Law Clerks

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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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….

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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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We sometimes get complaints about the way that we supposedly objectify women here at Above the Law. Well, today let’s change things up a bit. Let’s objectify some men! Year after year, Cosmopolitan’s Bachelor of the Year contest is filled with studs from every state in our fine nation.

In 2010, there was some very strong lawyer representation in the contest (two law students and one practicing attorney), but last year, only one lawyer was nominated as a finalist. We were worried that perhaps male lawyers had somehow gotten less attractive.

This year’s edition of the contest again brought only one law school graduate to the table, but our worry about the decline in attractiveness of lawyerly lads has been put to bed, because this hunk looks strong enough to carry the weight of representing his entire profession in this competition on his shoulders.

Quality definitely makes up for quantity this year….

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Hello readers! This post marks the one-year anniversary of my writing for Above The Law. **Hooray!** Whew, okay, now that all of that crazy excitement is over with, let’s move on.

Every once in a while, I meet people who ask whether there’s any value in doing a clerkship if they would eventually like to practice transactional law in-house. Like a dutiful little blogger, I consulted with several senior in-house attorneys on their thoughts about whether a clerkship is valuable for an in-house transactional practice.

The lawyers I consulted who hadn’t clerked generally saw little to no value in a clerkship with respect to an in-house transactional practice. Why spend an entire year of effort on something that’s not going to be directly applicable to your practice (and, by the way, pays diddlysquat), when you could be getting firsthand experience drafting contracts and working on deals on Day 1? Plus, it’s not like businesspeople have a clue what the difference is between a law clerk and, you know… a rock.

The attorneys who had clerked, on the other hand, saw many potential benefits….

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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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To all of our law student readers who are in the middle of hunting for federal judicial clerkships, good luck. Right now we are at the height of clerkship application season, at least for those judges who follow the official (but non-mandatory) law clerk hiring plan. For those judges who follow the Plan to the letter, this past Friday at noon was the first date and time when judges could contact third-year applicants to schedule interviews, and this coming Thursday at 10 a.m. is the first day and time when judges can interview and make offers to 3Ls.

That’s for judges who follow the Plan with maximum strictness. But how many judges actually do that?

Let’s discuss how the clerkship process is unfolding this year — and hear from those of you who are going through it….

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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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