Sunday, April 27, 2014

Law clerk hiring

Over at Concurring Opinions a little while ago was this :The Law Clerk Hiring Process – An Interview with Federal Judge Thomas Ambro

Question: How far in advance do you select your clerks?  Some federal judges are now hiring two years in advance?  What is your current practice?
Answer:  Right now (March 2014) I have all positions filled for the 2014-’15 and the 2015-’16 terms.  I also have two clerks committed for the 2016-’17 term. My typical lead time for a clerk is two years. That may mean that a clerk will be at least a year removed from law school when she or he begins working in my chambers. That time is usually spent in another clerkship (almost always a District Court clerkship, though on two occasions it has been another Circuit Court clerkship), with a law firm, or sometimes both another clerkship and work in a law firm.
"In addition to letters of recommendation, I welcome calls from recommenders. That tells me that the recommender is willing to put her or his reputation on the line for the applicant, something I value highly. It is also a great shortcut to my becoming aware of good applicants.
Question: Apart from typos or grammatical errors, what is the most common mistake that applicants make?
Answer: In addition to believing that a high-profile recommender is preferable to one who knows you better, the most common mistake I observe is when an applicant feigns interest in a particular judge. When the hiring plan was in place, you could discover that very quickly. If calls or emails by judges to an applicant were not to be made before a set time on a particular day and I got my calls or emails sent out timely, I could tell who was interested by how quickly they responded. If an applicant got back to me within half an hour, she or he was interested.  If that person got back to me hours later, I was “low on their totem pole.” Now that the hiring protocols are discontinued, it becomes harder to know who is interested. That is yet another reason why I try to get as much information as I can from persons who recommend applicants.
Question: I see that as of February 13, 2014, the Administrative Office of the Courts has discontinued the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. How do you feel about that?
Answer: I wish that there would be a plan in place. The hiring plan that was in place had many flaws, including making hiring season a frenetic chase for information and significant gaming of the system. That said, there was at least some organization.  I wish judges would be willing to consider something akin to the match system that exists for those in the medical profession. There would be a period for interviewing applicants (preferably after the 2L grades are out), both the judges and the applicants would prioritize their preferences and submit them to a central place, and those preferences would be dealt with by an algorithm in a computer program. No doubt that system could be “gamed” as well—for example, by having a recommender or other school official gauge a judge’s interest in an applicant, and vice versa, before the preference picks are submitted. That is not bad, however, as it is a good way to determine which applicants are truly interested in clerking for me.

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