SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have one question about building professor ties and clerkships, would love a fairly competitive District Court or anything appellate.

I go to a CCN school and am top 10-15% after 1L. I was hoping to take a follow-up class with a professor (a former SCOTUS clerk) whose class I did very well in, but she's not teaching anything but the 1L core class next year. How can I continue to build connections there, if I won't be TA-ing? Should I ask if she needs any research assistants, and if she isn't, do I have any other options for maintaining that bond?

This thread's extremely interesting, thank you!


This is OP. I forgot this q. I'd send her an email and express an interest in getting to work for her. Go ahead and show some initiative. If it works you win a friend. If it fails it's not like she'll tank you.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This is OP. Another follow-up thought. So there's a Democratic president in the WH right now, filling lots of COA spots. The conservative bloc mostly doesn't care. If a GOP WH comes around in 2016, those appointees mostly won't matter to the liberal bloc. The problem with this q is that it has several foils -- a time dimension (asking me to predict the future) and a political dimension.

If you put a gun to my head and asked me to predict the judges that are most likely to be feeders in 10 years but aren't now, I'd say Kethledge for the conservative (CA6) and either Hurvitz (CA9) or Higginson (CA5) for the liberal.

All guesswork.


This is really interesting. Why do you think Hurvitz and Higginson instead of someone like Watford? People that I talk to believe the former two are a lot less competitive (and possibly less prefstigious even though they have nice things to say about both) than the latter considering it seems clear Watford wants to angle himself as such.

Also, aside from Sri, how will the other 3 new DCC judges rank in the feeding game? What about Owens and Friedland, who both just got appointed on the 9th and clerked for justices that are still alive?

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This is really interesting. Why do you think Hurvitz and Higginson instead of someone like Watford? People that I talk to believe the former two are a lot less competitive (and possibly less prefstigious even though they have nice things to say about both) than the latter considering it seems clear Watford wants to angle himself as such.

Also, aside from Sri, how will the other 3 new DCC judges rank in the feeding game? What about Owens and Friedland, who both just got appointed on the 9th and clerked for justices that are still alive?


This is OP. Watford also would have made my short list. I do not think of these three as significantly different in going-forward chances to be feeder judges.

All DC Circuit judges are a good chance to be feeders by virtue of being DC Circuit.

I do not know enough about either Owens or Friedland to have a strong opinion here.

I went as far out onto a limb in terms of making a very, very tenuous prediction as I felt comfortable. I cannot seriously entertain counter-factuals on this scarce of information. No one else should either.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This is OP. Watford also would have made my short list. I do not think of these three as significantly different in going-forward chances to be feeder judges.

All DC Circuit judges are a good chance to be feeders by virtue of being DC Circuit.

I do not know enough about either Owens or Friedland to have a strong opinion here.

I went as far out onto a limb in terms of making a very, very tenuous prediction as I felt comfortable. I cannot seriously entertain counter-factuals on this scarce of information. No one else should either.

This is the original responder.

Of course this is all tenuous guesswork, I was just curious what sticks out to you about Hurwitz and Higginson to make you think that they will become prominent in the near future.

Regarding the new DCC judges, even within the circuit there are different levels of feeders (Garland vs. Tatel vs Sentelle vs Henderson). I was curious where you think the new ones will land.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:34 pm

How does something like a Bristow Fellowship weigh in the application? At least in recent terms, almost all Bristow Fellows have gone on to land SCOTUS clerkships, but I'm not sure what is driving that correlation - e.g., whether it is due to the Bristow Fellowship adding to the application, or whether it's because Bristow Fellows are already SCOTUS material pre-Bristow Fellowship, or whether it's due to something else entirely. Any thoughts?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:This is OP. Watford also would have made my short list. I do not think of these three as significantly different in going-forward chances to be feeder judges.

All DC Circuit judges are a good chance to be feeders by virtue of being DC Circuit.

I do not know enough about either Owens or Friedland to have a strong opinion here.

I went as far out onto a limb in terms of making a very, very tenuous prediction as I felt comfortable. I cannot seriously entertain counter-factuals on this scarce of information. No one else should either.

This is the original responder.

Of course this is all tenuous guesswork, I was just curious what sticks out to you about Hurwitz and Higginson to make you think that they will become prominent in the near future.


This is OP. I don't think I can really answer this in a satisfactory way. I have information but am trying to figure out a way to communicate it without divulging something I cannot. Let me mull this over a little bit.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How does something like a Bristow Fellowship weigh in the application? At least in recent terms, almost all Bristow Fellows have gone on to land SCOTUS clerkships, but I'm not sure what is driving that correlation - e.g., whether it is due to the Bristow Fellowship adding to the application, or whether it's because Bristow Fellows are already SCOTUS material pre-Bristow Fellowship, or whether it's due to something else entirely. Any thoughts?


This is OP. Good eye. It's about half and half I'd guess (to be rough). A Bristow makes you competitive instantly, but you were probably competitive to start with. Most chambers keep an eye out specifically for Bristow applications: this alone would get you a huge boost... tons of qualified applications languish in the pile. That's probably the biggest effect. But the OSG makes phone calls for Bristows. That's incredibly important. And you really do get good work as a Bristow in terms of learning how to respond to a CVSG, how to address arguments the Justices care about, how to read what the Justices' concerns are.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.


I'm in the same boat, but not HYS. What sort of grades would be required from a T14 for a politically moderate candidate (or at least a candidate with no indicators like ACS or FedSoc) to have a shot? Top 1%?

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:This is OP. Watford also would have made my short list. I do not think of these three as significantly different in going-forward chances to be feeder judges.

All DC Circuit judges are a good chance to be feeders by virtue of being DC Circuit.

I do not know enough about either Owens or Friedland to have a strong opinion here.

I went as far out onto a limb in terms of making a very, very tenuous prediction as I felt comfortable. I cannot seriously entertain counter-factuals on this scarce of information. No one else should either.

This is the original responder.

Of course this is all tenuous guesswork, I was just curious what sticks out to you about Hurwitz and Higginson to make you think that they will become prominent in the near future.

Regarding the new DCC judges, even within the circuit there are different levels of feeders (Garland vs. Tatel vs Sentelle vs Henderson). I was curious where you think the new ones will land.


This is OP. I cringe to answer more questions like this. But will anyway. Srinivasan will be in the Garland/Kozinski/Wilkinson tier in 5 years. The others will be significant but not Garland/Kozinski-grade feeders.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.


I'm in the same boat, but not HYS. What sort of grades would be required from a T14 for a politically moderate candidate (or at least a candidate with no indicators like ACS or FedSoc) to have a shot? Top 1%?


This is OP. #1 + feeder judge.

I still would pick a side.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.


How would you recommend selling myself both ways? I guess I was just concerned that could come off as disingenuous and easily seen through. Any thoughts on how to pick a side post-law school? Join a local ACS/Fed Soc Chapter? Publish a paper on originalism/living constitutionalism?

Also, would you say there is a difference between top 1% and top 5% at HYS? Should they approach their candidacy differently?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:41 pm

Thanks tons for this!

Any tips on overcoming a lack of institutional support?

So, I'm roughly top 5% at HYS (although for complicated reasons that would out me here, it may not be immediately obvious from my transcript that I'm roughly top 5% as opposed to top 10%). I have clerked for a 2/7/9 Cir. judge (who has fed 1-3 times) and a well-respected but non-feeder district court judge in a competitive district. My circuit court judge strongly encouraged me to apply, but has a policy of not calling/writing recommendations on behalf of his/her clerks. And although I have very strong support from my recommenders at my school (all either tenured or tenure-track, mostly fairly well-known), I didn't happen to take any classes from any of the "big guns," if that makes sense. Oh, and I think my resume is strong across the board--as would be expected--with a "hook" that I suspect would be a big plus in the eyes of some.

I applied last year and got no bites. I assume it's due to the fact that I didn't have one of my school's SCOTUS big guns pulling for me and/or my COA judge didn't write/call on my behalf. Given these things, do I have a shot in a future year or is my application going to be DOA?

Thanks! I can be more specific via PM if that's an option (in which case I'll post again under my handle).

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:42 pm

If you get called in for an interview, is it pretty much your one and only shot? Or would you still get consideration if you applied again the next year? Can you speak more to what kind of questions the clerks and the Justice ask? How would you say the interview is different from a COA interview?

Thanks again for this incredibly informative thread!

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.


How would you recommend selling myself both ways? I guess I was just concerned that could come off as disingenuous and easily seen through. Any thoughts on how to pick a side post-law school? Join a local ACS/Fed Soc Chapter? Publish a paper on originalism/living constitutionalism?

Also, would you say there is a difference between top 1% and top 5% at HYS? Should they approach their candidacy differently?


This is OP. Top 1% at HYS is like 10 people jointly nationwide per class. They all should have someone already counseling them individually.

Those paper ideas aren't bad if they're good papers. Don't write something bad on any side -- writing something bad is bad regardless of if it telegraphs the correct side.

Volunteering for a political candidate of the appropriate party is good. Attending FedSoc/ACS conferences is good. Joining as a lawyer/graduate is good. It may be "seen through," but you can always just be cagey on your beliefs. It works more often than you'd think if you're super-super-elite (top 5% HYS, LR+, etc).

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks tons for this!

Any tips on overcoming a lack of institutional support?

So, I'm roughly top 5% at HYS (although for complicated reasons that would out me here, it may not be immediately obvious from my transcript that I'm roughly top 5% as opposed to top 10%). I have clerked for a 2/7/9 Cir. judge (who has fed 1-3 times) and a well-respected but non-feeder district court judge in a competitive district. My circuit court judge strongly encouraged me to apply, but has a policy of not calling/writing recommendations on behalf of his/her clerks. And although I have very strong support from my recommenders at my school (all either tenured or tenure-track, mostly fairly well-known), I didn't happen to take any classes from any of the "big guns," if that makes sense. Oh, and I think my resume is strong across the board--as would be expected--with a "hook" that I suspect would be a big plus in the eyes of some.

I applied last year and got no bites. I assume it's due to the fact that I didn't have one of my school's SCOTUS big guns pulling for me and/or my COA judge didn't write/call on my behalf. Given these things, do I have a shot in a future year or is my application going to be DOA?

Thanks! I can be more specific via PM if that's an option (in which case I'll post again under my handle).


This is OP. Sit down with your HYS recommenders and tell them that you think you need the school's support. They are academics and know how to make deals with each other. You're probably right, that's really hurting your chances. Your judge not recommending you is also hurting you a ton. You seriously need one of those two things to change or you probably can't get any further (without, I don't know, a DC Circuit gig).

"Get a DC Circuit clerkship" is probably the best piece of advice for most people asking the question "what can I do to improve my odds?" But that's an expensive solution.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:If you get called in for an interview, is it pretty much your one and only shot? Or would you still get consideration if you applied again the next year? Can you speak more to what kind of questions the clerks and the Justice ask? How would you say the interview is different from a COA interview?

Thanks again for this incredibly informative thread!


This is OP. Generally speaking, you're one-and-done per chambers. If you get an interview but not hired, you're done. And if you get an interview but not hired, most of the time your school gives up on you and moves on to the next graduate. It's hard to overcome but not impossible.

Whether the clerks matter in an interview, or even participate more than nominally, TOTALLY depends on the chambers. All the important stuff happens with Kagan in a Kagan interview. But Scalia's clerks famously grill candidates.

Types of questions: oh man, might as well ask about the weather. I think I answered this above re: trying to get the feel for you, or a fit for you. I'd say it's probably less substantive than the average person here is guessing. The important thing is to neither come off as pretentious or an idiot.

To the extent there is substance, the substance is probably closely related to the Court's current docket. These people think about the cases before them almost every hour of almost every day. What's on their mind is what they're working on. So, e.g., if you were interviewing contemporaneous with a major separation-of-powers case, it would help to have an opinion on the proper way of policing separation-of-powers issues. And so on.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:If you get called in for an interview, is it pretty much your one and only shot? Or would you still get consideration if you applied again the next year? Can you speak more to what kind of questions the clerks and the Justice ask? How would you say the interview is different from a COA interview?

Thanks again for this incredibly informative thread!


This is OP. Generally speaking, you're one-and-done per chambers. If you get an interview but not hired, you're done. And if you get an interview but not hired, most of the time your school gives up on you and moves on to the next graduate. It's hard to overcome but not impossible.

Whether the clerks matter in an interview, or even participate more than nominally, TOTALLY depends on the chambers. All the important stuff happens with Kagan in a Kagan interview. But Scalia's clerks famously grill candidates.

Types of questions: oh man, might as well ask about the weather. I think I answered this above re: trying to get the feel for you, or a fit for you. I'd say it's probably less substantive than the average person here is guessing. The important thing is to neither come off as pretentious or an idiot.

To the extent there is substance, the substance is probably closely related to the Court's current docket. These people think about the cases before them almost every hour of almost every day. What's on their mind is what they're working on. So, e.g., if you were interviewing contemporaneous with a major separation-of-powers case, it would help to have an opinion on the proper way of policing separation-of-powers issues. And so on.


So as a strategy matter, do you think it makes sense to wait until you are a few years out of law school and have more legal experience, making you a more polished candidate overall?

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:54 pm

This is OP. It depends on whether you think you'll gain connections faster than your reputation at the school will degrade. Faculty members don't usually remember students, even star students, more than a few years out. If you're good at keeping up relationships and don't have a spouse or kids, can't hurt. But most people have a short window, and will miss it if they don't act quickly.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How would you recommend moderate (politically) candidates attempt to frame or sell their candidacy? Someone who might not be liberal enough for the liberal justices but not conservative enough for the conservative justices.


This is OP. If you're top 5% at HYS, no concerns. Try to sell yourself both ways.

If you're not, pick a side, and pick it sooner rather than later.


How would you recommend selling myself both ways? I guess I was just concerned that could come off as disingenuous and easily seen through. Any thoughts on how to pick a side post-law school? Join a local ACS/Fed Soc Chapter? Publish a paper on originalism/living constitutionalism?

Also, would you say there is a difference between top 1% and top 5% at HYS? Should they approach their candidacy differently?


This is OP. Top 1% at HYS is like 10 people jointly nationwide per class. They all should have someone already counseling them individually.

Those paper ideas aren't bad if they're good papers. Don't write something bad on any side -- writing something bad is bad regardless of if it telegraphs the correct side.

Volunteering for a political candidate of the appropriate party is good. Attending FedSoc/ACS conferences is good. Joining as a lawyer/graduate is good. It may be "seen through," but you can always just be cagey on your beliefs. It works more often than you'd think if you're super-super-elite (top 5% HYS, LR+, etc).


If you're in that group but don't have someone already providing advice, should you reach out ASAP to your school/recommenders? What if none of your recommenders were former SCOTUS clerks?

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:58 pm

This is OP. If you are top 1% at HYS and are a 2L or later and no one has contacted you about SCOTUS, I am beyond amazed. Go to your clerkship counselor and say you want to clerk for SCOTUS. You have a right to be taken instantly seriously based on those credentials. If you have LR and are top 1% you are an extremely well-qualified candidate and should have the red carpet rolled out for you. Do a CADC clerkship and wait.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:05 pm

I have one question about building professor ties and clerkships, would love a fairly competitive District Court or anything appellate.

I go to a CCN school and am top 10-15% after 1L. I was hoping to take a follow-up class with a professor (a former SCOTUS clerk) whose class I did very well in, but she's not teaching anything but the 1L core class next year. How can I continue to build connections there, if I won't be TA-ing? Should I ask if she needs any research assistants, and if she isn't, do I have any other options for maintaining that bond?

This thread's extremely interesting, thank you!

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have one question about building professor ties and clerkships, would love a fairly competitive District Court or anything appellate.

I go to a CCN school and am top 10-15% after 1L. I was hoping to take a follow-up class with a professor (a former SCOTUS clerk) whose class I did very well in, but she's not teaching anything but the 1L core class next year. How can I continue to build connections there, if I won't be TA-ing? Should I ask if she needs any research assistants, and if she isn't, do I have any other options for maintaining that bond?

This thread's extremely interesting, thank you!


Sorry that I missed you earlier, but I think I answered this earlier in the thread. Please look up.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sorry that I missed you earlier, but I think I answered this earlier in the thread. Please look up.


Noted - thank you! More than helpful.

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Re: SCOTUS clerk taking questions about federal clerkships

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:34 pm

Any thoughts on selling yourself or how to answer interview questions where you have demonstrated interest/expertise in fields besides constitutional law? I've published articles in a field pretty far away from constitutional law (one of the traditional state law fields).



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