Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

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cfe298
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Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby cfe298 » Fri May 19, 2017 11:12 pm

Hi TLS,

I've used this forum as a resource over the past couple of years (first time posting, though) and have found it invaluable. Any input on the below would be immensely appreciated.

About me: I recently graduated magna from a lower T14 (think MVPB), somewhere around the top 15 percent of my class; a couple of B+s (and one B...), along with numerous A-range grades, including six A+s. I'm not on LR but held an editing board position on a secondary journal, and I was also EIC of an off-campus legal publication (super writing-intensive). Worked for a few years before law school. Headed to a biglaw gig in a major market in the fall. Getting married in December, and wife and I would like to stay on the east coast since our families/lives are here. I'm therefore somewhat geographically limited (although if by some crazy fluke I were to land a COA position--I know, not happening--a one-year move to some other area of the country, no matter how remote, would not be out of the question)

I have three LORs. I have reason to believe that one of the LORs is extraordinarily strong (I have a very close relationship with this professor, who said on multiple occasions that I was one of the best, if not the best, writer she had seen in her X years of teaching), and two other LORS (one of which was from a COA judge with whom I took a class in which I was fairly active--participated, went to office hours, etc.--and got an A), although I don't have any reason to think that the latter two are anything exceptional.

I have applied to well over 100 district court judges (possibly closer to 150). I've had just four interview requests and three interviews. None of the three lead to offers. (Side note re: the fourth judge -- just a few days before I was supposed to interview, she canceled the interview; even after freaking out about this cancellation and repeatedly reviewing my application--and also having some clerkship folks at my school look over the materials I had sent--I couldn't find any sort of aberration/mistake in my materials that could have explained this. And I don't believe I said anything stupid/weird/out of the ordinary when I scheduled the interview -- I was cordial and the conversation seemed very standard. I digress, but did just want to note this).

With a little more time on my hands now that I've graduated, I sent out 50 applications the other day (this is included in the 150 total applications I sent out, noted above), and my professor (the first, mentioned above) called about six or so of them on my behalf. This professor does not have any particularly strong connections to any judges given her area of work, but she is a longtime professor who is highly regarded in her field. Still, it's been crickets.

To be clear, I have looked at the many, many other threads on similar topics, all of which, I realize, make clear that this process is crazy and very idiosyncratic, and just exceptionally competitive. So I have absolutely no illusions about landing a clerkship.

Still, I can't help but feel I'm doing something wrong here. I thought that my three interviews went well. Also, my strongest recommender offered to call any and all judges who I apply to, and in fact she called all three of the judges I interviewed with before I went in for my interview, and said she sang my praises. And, as noted, this professor has called several other judges to whom I recently applied. I have had several clerkship profs/advisors at my school review my application materials, so multiple pairs of eyes have reviewed everything. I've also done mock interviews with people and went into my interviews thoroughly prepared (and fwiw, while I know that OCI/other job interviews are like a cakewalk compared to this process, I landed over a dozen jobs from pretty good biglaw firms with grades that weren't particularly impressive, so I don't think my interviewing is necessarily terrible). Lastly, although I recognize that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants with credentials far more impressive than my own, I do have a resume that, I've been told, shows a range of notable and interesting writing experiences.

I haven't yet sent out any paper applications (have only applied via OSCAR so far) but I'm hoping to soon. In the meantime, though, if anyone has any advice about my approach thus far, or about anything that I should try to do differently going forward (e.g., focus only on XYZ jurisdictions? Don't bother sending out any COA applications at all? etc.) I'd be really appreciative. I'm not here looking to be told that I have a chance of getting a clerkship, if that's really not the case -- if anyone thinks that my stats put me out of contention with all east coast district judges, please do let me know. I do get that I'll never know unless I apply, but I also have to accept the possibility that perhaps I just don't have the credentials that judges look for in applicants these days, and I really do appreciate honesty above all else. As many of you have encouragingly noted elsewhere, perseverance is key in this process, but having sent out so many applications as it is with what feels like basically no interest from judges, I'm starting to wonder whether there's something wrong with me and/or my application.

Thank you to all!!

-G

PS - Apologies for the long-winded and likely incoherent post (functioning on like 0 hours of sleep due to fam travels).
Last edited by cfe298 on Fri May 19, 2017 11:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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runinthefront
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby runinthefront » Fri May 19, 2017 11:17 pm

Send out paper applications to judges not on OSCAR. You'll get more interviews that way.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 19, 2017 11:30 pm

Nothing to see here. I had much stronger stats than you and it took me 6 interviews before I landed my first clerkship I think.

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Lavitz
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Lavitz » Fri May 19, 2017 11:39 pm

Yeah, these results seem pretty typical for someone who's top 15% at a lower T14 and no LR. Doubt there's anything glaringly wrong with your app, especially if you got four interviews. The cancellation was likely just because the judge decided to hire someone else instead of waiting to interview you. It sounds like you're doing everything right, so just keep applying, and send out those paper apps.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri May 19, 2017 11:41 pm

First, I'm sorry that you're finding this so frustrating - it isn't the easiest process at all. Mostly I want to say that while 3 interviews doesn't feel like a lot, the fact that you've had interviews suggests that there isn't a glaring problem with your application. Not getting any of the three is frustrating (absolutely) but can just be how the process works - there was something that didn't click for those judges and/or someone else clicked better. Unless you can ID something specific that went badly, that's probably just a function of the idiosyncrasy of clerk hiring.

As for the judge that canceled - I'm sure it's not a comment on you; they may well have interviewed someone else and liked them and decided to end the hiring process then and there. Hiring a new clerk every year is a pain in the ass, and a lot of judges will interview only until they find a candidate they like rather than go through the whole pool first. It sucks to be a candidate with a later-scheduled interview, but it's not even saying "I like candidate X better than you," so much as "you look great too but I like candidate X just fine and if I hire her I can be done with this for the year."

Your prof calling is great, but calling after an interview is scheduled is in some ways not as helpful as calling to get an application pulled from the pile. Once a judge has decided to interview you they've decided you're qualified (though others might still be *more* qualified) and success will hang on the interview. A call is great, but the judge is still going to largely go off their reaction to the interview. Calls can be especially helpful if the goal is to get noticed in a pile of applications.

You may also be running into timing issues - I don't know what term you're aiming for but it's possible judges are hiring on a different schedule? I honestly don't know what the timeline is like anymore but I throw that out there.

But my tl;dr here is that especially if all those people have looked at your materials and see no problem, you just need to keep applying. You may benefit from paper apps because you may be running into judges who use top 10% as a way to weed out people on OSCAR? It doesn't sound like there's anything glaring that's screwing up your application.

cfe298
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby cfe298 » Sat May 20, 2017 12:06 am

Thank you so much, everyone. These responses are really helpful. Unfortunately my school's clerkship office hasn't given much in the way of constructive advice, so I've pretty much felt like I've been on my own with this and I was just feeling so confused and lost. I know that my stats are not good at all as far as clerkships are concerned, but I was still worried I was in some way underperforming given how many applications I've already sent out. I am relieved to hear that's likely not the case.

To A. Nony Mouse -- given my geographic limitations due to our upcoming wedding and our desire to settle down near our families (who live in Maryland and Delaware) I'm kind of just applying to anything and everything that's available, subject to those geographic limitations. So I've applied to the handful of judges hiring for the 2018/19 positions that are still up on OSCAR, as well as any positions for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 terms. I'd jump at a chance to interview for any of those terms. But I suppose that I may be running into some timing issues as you suggested, esp for 2018/19 -- lots of entries still up on OSCAR, but I imagine the judges have filled those slots.

Given that I do not have LR, am not top 10 percent, etc., should I not bother at all with certain district courts (like SDNY), and should I eliminate COA entirely from my search (although obviously I'd never even give so much as a thought to applying 2nd/9th/D.C. etc.)? Or, if I do apply (with the understanding that I likely have no shot at all), should I not bother asking my professor to waste her time calling SDNY/COA/other ridiculously competitive judges ? As mentioned, she's very thoughtfully said she will call anyone and anyone I ask her to call since she knows the game and has said that calls can help an applicant get pulled from the pile, but I certainly want to be respectful of her time and not ask her to make calls that may simply be an exercise in futility. If you think my energies may be best spent focusing on certain courts (although I am only applying for Art III clerkships -- nothing at the state level), I'd welcome any and all thoughts on that point.

Also, if applying via paper might be more beneficial, as A. Nony Mouse helpfully suggested, this will obviously create more work for my law school's clerkship office, since they handle postage and all that stuff. I know that that shouldn't really be my concern, but if any of you have any insight on what's a reasonable number of paper applications to have the school's clerkship people send out (our school's clerkship office has no explicit policy), I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thank you again for your helpful responses and for somehow deciphering my writing in my sleep-deprived state. You've been infinitely more helpful than anyone else up to this point. Hopefully I can pay it forward some day.
Last edited by cfe298 on Sat May 20, 2017 12:18 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 20, 2017 12:11 am

I don't think SDNY or CoA is out of the picture at all. Will have to get a bit lucky and hope something catches someone's eye, but that's how it always his. My CoA judge routinely hires magna Penn grads (which is top 15% there I think). Those guys may be LR though (I suspect they were because he did grill me about not being on LR- though I guess he did hire me in the end).

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mjb447
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby mjb447 » Sat May 20, 2017 12:19 am

Weighing in without much new to say. Thoughts in no particular order:

You're getting interviews, so there's probably nothing wrong with your application materials - if there were, you wouldn't even be getting interviews. May want to do a mock interview or something just to make sure you're giving decent answers. (Also, I hesitate to bring this up, but parts of your post make it sound like you're getting a little in-your-own-head about getting a clerkship - it's bad if that comes across in interviews.) That said, nothing about those numbers, or the fact that a prof without connections isn't helping you much, is very remarkable.

As others have said, the judge who canceled probably just filled her spots before you interviewed and wanted to save you the cost of travel (this is one reason you should always take an interview as soon as you can).

+1 to doing some paper apps, both due to OSCAR filters and because fewer people will take the extra step to mail things.

Limiting yourself to the East Coast puts you in some pretty competitive pools, so even if your results were unusually low for a nationwide search they might be fine for a search limited to those markets.

A COA might be achievable in the long run if that's your goal, particularly if you get a d. ct. clerkship first and maybe after a few years practicing. You never know.

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runinthefront
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby runinthefront » Sat May 20, 2017 12:25 am

cfe298 wrote:Thank you so much, everyone. These responses are really helpful. Unfortunately my school's clerkship office hasn't given much in the way of constructive advice, so I've pretty much felt like I've been on my own with this and I was just feeling so confused and lost. I know that my stats are not good at all as far as clerkships are concerned, but I was still worried I was in some way underperforming given how many applications I've already sent out. I am relieved to hear that's likely not the case.

To A. Nony Mouse -- given my geographic limitations due to our upcoming wedding and our desire to settle down near our families (who live in Maryland and Delaware) I'm kind of just applying to anything and everything that's available, subject to those geographic limitations. So I've applied to the handful of judges hiring for the 2018/19 positions that are still up on OSCAR, as well as any positions for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 terms. I'd jump at a chance to interview for any of those terms. But I suppose that I may be running into some timing issues as you suggested, esp for 2018/19 -- lots of entries still up on OSCAR, but I imagine the judges have filled those slots.

Given that I do not have LR, am not top 10 percent, etc., should I not bother at all with certain district courts (like SDNY), and should I eliminate COA entirely from my search (although obviously I'd never even give so much as a thought to applying 2nd/9th/D.C. etc.)? Or, if I do apply (with the understanding that I likely have no shot at all), should I not bother asking my professor to waste her time calling SDNY/COA/other ridiculously competitive judges ? As mentioned, she's very thoughtfully said she will call anyone and anyone I ask her to call since she knows the game and has said that calls can help an applicant get pulled from the pile, but I certainly want to be respectful of her time and not ask her to make calls that may simply be an exercise in futility. If you think my energies may be best spent focusing on certain courts (although I am only applying for Art III clerkships -- nothing at the state level), I'd welcome any and all thoughts on that point.

Also, if applying via paper might be more beneficial, as A. Nony Mouse helpfully suggested, this will obviously create more work for my law school's clerkship office, since they handle postage and all that stuff. I know that that shouldn't really be my concern, but if any of you have any insight on what's a reasonable number of paper applications to have the school's clerkship people send out (our school's clerkship office has no explicit policy), I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thank you again for your helpful responses and for somehow deciphering my writing in my sleep-deprived state. You've been infinitely more helpful than anyone else up to this point. Hopefully I can pay it forward some day.

(1) Don't artificially limit yourself. Apply to COAs and SDNY/EDNY.

(2) Apply to every judge taking paper applications (in lieu of OSCAR) you can. The clerkship office gets paid to send out letters of rec, postage, etc. At Cornell at least, the clerkship office only sends out the LORs; we're on the hook for getting the rest of our applications together and mailing them out, etc.

(3) Keep applying. Like everyone else has said, your results aren't atypical given your stats. You've already had four interviews scheduled, so your credentials & targeting aren't a problem.

cfe298
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby cfe298 » Sat May 20, 2017 1:43 am

Thank you! I can't emphasize enough how helpful this info is (even if it seems like NBD to you guys).

One stupid question -- some of you have helpfully noted that sending in paper applications, whenever possible, is preferable. The thing is, I've already applied to a number of judges via OSCAR, who also happened to have accepted paper applications. So should I also send in paper applications to them (so as to try and avoid what sounds like the higher likelihood of automatically getting screened out via OSCAR)? I of course don't want to annoy the clerks, JAs, etc. by submitting duplicative applications, but if you don't think it's problematic to do so, I'll get started on that. (And obviously going forward, for those judges to whom I haven't yet applied and who accept paper applications, I'll opt for that instead of OSCAR.)

I swear I still have (some) common sense...

Thanks so much again, TLS!

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby DogDay90 » Sat May 20, 2017 1:54 am

You are selling yourself way short in terms of how competitive you are as an applicant, particularly with respect to COA positions. I had almost identical stats coming from Penn and landed D. Ct. and COA prior to graduating and without the helpful professor support you're receiving. Plenty of people with much lower stats than yours get D. Ct. and, to a lesser extent, COA clerkships coming out of Penn. The process is very frustrating, especially given the moronic way Penn deals with clerkship applicants, but don't doubt how competitive you are as an applicant. If you're from Penn, PM me and I'm happy to give you some more detailed thoughts (and if you're not, I'm sure my comment applies with almost equal force to MVB).

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat May 20, 2017 7:55 am

I agree that you shouldn't limit yourself and that you are competitive (I had WAY lower stats than you, except LR).

And don't worry about your clerkship office sending paper LORs. That's part of their job. Send as many as you need. If they have a problem (which they shouldn't) they'll let you know.

I'm afraid I don't have a good answer about re-applying on paper to judges you've send materials on OSCAR.

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mjb447
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby mjb447 » Sat May 20, 2017 9:04 am

Only anecdotal, but I don't think my judge would have cared if someone applied both ways. (In my case it usually didn't always make sense to do so, though - my clerkship office limited the number of paper apps it would do, and OSCAR limited my electronic apps, so doubling up was wasteful.)

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby GoneSouth » Sat May 20, 2017 10:36 am

runinthefront wrote:
cfe298 wrote:
(2) Apply to every judge taking paper applications (in lieu of OSCAR) you can. The clerkship office gets paid to send out letters of rec, postage, etc. At Cornell at least, the clerkship office only sends out the LORs; we're on the hook for getting the rest of our applications together and mailing them out, etc.



Lol this seems pretty TTT. If they're already going to mail letters, why would they not include application packets from you with them? It's going to cost the same in postage, and all it does is annoy judges who get two sets of application materials rather than one.

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mjb447
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby mjb447 » Sat May 20, 2017 11:02 am

GoneSouth wrote:
runinthefront wrote:
cfe298 wrote:
(2) Apply to every judge taking paper applications (in lieu of OSCAR) you can. The clerkship office gets paid to send out letters of rec, postage, etc. At Cornell at least, the clerkship office only sends out the LORs; we're on the hook for getting the rest of our applications together and mailing them out, etc.



Lol this seems pretty TTT. If they're already going to mail letters, why would they not include application packets from you with them? It's going to cost the same in postage, and all it does is annoy judges who get two sets of application materials rather than one.

From your lips (fingers?) to God's ears.

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runinthefront
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby runinthefront » Sat May 20, 2017 11:09 am

GoneSouth wrote:
runinthefront wrote:
cfe298 wrote:
(2) Apply to every judge taking paper applications (in lieu of OSCAR) you can. The clerkship office gets paid to send out letters of rec, postage, etc. At Cornell at least, the clerkship office only sends out the LORs; we're on the hook for getting the rest of our applications together and mailing them out, etc.



Lol this seems pretty TTT. If they're already going to mail letters, why would they not include application packets from you with them? It's going to cost the same in postage, and all it does is annoy judges who get two sets of application materials rather than one.

There wasn't really a designated clerkship office until like two years ago. They may still be behind the times (and the policy may have changed since my time), but that's what I had to do. Didn't notice any adverse effect on my cycle, but it was definitely a pain in the ass on my end.

Will relay your concerns tho

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat May 20, 2017 11:12 am

Lol at schools sending out any part of your application. Check your T14 privilege.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Lavitz » Sat May 20, 2017 11:20 am

runinthefront wrote:There wasn't really a designated clerkship office until like two years ago. They may still be behind the times (and the policy may have changed since my time), but that's what I had to do. Didn't notice any adverse effect on my cycle, but it was definitely a pain in the ass on my end.

Will relay your concerns tho

While you're at it, ask them why every time you request letters to be mailed, they have to request the letters from the professors and it takes them weeks to mail them. I don't understand why they can't just keep the letters on file in the clerkship office.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby mjb447 » Sat May 20, 2017 11:24 am

Lavitz wrote:
runinthefront wrote:There wasn't really a designated clerkship office until like two years ago. They may still be behind the times (and the policy may have changed since my time), but that's what I had to do. Didn't notice any adverse effect on my cycle, but it was definitely a pain in the ass on my end.

Will relay your concerns tho

While you're at it, ask them why every time you request letters to be mailed, they have to request the letters from the professors and it takes them weeks to mail them. I don't understand why they can't just keep the letters on file in the clerkship office.

I switched to mostly outside recommenders (who they'd do this for at the time when I was applying) for this reason.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby GoneSouth » Sat May 20, 2017 11:32 am

Lavitz wrote:
runinthefront wrote:There wasn't really a designated clerkship office until like two years ago. They may still be behind the times (and the policy may have changed since my time), but that's what I had to do. Didn't notice any adverse effect on my cycle, but it was definitely a pain in the ass on my end.

Will relay your concerns tho

While you're at it, ask them why every time you request letters to be mailed, they have to request the letters from the professors and it takes them weeks to mail them. I don't understand why they can't just keep the letters on file in the clerkship office.


To be fair, we have to ask our professors' assistants to generate letters every time we send apps. I had the same thought as you initially, but realized that they may not want to just keep letters on file in case professors aren't willing to recommend you to certain judges or need to update their letter (once a letter is on file, they may not remember what's in it and might not realize that it needs to be updated).

cfe298
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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby cfe298 » Sat May 20, 2017 12:00 pm

Thanks so much, everyone. All of this advice is so helpful. I know that nothing is guaranteed in this process--far from it--but you've certainly given me more encouragement about my prospects than I had been receiving elsewhere (was basically told that SDNY, EDNY, COA as a whole, etc. were completely off the table and that even so much as trying was a waste of my time and energy). I'll continue to push forward and hope for the best, and if things don't work out, maybe with two or so years in biglaw my chances of landing a clerkship (which I imagine I'll still want by that point, if I haven't yet been offered one) will improve somewhat.

Of course, any other insights (whether positive or negative) would be welcomed.

Really can't express my thanks to all of you enough.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Lavitz » Sat May 20, 2017 12:57 pm

GoneSouth wrote:To be fair, we have to ask our professors' assistants to generate letters every time we send apps. I had the same thought as you initially, but realized that they may not want to just keep letters on file in case professors aren't willing to recommend you to certain judges or need to update their letter (once a letter is on file, they may not remember what's in it and might not realize that it needs to be updated).

I suppose that's fair. The last time I sent out a batch of applications, one professor e-mailed me and asked for an updated resume because he wanted to update his letter.

Still doesn't explain why it sometimes takes a month.

cfe298 wrote:Thanks so much, everyone. All of this advice is so helpful. I know that nothing is guaranteed in this process--far from it--but you've certainly given me more encouragement about my prospects than I had been receiving elsewhere (was basically told that SDNY, EDNY, COA as a whole, etc. were completely off the table and that even so much as trying was a waste of my time and energy). I'll continue to push forward and hope for the best, and if things don't work out, maybe with two or so years in biglaw my chances of landing a clerkship (which I imagine I'll still want by that point, if I haven't yet been offered one) will improve somewhat.

Of course, any other insights (whether positive or negative) would be welcomed.

Really can't express my thanks to all of you enough.

Yeah, this "was basically told that SDNY, EDNY, COA as a whole, etc. were completely off the table and that even so much as trying was a waste of my time and energy" advice is definitely wrong.

If you still don't have one by the time you start in biglaw, maybe try to talk with former clerks in your firm. They may be willing to recommend you to their judges, especially if it's a partner you've done good work for. At the very least, you can mention in your cover letter that you spoke to a former clerk.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 20, 2017 1:52 pm

Just want to chime in and say that I'm in the same school range with slightly worse stats, and I, too, thought CoA was completely off the table right up until I landed a CoA clerkship. It was the only interview I got, and it was via a paper application. I'm posting this to anecdotally reinforce what some others have said: don't sell yourself short as a candidate, and don't get discouraged. You're still in the game.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 20, 2017 1:56 pm

I had worse stats than you with no recommender calling on my behalf and I had 1 interview with a district judge in an uncompetitive district toward the middle of the country that lead to an interview and eventually a clerkship. Either you're applying to just competitive places and that's knockin you out or you have a glaring typo in your cover letter or somewhere in the app. Judges are notorious for dinging anyone, no matter how qualified, if they find a single typo in their application. And it can be discovered after you've already been granted an interview so that the interview ends up being a waste. Thoroughly go through your whole app and make sure it's perfect.

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Re: Incredibly Discouraged and Seeking Advice

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 20, 2017 3:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Just want to chime in and say that I'm in the same school range with slightly worse stats, and I, too, thought CoA was completely off the table right up until I landed a CoA clerkship. It was the only interview I got, and it was via a paper application. I'm posting this to anecdotally reinforce what some others have said: don't sell yourself short as a candidate, and don't get discouraged. You're still in the game.


I'm in the same school range with worse grades and also got dct and coa as alumn.




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