Clerkships

A clerk at One First Street (click to enlarge).

Ten years after their time at One First Street, where do Supreme Court clerks wind up? Back in 2004, I tossed out a number of possibilities: high-ranking government posts, lucrative partnerships at leading law firms, and tenured professorships at top law schools.

That seems to be about right. Professor Derek Muller put together this interesting analysis — via Orin Kerr, via Judge Dillard on Twitter — of the SCOTUS clerk class from ten years ago. The clerks for October Term 2003 now occupy some pretty prestigious perches, including posts in the Solicitor General’s Office and the Office of Legal Counsel, professorships at Harvard and Yale, and partnerships at Sullivan & Cromwell and Paul Weiss.

Who will follow in their footsteps? We have some new goodies for devotees of SCOTUS law clerk hiring.

Keep reading for a look at (1) the official list of Supreme Court clerks for October Term 2013, courtesy of the Court itself; (2) our unofficial list of OT 2013 clerks, with law school and prior clerkship information; and (3) an updated list of October Term 2014 hires thus far. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hired multiple clerks for OT 2014, suggesting that she’s not going anywhere….

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* J. Lo has apologized for singing Happy Birthday to a repressive dictator. Many are questioning the decision to serenade an alleged violator of international human rights law, but I’m just confused why J. Lo didn’t opt for the new, copyright-free birthday song? But people are being way too tough on the President of Turkmenistan. Don’t be fooled by the rocks that he got, he’s still Gurbanguly from the block. [Breaking Energy]

* NYU Law Professor Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick wonder if the progressives have another liberal agenda item to push after marriage equality. The authors cite issues like voting rights and opposition to the death penalty as traditionally liberal causes marginalized by progressives. It strikes me this article makes a lot more sense if you replace the word “progressive” with “Justice Kennedy.” [Slate]

* DLA Piper’s decision to hire Lee Smolen has raised more than a few eyebrows given the firm’s commitment to ethical billing policies. [Hellerman Baretz]

* Did the ABA just recommend an ethical violation? [New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog]

* After a week of landmark rulings and Biglaw layoffs, the importance of clerking cannot be understated. [Judicial Clerk Review]

* The Supreme Court Term feels like a distant memory, but now’s a good time to look back on it with added perspective. Courtesy of MoloLamken, here’s a great guide to the big business cases of the Supreme Court Term just ended. Download or print it, then read it at your leisure. [MoloLamken]

* An attorney left the rat race to open a pea company. But these don’t look like the peas you tried to hide under your mashed potatoes, they look like serious snack food. [Kickstarter]

A clerk at One First Street (click to enlarge).

Readers of Above the Law aren’t the only people interested in Supreme Court clerk hiring. Televangelist Pat Robertson — a graduate of Yale Law School, and winner of our reader poll for YLS’s most disgraceful graduate — recently wondered if Justice Anthony Kennedy might have been swayed by gay law clerks when he struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

(We’re everywhere! Even the Vatican!)

For the record, I don’t know the sexual orientations of Justice Kennedy’s outgoing law clerks — well, not all of them — and I don’t intend to go digging for such info. But in fairness to Robertson, before you yell at him for making a big deal out of gay SCOTUS clerks, please note that the topic has made headlines recently. Indeed, it would be interesting to look back on his historic Term for gay rights from the perspective of a lesbian or gay clerk. Perhaps we’ll hear from such a clerk in the future (although the absence of leaks about the big rulings suggests that this group is an impressively tight-lipped bunch).

If I were selected to serve as a law clerk to a justice of the United States Supreme Court, I would be gay — as in very, very happy. Let’s look at the brilliant young lawyers who have been hired as SCOTUS clerks for the next two Terms of the Court….

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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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If you are my age, this is probably the first ‘damsel’ you proactively hoped would not be saved.

* This is interesting, a lawyer for Paula Deen is saying the woman suing the (former) Food Network star has no standing for claiming a racially hostile environment because the plaintiff is white. So… white people can’t get offended by a lunatic running around talking about dancing ni****s? [ABA Journal]

* I was going to say, “I think Indiana Jones would be worse if he had a contract lawyer as a sidekick.” But then I remembered the Steven Spielberg ruined an entire movie because he wanted to bone Kate Capshaw and, yeah, I’d have taken a lawyer sidekick over her any day. [Legal Geeks]

* I’m constantly amazed at how the SCOTUS clerks don’t leak. I mean, the NSA freaking leaked. [Judicial Clerk Review]

* Vance basically means that if you are broke and you’ve been dying to smack your partner’s administrative assistant on the ass, go for it. “Conservatives” think that’s just fine. [Huffington Post]

* Of course you can leave Patton Boggs, just don’t let the door hit you on the way out. [Blog of the Legal Times]

* At this point, you will believe any sentence that starts with: “Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi…” [Dealbreaker]

* After the jump, watch one of George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, Don West, begin his opening statement in A FREAKING MURDER TRIAL with a failed knock-knock joke

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Just yesterday, the latest batch of starry-eyed dreamers sat for the LSAT (although the number of these hopeful 0Ls seems to be in freefall). As they wait for the scores to come in, these aspiring JDs will no doubt be doing their research and narrowing down where to apply. Law school applicants have no shortage of resources at their disposal to help them in making their decisions and navigating the process: from U.S. News to Princeton Review, from Anna Ivey to Top Law Schools. But we all know that there is no decision-making tool as beloved as a ranked list. People love rankings — such time and energy savers! We suspect more application and matriculation decisions are made by perusing rankings than will ever be admitted to.

Regular readers of this site might recall that a little while back we published our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking. We are proud that we, rather than burying our methodology in the footnotes or an obscure appendix, prefaced our rankings release with a detailed discussion about the choices we made in devising our methodology.

Whatever the subject matter, anyone looking to rate or rank anything has to make some choices between three basic methodological approaches:

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Edward Snowden

* Edward Snowden, the computer technician who leaked details on the programs the NSA didn’t want you to know about, sacrificed his life to save your privacy’s soul. Thanks a bunch, Technology Jesus! [CNN]

* While we wait for Fisher, DOMA, and Prop 8, if you’d like some background info on the people behind the most controversial and talked about SCOTUS cases of the term, give this one a read. [NBC News]

* If a justice claims he’s never met a homosexual and he’s got a gay law clerk, telling him to “look around [his] chambers” to find one is the NKI. My, how times have changed since the mid-80s. [New York Times]

* In 2012, Justice Sotomayor earned $1.9 million in royalties from her memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link). Yeah, her world is probably so beloved because she’s rolling around in money. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Howrey going to make use of this empty wall space? If you’re in the market for some art, this bankrupt firm’s decor will be up for auction in D.C. later this week. [Bankruptcy Beat / Wall Street Journal]

* When you’re dealing with the most beautiful people in Biglaw, the price for pretty is high: Davis Polk was slapped with a million-dollar lawsuit over a recruiter’s fee. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Gerald Shargel, criminal defense attorney to the Mafia stars, is retiring his shingle to join Winston & Strawn. Biglaw better keep him entertained — he gets bored easily. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Cory Booker, one of everyone’s favorite Yale Law School grads, announced his candidacy for a New Jersey Senate seat over the weekend. Best of luck in the special election! [The Note / ABC News]

* The feds are seeking a four-year sentence for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in his campaign funds misuse case. No MJ memorabilia is worth prison time, no matter how big a fan you are. [The Hill]

* “[I]f you ever call me on my cellphone again, I’ll strangle you.” Yikes. Looks like this Kentucky judge won’t have the chance to wring his hands around lawyers’ necks any time soon. [Courier-Journal]

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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Different schools of thought exist when it comes to cover letters for job applications. Back when I applied for legal jobs, I took a “do no harm” approach, using the cover letter merely to transmit my résumé, transcript, and writing sample. But jobs were more plentiful back then.

In a tougher legal job market, employers expect more from cover letters. For cover letter advice from an in-house perspective, see David Mowry’s post. For cover letter advice from a small-firm perspective, see Jay Shepherd’s post.

And for an example of how not to write a cover letter, keep reading….

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