Clerks

Driving to court this morning for a pro bono appearance, my Blackberry buzzed with the headline that DOMA had been struck down. Concurrently, the song “Fight the Good Fight” was playing on the radio. Indeed.

In France, there were violent protests in the streets when the issue was up for a vote. Here, some folks give a shrug and a “meh” to today’s news. Later, when the Court effectively struck down Prop 8, people in California began pilgrimages to their local courthouses or civic centers to look into getting married. It is indeed a great day to be an American….

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I kicked a hornet’s nest last week by bloviating about an anonymous someone else’s contrary opinion to mine regarding clerking. I banged out a column that I thought was interesting, and furthered my argument that taking a clerkship in this economy is better than being unemployed.

However, at the same time, I unfairly attacked someone with a differing opinion, and for that I am sorry. I have apologized to this person over email, and am doing so now in this column.

Foot in mouth disease seems to follow some of us like the cloud behind Pigpen. I can remember all the way back to sixth grade making fun of Mark something-or-other, for his constant coughing in class, only to be sternly told by the teacher that Mark had a serious illness. I recall making fun of the cashier in a hotel bar (whose bank count was always off) where I was employed in accounting, only to learn that he was a “Mainstreamed” employee. And then, of course there was last week’s column….

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I am well aware of the basement-dwelling commenters who make a bloodsport of decimating each column written here at ATL. Heck, sometimes they make a good point, or more rarely, are funny. But, I admit that I was surprised upon learning that a legal recruiter out there was taking issue with my column regarding experienced lawyers taking clerkships. I looked up this person, who appears to be still in her 20s, and thought to myself, are you kidding me right now? This is 2013, not 1999.

It should have been readily apparent that I was referring to clerking as an alternative to being unemployed. If it was not clear, then mea culpa. My bad. However, I read some of this recruiter’s tweets and was curious if there wasn’t a more nefarious motive behind advising lawyers to think twice about clerking mid-career — specifically, with government positions, no recruiters need apply.

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I was fortunate enough to clerk twice. My judges, and hence my clerking experiences, could not have been more different. I am unable to give factual details, but I can certainly pass on some observations. I am also going to attempt to give you job seekers some tips.

More than any other type of correspondence to my Gmail are queries about jobs. How to get one where I work, how to go in-house, how to leave a firm, when to go back to a firm, how to obtain a clerkship, etc. I want to focus this week on clerkships because I believe they are overlooked by the vast majority of job seekers. I am not preaching here to 3Ls. Future grads have their own system set up by the career center in which blast applications are sent out, only to be thrown in the trash (sorry, I meant filed for safekeeping) by existing clerks. No, I am speaking to the experienced attorney who has found themselves in the midst of a hellish job search. Do not underestimate the clerkship….

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When it comes to the Law Clerk Hiring Plan, the voluntary set of guidelines to put federal law clerk hiring on a standard timetable, one might say, “The ship be sinking.”

Actually, scratch that. The ship be sunk, and barnacles are growing all over its hull.

We declared the Plan dead last June, when at least two top schools decided not to participate in it. But now the Plan is, well, dead and growing cold and decomposing.

Yesterday brought word that an über-prestigious court, one that gunners across the land would sacrifice body parts to clerk for (who needs a pinky finger anyway), is abandoning the Plan….

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

She is so in over her head, to me it’s unfortunate that she’s a U.S. Senator. It’s an example of why we are where we are as a country that we don’t have people of substance who really can step up. It’s a joke. She’s Chuck Schumer’s lap dog.

Daniel W. Isaacs, Chairman of the New York County Republican Party, commenting on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s reelection. Both Isaacs and Gillibrand together served as clerks for the late Judge Roger Miner of the Second Circuit.

The rejection letter is a lost art. Heck, in this day and age, most “rejection letters” are simply the cold silence of an empty inbox. That’s how I roll. It’s so much easier to just not respond to a request than to go through the whole, “Thank you for your interest in replacing Elie at Above the Law. Unfortunately, I’m not dead yet.”

Nowadays, you have to feel lucky to even receive a perfunctory rejection letter. Whether it’s “the position has been filled” or “we’ll keep your résumé on file” or “you should have included a picture of your breasts,” few people bother to let applicants know even fake reasons for why they didn’t get hired.

Apparently, the only people who still take the time to send meaningful rejection letters are federal judges. Over the past few weeks, tipsters have sent in a few from judges that at least try to give rejected applicants some sense of what happened.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised about our judiciary’s attention to such details. After all, we’re talking about people who will write long-ass arguments about issues even when their analysis has been “rejected”….

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In early 2010, we reported that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told law students at the University of Florida that he was displeased when he found out that his October Term 2008 clerks — who hailed from George Mason, Rutgers, George Washington, and Creighton law schools — were being referred to as “TTT” by the internet’s “self-proclaimed smart bloggers.” (And just as we did in 2010, we’ll again remind our readers that such a label didn’t come from Above the Law editors; we adore SCOTUS clerks, no matter their alma mater.)

On Friday, Justice Thomas again spoke to students at UF Law, and reiterated his prior thoughts on Ivy League bias in the hiring of The Elect. Though Thomas is a graduate of Yale Law School himself, he’s an equal opportunity justice in that he much prefers to choose his clerks from the ranks of the non-Ivies.

Let’s check out some additional thoughts from Justice Thomas on clerkship hiring, how he’d like his epitaph to be worded, and the most important decision the court has made since he was sworn in….

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It’s not like she was emailing the President of the United States or someone genuinely important or busy. These are professors, and not professors of astrophysics or bioengineering. They are law professors. We take long vacations, eat out a lot, and study the insides of our eyelids frequently.

– Professor Michele Dauber of Stanford Law School, defending yesterday’s overzealous Yale Law networker (in a comment on my Facebook page).

(A collection of possible reactions to the story, plus a reader poll, after the jump.)

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Last month, we reported on the continued unraveling of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”). We cited, as evidence, the recent announcement by Georgetown University Law Center that it would be diverging in certain respects from the Plan.

Now another top law school — a top, top law school, one that sends many of its graduates into clerkships — has joined Georgetown in departing from the Plan. And the school’s dean has offered a full-throated defense of the decision to diverge.

Which school are we talking about? And is its argument persuasive?

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