Clerkship Quest

That’s not a joke. It might still be too early to apply for clerkships as a first-year law student, but 1Ls should at least be thinking about their clerkship applications — which judges they want to apply to, which professors to seek out as recommenders, and the like — as the spring semester draws to a close.

In case there was any doubt about that, it’s effectively the message the judges are sending too. As we noted in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, there’s some important news about the Law Clerk Hiring Plan that first-year law students should know….

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Consider it official: the federal clerkship hiring season is now underway. For 2Ls, that is.

As we reported back in June, “[t]he Law Clerk Hiring Plan is pretty much dead, at least in its strictest version, and it seems like every judge is going his or her own way.” As a result, ambitious 2Ls around the country have already started applying to their favorite federal judges.

Some applicants have been emailing judges directly with materials, and others have been submitting hard-copy applications. They’ve had to do this because OSCAR, the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review, has refused to release the clerkship applications of 2Ls.

Until now. Let’s take a look at what was just posted over at the OSCAR website….

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These are trying times for clerkship applicants. The Law Clerk Hiring Plan is pretty much dead, at least in its strictest version, and it seems like every judge is going his or her own way.

The best applicants can hope for, in the absence of any standardized approach to law clerk hiring, is transparency. Ideally judges should provide clear and comprehensive information about their own particular approaches to hiring clerks. Thanks to this nifty thing called the internet, it’s not that hard.

As in many things, the Southern District of New York provides a model for other courts to follow….

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Last month, the powers-that-be behind OSCAR (the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review) made some changes to the remnants of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (to the extent that folks still follow the Plan). The upshot: OSCAR will release the electronic clerkship applications of rising 3Ls on June 28, 2013, at 12:00 p.m. (ET). At that point, judges are free to schedule and conduct interviews and make clerkship offers.

In writing about this news, I questioned the wisdom of this approach: “The Plan provides for ‘a single date to receive applications, schedule and conduct interviews, and make clerkship offers.’ This could be a recipe for an utterly shambolic process, a mad scramble for talent on June 28, full of hastily conducted interviews, exploding offers, and questionable behavior by both judges and applicants.”

Well, it seems that some judges agree with this analysis and are taking a different tack….

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A few years ago, when the New York Times asked him how early he starts recruiting law clerks, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski quipped, “At birth.” Chief Judge Kozinski was joking — kind of.

Back in January, the Most Holy D.C. Circuit — blessed be its prestigious name — officially abandoned the Law Clerk Hiring Plan. Since then, we’ve received reports of 2Ls around the country being hired for clerkships during this current semester, before they even have spring grades.

Historically speaking, this isn’t the first time hiring has started this early. When I went through the process years ago, I had my clerkship lined up before April. But it’s certainly a break with more recent practice, in which judges generally have waited to hire law clerks until the fall of 3L year.

Perhaps in response to these developments, the judges behind OSCAR (the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review) have made some tweaks to what remains of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan. Check out how early the “official” timetable now begins….

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In her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounts her journey from the projects of the South Bronx to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Given that background, one would expect Justice Sotomayor to have a weak spot for young women who make it to One First Street from improbable places.

So it makes perfect sense that Justice Sotomayor has hired the first-ever Brooklyn Law School graduate to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk: Sparkle Sooknanan, a 2010 graduate of BLS who is currently an appellate attorney at the Justice Department. We’ve heard Sooknanan described as “an awesome human being” and “brilliant” — and with a name like “Sparkle,” the brilliance must be literal.

Sparkle isn’t the only bright young lawyer to claim a shiny new credential for the résumé. Read on for additional news of Supreme Court clerk hiring….

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