Supreme Court Clerks

A $500,000 associate? (Click to enlarge.)

Base salaries for Biglaw associates haven’t budged since January 2007, when Simpson Thacher led the charge to $160k. Year-end bonuses have remained fairly static since 2007 as well, the year of Cravath’s special bonuses. The 2012 bonuses represented an improvement over the 2011 bonuses, but only if you ignored the 2011 phenomenon of spring bonuses. On the whole, associate compensation is treading water.

But for Supreme Court clerks, aka “The Elect,” compensation continues to climb. In 2011, the signing bonus for outgoing SCOTUS clerks started to move from $250K to $280K. In 2012, the increase solidified, with $280K becoming the new going rate (and $285K becoming the above-market rate).

Now, just a year later, some firms are offering SCOTUS clerkship bonuses in excess of $280K or $285K. How much are they paying, and which offices of which firms are leading the market higher? The answer might surprise you….

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Law school’s epitaph?

* Hiring a Supreme Court clerk might not be worth a $500,000 gamble for some Biglaw firms. Some will take that sweet sign-on bonus and remove their golden handcuffs before a year is out. [Capital Comment / Washingtonian]

* Akin Gump partner and D.C. Circuit nominee Patricia Millett won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee by a margin of 10-8 along party lines, and now her nomination will head to the full Senate for a vote. [Huffington Post]

* President Obama nominated Michelle Friedland and John Owens, two young Munger Tolles & Olson partners, for seats on the Ninth Circuit. If confirmed, that’ll make three partners from the same firm on the bench. [The Recorder]

* Sorry, law firms, but it’s no longer cool to inflate hourly billing rates for contract attorneys when you pay them substantially less. You can thank Ted Frank for this judicial revelation. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education thinks that just about everything having to do with law schools is “deeply flawed” and needs “serious re-engineering.” How comforting. [ABA Journal]

* Law School Transparency is willing to assist schools with the reporting of their ABA post-graduation job placement statistics, for a price. How much is integrity worth these days? [National Law Journal]

* For $25K, Casey Anthony’s bankruptcy trustee won’t make her sell the worldwide rights to her story — like her theory of the crime she was acquitted of, it “exists solely within [her] mind.” [Sun-Sentinel]

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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It’s astonishing to me that there will be games with phenomenal graphics and orchestral scores and there will just be grammar errors. I deliberated about every single word. A lawyer is more likely to have that kind of neurotic attitude about things than your ordinary game designer.

Mark Yohalem — a Harvard Law School graduate, former law clerk to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and current assistant U.S. attorney — discussing his interesting sideline as a video game writer.

(More about Yohalem and one of his games, after the jump.)

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Mr. Milbank is a humorist and satirist. He can make mountains out of molehills if he wants to. But he should take a page out of Justice Alito’s book and pay more attention to getting it right.

William Ranney Levi and Dana Remus, former law clerks to Justice Samuel Alito, in a letter to the Washington Post responding to an article by Dana Milbank. Milbank accused the justice of “demonstrat[ing] his disdain” for his women colleagues while on the bench.

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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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]

If you’re a former Supreme Court clerk, the legal world is your oyster. In the words of one observer, “Supreme Court clerkships have become the Willy Wonka golden tickets of the legal profession. So many top-shelf opportunities within the law, such as tenure-track professorships and jobs in the SG’s office, [are] reserved for members of the Elect.”

If you work at a hedge fund, maybe after a stint at Goldman Sachs or a similarly elite investment bank, you’re the Wall Street version of a SCOTUS clerk — at the top of the field, but with way more money. There aren’t many Lawyerly Lairs out there that cost $60 million (the cost of hedge fund magnate Steve Cohen’s new Hamptons house).

What could lure four high-powered lawyers and hedge-fund types, including two former clerks to the all-powerful Justice Anthony Kennedy, to leave their current perches? How about the chance to earn the kind of money that would make a Supreme Court clerkship bonus look like a diner waitress’s tip?

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