It’s clerkship application reflection season!

BY JEREMY BLACHMAN

I WAS GOING TO GO TO Career Services’ introductory judicial clerkships meeting last Wednesday, but I didn’t really feel like listening to someone ramble on about things I could learn just as easily from a website. So instead I went to see Dennis Kucinich give his stump speech in Ames Courtroom.

But, just to see if I missed anything, I went onto the Career Services site to check it out. And lucky for all of us, they have copies of the handouts and power points right there, along with pages and pages and pages of additional information about clerkships, what they taste like, and how many grams of fat they have per serving.

Apparently, people who went to the meeting were treated to a 19-slide power point that wasted a good bit of toner in my printer, since it was light text on a dark background. But I printed it 8 slides per page, so it’s probably not that big of a deal. But if my printer runs out of ink while printing a final exam, Career Services, it’s all your fault.

A U.S. Court of Appeals clerkship, the slide says, is characterized by “very little contact with people.” Sounds lovely. A State Supreme Court clerkship, in the spirit of ‘having a good personality,’ is “exciting as [a] court of last resort.” Now that’s enticing. A court of last resort. If you can’t get a job with the one where you will have very little contact with people, you can settle for the last resorts. “Great for in-state prestige.” Boy, these career services people sure are fooling me into believing they think state supreme courts are great places to clerk. I bet they describe tall buildings without elevators as “great exercise for the handicapped,” and Hark food as “perfect right before you plan on throwing up.”

“What’s Realistic for You?” the next slide asks. “B+, some journal, good recs: most state clerkships, many district clerkships; A-, some journal, good recs: all state clerkships, most district clerkships, many circuit clerkships; A, some journal, good recs: all clerkships.” What about “C, no journal, bad recs”?? Didn’t cover that one in the meeting, eh, career services? Are those the people going to traffic court? “I need an opinion on that red light, son – and fast!” Those are the easy judges. The tough ones want the opinion written before the light turns green.

“Ways to Get Attention,” according to OCS: going to class naked. Oh, wait, I meant ways to get attention for a clerkship: high grades, membership on law review, tailored cover letter (I need my cover letter trimmed a little bit in the neckline, if that’s okay), cash bribes, compromising photos of judges in their chambers, family connections, cash bribes, federalist society executive board position, familiarity with arcane postal service regulations regarding application mailing, cash bribes, family connections, cash bribes.

According to the timeline, I’m almost a month behind. For all of February through August, OCS insists, you should “reflect about why you want to do a clerkship and what you offer as a candidate.” Uh, cash bribes. And a Harvard Law degree, remember? Isn’t that enough? I can’t wait for the April 6 session of “mail merge logistics.” Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? I know it sounds exactly like the kind of thing better explained at a meeting than in a step-by-step instruction sheet, right?

Recommendations seem to be an important thing for clerkships. The OCS website has some helpful advice for procuring those: “At the very least, you should offer to provide stamps to non-faculty recommenders.” Gotcha.

Also, some self-defeating advice courtesy of career services: “Whatever methods you choose, try to give your potential recommenders a graceful way out of writing you a recommendation. Some may not be willing to write you a good recommendation, but they may not want to tell you so directly. Busy schedules can be a good cover for you to offer and for them to use if necessary.”

Me: “I’d love for you to write a recommendation for me.”

Faculty Member: “Uh…”

Me: “But if your schedule is too busy…”

Faculty Member: “Yes, I didn’t think of that. Uh, I mean, yeah, I’m very busy… washing my hair.”

[That exchange is funnier if you imagine a bald faculty member.]

OCS also advises that before an interview with a judge, you should read that judge’s opinions, but not “to the detriment of other methods of preparation, classwork, and/or sleep.” You should, however, read the OCS website instead.

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He also posts commentary here.

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