Federal Government

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. But at the U.S. Department of Justice, there might not be a lot to be thankful for. Most of the DOJ-related news floating around right now is depressing.

A court-appointed investigator, Henry F. Schuelke, just issued what the New York Times described as a “scathing” report on one of the DOJ’s most prominent prosecutions in recent years. Schuelke concluded that the prosecution the late Senator Ted Stevens “was ‘permeated’ by the prosecutors’ ‘serious, widespread and at times intentional’ illegal concealment of evidence that would have helped Mr. Stevens defend himself at his 2008 trial.” Ouch.

(The good news, from the Department’s perspective: a recommendation against criminal prosecution of the DOJ officials involved in the case. That’s something to be thankful for, I suppose.)

Alas, that’s not all for depressing dispatches out of the Department. Let’s discussing the hiring freeze, and the state of Honors Program offers….

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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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We’ve been talking a lot recently about the secretly authorized stuff our government does to us — like killing us, or molesting us at airports.

Here’s another one for the list: digging through our emails or Twitter feeds or cell phone data, without probable cause, our permission, or our knowledge. This isn’t necessarily shocking in and of itself; back in April, Kashmir Hill wrote about how often the government requests information about private individuals from tech companies.

What’s shocking is the ease with which the government gets that information and the secrecy with which it does so. Somehow it’s all based on a law that is older than the Internet. The policy recently came to light when authorities ordered a small Internet provider, as well as Twitter and Google, to turn over information about Jacob Appelbaum, an American who volunteers with WikiLeaks.

How does the U.S. government circumvent basic probable cause and search warrant requirements when it wants electronic information? Let’s see….

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In light of the tough job market for graduating law students, we’ve been running a series on employment opportunities for 3Ls. Thus far we’ve covered judicial clerkships, the Justice Department Honors Program, the Presidential Management Fellows Program, and the Chief Counsel’s Employment Program at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Today we bring you news about another arm of the federal government that is hiring graduating law students as well as experienced attorneys. But if you’re interested, you need to act fast; applications are due as early as tomorrow….

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(And job opportunities for experienced attorneys too.)

Several prominent judges, like Richard Posner (left) and Alex Kozinski (right), hire 'off-plan.'

Over the weekend, we mentioned a very interesting New York Times article on the chaotic state of the clerkship application process, and said we’d have more to say about it later. Well, now is later, quite a bit later — so let’s discuss.

The piece — by Catherine Rampell, who has written about the legal world before — paints a depressing picture of a dysfunctional system. Rampell reports that the clerkship process “has become a frenzied free-for-all, with the arbiters of justice undermining each other at every turn to snatch up the best talent.”

Let’s look at the reasons behind this, and discuss whether the process can be fixed….

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* How lucky for us that the Senate decided to avoid a government shutdown, but the third time is not the charm when it comes to the taxpayers’ money. [New York Times]

* Did DSK get a blowie in his official capacity as Managing Director of the IMF? That might be what he has to say if he wants diplomatic immunity. [Washington Post]

* Law school applications are down 9.9 percent. It’s too bad that even a nosedive like that isn’t stopping law schools from increasing incoming class sizes. [StarTribune]

* Charlie Sheen settled his lawsuit against Warner Bros. Screw Two and a Half Men; we all know he’d rather have two and a half grams. [Bloomberg]

* Women in Saudi Arabia now have the right to vote, but they’ll have to walk to the polls. They’ll remain backseat drivers until further notice, just like in America. [WSJ Law Blog]

Law clerks aren't jumping for joy these days, especially when it comes to pay.

I spent last weekend in Portland, Oregon, where I attended the 25th judicial anniversary celebration and law clerk reunion of my former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit. It was a warm and wonderful occasion, a chance to reconnect with old friends and to catch up with the O’Scannlains (Judge and Mrs. O’Scannlain were joined by all eight of their children for the festivities). Former clerks shared happy memories from their time in PDX clerking for DFO.

Most former law clerks I meet — mainly law clerks to federal judges, whether Article III or magistrate or bankruptcy — recall their clerkships fondly. They praise the excellent experience, the clerkly camaraderie, and the training and mentoring they received from their judges (for the most part; a few describe judicial clerkships from hell).

It struck me as strange, then, that “law clerk” recently came in at #7 on CNBC’s list of 10 Most Hated Jobs. I can’t help wondering whether courthouse administrative personnel with the title of “clerk” were somehow mixed in with federal judicial law clerks. The median salary of $39,780 a year suggests that this might be the case, since federal law clerks (and many state law clerks) make more than $40K these days.

Then again, people don’t clerk for the money. Sure, clerkship bonuses, especially Supreme Court clerkship bonuses, can be considerable — but in most cases, a graduate who goes straight into a law firm will do better financially than her classmate who clerks after graduation.

If you’re planning to clerk or interested in clerking for a federal judge, you should be aware of the latest news about law clerk compensation….

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Two petitions of possible interest showed up in our inbox today:

1. In favor of student loan forgiveness: This petition, reminiscent of Elie Mystal’s call for a student loan bailout, “strongly encourage[s] Congress and the President to support H. Res. 365, introduced by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI), seeking student loan forgiveness as a means of economic stimulus.” (We mentioned H.R. 365 in Morning Docket.)

2. In favor of law school transparency: This petition, posted by Professor Paul Campos over at his formerly anonymous blog, calls for “the American Bar Association to require all schools it has accredited to release clear, accurate, and reasonably comprehensive information regarding graduate employment, by for example implementing the proposals outlined in Part III of the Law School Transparency Project’s white paper, A Way Forward: Transparency at U.S. Law Schools.”

We might have more to say about these petitions later. For now, we’ll just pass along the links (and you can argue the merits of these petitions in the comments).

Want a Real Economic Stimulus and Jobs Plan? Forgive Student Loan Debt! [SignOn.org]
Law School Petition [Inside the Law School Scam]

Earlier: Student Loan Bailout. Just Do It.
The Tenured Law Prof Turned ‘Scamblogger’ Reveals Himself

It’s hard out there for a 3L. That’s essentially the finding of our reader poll from a few weeks ago. Not many employers are interviewing third-year law students this fall.

But there are employment opportunities out there for enterprising third-year law students. We’ve recently mentioned judicial clerkships, the Justice Department Honors Program, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

Today we bring you information about another program that’s hiring graduating law students. The good news: the work/life balance is good, as are the benefits and the pay (six figures). The bad news: these positions aren’t easy to land.

So, what program are we talking about?

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The job market remains challenging for graduating law students. Here at Above the Law, we try to do what we can to bring opportunities to the attention of 3Ls. In recent weeks, we’ve discussed judicial clerkships and the DOJ Honors Program.

Granted, clerkships and the Honors Program are opportunities that are (1) fairly obvious and (2) extremely competitive. Some of you might be asking: Have any other bright ideas, Team ATL?

As a matter of fact, we do….

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