YLS students give mixed reviews of clerkship approach

Ever since David Lat LAW ’99, founder and managing editor of the legal site Over the Law, clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the ninth circuit, he believed the colorful personalities and sprawling court he encountered would lend themselves nicely to a novel. Above a decade later on, while writing his 1st guide “Supreme Ambitions,” Lat ultimately got the chance to put his own fictional spin on a single of the United States’ biggest federal circuits.

For Yalies, the book hits shut to home. But it also delves into a topic that the two drives and haunts numerous college students at Yale Law College and beyond — judicial clerkships, which are complete-time, post-graduate positions that advise judges on cases at the district, state or federal level.

A Approach IN FLUX

The timeline for acquiring clerkships has transformed significantly more than the final a number of years, according to Columbia Law College Director of Academic Counseling and Judicial Programming Anne Green. This shift in the timeline has forced younger law college students to start off contemplating about clerkships sooner. In Lat’s novel, Audrey does not apply for a judicial clerkship till her third and last yr of law college. But Green stated today’s law students often interview for these positions for the duration of the summer soon after their first year of law school, even even though they will not fill them for two a lot more many years.

These adjustments are in component due to the elimination of the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Strategy early last year, which regulated the clerkship application method, in accordance to the United States Courts internet site.

At the identical time, Green noted, a lot more judges are employing graduates with a number of many years of function encounter, leading some students to choose to wait until near the end of their law college job, applying for a clerkship after they have obtained a occupation at which they can work for one or two many years after graduation. Alternatively, other folks even postpone applications right up until they are presently working.

But Harvard Law School Director of Judicial Clerkships Kirsten Solberg mentioned that the enhance in applications from older law college students has created it far more competitive for law students who want to get started their clerkships right away right after law school.

Solberg stated that ten many years in the past, 95 percent of HLS graduates entered clerkships proper following graduating, even though only 5 % took time in between law school and clerking. Now, she said, that ratio has drastically changed, with the number of Harvard Law alums clerking split at about 50–50 among these two groups.

But Solberg stated this added competition has not discouraged Harvard college students from applying for clerkships. In reality, far more are undertaking so simply because the judiciary has not observed the very same shrinkage in positions that law firms have in recent years.

Yale Law College Profession Growth Office Director Kelly Voight cautioned that this new trend of students applying for clerkships earlier in their law college careers is not unsurprising given extended-term patterns in the clerkship hiring procedure.

“Clerkship hiring has verified to be cyclical,” she said. “Over the previous thirty years, we’ve gone by means of periods with a regular schedule, employing later in the student’s academic career and periods of non-regulation like [what] exists today.”


Voight stated close to 35 to forty percent of Yale Law College graduates clerk right away following graduating, a variety that has remained relatively consistent over the final a number of years.

Despite this relative stability, some Yale Law students stated the clerkship hiring approach is itself inherently flawed.

A YLS student who would only communicate under anonymity explained YLS’s procedure of attaining a clerkship lacks transparency. The student added that attaining a clerkship usually depends on receiving excellent grades in courses taught by professors who have robust connections to judges, making competition in and out of the classroom to outperform peers.

Elizabeth Willis LAW ’17 stated Yale does a very good occupation of doing work within the confines of that tough framework. Akunna Cook LAW ’16, even so, explained there is a significant flaw with applying for clerkships from Yale Law College: unequal entry to information. Some folks are privileged and obtain lots of details, she mentioned, and other people are rather kept in the dark and in the end harmed in the application procedure.

But Alex Schultz LAW ’17 explained he thinks that typically the info his classmates have is the identical as his, and that this is indicative of a fair method.

Greg Cui LAW ’17 stated he has found input from professors and peers, along with informational panels organized by Yale Law College, beneficial in navigating the beginnings of the clerkship method. Law School professor Akhil Amar stated he views this advising process as critical to his position as a law professor.

“If a pupil does great operate for a professor, I believe the professor demands to stand by the pupil and let the globe know that that pupil did good perform,” he stated. “That’s type of the social contract, specially at a school like Yale.”

April Hu LAW ’17 said a lot of college students consider to get a clerkship after graduating since there is a frequent assumption that this will open numerous doors in the professional area. A lot of individuals entertain the concept of a clerkship, she extra, with out really knowing the precise cause.

Lat stated that offered his experience with clerkships, he thinks the method of getting them can at times be political. Specific judges, however not all, use private politics as a crucial factor in determining about a certain applicant, based on how a lot disagreement and diversity of perspective they want in their court. Yale Law College professor Owen Fiss stated he hopes politics do not perform a role in clerkship employing. He additional that when students apply for a clerkship, it is crucial for them to decide on wisely which judge to clerk for.

“I believe the law clerk’s highest duty is to be a critic of the judge,” he mentioned. “The very best particular person to function for the judge is [a person who] would give him or her the very best opportunity to perform in the law and not one particular that serves some political curiosity.”

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