Monday, September 28, 2009

Clerkship Series: Day 1 -- The NYU Approach to Clerkships

Most law students have heard by now that there are tremendous benefits in completing a judicial clerkship—indeed, many former clerks with whom I’ve spoken say it was the best experience of their lives. However, there is an irritating aspect to the application process as it can sometimes lead to confusion, stress and, worst of all, depression.

In an effort to mitigate these negative feelings, BBL is beginning a series on clerking to help guide our readers through the sometimes nebulous process. To kick off our efforts, I caught up with Deborah Ellis, NYU Law's Assistant Dean for Public Interest Law Center. Dean Ellis oversees NYU's Judicial Clerkship Office, and has presided over what has been one of the school's best years in terms of placing federal judicial clerks. She talked with me about NYU’s approach to the process, and the process generally.

As the Dean noted, this year NYU "substantially increased the number of Court of Appeals clerkships" that its students obtained. The Dean attributed these successes, in part, to NYU's creation of a judicial clerkship office which serves to "highlight [the school's] institutional emphasis on judicial clerkships." This change was accompanied by other specific changes the school made. One constant is the degree of effort the faculty puts into helping and guiding their students—a process that begins from the moment the student enters her first class. According to Dean Ellis:
Our faculty and deans are very interested in helping our students, and are pleased that the students are doing very well. . . . I don’t want to comment on us versus Harvard or Columbia [for example], but we believe a clerkship is a great opportunity for every student no matter who it is . . . and no matter what type of work they want to do. [Ultimately], we try to give very close counseling to students, and faculty works very close with [them] during this process.
The school also believes that:
[T]here are advantages to all courts—from [District Courts] to the Court of Appeals, and magistrate courts and from bankruptcy courts to state supreme courts. So we really encourage students to apply broadly. For example, I went to NYU and clerked in Montgomery, Alabama for the 11th Circuit.
BBL applauds Dean Ellis and the outstanding work the Judicial Clerkship Office at NYU has done for its students. However, we wanted to glean some general advice from the Dean about how concerned students elsewhere should approach the process. Many of our readers were disappointed with how the application season has fared so far, so I asked the Dean what advice she would give them:
My general advice is that I would not feel discouraged. There are many judges who have not hired, especially at the trial . . . and state level[s]. The other thing students should always consider is applying beyond the major metropolitan areas where the competition is most intense.
I thought the advice about judges not having made hiring decisions was interesting. Along these lines, the Dean also emphasized, "sometimes many students think all calls get made on first day of hiring, and while many court of appeals judges do this, students should not get discouraged if they don’t get a call."

True, but it seems to be a known fact now that many judges now hire outside of the federal hiring plan—placing many other students at a competitive disadvantage such that it may, in fact, be reasonable to assume that calls will not come after the first week for rising 3Ls. While the Dean acknowledges that pre-plan hiring does occur, she emphasized NYU's policy of sticking to the plan:
I really do believe in the federal hiring plan, and as a school, we believe in following it. It helps to have deadlines that are being followed uniformly.
We thank Dean Ellis for her willingness to reach out to law students with candid, transparent advice. And we hope that our readers who didn't yet get clerkships this year don't give up—it's not (necessarily) over yet!

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UPDATE: A commenter was interested in NYU's actual numbers. While the Dean was unable to share the statistics, a tally on Law Clerk Addict reveals that 24 NYU students have received court of appeals clerkships at this point in the cycle. Particularly staggering is NYU's placement of 6 clerks on the D.C. Circuit, roughly double the count reported on Law Clerk Addict for the 2009-10 term. Obviously, these numbers are not conclusive--Law Clerk Addict's statistics are not entirely complete and, in some instances, may be inaccurate. Its statistics are generally reliable, however, and these initial numbers are very impressive. In fact, these statistics paint NYU as either number one or two in the raw number of clerks placed on federal courts of appeal.

In short, the numbers confirm Dean Ellis' noted assertion that NYU substantially increased the number of clerks it placed on the federal courts of appeal this year.

29 comments:

  1. Wow... This is great.

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  2. Nyu > cls, Penn, Chicago, Stanford, Michigan UVA

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  3. kudos to Dean ellis for giving this info

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  4. What were NYU's actual numbers? Did the dean say?

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  5. This is further a reason why NYU > Columbia. Look at all the indicia:

    1. Faculty is clearly better
    2. Location: hood vs. the village
    3. Quality of life- hyper-nerdy competition v. laid back, and chill
    4. now clerkships

    CLS should not be a top five, and the order should now be HYS-NC-CMVP-NDCG

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  6. Honestly, do you NYU trolls drool over your geriatric professors?

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  7. Why does every article about a school have to turn into a X is better than Y game. NYU is good and so is CLS. Get over it.

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  8. 5:17 = Columbia 1L

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  9. 24 appeals clerks for such a big school ain't that good

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  10. I don't know the numbers conclusively but law clerk addicts estimates are grossly under the real punt nyu placed this year.

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  11. Some of the LCA variance is due to the fact that students at certain law schools are more likely to post about their clerkship success on LCA than students at other schools.

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  12. I saw my clerkship on law clerk addict and I never posted it. Do judges release this information or is it posted by law schools or something?

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  13. LCA numbers are garbage. CLS has as many clerks on the second this year and LCA doesn't even know half the judges have hired.
    But I will say that clerking is one area in which CLS underperforms NYU. I'm hard pressed to think of another (maybe being located in the village?) I am, however, quite amused that the Assistant Dean of Having Actual Work for Three Weeks Per Year needs to call out Columbia. Could they all have a bigger chip on their shoulder?

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  14. 6:37, yeah maybe on 2nd, but hell, Penn placed 27 COA clerks last year...no one is writing about that? Schools have Good years and bad years. Thiayear was good for nyu-nuff said

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  15. Ok, does anyone else have a problem with schools so actively encouraging clerkships?

    Schools aren't willing to admit that a clerkship is largely a credential. They now talk of it as "an amazing life experience."

    Conveniently so, I think, because the credential analysis is much less obvious when a student is deciding to take a job offer or do a state appellate or a magistrate clerkship and risk having to re-navigate the job market upon completion.

    By shifting focus away from the credential of a clerkship and toward the substantive work one does during a clerkship, these schools are trying to pierce the entrenched belief that only federal district and appellate judges are worth clerking for. I think that's in many ways admirable. But for as long as that entrenched belief continues to exist, what schools are doing may simply amount to bad advice.

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  16. A clerkship office! Whodathunkit. I remember my law school had a faculty clerkship committee (comprised of former clerks) and a tenured prof as the clerkship coordinator, but I didn't get his time of day until I managed to score my first interview, which came very late in the cycle. I guess if there's a silver lining to this recession, it's that career services across the board may end up getting better across the board - clerkships, public interest, and biglaw...

    A suggestion: now that I'm a couple years out of school (without having gotten that clerkship), I'd love to know more about hiring stats for clerks who've had a few years of actual practice vs. 3L's.

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  17. Texas, the #15 law school in the country, has 21 U.S. Court of Appeals clerks for 2010-2011. So either Texas is really impressive, or this isn't that impressive on NYU's part.

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  18. I think the point of the story wasn't that NYU's numbers are impresssive (I admit they are not, and I go there). The point was that they significantly improved their numbers. Getting a clerkship is harder when we have so few federal judges that are alums. CLS doesn't have this problem, and my understanding is that they have better numbers for clerkships.

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  19. @ 12:30 --

    Texas traditionally places very well in COA clerkships, so I am not surprised that they have had such good results this year. Again, it must be reiterated that NYU's story is impressive for the marginal gains the school has made, and the administration's effort to help its students. The Dean, of course, did not share the actual statistics, but 24 COA clerks is a very conservative estimate. The actual numbers for NYU this year, I gather from various independent e-mails that we've received, may be substantially higher than those that are now reported on LCA.

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  20. Uh, Stanford and Chicago both place similar amounts of folks in COA clerkships and the class size is roughly half of NYU's (or Columbia's). It might be an improvement for NYU but compared to peer schools, I do wonder if it's that substantial improvement.

    Also? What about district court clerkships? Truthfully, law schools need to actually keep track of this stuff.

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  21. I think it's not just the raw numbers, but the specific COA's that are impressive. Certainly, 6 clerkships on the 2nd Cir, or say 4 on the DC Cir are more impressive than the same amount on the 11th, or the 8th.

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  22. Right. Coastal clerkships in those regions especially are more coveted than flyovers.

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  23. Uh, that's not true. There's a big feeder in Ohio (6th Cir.) and the 4th Cir, which is outside of the NE/Cali world most stupid law students think the world centers around also sends people to SCOTUS.

    And uh, you couldn't pay me to clerk in NY (no, really.).

    Signed a D. Colo/8th Cir. clerk who enjoyed cheap COLA.

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  24. Was your D. Colo/8th Cir. judge(s) feeder(s)?

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  25. I worked 11th Circuit -- great COLA, but work hours were brutal.

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  26. 8:02: Of course feeder Judges such as Sutton or Wilkinson are more prestigious than a regular judge on the 9th/2nd/DC. But the point is that NYU's stats are still impressive given where they place. Like it or not, the circuits mentioned are typically much harder to land than the other circuits, with the exception of feeder judges.

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  27. That's a broad generalization. 9th Circuit includes Oregon, Montana and some other undesirable locales. It's not about the circuit, but the location as this is what makes judges competitive or uncompetitive (other than reputation and other intangibles). Since circuits are based on location, you can vaguely generalize at least so long as you notice the flaws.

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