Monday, February 8, 2016

Judicial Clerkships

Toady on Vegas Inc. there is a puff piece on Tammy Peterson, a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck. She offers this advice to up-and-coming lawyers, "I strongly recommend that any young lawyer or law student consider a judicial clerkship."

We have at least a few Boyd students who read the blog. For their benefit, do you agree with that statement? Are judicial clerkships really the best place to start a career? Did any of you do one and regret it? Do you wish you had done one? 

27 comments:

  1. The problem with this type of advice is that it comes from the perspective of someone who (1) clerked almost 20 years ago; and (2) sits from the perspective of Big Law. 90% of graduates in today's market won't work for Big Law. Somewhere at the beginning of my 3L year I realized that the career advice I was getting from visiting speakers was bad advice for me for these reasons. I was in the bottom 90%. I was graduating in the 2010's, not the 90's. A judicial clerkship is only a year, then you've got to find a real job. In this environment, if you are in the bottom 90% and have an opportunity to take a real job at graduation or a clerkship, don't be an idiot. Take the job. That opportunity may or may not be there in another year.

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    1. I agree with 10:16. Too much advice that young lawyers receive from experienced practitioners, or advice received from seminar speakers and from local legal publications, pesumes that all these young lawyers graduated toward the top of their class and that all young lawyers want to work in a large, well known, high-pressured, hyper-competetive firm where they can get on the fast track to maximize their income and advancement.Assuming that all new graduates fit these categories, and are consumed by elitist goals, is faulty. A far greater number of new graduates are more like 10:16--new attorneys who do not necessarily have sterling credentials and who are merely looking for a decent entry level position.So, as 10:16 suggests, if a graduate gets an offer of starting as a lawyer with a decent firm, or accepting a judicial clerkship,it may be wise to question the conventional wisdom that the clerkship should alays be accepted over the attorney job.

      It is true that when I started practicing, in the late 80's, a judicial clerkship was viewed as a "juice job" which did open many employment doors once it expired. It does not appear that it still carries that degree of built in high credibility. However, I suppose no one's career is hurt by having a clerkship with a well-regarded District Judge. I assume it can only help one's career. But 10:16 is correct that the clerkship should not automatically be accepted over an offer to start immediately practicing law with a decent firm.Everyone's situation, needs, goals and desires, are different.

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    2. I used to be asked about this back when I spoke at Boyd. My first answer was that if you were headed into transactional work, it was probably not a best choice. Clerkships are for future litigators. Which got into the usual argument about whether you needed to decide right up front which practice type you were going into, regardless of practice area. I always advised that summer associate positions were the gold ring to grasp, but those have been very rare these days. February 8, 2016 at 10:16 AM is dead right - a lot of this discussion is obsolete; I touched on this before the crash one year. After talking about the unspoken brutal class structure in the legal community and how rough it is to change practice type or area, I had one perceptive if pissed off law student ask me what he was supposed to do if he didn't want to play the game and ruthlessly pursue client dollars? I pointed at another random student and said, "graduate with a higher class rank than him." With Boyd still irresponsibly graduating more new attorneys than the market can support, I agree, take a job, not a flyer.

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    3. Long before there was a law school and long before the bar was given twice a year the supply and demand for lawyers was in balance. This was with a growth economy. The law school is one source of the glut but we continue to get too many lawyers from other jurisdictions. In most urban areas, there are no jobs for recent law graduates. They could close the schools and shut down the bar and there would still be too many. The market place ultimately takes care of this problem.

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  2. 10:16 is spot on. I graduated in 2014, and while I had an offer to clerk (both state and federal), I chose to take a long-term job out of state. I enjoyed my internship with a federal judge, but taking a clerk job didn't trump a job that has no expiration date.

    In my opinion, the advice is sound if you have no other options. But if you have the option to get to work at a firm/DA/PD/etc, you'd be a fool to clerk.

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    1. I'm glad it worked out for you, but my AIII clerkship opened lots of doors. If you're 100% sure that your landing spot is the right one for you, then I guess I can't argue, but my post-clerkship landing spot is orders of magnitude better than anything I would have landed without my clerkship.

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  3. The material on Tammy Peterson is not really a journalistic puff piece.
    It's more like Vegas Inc. profiling her credentials by merely printing her CV or firm website material.

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  4. Tammy is partially right. And the previous posters are partially correct. Judicial clerkships are great but unattainable for many people. I strongly recommend graduating from Harvard Law debt-free. I strongly recommend being good looking and charming. If you have the opportunity for a judicial clerkship for a good Judge, take it. It will serve as a springboard into a better job and better opportunities a year later. If you cannot get a clerkship with a good Judge, advance to getting the best job you can. I used to love to bash people who got judicial clerkships, when the truth was that I was jealous of those were able to get them.

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    1. This is easily the best piece of advice I have ever seen. The only thing I would add is that I would strongly recommend having a parent who is a well connected attorney who can get you past all those silly interviews and get you straight into your first job with a minimum six figure salary.

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    2. it is so difficult in Las Vegas to have your mommy or daddy be a practicing attorney,and to succeed in this legal community.

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    3. Yale or Fail.

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    4. Boyd 2011-2013, a recipe for success!

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  5. The way I view applicants who graduated and did a clerkship with a district court judge is that they have less experience than someone who was working as a lawyer for that year. The biggest benefit is if they clerked they might know a little about what some of the other judges like.

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  6. I think a judicial clerkship is good advice. Not only a trial level clerkship (state or federal) but an appellate clerkship (state or federal) before practicing. If anything, it will make you a better trained lawyer. Of course, if a solid opportunity comes along, then by all means bypass the clerkship. But not all opportunities workout and law firms collapse. The job that Tammy Peterson has is a one of kind type of position--marketing, lawyering, and public relations for a well connected large law firm.

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  7. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely go for a clerkship. It's the gateway into a long-term career with firms like Lionel Saw... wait, no. With firms like Gordon Si.. No, that doesn't work either. Dewey and LeBoef! You could go to work for Dewey and LeBoef!

    On second thought, just be the best damn lawyer you can be. Great lawyers never have trouble finding their next case.

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  8. Most of my friends that clerked for Clark County judges were able to parlay it into a better job than they would have otherwise landed. The others went back to firms they already had ties to, so while they didn't trade up, it didn't hurt them in terms of exit options.

    Clerking is relatively easy and pays okay for a first job (I think Clark County clerks get paid in the low to mid 60s and first year federal clerks in Nevada are paid in the mid to high 50s).

    I see it as a high upside job (chance to trade up to better/higher paying firm; chance to establish a relationship with an important judge; chance to focus on certain specific legal skills that you may not be able to focus on as a junior litigation associate; chance to see lots of different practice areas), with little downside (probably lower pay than other options, but a pretty relaxed year).

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  9. Interesting -- Downtown's Work in Progress co-working space is shutting down: https://pando.com/2016/02/08/confirmed-vegas-dtps-work-progress-co-working-space-shutting-down/

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    1. Makes you wonder about the value of all those wonderful services (mentors, etc.) provided for the tenants...

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  10. I came from out of state to clerk for a federal judge. It worked out perfect because it gave me a year to determine whether I liked Vegas. I went to a small firm after clerking, and I still value my clerkship and recommend it to every law student I meet regardless of career goals.

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    1. What year did you arrive in Vegas and what was your class rank?

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  11. Boyd '13 alum taking a break from setting the world afire to chime in. A federal, state supreme court, or top-end state district court (business courts, Cadish, etc.) clerkship can't hurt your career development if you want to go the law firm or government route and can take the short-term hit in salary. Most other state court clerkships are probably a wash if you have a job offer from a decent firm. I'm probably biased since I did a clerkship, but I definitely think it opened up a few doors that wouldn't have been available had I not accepted the clerkship.

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    1. The fact that you refer to our business courts and Cadish as "top-end" tells me you have difficulty figuring out which end of the match to hold when you're trying to set the world afire.

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  12. watch out Rubio is attacking the Clinton machine

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  13. If you are Boyd Alum, circa 2011-2013, the only thing you are setting on fire are your shoe laces and your soiled under wear.

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    1. 4:46 you are so easily rattled.

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  14. Erich Nowsch and Tammy Meyers trial next month. That would be a not guilty verdict, because it was a drug deal gone bad.

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