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!
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.