Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

resigned from clerkship; how bad does it look?

It's a bit of an unusual situation. Towards the end of my fi n3wassociate01/29/17
It looks worse than it is IMO. Are you Eastern District of 2breedbares01/29/17
that's good to know, actually really good to know. thank you n3wassociate01/29/17
OP, was the judge's "need someone with more experience" line specv31301/29/17
My co-clerk was older and had 3 years of clerkship experienc n3wassociate01/29/17
It doesn't look good OP. But what matters now is how you spi isthisit01/29/17
There's nothing to lie about: he actually told me it was not n3wassociate01/29/17
I think given the uniqueness of your situation, you have not 2breedbares01/29/17
that's a good idea. i think i'll ask the person that did men n3wassociate01/29/17
Yeah you're not in an enviable position but frankly I don't 2breedbares01/29/17
sent; thank you n3wassociate01/29/17
Replied. 2breedbares01/30/17
Ideally you get them both willing to be a reference. thirdtierlaw01/29/17
This judge has put you in a terrible position. His Honour passportfan301/29/17
Wow, I went through exactly the same thing and, come to thin 3lol01/29/17
Its a bit odd the judge decided to let you go simply because specv31301/29/17
I appreciate it. To be honest, one of the other clerks said n3wassociate01/30/17
judges rely on clerks, so w the new workload its understanda whiteguyinchina01/30/17
Judge sounds like a jerk. He knew your experience level whe massivemissive01/30/17
It's a bad situation all around. Truth be told, it sounds li mrtor01/30/17
I don't know if you've clerked, but it's nothing like practi n3wassociate01/30/17

n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 12:51 pm)

It's a bit of an unusual situation. Towards the end of my first year in biglaw, my practice group began to dissolve. My old firm and I are still on good terms, but when a handful of my co-workers got laid off, I decided to look for a federal clerkship with the blessings of my supervising partners. I found one about 1.5 months later with a new judge (~ half a year of bench experience at the time) who needed a clerk to start immediately because his previous clerk wanted to leave early. Originally, he wanted someone with more work experience, but (I think) due to timing, he hired me. I accepted and relocated within two weeks.

Unfortunately, when I got there, I heard from my co-clerk that one of the other judges had to retire, and our caseload increased to 1.5x what it was. Two weeks later, another retired, and another, and another (4 total). With only two judges left in the district, our docket was 4x its original size. We worked as fast as we could, but because I was new, I needed training and was still learning the ropes. We tried to get a third clerk, but found that it was impossible.

A couple days ago, my judge called me in and asked me to resign. He said he didn't have time to train me, and while he "appreciated my effort and energy," he needed someone with more work experience. I tried to remind him that I had only been here for ~7 weeks, and that I gave up several callbacks with biglaw firms and government agencies for this clerkship. He said he appreciate those facts as well, but had to do "what was best for the court." Since I didn't have an option, I resigned.

Right now, I feel stupid for taking this job. My law school is very supportive, as are my former supervising partners. I talked to a handful of headhunters, who didn't seem too worried after I explained. But I'd like a realistic picture of what to expect. To the more senior folks, how bad will this look to future employers?

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2breedbares (Jan 29, 2017 - 1:47 pm)

It looks worse than it is IMO. Are you Eastern District of CA? A lot of CA law firms who do lit in that district would understand. We get notices about how inundated the court is with many of our motion orders.

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n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 3:09 pm)

that's good to know, actually really good to know. thank you!

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specv313 (Jan 29, 2017 - 1:55 pm)

OP, was the judge's "need someone with more experience" line another way of saying that you weren't cranking out court orders fast enough? My job entails a lot of research and writing on legal issues, and I've often wondered what's should be a reasonable expectation of a judge on receiving an order on a party's filing, especially when you get one of these 300-page summary judgment motions with lots of intricate details. Also, your co-clerk, was s/he busting out amazing orders super fast or something, making you look worse at your job than you probably really were ?

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n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 2:44 pm)

My co-clerk was older and had 3 years of clerkship experience. I was aiming for 1 dispositive motion a week because that was what my co-clerk (and other clerks) advised. I was only there for 7 weeks: I spent one week dealing with 6 criminal scripts/hearings/sentencing, 1 on cross msjs, 1 on mtds, 2 weeks issuing order after order for a case going to trial (pretrial stuff and jury instructions) but ultimately settled, and another two weeks on ~235-page disabilities appeal. (This one took a little longer because I didn't know much about disabilities law until I got the case.) All my orders were modeled after my co-clerk's, and he okayed them before I turned them in. As I mentioned, the judge originally wanted someone with more work experience than I had, but hired me anyway. He did tell me as he was asking me to resign that he had concerns about my lack of work experience even before he hired me, but wouldn't it make more sense to tell me in advance/ not hire me, than to do what he actually did?

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isthisit (Jan 29, 2017 - 2:27 pm)

It doesn't look good OP. But what matters now is how you spin it. You generally control the narrative so don't lie when you explain why you resigned but make sure you look good.

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n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 2:48 pm)

There's nothing to lie about: he actually told me it was nothing I did; I just didn't have the work experience he wanted. he said he "needed more than a junior associate." (I didn't know what to say to that. I had a year of work experience; I was still a junior associate.) I know my co-clerk was able to help more by telling the judge how to handle situations he didn't know how to handle. (My co-clerk had been a clerk longer than the judge had been a judge.)

I just don't see how spinning the story would help.

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2breedbares (Jan 29, 2017 - 3:19 pm)

I think given the uniqueness of your situation, you have nothing to lose by being up front. Can you ask the judge or co-clerk to vouch for your work product?

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n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 3:27 pm)

that's a good idea. i think i'll ask the person that did mentor me to vouch for my work product (my judge was not interested in mentoring.) the ones I drafted last month are on westlaw, and i have the original orders too so firms judge for themselves.

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2breedbares (Jan 29, 2017 - 3:35 pm)

Yeah you're not in an enviable position but frankly I don't think it's insurmountable by any means. I see it being no worse (in fact, it's better) than a typical law firm layoff. To give you some perspective, there was a huge legal bloodbath in 2009. But people were able to land on their feet.

If you want to shoot me an email, I'm at 12b6demurrer@gmail.com. You can use an anonymous email if you want. I have some ideas for you.

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n3wassociate (Jan 29, 2017 - 5:02 pm)

sent; thank you

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2breedbares (Jan 30, 2017 - 12:33 am)

Replied.

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 29, 2017 - 3:51 pm)

Ideally you get them both willing to be a reference.

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passportfan3 (Jan 29, 2017 - 8:40 pm)

This judge has put you in a terrible position.

His Honour should know that law is a hyper-judgmental profession which assumes the worst whenever it sees a deviation from a norm. "If this guy did something different than his peers, it must be because there is something wrong with him," most hiring partners will think.

I did not receive an offer from my 2L summer, and I thought I had an excellent reason: the firm I worked for did not ever hire out of law school. They offered 2L summer jobs, and they would consider you again after two or three years of practice. (They were candid about this.)

When I interviewed during 3L, this was a scarlet letter. EVERYONE asked if I had been given an offer. When my answer was something other than an unqualified Yes, they stopped listening. One guy wrote "NO OFFER" in big letters on his pad and put the pad down -- the interview was over.

If you interview with enough people, you will eventually find someone who does not care. That will happen.

But, in the meantime, I'm sure that sounds like "network."

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3lol (Jan 29, 2017 - 11:24 pm)

Wow, I went through exactly the same thing and, come to think of it, none of the firms that asked ever hired me. My first two jobs were at crappy firms and the one I work at now I worked in during my 3L year as a law clerk.

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specv313 (Jan 29, 2017 - 9:05 pm)

Its a bit odd the judge decided to let you go simply because of a "lack of work experience." Most clerkships at the trial and appellate levels work the opposite way - attorneys clerk first, then go get firm experience. Sure, there are "career clerks," but the majority of the clerks I've known were relatively young. And by that I mean either right out of law school or, like you, had worked for a year or two and then took a clerkship position. It sounds like this judge just has a penchant for career clerks, which is too bad, especially if your work product is on-point.

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n3wassociate (Jan 30, 2017 - 9:45 am)

I appreciate it. To be honest, one of the other clerks said the same thing: most judges have new kids that need training. Mine just wasn't interested in training me. The words "I'm not here to answer questions" and "I don't mentor" came out. I remember them because I didn't know how to react to that. In hindsight, it's my fault for not understanding the ramifications of working for a new judge with less experience on the bench than I did as an attorney. I really should have gone with the other judge (and would have but for the timing).

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whiteguyinchina (Jan 30, 2017 - 3:18 am)

judges rely on clerks, so w the new workload its understandable. things could turn out bad with mistakes and work piling up. he is also under a lot of pressure. but he should be willing to be a solid work reference for you. otherwise he is a soulless jerk.

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massivemissive (Jan 30, 2017 - 8:06 am)

Judge sounds like a jerk. He knew your experience level when he hired you. This profession is filled with people like this.

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mrtor (Jan 30, 2017 - 9:29 am)

It's a bad situation all around. Truth be told, it sounds like you weren't a great fit if you weren't up to speed after nearly two months. You might consider dropping it off your resume altogether, given that it was only seven weeks. If you leave it on, it will raise questions and come up during interviews. You might be able to field those questions well, but why risk it? I would deep six the clerkship and pretend like it never happened. Move on.

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n3wassociate (Jan 30, 2017 - 10:15 am)

I don't know if you've clerked, but it's nothing like practice. It's not just a handful of cases and there are no instructions. You receive half the docket (over 400 civil cases, + a couple hundred criminal), handle all variety of motions (mtd, msj, mjar, mte,mfs,mtl... it goes on), learn and apply the criminal sentencing, and when your judge approaches you, you are expected to know not only which cases have upcoming hearings and what the issues are, but also make a recommendation based on what the law is (with case reference), what you think the parties are going to do next (cite the record for evidence), whether or not there's a chance of making them settle, and anything else you think the judge will need.

The best way to describe clerking is this: try making a spreadsheet table with 300 rows and 13 columns, then fill it out with doc#, case name, case catagory,mj,case subject, icmc, ptc, trial deadlines, pending motions, date ripe, current status, 6 month list status, jury demand/prep. Fill it all out by hand (the information for each case in somewhere in its docket on ecf) then memorize it. Then check the ecf report every morning and update every case that comes up (the reports have ~ 100 entries on average). Now work on your dispositve motions - read all 200 pages of cross motions for msj, statement of facts, and start drafting. Oops, one of your upcoming cases just had a series of 6 filings. Stop, go read them, brief the judge on them, bring him the relevant laws, go back to working on your dispositive motion. Stop. Someone filed a TRO. Prepare for the hearing, and start a new order for the TRO because that needs to go out immediately after the hearing. Go back to your-- stop. Prepare the criminal sentencing scripts for two days away. (These are about 25-30 pages each). Go back to your-- stop. Another judge just retired; you'll be adding another 100 cases to your spreadsheet. Some of these are way past the 6 month report, others have motions way past the deadline. Address them. Go back to your dispositive motion... learn mortgage backed securities (or another practice area you have no experience in)-- stop. Your judge wants to talk to you about the details one of the cases on your 400 column list.

Maybe you're smarter, but keeping track of all of this was not second nature to me. I know I could have gotten more efficient with time, but I didn't really get the chance to have time.

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