Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?  (Read 3362 times)

Americanlaw10

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 68
  • American WCL '10
    • AOL Instant Messenger - UKSoccer525
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger - UKSoccer525
    • View Profile
    • Email
How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?
« on: October 08, 2009, 06:28:47 PM »
First of all, this is totally not a flame - so don't turn it in to one, please.  During the spring semester of my 2L year, I interned for a Sr. Judge at the US Court of Federal Claims.  As it became apparent that no firm was going to hire me as a summer associate, I offered to stay with the Judge through the summer.  After 8 months of service, I was offered a clerkship for 1 year after I graduate.  I want to practice government contract law, which is an area of law that the COFC has primary jurisdiction to hear.

My other credentials aren't super impressive.  I'm in the top 40% of my class, no journal, no moot court/mock trial, but am currently participating in our school's Civil Practice Clinic.  The field of law I want to practice is somewhat limited to large Vault firms, with only a handful of smaller firms in the practice area.  I have tried to network my ass off with the partners in many of the larger firms.  QUESTION(S): How much will this clerkship do for my resume absent other credentials?  Do I have a prayer with larger firms after my clerkship?
Winner Chicken Dinner (Attending): American WCL!!!

Friday Night Drinking Club!!

big - fat - box

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 800
    • View Profile
Re: How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2009, 06:57:51 AM »
If the clerkship offer is genuine, you should take it no matter what. Worry about the effect on large firm jobs later. If you weren't going to get one of those right out of school anyway, you have nothing to lose by doing the clerkship. I doubt anyone on this board is going to have a straight answer for you. You're going to have to find a mentor in your field who can give you the info. My gut reaction is that the clerkship alone isn't going to be enough, and that you'll probably need a few years of work experience to look attractive to a big firm.

Also remember that many branches of the federal government deal with FAR/government contract issues. A lot of agencies will not hire outside the honors programs except for attorneys with several years of experience, but it's something to keep in mind for later. Basically, make connections now and hold onto them so you can draw on them later. I would definitely not limit myself to networking only with large firm partners. Find out who the smaller firms are and get close with the people there. Lastly, you could try to get a job working for one of the actual contractors.

Americanlaw10

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 68
  • American WCL '10
    • AOL Instant Messenger - UKSoccer525
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger - UKSoccer525
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2009, 03:37:31 PM »
The clerkship offer is genuine - and I accepted it today.  There was never a question of NOT accepting it.

Thanks for the tips.  I have probably met, and kept in contact w/, 20-30 partners at top law firms that have a decent practice in government contracts.  I'll definitely keep in contact with them and see where we go from there.  Hopefully the hiring market will change a little bit in the next 1 1/2 years and MAYBE, just MAYBE, I'll land at a good firm!
Winner Chicken Dinner (Attending): American WCL!!!

Friday Night Drinking Club!!

big - fat - box

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 800
    • View Profile
Re: How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2009, 04:38:57 PM »
Congrats on the clerkship. I imagine the judge will open some doors and maybe pull some strings for you. Just keep expanding your network and keep in touch with the contacts you have.

Like I said just don't focus on only large DC firms. They are very elitist in terms of grades and school name. Even moreso than large firms in other large cities. And they are hurting big time from the economic downturn. They just might not have a need for additional hiring in that practice group in the next 1.5 years. Or they may have a surplus of candidates who are experienced govt. contract lawyers, former fed. agency lawyers, or grads of top schools.

Believe or not, firms with practice areas in your field exist in other states, even states on the opposite side of the country. Maybe try to find people who are established in their legal careers that clerked for your judge back in the day. I'd imagine there are some working in areas outside DC biglaw. Also, try to get connected with the other COFC judges. They may be able to help you also.

Miche

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 24
    • View Profile
    • Sharp & Useless
    • Email
Re: How much does a clerkship make up for mediocre grades?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2009, 07:28:06 PM »
Agree with everything BFB said above. Also, a minor but salient point: in interviews, conversations, etc., never pitch your clerkship experience as an asset that counterbalances your grades. You're not compensating for what you did in law school -- this isn't a tit for tat exchange.

Phrases like "at least," "but," "luckily," etc. will all convey that you know you have some bad history behind you and you're eager to whitewash with your future actions. And that kind of attitude may come across as defensive or weak. Also, it encourages people to draw false and ridiculous comparisons (e.g., arbitrarily deciding that a clerkship "excuses" three Cs, or something equally inapt).

Draw a firm line between your academic career and your professional career. While you may have struggled in law school (due to XYZ reasons), make it clear that you have NEVER struggled professionally. Your work product is excellent, your demeanor professional, your skill set is well above your peers, and you have the respect and admiration of judges and seasoned attorneys. You know what you want, you go after it, and you're a success.

Pay homage to the profession and your career goals; explain that your success now is because you're in your element, in a way that you weren't during law school. "The thing I was bad at, back then? It required particular skills, which I didn't have at the time. The things I'm good at now? They require these particular skills, which I have in abundance and which you really want."

By your attitude, your word choice, and your general confidence, you can indicate to colleagues and potential employers that you don't think you need to "make up" for your poor performance back then. That was then -- a different place, a different beast. School really is completely different from the working world. You are a success in ONE of those arenas. In the other, you didn't do as well as you would've liked. Oh, well.

Even attorneys who did well in school (and who may be skeptical of your XYZ reasons) will still approve heartily of the maturity of your perspective. They all know that law school doesn't prepare a person for legal practice, and obviously they're all in legal practice now. So, play up to their ego and to your strengths: tell them that what they're doing now, which they're obviously proud of, is what you're good at and what you want to do.
Lawyers: performing acts on desks that no decent person would ever do.
-Miche, co-creator of Sharp & Useless