Playing the Lottery
A few days ago, I had a depressing conversation with S, a 3L. She externed for a Federal Appeals judge last summer. Not a famous judge, just a regular old Cirucuit Court of Appeals judge I'd never heard of.
I mentioned that I was thinking about applying for clerkships and she tried to easily let me down. "Ummm.... I can tell you that you probably shouldn't pin your hopes on it. I only know 3 people who got interviews with any federal judges and one of them is probably #1 in the class as well as Editor-in-chief of law review." Interviews, mind you, not jobs.
She then described being in chambers during the application process and how 700 applications arrived for one position. The clerks had to do the first sorting rounds and they came up with the proxies of top 10% at a top 20 school. That got 'em down to 200. For round two, they limited it to top 5 people at a top 20 school with speaking experience like moot court or trial team, journal executive board, and one other extra-curricular activity. That got 'em down to 80. Somehow, they rolled dice and pulled 30 to interview from there. One of those lucky few got the job.
It was her opinion that everyone who applied to the circuit judges also applied to the district court judges within that circuit because there aren't enough circuit judges to go around. Hence, in her opinion, why students from my school aren't getting calls for interviews.
Makes sense. Frustrating. But what do you do? I guess you just put your packets together, mail them out, and hope for the best. It's like playing the lottery, but the tickets cost much more and the odds are slightly better.
The reality that the chance at a federal clerkship is a near nullity for people at my school is depressing, but, on the other hand, it does help weight the likely paths in the dependency madness of E's and my future.