SCOTUS Clerks Are Fair Game

Brett McGurk

Let me begin by making one thing clear: I support the nomination of Brett H. McGurk to serve as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq. He is eminently qualified for this post, in light of his extensive experience, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, dealing with the complex and sensitive issues that exist between the United States and Iraq.

Brett McGurk’s brilliance lies beyond dispute — he’s a member of the Elect, after all — and the same is true of his heroism and commitment to public service. In the late 1990s, while he was a summer associate at Cravath, he and a fellow summer rescued two drowning women during a beach outing gone awry. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he devoted his legal career to government service — clerking for Judge Dennis Jacobs (2d Cir.) and the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, working as a legal advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, serving on the National Security Council, and counseling two past ambassadors to Iraq, Ryan Crocker and Christopher Hill. McGurk possesses vast expertise about Iraq, acquired through the many years he has spent advancing U.S. interests in the region — at considerable personal risk to himself.

If you are a high-minded individual, you can stop reading here. If you are less high-minded, keep reading to learn about the sexy email messages that Brett McGurk allegedly exchanged with a prominent (and attractive) journalist….

Please note the UPDATES added at the end of this post.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Ambassadorial Nominee and Ex-SCOTUS Clerk’s Racy Emails”

Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.jpgOur 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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places? A Craigslist ‘Missed Connection’ at the SCOTUS”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGThe National Law Journal suggests that the down economy could be hitting the pockets of the Elect. Some firms are suggesting that the $250,000 bonus to hire a former Supreme Court clerk is just too expensive in today’s economy:

At firms that have been shaken by the downturn, however, a $250,000 bonus will be hard to sell, some practitioners say. “Intuitively, it doesn’t feel right to pay that kind of bonus when you are trying to make economies wherever you can at the firm,” said veteran advocate Carter Phillips, managing partner at Sidley Austin’s Washington office. Thomas Goldstein of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where there have been cuts, agrees that it’s tough to justify a $250,000 bonus when a firm is considering letting go a staff person paid $50,000. Because of that juxtaposition, he predicted bonuses will shrink — though he said it’s too early in the hiring season to say how much. “The number of firms willing to pay that amount of money will be down.”

But surely these firms aren’t talking about collusion, are they? SCOTUS clerks command top dollar, and firms that are struggling can’t artificially deflate the price for this top talent — even if they want to:

Firms won’t be sorry to wave goodbye to what Goldstein calls the “incredible escalation” that the $250,000 bonus represents. Even before the recession, firms were grumbling about it because of a recurring pattern: Some clerks grab the bonus, work at the firm for a year or three, then skip off to academia with loans paid off and kids’ tuition in the bank. “Firms are going to be more interested in clerks staying around and practicing law,” [former solicitor general Paul] Clement said.

While some firms might be priced out of the Elect market, we are still talking about a “recession-proof” set of credentials.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Clerkship Bonus Watch: Still at $250K?”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGOur last round-up of Supreme Court clerk hiring was published back in August, before the start of October Term 2008. Now that the justices are back in the country and back on the bench, they’re back to interviewing clerkship applicants.

Over at the Clerkship Notification Blog, there was buzz about Justice Stephen Breyer interviewing and hiring clerks for October Term 2009. That intelligence was correct. Here are his hires:

1. Christopher Fonzone (Harvard 2007 / Wilkinson)

2. Jennifer Nou (Yale 2008 / Posner)

Fonzone appears to be the “2007 Harvard grad” referenced in the comments. With Chris Fonzone and Jen Nou on board, Justice Breyer is all done for OT 2009. (We also hear that he’s started to hire for October Term 2010, but we have no details.)

Update (3:40 PM): We now know one of SGB’s hires for OT 2010:

Erika Myers (Stanford 2008 / Kozinski)

Interesting — although Chief Judge Kozinski is a big-time feeder, he tends to feed more to the right side of the Court. So he may be expanding his range as a feeder judge.

The updated list of Supreme Court clerks, with Fonzone and Nou and Myers added, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: New Term, New Hires”

100 dollar bills clerk clerkship bonuses Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgIn our recent New York Times op-ed piece praising lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks, we wrote that the bonuses “are expected to reach $250,000 this year — paid on top of starting salaries approaching $200,000.”

Some people have inquired into the factual basis for our statement. As it turns out, we did some actual reporting to support it. The reporting never made it into the final op-ed piece, but we’re happy to provide the details here.

If you’re curious, read the rest of this post, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Bonuses to $250K?”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGA few more updates from tipsters:
Edward C. Dawson, who clerked for Kennedy in OT 2003, is with Yetter & Warden, and according to our tipster is in the new Austin office.
Marc Allen, also a former Kennedy clerk, has reportedly gone in-house with Boeing, working for his old boss, Judge J. Michael Luttig.
Leondra Kruger, who clerked for Stevens in OT 2003, is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.
The pattern of about half in private practice appears to be holding.

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGIn our recent New York Times op-ed piece on Supreme Court clerkship bonuses, we argued that “[f]rom a narrowly economic point of view — focusing on the actual work the clerks will perform, and setting aside the law firms’ quest for prestige and bragging rights — it is difficult to understand why firms fight for the right to shower 26-year-olds with cash.”
One of the contentions we thought about offering in support of this claim was that Supreme Court clerks don’t stick around their law firms for very long after getting their huge bonuses. This was our sense of things, based admittedly on “anec-data.” It seemed to us that SCOTUS clerks go to law firms, stay for maybe two years, and then leave to become law professors, or government or public interest lawyers.
But then we decided to go back and look at the data. We thought it would be interesting to see how many Supreme Court clerks from October Term 2002 and October Term 2003 are still in private practice. The OT 2002 and OT 2003 clerk classes were ideal for the purpose of assessing the effect of bonuses because (1) law firms were offering gargantuan bonuses by this point in time, and (2) enough years have passed to allow for meaningful assessment of the clerks’ career paths.
We undertook this research, and it ended up showing that a reasonably high percentage of clerks — about 50 percent — are in private practice, a few years down the road. It’s not an overwhelmingly high percentage (in which case our argument that the firms effectively subsidize other quarters of the profession would be undermined). But it’s also not as low as we expected. We revised our argument accordingly, omitting any suggestion that a majority of clerks “take the money and run.”
Anyway, having done all this research, we felt like we should put it to some use (since it ended up not being reflected in the final version of the op-ed piece). Posting it on ATL seemed worthwhile enough.
Are you curious about what Supreme Court clerks from a few years ago are up to nowadays? Check out the lists, after the jump.
The Supreme Court’s Bonus Babies [New York Times]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerks: Where Are They Now?”

O happy day! Our New York Times op-ed piece, praising the lavish bonuses bestowed upon Supreme Court clerks, has made the Most Emailed Articles list:
Supreme Court 2 bonus babies Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Thanks to all of you who have visited the NYT homepage and emailed this article to your friends and loved ones. And thanks to the bloggers who have linked to our piece and shared their thoughts. E.g.:

1. Jonathan Adler, In Defense of Clerkship Bonuses [Volokh Conspiracy]

2. Ann Althouse, “Harnessing irrational law firm egotism” for the public good. [Althouse]

3. Howard Bashman, The Supreme Court’s Bonus Babies [How Appealing]

To all the curious Althouse commenters, yes, we are of “Philipino [sic]” ancestry.
Hopefully we’ll climb higher than #21. The top ten would be great. We’ll keep you posted!
The Supreme Court’s Bonus Babies [The New York Times]

A more detailed (but equally shameless) plug will follow tomorrow. For now, please check out this article:
supreme court bonus babies Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Then email it to, say, fifty of your closest friends. We are desperately trying to crack the NYT’s “Most Emailed Articles” list.
Much thanks. See you tomorrow!
The Supreme Court’s Bonus Babies [The New York Times]

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGIn addition to our ATL work, we write freelance pieces for print publications. In the current issue of Washingtonian magazine, we have a short write-up about the incoming class of Supreme Court clerks. Here’s the lede:

After the Supreme Court enters its summer recess this month, a new wave of eager young legal scholars in training will arrive. The Supreme Court’s 37 law clerks—the brilliant legal minds who assist the justices in selecting cases for review, preparing for oral argument, and drafting opinions—will hand over their duties to a new crop of clerks.

Demographically, the incoming class looks like those of past years—mostly white, mostly recent law-school graduates, with impressive academic records earned from the nation’s top law schools.

With eight clerks apiece, Harvard and Yale dominate the list, as they typically do. But there are some surprises. Northwestern, with three clerks, ties with Stanford and the University of Chicago for third place. Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law claims its first clerk since 1981.

Fourteen of the 37 incoming law clerks are women, twice the number during the previous term, when the low number of female clerks—seven of 37—generated controversy.

You can read the whole piece by clicking here.
P.S. Can you help us fill in the blanks for the October Term 2008 law clerks? Please check out this post; if you see missing info, please email us (subject line: “Supreme Court clerk hiring”). Thanks!
Women Gaining in Court-Clerk Contest [Washingtonian]

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