« Must Second Amendment Originalism Account for the Militia Clauses? | Main | The New Foreword »

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The "clerkship scramble"

"The system for placing [clerks] with federal judges is breaking down," reports the National Law Journal. 

Are the Wild West days of federal clerk hiring back? That's what some law school administrators and judges fear. They worry that the voluntary system whereby federal judges wait until September of the 3L year to hire clerks is teetering. Judges are choosing clerks earlier in the year and are being inundated with applications as the legal job market narrows. And a trend toward hiring the already graduated means fewer positions are available for fresh law graduates.

I'm not sure how to fix it, but "it" (the clerkship-hiring-"process") seems a mess to me.  Although, as a general matter, I welcomed the success of "the Plan" in moving the clerk-hiring process, and decision, until after the second year (or, more specifically, until after a candidate has at least two years' worth of grades), the situation now seems to be the worst of all worlds.  There is, as the piece reports, a lot of defection from the Plan; schools are not quite sure how to respond; and the fact that the downturn has recent (and not so recent) graduates applying "off-plan" for clerkships puts even greater stress on those who would like to comply with its requirements.  Add to the mix the facts that state judges and courts are on entirely different schedules and systems, and that some (but not all) judges employ the OSCAR system . . . phew.  A mess. 

So, let's harness the Power of Prawfs and . . . clean it up.  Suggestions?

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 11, 2010 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The "clerkship scramble":


Perhaps the problem relates not to judges/OSCAR, but to the declining emphasis of law in legal education. if new graduates can spit out about law & econ and interdisciplinary race theory, but do not know how to read a statute, I can easily see why fed judges don't want new grads. If this is the case, we should blame the law schools, not the judges, for favoring recent grads rather than students.

Posted by: anon | Nov 14, 2010 4:17:06 PM

An unexamined premise here seems to be that it is a good thing for judicial clerks to be fresh out of law school, with no other experience since graduation. That's been the tradition since Horace Gray and has certain advantages but isn't the only way to staff those positions.
If unregulated competition for clerkships means that current law students can't get (some of) them, and that such jobs instead go to practicing attorneys, academics, or others with thicker track records who can plan a one-year sabbatical from their main job several years out, why is that a problem? Some judges might prefer such clerks. Others might try it and decide to go back to hiring 2Ls in the fall.

Posted by: anon2 | Nov 12, 2010 11:27:19 AM

The majority of judges aren't going to hire via OSCAR these days because they get 2,000+ applicants. Most that I have knowledge of have made the (entirely reasonable) decision that they are better off just reviewing the 100+ of post-grad applications they get off-plan, along with the resumes of current students that their contacts forward to them, and hiring from that pool.

Any reform that doesn't end up reducing the number of online apps is simply not viable (IMO). I can't think of any great filtration/gatekeeping mechanism (charge a fee per application?), but something needs to be done to stop (a) unqualified students spamming every federal judge in existence and (b) qualified students sending applications to Timbuktu, when they only really want to be in NYC.

Posted by: anon | Nov 12, 2010 8:51:57 AM

Let judges hire when they want to hire, and let applicants apply when they want to apply.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Nov 11, 2010 11:46:54 PM

I'm at a school that follows the plan, and by the time the OSCAR release happened this year, a lot of the judges had already hired. I still applied to over 100 clerkships and I haven't gotten an interview. I'm suspecting at this point that if I want to clerk, I'll have to apply to the ones starting in 2012. I've even seen some positions listed that have a 2013 start date!

Posted by: Anon 3L | Nov 11, 2010 6:16:34 PM

Simple. Make judicial clerks a GS-14 position. No new graduate will be qualified.

Posted by: Matthew Reid Krell | Nov 11, 2010 5:00:36 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.