Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Are Federal District Court Clerkship's Hard Jobs?

How difficult is a federal district court clerkship in terms specv31308/10/17
Zero personal practical experience, but my thoughts are if y jd4hire08/10/17
Difficulty of the job will depend on the judge. If you like tacocheese08/10/17
It greatly depends on your individual judge. I have some fri cranky08/10/17
I interned for a fed DJ in law school and have a handful of spaghetti08/18/17
I had a friend that did this before biglaw and she said she karlfarbman08/18/17
specv313 (Aug 10, 2017 - 3:57 pm)

How difficult is a federal district court clerkship in terms of managing the docket and getting the work done? I have prior (state) clerking experience on the civil-side, and found the experience both challenging and rewarding. I always thought a federal clerkship would be that much harder -- not only are you dealing with state law issues brought up through diversity, but also loads of complex federal statutes and regulations.

When I do legal research I always stumble across massive federal district court opinions, oftentimes on very complicated legal issues. I think, how long did it take the clerk to bust-out this 40-page opinion on a 12(b) motion to dismiss? At the state level, given our docket load, we simply didn't have the time to issue massive opinions on every motion filed. If something could be disposed of in two-paragraphs, it was, and then on to the next thing.

Anyone with experience who can speak to this issue?

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jd4hire (Aug 10, 2017 - 4:03 pm)

Zero personal practical experience, but my thoughts are if you get offered a federal clerkship, take it. It will greatly benefit you, your career, and your connections.

I have a few friends who did it and they are certainly very intelligent, but not idiot savant level.

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tacocheese (Aug 10, 2017 - 6:31 pm)

Difficulty of the job will depend on the judge. If you like researching and writing, it's not too difficult. You can search on Westlaw how many substantive orders a judge writes in a year. Divide by two or three (number of clerks) and then factor in the other work for which no long orders are necessary (non-appealable rulings on motions, like denial of summary judgment). You will have plenty of two-paragraph orders but sometimes memos submitted to the judge on those. Often just a conversation.

If you have a tyrannical judge or a week staff, it can be stressful. Overall it's like you say; challenging and rewarding.

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cranky (Aug 10, 2017 - 8:27 pm)

It greatly depends on your individual judge. I have some friends who were glad to get prestigious federal clerkships, but then they were asked to leave early due to not getting along w/the judge, or else they had to work long hours, past 9 pm every night for the relatively low pay. It looks good on your resume if you can survive and last through the entire clerkship period.

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spaghetti (Aug 18, 2017 - 1:14 am)

I interned for a fed DJ in law school and have a handful of friends who clerked. They all say the same thing, and the clerks at my internship did too.

It depends a lot on the judge. Like all humans, they range from the best to worst bosses. Likewise, the amount of work they expect from you can range from a casual 9-5 to grueling big law hours. I know of one judge who requires clerks to be in chambers from 6AM to 6PM no matter what. I know of another one who was on senior status who did not care at all what his clerks do and never sets a deadline.

Workload also depends on the court's docket. Some courts are naturally WAY busier than others. So yeah some judges have the ability to sit back and fix italicized periods on a 50 page MSJ order. Some grind things out fast.

Having practiced mostly in fed court, I'm always appalled by state trial court rulings and orders, but I understand how overly burdened they are.

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karlfarbman (Aug 18, 2017 - 8:11 am)

I had a friend that did this before biglaw and she said she was doing way more work during her clerkship than most of the time she's been in biglaw. She did also say it really seemed to depend on the judge, and probably how good of a recommendation you hope to get from them. You're right it seems like it would potentially be much legally intensive given the broad range of law you'd end up researching. OTOH, you might be surprised how much of it is run-of-the-mill PI cases that come in through diversity. A lot of prisoner/civil rights violation/I'm suing the government! cases too. In my jurisdiction the fed courts try to rid themselves of those as much as possible so there are a lot of routine copy and paste SJ opinions excepting the facts.

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