BY KATIE MAPES
Five HLS grads spoke in Pound Hall last Friday about their experiences at clerkships all over the country in a OCS panel titled “Unlikely Clerks,” part of an OCS series on clerkships. The panel, attended by about even numbers of 1Ls and 2Ls, was intended to explore the benefits of clerking for students who might traditionally bypass it, including those who have been out of law school for one or more years, those interested in transactional work, and those intending to work in legal services or even jobs that are not traditionally “legal.”
The panelists spanned a range of careers. Esme Caramello, a clinical instructor at the Hale & Dorr Legal Services Center, spoke about her clerkship as a way to “sit back and get some perspective on how the court system works.” A clerkship, she said, gives future litigators a chance to see litigation from the larger perspective, and also to see government from the inside and get a sense of how judges make the decisions they do. Alyson Allen, a partner at Ropes & Gray, echoed this sentiment, saying that her clerkship allowed her to see “from the perspective of the decisionmaker what persuades and what doesn’t.”
Brandon Hofmeister, deputy legal counsel for Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, spoke about the benefits of clerking outside the major metropolitan areas where Harvard graduates congregate. For his clerkship, he returned to his home state of Michigan, however, he added that clerking is also a chance to try out a new city in a safe way and with no obligation to stay past the term of the clerkship.
Rachel Sherman, a litigation associate at a Boston firm, offered similar advice about leaving a job for a clerkship: taking a clerkship after working for a few years can be a chance to leave your current position “in a way that no one will hold against you,” to take time to rethink what you are looking for, or to transition into a new practice area.
Sherman also stressed that it can be beneficial to bring a few years of experience to a clerkship. Sherman said she brought a more practical bent to the cases than her co-clerk, and added that “she loved her job more than all the other clerks” because she loved having a break from the pressures associated with a big firm.
The panelists, who clerked for both federal and state judges, briefly addressed the qualifications judges are looking for, although all agreed that it varies widely from judge to judge. Jamie Aycock, who clerked for the Texas Supreme Court, recommended doing a journal, even if only for a year, and said he probably wouldn’t have gotten an interview without it. Caramello recommended that candidates look for judges with whom they share a common interest or background, and also to have a “story” as to why they want to work for a particular judge.
Aycock, a litigation associate at a D.C. firm, recommended that students consider clerking for a state supreme court. Clerks for the Texas Supreme Court, for instance, are allowed to sit in on the justices’ conference and observe their deliberations. Aycock added that he believed his clerkship was beneficial professionally even though he ultimately did not end up practicing in Texas.
In the end, the panelists seemed to agree that clerkships were a unique and worthwhile experience, even apart from any tangible professional benefits gained. Hofmeister summed it up for the group, saying: “The best reason to clerk is because it’s a lot of fun.”
OCS’s next clerkship panel, “In Their Own Words: Current Judicial Clerks,” will be held today at 4:00pm in Langdell North, and will discuss the ins and outs of researching and applying for clerkships.