Muskrat News Legal Briefs


Hey, Curious 1Ls and 2Ls, did you wonder what those frantic 3Ls were doing with the gigantic piles of envelopes last week?  They were applying for judicial clerkships.  There’s a lot of bad information going around about clerkships, so I thought I’d use my experience with the application process to give you a few pointers.

Don’t miss the t clerkship interest meeting.  I learned there that “any Duke student is competitive for a clerkship somewhere.”  When I asked if that meant me, the faculty did a quick huddle on the stage, and said “you have to read that figuratively.”  I insisted, however, despite their attempt to argue that by ‘Student’ they meant ‘someone who studies,’ not ‘lazy SOBs who never do any reading.’  In the end, I had to resort to the old emotional blackmail.  I just started crying – it works every time.

Do take seriously the little coded messages about matching your credentials to the type of clerkship you are applying to.  Only the best students need apply to prestigious posts like Federal appeals courts.  Average students can apply to district court judges, people with low grades and repeated Honor Code infractions can apply to state appeals courts, and people with personal hygiene issues and TDA staff can apply to state trial-level courts.  I asked Professor Beale where I might fit on that hierarchy, and she suggested that “a lot of good law gets done by justices of the peace.”

The Excel spreadsheets on the Career Services site are organized by court level for your convenience.  But for some reason they directed me to the ‘special list’ that is maintained on the wall of the left-hand stall in the Men’s room by the vending area.  After studying the list for a long time as a result of a particularly questionable lunch choice at the Café, I decided to focus on traffic court judges, since I’ve met so many already. 

There’s also a regional hierarchy.  DC, New York, Los Angeles… we all know where people want to go.  Many people spread their risk by applying to 40, 50 or more judges in a variety of areas.  In my case, Career Services suggested that “The National Stamp Shortage” mitigated against my sending more than one application, so I chose East Nose Hair, North Dakota – Fargo was just too much of a stretch for my grades.

Faculty recommendations can be the key.  Professor Haagen said he would write a letter for anyone who had taken a class from him, so after I reminded him who I was, produced a certified copy of my transcript to prove I’d taken his class, and then got past his little “No Hablo Ingles” routine, he agreed to write a letter for me “if I don’t re-injure my writing hand.”  Who could have guessed he’d have driven a two-inch roofing nail through his right hand mere minutes later?  What a coincidence!  Just my bad luck! 

I finally got a letter from Angry Pete, the guy who sells papers up at the Lawndale-Hillsborough Road intersection.  It was quite flattering, describing me as “Lucifer Beholden, Master of Spaghetti Lunches BeBop Torsion-Wrench Aoooga!” and “The finest cannibal I have met during my stay on this planet.”  (Normally, Career Services won’t let you see what your faculty recommenders write, but in my case they had no choice—the 4x8 sheet of plywood Pete wrote on wouldn’t fit into an envelope, so I got to see the text as they were mitre-sawing it into mail-able chunks.)

Coming soon:  Sitting by the phone.  Is there a problem with the line?  Why doesn’t it ring?  Oh, God, this is like 2L Job Hunt all over again!  I’m so screwed!!




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