Clerkships: the nine master types

BY JEREMY BLACHMAN

1. Perkship. A perkship is what every clerk hopes for: a judge with a penchant for eating in nice restaurants, membership in an exclusive country club, and the desire to make a new friend. “You can use my yacht if you like,” says the judge. And then you know you’ve landed in a perkship of the highest order. Perkships bring the best thing about law firms to the comfort of a judge’s chambers. The intellectual stimulation of a clerkship, plus the over-the-top extravagance of corporate life. “I’m going to Bermuda with my judge to research a bit about the law of luxurious beach resorts.” And that’s how you know you’ve got a perkship. (Note the subcategory for only the most gastronomically-intense experiences: the Le Cirque-ship.)

2. Jerkship. The judge was nice during the twenty-minute interview it cost you $400 to attend. His current clerk warned you he could be “difficult at times,” but you didn’t pay much heed. Thirteen hours into your detailed reading of his “clerk’s manual,” explaining how the paper clip belongs exactly 0.4 inches from the left-hand edge of the paper, and how he likes his sandwiches cut across the diagonal, and how Saturday wasn’t a day off when he was a clerk, and it won’t be a day off for you, you’ll know: it’s a jerkship. It’s tough to prepare for a jerkship. You never know what’s coming next. “Stop whatever you’re doing. My dog needs to go for a walk.” “I know I told you I’d decided the defendant was guilty. But I’ve changed my mind. Your 35-page decision memorandum is useless.” “You’re so pretty for a law student. Come here and give me a nice big hug before you go.” Eek. What a jerkship.

3. Workship. “I love the memo, but it would be great if you could back this up with a few dozen more cases, and maybe read every law review article written on the subject and summarize them for me. You think you can do that by this afternoon? Thanks. You’re great.” Is this really what you signed up for? You wanted to delay the law firm life for another year or two, thought this would be a little less grueling than billing 80 hours a week. But for half the pay you’re working twice as hard? Alone, in a dark law library, with only the statutes to entertain you in the bustling downtown Knoxville metropolis, your last choice but your first offer, and so what could you do but spend a year in the exciting home of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame? At least you don’t have any time to reflect on your frustrating existence. You’re typing another memo. Revising the last one. Alphabetizing the Lexis printouts. Man, this is grueling.

4. Burqship. Your judge won’t let you expose your wrists or ankles. He’s old-fashioned that way. Put down the veil. Burqship. Most common in the Gulf States. You know which Gulf.

5. Quirkship. So he likes to clip his toenails in chambers and flick them across the room. He plucks his nose hairs one by one and leaves them in a pile on your desk. He uses your letter opener to pick his teeth. He uses your fingers to pick the lint out of his belly button. He likes his t’s crossed only on Tuesdays. He can’t stand the sound of pages turning. He won’t let you flush the toilet. He doesn’t like the word “it” to appear in any of his opinions. He stands up only when the clock reads a time that ends with the number “7.” He wants you to interview your replacement while you’re standing on your head. He thinks it’s fun to tape “Kick Me” signs to your back. He brings his pet rat to the office. He eats your leftovers. He’s weird. But what else would you expect from someone who’s got life tenure to pretty much sit alone in a courtroom with some recent law graduates to do his scutwork? Surely some judges are normal, brilliant, delightful people. And some are presumably strange.

6. Shirkship. “Hey, this judge stuff seems like a good way to postpone the real world for another year. So I guess I’ll just send out 250 applications and hope for the best. I thought I had all the bases covered. OCS distributed a PowerPoint last year with all of the details… district courts are hard to get, circuit courts are harder to get, but state supreme courts are the ‘courts of last resort’ for people like me who want a clerkship anyway. Wait, that’s not what they meant? They meant that state supreme courts are the ‘courts of last resort’ for defendants appealing their cases, not for law students applying for a clerkship? Oh, shoot, no wonder… wow… oh, man, I guess I should have… I’m not going to get a clerkship, am I? Oh, man, I just wanted to have one more year before the end of my childhood. And, wait, clerks do work? What? Are you sure? Oh, no, this isn’t looking good….”

7. Merckship. Your judge is on drugs. Well, prescription drugs. But a lot of them.

8. Lurkship. “He’s watching over my shoulder….”

9. Captain Kirk-ship. Yeah, I’m stretching the gimmick too far now. This is for when your judge has jurisdiction over space and you write opinions about the Klingons. Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly the high note I want to end this column on. Good luck to the 3Ls doing clerkship interviews this week; good luck to the judges who have to talk to all these law students. Gosh. That sounds like fun.

Jeremy Blachman is a 3L. His column will appear regularly.

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