The bottom line here is that Judge Posner is one of the few appellate judges that writes his own opinions. Otherwise it would be like getting quotations from law clerks.
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….
Moving from sunny California to cold, rainy, snowy Anchorage might make a person a little crazy. A man who went to law school in San Diego might miss lying on the beach, walking the boardwalk, and seeing the city’s good-looking population in skimpy summer clothes. Such a man might find another way to see people in a state of undress, perhaps by planting a hidden camera in his bathroom.
That’s what a federal law clerk, Daniel Eisman, is accused of doing. The UCLA and University of San Diego School of Law grad was clerking for Judge Timothy Burgess (D. Alaska). According to the Anchorage Daily News, Eisman was arrested on May 6, after allegedly shooting video of his co-workers undressing and using the bathroom at his home and a family cabin.
How was his scheme uncovered? A fellow clerk was at his house babysitting. When she went on to his computer, she noticed a file with her name on it…
Justice Clarence Thomas — who tends to hire clerks from a wide range of law schools, including some schools far outside the so-called “T14″ — has had to defend himself against (unfounded) allegations that his clerks are “TTT” (an epithet so ridiculous it always makes us laugh). At the same time, because he’s the justice tasked with going to Capitol Hill
to beg for money to testify in support of the SCOTUS budget request, he also has to defend the Court against charges of elitism in law clerk hiring, leveled by grandstanding lawmakers.
Hiring law clerks from Ivy League law schools: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
For this coming Term, October Term 2010, Justice Thomas has steered his chambers back in the direction of elitism. All of his clerks for OT 2010 hail from top schools.
So, who are they?
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Our recent Career Center survey asked about whether the recession has affected clerkship bonuses and law firm hiring of clerks. Of respondents at law firms, a slight majority — 57% — indicated that their firms are not interviewing judicial clerks for Fall 2010 positions. Of respondents who are currently clerking, only 30% indicated that they have a position for Fall 2010 or have even been able to get interviews for such positions. Despite these depressing statistics for post-clerkship employment, a majority of law student respondents indicated that they are planning on clerking after law school.
We recently wrote about the subject of clerkship bonuses (which generated some very helpful comments). Now we’re going to gather some additional data on the subject of law clerk hiring and clerkship bonuses.
This week, our ATL / Lateral Link survey asks about how clerks are faring in the marketplace. We’ll use the information obtained from the survey to update the ATL Career Center (and we’ll bring you the results in a subsequent post, too).
If you have information about your firm that you want to share with other career center users, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Earlier: What’s Up with Clerkship Bonuses?
Historically, clerks have had a pretty sweet deal. A year spent with a judge increases their attractiveness to law firms; in the past, this translated to big bonuses for going into Biglaw. During the recession, the deal got slightly less sweet, as firms went a little sour on clerks.
Over the last month, a number of readers have anxiously emailed us about clerkship bonuses. One example:
Have you heard anything about whether firms are lowering or maintaining their clerkship bonuses? My firm said although they gave $50k last year, they are “waiting to see what other firms do first.”
In 2008, our then-survey-guru Justin Bernold created this handy guide to clerkship bonuses, laying out the going rates — ranging from $10,000 to $70,000 — for these attractive recruits. (Of course, the most attractive recruits — Supreme Court clerks, aka the Elect — command six-figure signing fees.)
So what’s happening with clerkship bonuses in 2010? We’ve talked to a few experts and a few tipsters. There’s been some scaling back already. Experts say the market rate for clerkship bonuses may come down, but in their usual fashion, firms appear to be waiting for a big dog to take the lead on that. Could Cravath be that dog?
The most recent New Yorker features a profile of the newest resident of the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Given the tone of the piece, you might think One First Street is turning into Melrose Place. Journalist Lauren Collins describes Sotomayor as “the first celebrity Justice”: a “diabetic, a divorcée, a dental-bill debtor, a person who, the night before her investiture ceremony, belted out “We Are Family” in a karaoke bar at a Red Roof Inn.”
The profile covers some familiar territory, highlighting attacks on Sotomayor’s intellect during the confirmation process and indignation over her aggressive questioning during oral arguments since taking a seat on the High bench.
Overall, though, it’s more favorable in tone than the profile of John Roberts in the magazine last year. As the WSJ Law Blog notes, Sotomayor comes across as “eminently personable” and as a “stickler for preparation.”
Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, a former editor of the New Yorker, is a bit more graphic in her reaction to the piece for NPR:
Brown says the justice comes across as an “up-from-the-bootstraps woman who loves to bust out a poker game and knock back a scotch.” But, Brown adds, she also comes across as meticulous, rigorous and heavily influenced by her mother, a nurse, who emphasized education above all else…
“Sotomayor is not a great prose styler, not a fancy-flourish merchant,” says Brown. “She’s not a person who’s going to reinvent the philosophical approach to law, but she does believe that the law is to be understood by the common man in the street. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that, actually.”
We concur with Brown’s ruling on the piece. We’ve excerpted our favorite anecdote from the profile after the jump. Clerking for Sotomayor sounds fun….
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Our obsession with Supreme Court clerks is longstanding, dating back to our blogging for Underneath Their Robes (where we used to profile SCOTUS clerks). And it seems we’re not alone in lusting after the Elect.
Apparently oral argument makes people think of other oral activities. Check out this “Missed Connection” from Craigslist:
Law clerk at SCOTUS honest services argument – w4m (Supreme Court Building)
We were both there to hear the honest services arguments, which were fascinating. You were siting with the law clerks, I think, so I’m wondering if you’re one of them. You looked slightly older and more mature than the rest of the people you were sitting with. You’re quite handsome and I enjoyed watching you as you followed the arguments. Too bad you left at the case break–I’d been trying to catch your eye. (I was sitting in the front row of reserved seating.) I promise that if you agree to meet me for dinner that I won’t mention Black or Weyhrauch. What say you?
If you’ll forgive the quibbling, this posting is subpar; it’s missing some information. First, the poster has omitted her age (which typically goes after the “w4m”). Second, she offers little identifying information about herself (e.g., “I was wearing a red scarf”).
Third, she offers little identifying information about the clerk, other than that he’s “more mature” and “quite handsome.” We suspect that every male Supreme Court clerk fancies himself “more mature” and “quite handsome.”
Typically a missed connection involves, well, a “connection.” The lack of identifying information suggests that no such connection was forged here. But we admire the poster’s effort.
This is not, by the way, the first time a CL “Missed Connection” has arisen out of a Supreme Court argument.
If you are a Biglaw associate and are lucky enough to score a federal clerkship, congratulations. It is a nice feather in your cap.
But in this job market, are you wise to actually accept your clerkship offer?
As many of you know, clerks have to formally resign from their firms while clerking. In the before times, in the long, long ago, this was no big deal. You resign, clerk for a year or two, and then get “re-hired” by your firm when you are ready to return to private practice.
As the legal recession took hold last year, some associates who received clerkship offers worried that their firms wouldn’t hire them back. But for the most part, people decided to take a clerkship instead of staying at the firm and risk getting laid off.
At Above the Law, we’ve heard a lot of talk about these clerks trying to come back to work now, only to find the door back into Biglaw closed.
At Cahill Gordon, we’re hearing that clerks were not re-hired despite promises to do so.
Details after the jump.