Law Clerks

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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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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* Earlier this week, after some political wrangling, Senator Chuck Grassley proposed the Court Efficiency Act in the hope of paring down the D.C. Circuit. But really, come on, what are the odds of that happening… again? [National Law Journal]

* Biglaw partners, rejoice, for it seems that your legal secretaries will be unable to sue you for defamation over emails written to your wives. Spousal privilege, baby! (N.B. This doesn’t apply to your girlfriends.) [New York Law Journal]

* Which law schools placed the highest percentage of grads in federal clerkships? This info comes from the rankings guru himself. We may have more on this later. [Morse Code / U.S. News & World Report]

* The Rutgers basketball scandal claimed another scalp yesterday after the school’s former general counsel resigned. Rutgers Law dean John Farmer will be stepping in for a brief assist. [Star-Ledger]

* So, do you remember that environmental report Steven Donziger allegedly had made up in the Chevron case? Yeah, the consulting firm just disavowed all of the evidence in the report. Oops! [Businessweek]

* Say so long to your retirement money, sweetie: Junie Hoang, the actress who sued IMDb for revealing the fact that she was over the hill, received a less than favorable jury verdict. [Houston Chronicle]

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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Yesterday, we brought you some news you can use when it comes to law schools and the employment data that went into the 2014 U.S. News law school rankings. The Top 10 lists we provided you with contained some pretty vital information, including which law schools best know how to put the “bar” in “barista.” (N.B. As we noted, the sample size here was small, but still, perhaps you should’ve considered enrolling at ITT Tech.)

We thought that our readers had gotten enough of their rankings crack, but it seems like you’re addicted to it. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay, because we’re here to give you another much-needed hit.

Would you like to know which law schools are the most likely to lead to “elite” employment outcomes?

Let’s get ready to dig into the details….

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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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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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