Call to Action for Law Clerks – Federal Courts in Crisis

As a law clerk for the U.S. District Court in 2003, I saw firsthand just how taxed the federal judicial system is, and I witnessed the need then for significant additional resources. Today, in 2013, because of sequestration, the burden on the federal judiciary has grown tremendously. While the federal caseload has increased, resources available to meet the needs of such an increase have been slashed. Between this and the President’s growing list of judicial vacancies, the nation’s federal judicial system, a critical part of a healthy democracy, is crippled.

There is officially a bipartisan chorus of judges, lawyers, journalists, and others who are sounding off about the federal courts’ financial crisis that is a result of the bizarre political wrangling that brought us the sequestration cuts. It is time that former law clerks add their voices to that chorus. The new American Bar Association President, James R. Silkenat, issued a call to action yesterday for ABA lawyer members to reach out to Congress and let Members know of the devastating effects these cuts are having on the judicial process. This is my call to action for former law clerks to take a stand too. We are a privileged few who know just how heavy the caseload is for our federal trial and appellate jurists. With dwindling resources and thus fewer alternatives to trial available, law clerks will fill what gaps they can and they will watch as their judges suffer under the load, as federal public defenders limp toward an ever-elusive finish line for their clients, as criminal defendants are warehoused in detention facilities and their constitutional assurances of a speedy trial wither and die on the vine, and as parties to civil litigation wait and wait for fair adjudication of their claims.

Former law clerks from all political backgrounds can follow the lead of the 86 U.S. District Court chief judges who stood up to Congress this month and said, “Enough!” Call on your Congress Members to restore funding cuts to the judiciary, post your comments here, contact your judge to offer moral support. Let’s lend our unique experience as law clerks to the groundswell that is building to protect the integrity of the federal judiciary.

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today (info@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

FREE! Clerkship Information Teleseminar

Join us on Tuesday, August 27, at noon for a one-hour FREE! clerkship information teleseminar.
Clerkship application season is upon us. Judges have posted for the 2015-2016 term already. Get a jump on the action with this one-hour, info-packed telephone session about judicial clerkships. We’ll talk about whether and how to apply for clerkships, the most common application mistakes, preparing for the clerkship interview, and more. We’ll also answer your questions. Send us your questions beforehand at info@judicialclerkreview.com to ensure we get to yours.
E-mail us at info@judicialclerkreview.com with Clerkship Teleseminar in the subject line to register and receive the call-in information.

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today (info@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

Incarceration, Second Chances, and Clerkships

Shon HopwoodShon Hopwood’s rebirth continues. Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the “second highest court in the land,” the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has hired Mr. Hopwood to serve as a law clerk in her chambers beginning next term. For Mr. Hopwood, this is another in a string of victories in his legal career. Sweet victories within this story of redemption, for Mr. Hopwood is a former convict.

Because I do what I do – advising and supporting law students and lawyers through the clerkship application process, I can’t help but be curious about Mr. Hopwood’s clerkship applications. Sure, he has successful petitions for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court under his belt (and a unanimous Supreme Court win in one of those cases) and support from some of the most familiar names in the legal profession, Adam Liptak and Seth Waxman, making him an atypical and ideal clerkship candidate. I still wonder whether and how he disclosed his criminal past in his cover letter and resume. Did it come up during his clerkship interview? What other judges called him in for an interview? Will the Supreme Court entertain his clerkship application the way it entertained his petitions for cert?

Judge Brown hasn’t spoken publicly about the hire, and no one should expect her to do so, but since the announcement of her decision to hire Hopwood, Judge Richard G. Kopf, the judge who sentenced Hopwood to 147 months in prison, has blogged about his sentencing instincts, which he says must suck in light of this development. There is quite an interesting exchange between Judge Kopf and Hopwood in the comments section of the blog. Certainly, it can be useful to reflect on the past, though not to dwell, and I can’t help but wonder what this means for the future of clerkships. Will Shon Hopwood’s success mean that the doors will open a little wider for other non-traditional clerkship candidates? Will it mean that judges will take Judge Brown’s lead and allow themselves to look for clerks in the recesses of the legal playing field? Only time will tell and we’ll have to have patience to await the larger implications of this clerkship hire, probably another lesson we can take from Mr. Hopwood.

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today (allison@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

Independence Day Clerkship Special!!

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Judicial Clerk Review is thrilled to announce our first Clerkship Special in honor of the United States’ 237th Day of Independence.

The legal profession, especially these days, can feel like a series of ancient gladiator contests as attorneys fight to the near-death within law firms and elsewhere just to remain on the payroll. There is a sanctuary – judicial clerkships.

Don’t think you have what it takes to be a law clerk? If you made it through law school, you are capable. If you have studied or are studying for the Bar, you are driven. If you decided to be a lawyer despite all of the unsolicited advice from your loved ones and random strangers, you are a maverick. You have the qualities that judges want to see. You just have to show them your best self.

We can help you to avoid the discard pile by perfecting your written clerkship application materials – your cover letter, resume, and writing sample. We can help you to prevent a gaffe during interviews by walking you through a mock clerkship interview and providing concrete feedback for improvement.

Let’s work together in honor of this country’s independence to secure your independence from the drudgery. Contact me at allison@judicialclerkreview.com to learn more about our Clerkship Special. Happy 4th!

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today (allison@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

Of Law Firm Layoffs and Supreme Court Clerkships

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Last week was chock full of legal news. From the layoffs at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, to the monumental Supreme Court decisions, to the full line-up of Supreme Court clerks for the upcoming term, my head has been on a swivel and my heart feels like it’s in overdrive. So much drama.

Times they are a-changing, and change ain’t easy. As a country, we’ll weather this storm, these flurries of activity, and the law will be a critical guide for us along the way. As huge law school enrollments face an uncertain future, the professional opportunities for lawyers are changing to reflect societal need for more and more qualified attorneys. To interpret hefty court decisions such as those we saw last week. To develop policy and legislation that responds to those court decisions. To support community interests in contributing to public policy. Et cetera and so on.

Novice lawyers with no experience are struggling to find somewhere to get relevant experience. The Weil Gotshal layoffs and any future layoffs from other Biglaw firms will help contribute to the growing trend of judges hiring attorneys with experience, rather than law students straight out of law school, as temporary and permanent law clerks. The list of next year’s Supreme Court clerks reflects that trend too.

A word of advice to those who have been set adrift from their firms and those who have finished law school: find your voice, find your purpose. Lawyers with expertise are lawyers who are still coveted in the legal profession. That hasn’t changed. While the areas of sought-after expertise are constantly changing, it has always been true that lawyers who are experts in a particular area will get more attention than those who cannot.

Judicial clerkships are ideal positions for those folks who don’t quite know what they want to do as an attorney and for those who don’t quite have the necessary experience to hold themselves out as experts. Among the lawyers who argued the cases that the Supreme Court decided last week and the lawyers who still have a job at Weil, I’d venture a guess that ‘former law clerk’ is a title many of them share.

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we provide tailored support to law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. JCR offers a multi-level review and revision of written application materials and mock interviews. E-mail us today (allison@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

Supreme Court Law Clerk Certainty Amid Rampant Public Speculation

So, here we are… with one more day left for the Supreme Court to hand down any decisions remaining from this term (unless the justices extend the decision date) and arguably the four most-anticipated cases still pending a decision from the Court. And, while those of us on the outside wait and wonder, law clerks not only have a front row seat to the action, they are likely sharing the director’s chair – making last-minute tweaks and mulling over last-minute compromises. Most of the clerks will probably get no sleep this weekend, nor, if it were me, in the days following the decisions’ release as they track the news coverage and discuss the fallout among themselves.

In those four cases that already have caused so much buzz, the Supreme Court will decide the fates of affirmative action in higher education, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. It is the kind of high drama that is exciting to watch and yet will have very real impacts on how many of us will go about our daily lives. There have been lively protests on both sides of the issues at hand. Articles and commentary about the cases abound, with pundits and scholars rehashing the oral arguments and dissecting every raised eyebrow and vocal intonation from the Justices. Many have quietly ruminated over how their own lives will change with a Supreme Court decision that upholds current law or invalidates it. And now there is nothing left for us but to wait, saving our energy for the frenzy of the week ahead…once we know. Other than the Justices themselves, and perhaps their spouses and significant others, there are only 36 people right now who know – the Supreme Court law clerks who have at least some degree of certainty what Monday holds.

And so for now, I’m happy just to speculate as to how exactly the law clerks are spending their time while the rest of us sit and wait.

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At Judicial Clerk Review (JCR), we assist law students and lawyers in applying for judicial clerkships. Don’t be overlooked or discarded. E-mail us today (allison@judicialclerkreview.com) for a FREE consultation.

Business-minded should give consideration to judicial clerkships

picserveThis group of law clerks from Cooley Law School in Michigan includes one with a very interesting and entrepreneurial background. Law students and lawyers who are business owners and those who practice or are interested in business law need not shy away from judicial clerkships.

Clerkships hone crucial legal writing skills that are necessary for successful transactional attorneys and litigators alike. Clerkships also develop a critical network of contacts for use throughout a lawyer’s professional career. The judge for whom a law clerk works is the first building block in that network, and, when the judge and law clerk have a good working relationship as it seems for instance in this case, the judge’s network can become the law clerk’s network.  Clerkships also provide a critical insider’s look at how judges consider cases, including contract disputes.  The law is the law, but every judge brings his or her own perspective to analyzing cases under the law.  That perspective is reflected in legal outcomes that can have a significant impact on how corporations and individuals operate on a daily basis.  Understanding that thought process helps former law clerks to make predictions and plan future behavior in compliance with the law.

Clerkships certainly are not for everyone, but don’t rule them out simply because of your selected field of practice.

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Allison R. Brown, Esq. is the founder and principal of Judicial Clerk
Review. Allison graduated from Harvard Law School. After graduation,
Allison returned to her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, and served two
judicial clerkship terms – first for the Indiana Supreme Court and
then for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Allison entered private practice at Crowell & Moring and served as a Trial Attorney for the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section.  She is also the President of Allison Brown Consulting (ABC), an education consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Start the New Year right … with the Best Law Job

Happy New Year!!

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I have conducted informal interviews of several former law clerk friends of mine, and the results are in: judicial clerkships rank as one of the best law jobs most of us have ever had. We enjoyed our experiences, learned an incredible amount about the practice of law from a law veteran, and developed tremendously as attorneys.

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So, what should you do to position yourself to become a law clerk after you graduate from law school? Here are a few tips…

1. Think strategically about your career and professional development opportunities. Take some time to chart out your ideal career trajectory and then decide how a clerkship can help get you there. Do you want to litigate, do appellate work, negotiate transactions, enforce administrative regulations? Do you want to live in the northeast, southwest, Midwest? Interested in being a key player in local politics and culture, or is the national stage calling your name?

All of these questions and more are key to determining how to apply for clerkships. If you are interested in establishing a local presence, you should be applying to judges in that local area. Consider whether you want to use one clerkship as a stepping stone to another higher-level clerkship. Think about the jurisdictions that will give you exposure to the areas of law that most interest you. New York and Delaware courts will provide a huge window into the laws that govern corporations; Texas and Arizona courts will provide exposure to immigration cases. Be strategic in how you apply for clerkships.

2. Research. You have to do your homework. Before applying for clerkships, you have to research the local area(s) you are targeting, the courts in the area, and the judges who sit on the courts in that area. This will help you tailor your cover letter to each particular judge to the greatest possible extent rather than blanketing the earth with generic template cover letters. Once you accept an offer to clerk for a judge, research will identify for you the lawyers who appear before the judge and help you begin to make connections.

3. Network. Many clerkship opportunities are out there but are not publicly posted on OSCAR, the online clerkship database for federal court clerkship openings, or elsewhere. Particularly for judges who are new to the bench and have been appointed and confirmed outside the usual clerkship hiring timeline, networking is how they fill much-needed clerkship slots. Join your local and national bar associations, bar affinity groups, and other law-related membership organizations. Attend their events. Shake hands. Don’t hand out resumes at a cocktail party or reception unless there is a career fair component, but do get to know people and, most importantly, let them get to know you.

4. Make sure your clerkship application package is flawless. Your cover letter, resume, and writing sample can have absolutely NO mistakes and must accurately and compellingly represent you. You should practice and prepare for clerkship interviews before you sit down for the real thing. You don’t want to give judges any reason to easily discard your application.

Judicial Clerk Review can assist you in applying for a judicial clerkship, the best law job. Let us be your concierge through the application process.
Email me at allison@judicialclerkreview.com for more information.

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“Kissing Judge” in the Philippines granted clemency by the Supreme Court

In international law clerk news, the Philippines Supreme Court in Manila has granted clemency to naughty boy Judge Hermin Arceo.  The Filipino judge had been released of his duties in 1996 after his then 29-year-old female clerk filed a complaint against him alleging that he sexually harassed her as well as female witnesses and other female employees.  In its 1996 opinion relieving Judge Arceo of his judicial duties, the Supreme Court included the Investigator’s detailed description of Judge Arceo’s bad behavior, which primarily targeted his clerk and his stenographer and included physical sexual assault and sexually suggestive behavior.  To wit:

  • he once invited his stenographer into his private office and, when she arrived, he stood in front of her wearing only his underwear;
  • he repeatedly pressed his bottom half against his clerk as she was walking out of the office door
  • he made a lewd sexual gesture to his clerk in front of her fiance;
  • he repeatedly kissed female employees against their will;
  • he showed a sexually explicit film to female employees in chambers and teased them about it;
  • he wrote his clerk a long and sexually explicit love poem;
  • he locked his clerk in his office and forced himself on her though she ultimately fought him off of her;

The Supreme Court dismissed Judge Arceo from the bench for “gross misconduct and immorality prejudicial to the best interests of the service” and barred him from future government service.

Last week, Judge Arceo, now 71, was granted clemency and may return to government service.  There is no word in the article of the whereabouts or well-being of the former clerk who was brave enough to come forward on her own behalf and on behalf of her female co-workers.  I’m hopeful that she is doing well and that Judge Arceo will exercise good judgment and refrain from seeking another seat on the court.  What do you think?

Another Law Clerk Job Opening, and a Growing Trend.

The Central District Court of California in Los Angeles is seeking a term Law Clerk.  This law clerk will answer to the Chief Magistrate Judge but will support the needs of the full Court.  The position announcement can be found here.

The Court is explicit in its direction that only those applicants who are Bar certified and have prior legal experience, preferably in litigation, will be given serious consideration.  The Court is part of a growing trend – more and more courts and judges are seeking experienced attorneys to serve as law clerks and in staff attorney positions, which can require the attorneys to work with several members of a court on several different matters at once.

Remember that if you are applying for judicial clerkships, Judicial Clerk Review can assist you through the arduous clerkship application process.  These days, law students and lawyers who are applying for judicial clerkships face very stiff competition.  As such, they must have stellar academic credentials, impressive professional backgrounds, and an uncanny ability to knock a judge’s socks off, so to speak, in an interview.  At Judicial Clerk Review, we are committed to helping you prepare (www.judicialclerkreview.com).