Federal Clerks

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi interviews a judicial clerkship veteran with some helpful advice for aspiring clerks.

It’s open season for clerkships and you’ve probably already been inundated with resources from your law school’s career office. Sure, those are the “official” resources, but don’t you want to know what it’s really like to go through the clerkship application process? This month, I probed the brain of a judicial clerkship veteran to give you the inside scoop.

1. Do you have any interview tips particular to interviewing for a clerkship?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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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Raise your hand if you like prestige. Alright, you can all put your hands down, because we’re about to drop some news on you about one of the most prestigious career paths available in the legal profession. Of course, we’re talking about federal clerkships, which are great opportunities to pursue if you’re lucky enough to be given the chance — not to mention the fact that if you happen to be clerking for a feeder judge, you might just have it made (the going rate for a SCOTUS clerkship bonus is $280K!!!).

In our coverage of career placement statistics from the most recent graduating law school class, we’ve tackled a wide range of career options, from professional couch-sitters to “elite” Biglaw associates. Today, we’re bringing you news on clerkships from the God of Rankings himself, Bob Morse of the U.S. News law school rankings.

So are you ready to see the law schools that had the highest percentages of graduates move on to become federal clerks? Let’s check out the list….

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Last week, we asked for your thoughts on what an improved, more relevant approach to law school rankings would look like. This request was of course prompted by U.S. News’s revisions to its rankings methodology, which now applies different weights to different employment outcomes, giving full credit only to full-time jobs where “bar passage is required or a J.D. gives them an advantage.” U.S. News is of course bowing to the realities of the horrific legal job market and the spreading realization that, for many if not most, pursuing a J.D. makes little economic sense.

Yet U.S. News’s revamped methodology feels like a half-measure at best, as employment outcomes make up less than 20% of the rankings formula. Compare this to the 40% of the score based on “quality assessment” surveys of practicing lawyers, judges, and law school faculty and administrators. Shouldn’t those numbers be reversed?

In any event, last week about 500 of you weighed in with your opinions on which criteria should matter and which should not when it comes to ranking law schools. The results are after the jump….

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Obviously a Norton Rose associate.

* Here’s the answer to the question everyone’s been asking since December: the Supreme Court will be hearing the gay-marriage cases on March 26 (Prop 8) and March 27 (Windsor). No extra time for args? [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Wherein Scott Greenfield responds to Mark Herrmann’s thoughts on bench memos — or, in Greenfield’s words, why our important appellate decisions shouldn’t be left “in the hands of children” (aka law clerks). [Simple Justice]

* Will the latest massive mortgage settlements lead to lawyer layoffs? [Going Concern]

* Cy Vance’s ears must’ve been ringing when this opinion came out, because the judges on this appellate panel said the prosecution’s case was based on “pure conjecture bolstered by empty rhetoric.” [WiseLawNY]

* Apparently a Santa Clara law professor is getting pummeled in the comments on various law blogs because of his thoughts on law school. As Rihanna would say, “Shine bright like Steve Diamond.” [Constitutional Daily]

* Meditation and mindfulness are more mainstream than ever in the practice of law, but given all the tales of stressed out lawyers’ alleged misconduct we hear about, you certainly wouldn’t know it. [Underdog]

* And from our friends at RollOnFriday, you can see what the folks at Norton Rose do in their spare time….

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This post is both a request for information and a cry for reform.

Here’s the backstory: Back when God was young, I clerked for a federal appellate judge. I saw how things operated in my circuit, and my friends clerking elsewhere told me how things worked in other circuits. One operating procedure differed between circuits; the procedure affected litigants (without their knowledge), and one system was plainly better than the other.

My request for information is that recent clerks update my information: Does this operating procedure still vary among circuits today?

My cry for reform is that circuit judges discuss this issue internally to decide whether they’re convinced, as I am, that some circuits are hurting both themselves and litigants in the process by which the courts use bench memos….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Reforming The Bench Memo Process”

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.

Judge Paul Watford

Congratulations to the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Paul J. Watford. On Monday, Watford, currently a 44-year-old partner at the super-elite Munger Tolles & Olson, was confirmed to the federal bench. The vote was 61-34, and it came after a bit of drama in the Senate.

It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).

That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).

Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?

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Nancy 'Newsworthy' Benoit

* With the SNR Denton merger talks dead, partners waiting only to be paid before they leave, and sad, empty tables at events, LeBoeuf seems to be cooked. [DealBook / New York Times; Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* A gem from the Eleventh Circuit: if you believe it’s newsworthy, it is. Even naked pictures of dead girls. Now stop hoping a hot girl dies, sickos. [CNN]

* If there’s one thing judges are good at, it’s keeping their law clerks white. They’ve made no progress in increasing diversity. [National Law Journal]

* Some law school grads bitch and moan about the “student loan scam,” but others just do what they went to school for, and sue about it. [ABC News]

* The social media machine that is Mark O’Mara can’t be stopped — judge’s orders. And George Zimmerman is going to like and retweet that until the cows come home. [Boston Herald]

* Here’s infringing on you, kid. British fashion house Burberry insists that a California company stop Bogarting its rights to Humphrey’s trademark and likeness, all for the sake of promotional materials. [Bloomberg]

You’ve heard the comments time and time again — a judicial clerkship is a great opportunity you should pursue if given the chance. Besides the prestige of the position, clerkships offer law school graduates a rare glimpse inside the chambers of the country’s brilliant and respected jurists.

While the writing and researching experience is invaluable, there are additional opportunities law clerks should look into before their clerkship ends. Now on to the tips….

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