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Old 06-18-2004, 08:07 AM
LET LET is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 5
Question Are Fed District Clerkships harder to get than fed COA?

I have heard that a FED District Clerkship is harder to get than Fed COA clerkship? Is this based on any fact or just a rumor? Also, I heard that you can get a clerkship if you want to go live in the boonies and I don't mind that for a year and is this based on fact or just a rumor? If this is true, what states does anyone suggest I try for. Thanks.
Old 06-23-2004, 05:32 AM
Clerkship Guru Clerkship Guru is offline
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Posts: 404
I think you have it backwards. In general, clerkships in the U.S. Courts of Appeals are more competitive than in the U.S. District Courts, simply because there are fewer of them (approximately 500) and many people view them as more prestigious. In law review circles and among those who plan to go into academia, you will find many who aspire to be law clerks in the federal Courts of Appeals (particularly those who aim to clerk subsequently in the U.S. Supreme Court, which tends to take clerks from certain "feeder" judges on the Court of Appeals).

That being said, clerkships in the District Courts are extremely competitive and highly esteemed as well. Other considerations like your personality and future career plans may make them more attractive to some people (e.g., if you are more attracted to working on many tasks and the excitement of daily contact with the litigants, trials, and all aspects of the litigation process, rather than doing the more isolating appellate research and writing mostly in chambers; or if you plan to do litigation in a law firm, public service, or U.S. Attorney's office).

Certain District and Circuit Courts are more competitive than others, based in large part on geography. You are correct the odds of obtaining a federal clerkship increase if you apply to courts and judges who are geographically more remote. The most competitive District and Circuit Courts are in the Second, Ninth, and D.C. Circuit, followed closely by the First Circuit and other metropolitan areas. In terms of judges, the most competitive to clerk for are the Supreme Court feeders, regardless of their geographic location. So, to maximize your chances of a clerkship, you will probably not want to apply to them (see, for example, the list in my book).

For a detailed description of these courts and clerkship experiences, including alternative less competitive types of courts and clerkships as well as strategies to maximize the chances of a successful application, see Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships .
Old 06-24-2004, 09:28 AM
LET LET is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 5
Thanks, Guru.

Thanks so much for your answer. Your book is REALLY good. I'm on my second reading of it now to make sure I don't miss any info.
Old 07-15-2004, 12:08 PM
Publius Publius is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 227
In general, appellate clerkships are more competitive, if for no other reason than there are fewer circuit judges than district judges. That said, when I applied in my 3d year of law school, I was interviewed and rejected by three district judges before I was hired by a circuit judge.

I never thought I'd consider rejection to be a lucky break, but that's life!
Old 09-20-2004, 02:13 PM
perdendosi perdendosi is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Midwest
Posts: 6

Don't underestimate geography, however. It is true that there are many fewer people who are willing to live in Sioux Falls, SD, Boseman, MT, or Montgomery, AL, than L.A. N.Y.C. or other cities that are known by abbreviations. Thus, the "boonies" judges usually receive fewer applications than "big city" judges. At the same time many of the "boonies" judges are highly suspect of Ha-vad students born in Orange County applying to work in their chambers. Some judges honestly want their clerks to be working in "their" area of the country. Some judges feel like the "coastal" attorneys believe that the law practiced in the midwest or the south is not "real law" and are thus highly contemptful of "infidels." So although you may have a better statistical chance with the "boonies" judges, your application may be immediately thrown away because you don't have a nexus to the judges' geographical area. My suggestion, therefore, is, that if you're applying to judges out in the middle of nowhere, you MUST include SOME sort of connection--either to the geographical area ("family" lives there [meaning your second cousin lives within 200 miles], it's an area good for raising families/starting a practice, etc) or to the SPECIFIC JUDGE. Otherwise, I don't think you'll get very far with too many judges, UNLESS the judge himself is an infidel--he never lived in the area before getting a recent job, he went to Harvard, etc.

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