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Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:07 pm
by Anonymous User
I'm currently a 3L at a T14/on LR and have accepted an offer with a "Biglaw" firm in a major market for after graduation. I accepted a clerkship with a district court for the 2020-2021 term (I would miss my second year at the firm, although I may have the option to clerk in 2019 instead). I think I have a very solid shot with a certain CoA judge, but I want to make sure I'm fully committed before applying.

As far as various considerations/interests—I'm not really gunning for appellate work (although I do want to litigate), I have around $200k in debt (though my school's public interest program would pay my loans while I clerk), I would be interested in becoming an AUSA in the future if the opportunity ever presented itself, and I believe the firm I am joining post-graduation is not super ecstatic about me leaving for one (or two) clerkship(s) after only a year.

So would clerking at the appellate level be worth it? I think I would enjoy clerking a second year with an awesome appellate judge, but the associated costs are giving me some doubts.

Also, please don't quote (in case I decide to delete later, especially since I'm probably somewhat identifiable here).

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:46 pm
by objctnyrhnr
TCR to these questions is always yes to a one year and a one year. TCR is usually even yes to a two year d court clerkship then a 1 year COA. careers are long and federal clerkships are worth their weight in gold. I get the concern, but if you have coa and d court under your belt and have only invested two years to get that epic credential, you’re far from a spot where returns start diminishing.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:36 pm
by QContinuum
If you want to litigate, you should absolutely do a CoA clerkship if at all possible. A D.Ct. clerkship is almost the minimum expected of a successful litigator; a CoA clerkship will actually confer a tangible boost (and an even bigger boost if you clerk for a "feeder" CoA judge). This is a no-brainer.

Congrats on your strong law school performance!

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:57 pm
by lavarman84
I'll go in the other direction. If you don't want to do appellate work, I'd pass. If you think you might want to do appellate work, do it. If you have a shot at a feeder and any possible shot at SCOTUS, do it.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:20 pm
by Anonymous User
I didn’t do a COA despite having the credentials and I regret it (mildly), though I’m still too early in my career to say whether it will matter. (But also late enough that I can’t realistically do it now without pissing off my firm, where I’m very happy.)

It just seems that it makes a meaningful difference for things like SDNY/EDNY/EDVA USAOs, the competitive sections of Main Justice, committee counsel on the hill, etc. It also will matter for the true elite litigation firms, even if I don’t really care about that. If those are things that appeal to you (or even *might* appeal to you), I think you owe it to yourself to do a COA unless it’s going to majorly affect your personal life in a negative way. (Being happy is always the most important thing.)

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:56 pm
by QContinuum
lavarman84 wrote:I'll go in the other direction. If you don't want to do appellate work, I'd pass. If you think you might want to do appellate work, do it. If you have a shot at a feeder and any possible shot at SCOTUS, do it.

Disagree with the above. "Appellate" requires more than a run-of-the-mill CoA clerkship; it requires 2/9/DC, or the circuit where your office is located (and recall most appellate practices are based in DC/NYC/CA, again taking us back to 2/9/DC). The "average" CoA clerkship, say, out on the 11th Circuit will likely not be enough to get someone an appellate position, but will help greatly with DoJ, prestigious USAOs, and elite lit practices, as the above anon notes.

Moderator note: Edited own post to revise advice. -QContinuum

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:41 pm
by Anonymous User
QContinuum wrote:
lavarman84 wrote:I'll go in the other direction. If you don't want to do appellate work, I'd pass. If you think you might want to do appellate work, do it. If you have a shot at a feeder and any possible shot at SCOTUS, do it.

Disagree with the above. "Appellate" requires more than a run-of-the-mill CoA clerkship; it requires a "feeder" CoA position on 2/9/DC at minimum, and preferably SCOTUS. The "average" CoA clerkship, say, out on the 11th Circuit will likely not be enough to get someone an appellate position, but will help greatly with DoJ, prestigious USAOs, and elite lit practices, as the above anon notes.

Anon from above. It’s definitely not true that you need to have a feeder clerkship/SCOTUS to work in an appellate group at a big firm. I know multiple people that work in such groups and dont meet those criteria. Not saying it’s easy by any means but it’s not as crazily difficult to get as that makes it seem.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:24 pm
by Barrred
Anonymous User wrote:Anon from above. It’s definitely not true that you need to have a feeder clerkship/SCOTUS to work in an appellate group at a big firm. I know multiple people that work in such groups and dont meet those criteria. Not saying it’s easy by any means but it’s not as crazily difficult to get as that makes it seem.

I agree. Doing appellate work in biglaw basically requires having clerked for any judge on 2/9/DC, or for a judge in the circuit where your office is located. Of course that doesn't guarantee entry into a big law appellate practice, but by no means is a feeder/SCOTUS clerkship required to work on run-of-the-mill biglaw appellate cases.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:05 pm
by TheProsecutor
Lol at a COA clerkship giving you a boost at USAO or DOJ litigation section at main. Clerking is a necessity but there’s no reason to do both COA and District to be competitive. One or the other is fine and for USAOs district court is more practical.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:15 pm
by lavarman84
QContinuum wrote:
lavarman84 wrote:I'll go in the other direction. If you don't want to do appellate work, I'd pass. If you think you might want to do appellate work, do it. If you have a shot at a feeder and any possible shot at SCOTUS, do it.

Disagree with the above. "Appellate" requires more than a run-of-the-mill CoA clerkship; it requires a "feeder" CoA position on 2/9/DC at minimum, and preferably SCOTUS. The "average" CoA clerkship, say, out on the 11th Circuit will likely not be enough to get someone an appellate position, but will help greatly with DoJ, prestigious USAOs, and elite lit practices, as the above anon notes.


I'll call bullshit on that. That is generally true for the elite of the elite appellate boutiques and the elite biglaw appellate practices (like the ones who often are going before SCOTUS), but those are hardly the only options out there.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:41 pm
by QContinuum
Barrred wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Anon from above. It’s definitely not true that you need to have a feeder clerkship/SCOTUS to work in an appellate group at a big firm. I know multiple people that work in such groups and dont meet those criteria. Not saying it’s easy by any means but it’s not as crazily difficult to get as that makes it seem.

I agree. Doing appellate work in biglaw basically requires having clerked for any judge on 2/9/DC, or for a judge in the circuit where your office is located. Of course that doesn't guarantee entry into a big law appellate practice, but by no means is a feeder/SCOTUS clerkship required to work on run-of-the-mill biglaw appellate cases.

I think this is right, and that my original post was an overstatement. I've edited it accordingly.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:37 pm
by BlackAndOrange84
lavarman84 wrote:
QContinuum wrote:
lavarman84 wrote:I'll go in the other direction. If you don't want to do appellate work, I'd pass. If you think you might want to do appellate work, do it. If you have a shot at a feeder and any possible shot at SCOTUS, do it.

Disagree with the above. "Appellate" requires more than a run-of-the-mill CoA clerkship; it requires a "feeder" CoA position on 2/9/DC at minimum, and preferably SCOTUS. The "average" CoA clerkship, say, out on the 11th Circuit will likely not be enough to get someone an appellate position, but will help greatly with DoJ, prestigious USAOs, and elite lit practices, as the above anon notes.


I'll call bullshit on that. That is generally true for the elite of the elite appellate boutiques and the elite biglaw appellate practices (like the ones who often are going before SCOTUS), but those are hardly the only options out there.


I'm with Lavarman on this, and I'll go a little further. It's not that hard to get some appellate work in standard issue biglaw. Even in the high-end appellate practices you don't have to clerk for a 2/9/DC/feeder to get some of that work. If you want an example, go look at Jenner's appellate associates. By my count, there are 3-4 folks (out of what, 10 total appellate associates?) who clerked for mere mortal 1st, 3rd, and 6th circuit judges. Do they like their former Garland clerks and SCOTUS clerks? Sure, but it's hardly a sine qua non. Even in Gibson Dunn's sterling DC appellate practice you'll find some former clerks that don't the 2/9/DC/feeder bill, like the odd Tjoflat clerk. The same goes for JD in DC. Are they stacked to the gills with SCOTUS clerks? Yes, but you'll find the odd duck who clerked for mortal 11th Circuit judges and even one who clerked for a NC Supreme Court justice. You can play this game with pretty much any biglaw appellate practice. True appellate boutiques might be a different animal, but that's about it.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:10 am
by QContinuum
BlackAndOrange84 wrote:I'm with Lavarman on this, and I'll go a little further. It's not that hard to get some appellate work in standard issue biglaw. Even in the high-end appellate practices you don't have to clerk for a 2/9/DC/feeder to get some of that work. If you want an example, go look at Jenner's appellate associates. By my count, there are 3-4 folks (out of what, 10 total appellate associates?) who clerked for mere mortal 1st, 3rd, and 6th circuit judges. Do they like their former Garland clerks and SCOTUS clerks? Sure, but it's hardly a sine qua non. Even in Gibson Dunn's sterling DC appellate practice you'll find some former clerks that don't the 2/9/DC/feeder bill, like the odd Tjoflat clerk. The same goes for JD in DC. Are they stacked to the gills with SCOTUS clerks? Yes, but you'll find the odd duck who clerked for mortal 11th Circuit judges and even one who clerked for a NC Supreme Court justice. You can play this game with pretty much any biglaw appellate practice. True appellate boutiques might be a different animal, but that's about it.

As I noted, I've revised my previous advice, as I agree that there is no need to do a "feeder" CoA clerkship to land an appellate position. Note that no one ITT - including myself - has ever asserted a need to be a "Garland clerk [or] SCOTUS clerk" to land appellate. Even my original advice (which again, I've since revised) only stated that a "feeder" CoA clerkship was necessary - there was no claim that one had to clerk on SCOTUS, or for Judge Garland.

Also, I don't think citing Jenner helps your "not that hard" case. First, only 1 out of their 9 current appellate associates graduated from a non-HYS school. 8 out of 9 graduated from HYS. Second, 5 out of 9, in addition to graduating from HYS, also clerked for a bigshot CoA judge (Wood, Garland, Kavanaugh), including three who also clerked on SCOTUS itself. Of the 4 non-"feeder," non-2/9/DC clerks, three went to HYS (including one URM). Really, it's only the single non-HYS grad who clerked on the 3rd Circuit who fits your "not that hard" argument.

I guess you yourself acknowledge this with your statement:
BlackAndOrange84 wrote:you'll find the odd duck who clerked for mortal 11th Circuit judges

Sure, there are always exceptions, just like it's always possible to land BigLaw from a T2 law school. It's just very unlikely. No one should expect to be the exception to the rule.

I stand by my revised advice:
QContinuum wrote:The "average" CoA clerkship, say, out on the 11th Circuit will likely not be enough to get someone an appellate position, but will help greatly with DoJ, prestigious USAOs, and elite lit practices, as the above anon notes.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:25 am
by lavarman84
This thing seems to have gotten bogged down in a separate discussion. I'll make a few points to hopefully move us back towards OP's dilemma:
1. OP is questioning if he or she should pursue a COA clerkship.
2. OP has said that he or she is not "gunning" for appellate work.
3. I made the point that I think a COA clerkship is unnecessary unless OP wants appellate work because OP already has a D. Ct. clerkship.
4. There are more appellate opportunities out there than just the major biglaw appellate practices.
5. However, even if OP was interested in a major biglaw appellate practice, we all can agree that a COA clerkship of some sort is basically a necessary credential.
6. If OP does not want that, what does a COA clerkship offer? For those who have had a D. Ct. clerkship and don't want appellate work, it doesn't offer much to the skillset they already have. It basically offers a credential.
7. How much will that credential matter? It depends on the sort of jobs that OP wants, where his or her D. Ct. clerkship is, and his or her credentials.

I'm also going to point out that the whole 2/9/DC distinction is kind of bullshit. On the circuit level, the judge matters more than the circuit. On the district level, it is a bit different. The DC Circuit is the only one that carries significant weight because basically all the judges are heavy hitters imo. The value of a 2/9 clerkship is that those regions are very desirable (NYC, LA, SF, Seattle, Vegas, Phoenix, etc.). Your COA clerkship will obviously be most valuable in its geographic area.

However, the idea that clerking for Judge Callahan on the 9th is going to be considered more valuable than clerking for say Judge Fuentes on the 3rd in a city like NYC solely because the 9th is more "prestigious" than the 3rd is BS imo. People oversell how much that matters.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:05 pm
by BlackAndOrange84
^ TITCR

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:48 am
by hlsperson1111
lavarman84 wrote:This thing seems to have gotten bogged down in a separate discussion. I'll make a few points to hopefully move us back towards OP's dilemma:
1. OP is questioning if he or she should pursue a COA clerkship.
2. OP has said that he or she is not "gunning" for appellate work.
3. I made the point that I think a COA clerkship is unnecessary unless OP wants appellate work because OP already has a D. Ct. clerkship.
4. There are more appellate opportunities out there than just the major biglaw appellate practices.
5. However, even if OP was interested in a major biglaw appellate practice, we all can agree that a COA clerkship of some sort is basically a necessary credential.
6. If OP does not want that, what does a COA clerkship offer? For those who have had a D. Ct. clerkship and don't want appellate work, it doesn't offer much to the skillset they already have. It basically offers a credential.
7. How much will that credential matter? It depends on the sort of jobs that OP wants, where his or her D. Ct. clerkship is, and his or her credentials.

I'm also going to point out that the whole 2/9/DC distinction is kind of bullshit. On the circuit level, the judge matters more than the circuit. On the district level, it is a bit different. The DC Circuit is the only one that carries significant weight because basically all the judges are heavy hitters imo. The value of a 2/9 clerkship is that those regions are very desirable (NYC, LA, SF, Seattle, Vegas, Phoenix, etc.). Your COA clerkship will obviously be most valuable in its geographic area.

However, the idea that clerking for Judge Callahan on the 9th is going to be considered more valuable than clerking for say Judge Fuentes on the 3rd in a city like NYC solely because the 9th is more "prestigious" than the 3rd is BS imo. People oversell how much that matters.


While I don’t disagree with your broader point, Judge Callahan’s lack of “prestige” or appeal has little or nothing to do with the fact that she’s in Sacramento. Lots of crappy Ninth Circuit judges are in major metro areas (e.g. Kim Wardlaw) and many of the best (e.g. Sidney Thomas) are not.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:58 am
by Anonymous User
(Anon because this information makes me fairly identifiable)

Not to hijack the thread, but is there any instance where a district clerkship makes sense after doing two COA courts? I'm considering applying for DDC or SDNY to get trial experience (and also possibly as a way to switch markets).

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:59 pm
by Barrred
Anonymous User wrote:While I don’t disagree with your broader point, Judge Callahan’s lack of “prestige” or appeal has little or nothing to do with the fact that she’s in Sacramento. Lots of crappy Ninth Circuit judges are in major metro areas (e.g. Kim Wardlaw) and many of the best (e.g. Sidney Thomas) are not.

I think this thread just illustrates the problem with discussing "prestige" in this context. (To take Judge Callahan as an example, I hear that she is a great boss and that her clerks learn a lot. She was even considered by Bush as a finalist for O'Connor SCOTUS seat. If by "not prestigious" you mean that she doesnt feed clerks to SCOTUS, then you're correct, but that doesnt seem like a relevant statistic for the vast majority of circuit clerk applicants.) Bottom line: to law firms, a COA clerkship is worthwhile (a good replacement for "prestigious") if it gives you insight into a circuit that the firm practices in front of, and/or gives you insight into the general judicial decision-making process on cases that are similar to the ones the firm handles.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 9:52 pm
by Barrred
Anonymous User wrote:(Anon because this information makes me fairly identifiable)

Not to hijack the thread, but is there any instance where a district clerkship makes sense after doing two COA courts? I'm considering applying for DDC or SDNY to get trial experience (and also possibly as a way to switch markets).

It probably looks weirder that you did 2 COA clerkships. Three clerkships is a lot, but might be worth it in to change markets. I don't think its worth it to get "trial experience," as there are basically no trials in district court anymore.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:57 am
by lavarman84
Anonymous User wrote:
lavarman84 wrote:This thing seems to have gotten bogged down in a separate discussion. I'll make a few points to hopefully move us back towards OP's dilemma:
1. OP is questioning if he or she should pursue a COA clerkship.
2. OP has said that he or she is not "gunning" for appellate work.
3. I made the point that I think a COA clerkship is unnecessary unless OP wants appellate work because OP already has a D. Ct. clerkship.
4. There are more appellate opportunities out there than just the major biglaw appellate practices.
5. However, even if OP was interested in a major biglaw appellate practice, we all can agree that a COA clerkship of some sort is basically a necessary credential.
6. If OP does not want that, what does a COA clerkship offer? For those who have had a D. Ct. clerkship and don't want appellate work, it doesn't offer much to the skillset they already have. It basically offers a credential.
7. How much will that credential matter? It depends on the sort of jobs that OP wants, where his or her D. Ct. clerkship is, and his or her credentials.

I'm also going to point out that the whole 2/9/DC distinction is kind of bullshit. On the circuit level, the judge matters more than the circuit. On the district level, it is a bit different. The DC Circuit is the only one that carries significant weight because basically all the judges are heavy hitters imo. The value of a 2/9 clerkship is that those regions are very desirable (NYC, LA, SF, Seattle, Vegas, Phoenix, etc.). Your COA clerkship will obviously be most valuable in its geographic area.

However, the idea that clerking for Judge Callahan on the 9th is going to be considered more valuable than clerking for say Judge Fuentes on the 3rd in a city like NYC solely because the 9th is more "prestigious" than the 3rd is BS imo. People oversell how much that matters.


While I don’t disagree with your broader point, Judge Callahan’s lack of “prestige” or appeal has little or nothing to do with the fact that she’s in Sacramento. Lots of crappy Ninth Circuit judges are in major metro areas (e.g. Kim Wardlaw) and many of the best (e.g. Sidney Thomas) are not.


I think you're misunderstanding my point, and it might be my fault for not making it more clear. I'm not saying that the specific location matters (i.e., the city where your judge has his/her chambers). I'm saying that the biggest advantage from your COA clerkship comes in that geographic area. The 9th has a lot of very appealing geographic areas (LA, SF, Seattle, Vegas, etc.), so I think people tend to argue it as more prestigious as other courts because a lot of people want to practice there. It doesn't matter where Judge Callahan or Thomas sits. The value is knowing the inner workings of that court and its judges (especially yours). That is going to be valuable for any firm that regularly practices in front of those judges. (It'll be valuable to firms outside of that geographic area for the experience, but it won't be as valuable.)

My point in comparing and contrasting Judges Callahan and Fuentes is that Judge Fuentes is going to be more appealing to a firm hiring for its NYC office because they're much more likely to have cases in front of him than Judge Callahan. Of course, with biglaw firms being national, that might be debatable. But my larger point is that your clerkship is most valuable in its geographic market, so judging entire courts on prestige is largely meaningless at the COA level. Individual judges are prestigious (like feeders), but once you get beyond the prestigious judges, aim for geographic areas where you want to be. If you want to be in Atlanta and don't have feeder credentials, it doesn't make much sense to take a clerkship with a random 9th Circuit judge over a clerkship with an 11th Circuit judge in Atlanta. That's just my opinion.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:56 pm
by QContinuum
Barrred wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:(Anon because this information makes me fairly identifiable)

Not to hijack the thread, but is there any instance where a district clerkship makes sense after doing two COA courts? I'm considering applying for DDC or SDNY to get trial experience (and also possibly as a way to switch markets).

It probably looks weirder that you did 2 COA clerkships. Three clerkships is a lot, but might be worth it in to change markets. I don't think its worth it to get "trial experience," as there are basically no trials in district court anymore.

Three clerkships is a lot, especially with the third being a D.Ct. clerkship after two COA clerkships. (A, say, EDNY -> NDCA -> D.C. Cir. trajectory would look much less weird.) It's weird enough that I don't know I'd recommend it. You run the risk of unintentionally making firms think you're not all that committed to the BigLaw lifestyle.

I'd just look in D.C./NYC sans clerkship.

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:14 pm
by Anonymous User
what about a *2* year district court clerkship in DDC/SDNY? is a COA still worth it after it ends? in same situation as OP was but less debt

Re: Is it worth it to do a CoA clerkship after a district clerkship?

Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:50 pm
by QContinuum
Anonymous User wrote:what about a *2* year district court clerkship in DDC/SDNY? is a COA still worth it after it ends? in same situation as OP was but less debt

I'd say yes, generally, assuming you can make it work financially. Two clerkships - district followed by appellate - is very typical; many/most COA clerks have a district clerkship under their belt. The fact that your district clerkship is a 2-year one isn't ideal, but the main downside is to your wallet; firms won't hold a 2-year clerkship against you.

Congrats on your DDC/SDNY clerkship - tremendous accomplishment!