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It's hard to become a Supreme Court clerk. Very hard. (

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  • It's hard to become a Supreme Court clerk. Very hard. (

    Tough Times? Not For This Group of High-Flying Legal Eagles


    It’s hard to become a Supreme Court clerk. Very hard. In rare instances, the justices hire from outside the so-called T-14 schools. But the vast majority hail from the Harvards and Yales, Chicagos and Stanfords.

    Getting into one of those schools is the easy part. From there, you’ve got to pretty much set the curve on your first-year exams. Crushing your second-year exams won’t hurt either. Neither will making law review, then nabbing a spot on the law review’s editorial board. It’d be great, also, if your law review article, or “note,” reads well and gets published, and you land a federal appellate clerkship with one of a half-dozen or so “feeder” judges. Then, and pretty much only then, will you have a shot.

    The good news: If you do land that gig, you’re pretty much set up for life. The world, as they say, is your oyster, even if BigLaw decides to lay off 90 percent of its lawyers and half of the nation’s law schools go belly up.

    The point is given the full treatment in a story out this week in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Lawrence Hurley investigates the three paths many former clerks take: partnership at law firms, careers in academia, and, later on, pursuing judgeships.

    In regard to BigLaw, the pull is largely financial:
    Even during the recession they can still command signing bonuses of up to $250,000, on top of a starting salary that can top $160,000 if they join major firms, according to lawyers familiar with the hiring process.

    Beyond the financial incentives, clerks are attracted to major firms because “they want work that engages them at a similar intellectual level,” said Paul J. Watford, a partner at Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, who clerked for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1995-1996 term..

    Supreme Court clerks “have a real deep love of the law from an intellectual standpoint” but large firms are among the few places where they can continue to engage with the law on the same level after leaving Washington, he added.

    Academia is studded with former clerks:
    Stanford Law School alone has 16 former Supreme Court clerks on its faculty, including such leading lights as former 10th Circuit Judge Michael W. McConnell, who clerked for Justice Brennan, and Pamela S. Karlan, who clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun.

    Other law schools in the state can also lay claim to former clerks. John C. Eastman, a former Justice Clarence Thomas clerk, is the dean of Chapman Law School, for example, while Vikram Amar, a Blackmun clerk, is the associate dean at UC Davis School of Law.

    Not everyone, however, follows those paths. Miles Ehrlich, a Kennedy clerk, in 2006 co-founded a small defense firm, Ramsey & Ehrlich, based in Berkeley, Calif.

    “I guess I have gone in a different direction than many of the other clerks,” he said. “I’m typically drawn more to the facts than the law, and I think my own strengths lie more in dealing with people, than in debating legal doctrine.”

  • #2
    Re: It?s hard to become a Supreme Court clerk. Very hard. (

    I'm pretty sure that Roe was in the first trimester of her pregnancy at some time during her pregnancy, however, and that seemed enough for the majority of the USSC to hand down it's particular ruling (in fact, the court used the vagueness of the case as an excuse to rule on all possibilities instead of an excuse not to take the case in the first place).


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