellowships in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, awarded to recent law school graduates with outstanding academic records and top clerkships, are generally regarded as second only to Supreme Court clerkships in prestige (and often lead to SCOTUS clerkships as well). You can read more about the Bristow Fellowship, including the job responsibilities and application process, on the Justice Department website.

Let’s take a look at the next crop of Bristow Fellows. Which law schools did they graduate from, and for whom did they clerk?

Also: over the past three years, which law schools and judges have minted the most Bristow Fellows?

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If Learned Hand’s opinions are like the products of a bespoke tailor, the opinions coming out of the Ninth Circuit are like the products of a factory that is staffed by machines and menial workers who are overseen from afar by a handful of overworked managers.

– Justice Samuel Alito, in a recent speech at Rutgers School of Law (Newark), lamenting the decline of craftsmanship in judicial opinions.

(An interesting fact about Justice Alito and the Ninth Circuit, after the jump.)

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