July 8, 2006

What's with all those male Supreme Court clerks?

Eugene Volokh asks why are there so many more male Supreme Court clerks than female? His first guess is:
Is the cause possible differences in innate intelligence at the tail ends of the bell curve (what I'd heard called the idiot-genius syndrome, which leads men to be overrepresented both among the very low-IQ and the very high-IQ)?
Oh, please. I know it's in question form, but really...

Obviously, you have to be very smart to make it to Supreme Court clerk, but the behavioral requirements to make it to that position are extremely demanding. I don't know precisely what one needs to do and not do to make it, but I have observed some things in the recruitment of new lawprofs. I'll begin with a shocking revelation: There isn't a single former Supreme Court clerk at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Why? This is a question I've often asked myself. (Maybe Eugene can help me out.) It's not that we don't interview people with this impressive credential. We often do. It's not that they are snubbing us. We end up not making offers. It's uncanny. I don't want to make generalizations about people, so I'm holding my tongue.... holding my furiously typing fingers.

...

I've just spent 15 minutes trying to write the next sentence to that paragraph. I give up! Maybe if I was the Supreme Court clerk type, I'd have framed that damned sentence. Because you need me to. I say no. I won't. Nooooooooooooo. I don't wannaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

ADDED: Amber makes a smart comment here, which makes me feel like a jerk for not linking to her blog post, which Eugene linked to, especially since my previous post here is all about clicking on links. That was soooooo wrong of me. So let's go to Amber's place. I mean, go there. Read the whole thing.

An excerpt:
A well-regarded liberal judge on the same circuit reported nearly identical percentages. Since a circuit court clerkship is essentially required for a Supreme Court clerkship, if fewer women clerk at lower levels, then the pool for Supreme Court clerkships will be smaller. (As a side note, I do find it interesting that comparatively few women clerk. Is this because they want to cash in at the firm for as many pre-baby years as possible? Are women less likely to expect a spouse or lover to follow them to clerkships in remote parts of the United States than men are?)
Maybe a lot of judges really don't want persons who might become pregnant to be clerks. Care to share any stories about judges -- maybe even impeccably liberal judges -- who have revealed their prejudice against pregnancy and motherhood? I could recount a shocking one, but I won't.

On the behaviorial point, which we're discussing in the comments, let me speculate about why women might act and feel very different about being a law clerk. I'm much older than those who are doing clerkships now, but for me, being a clerk is too much like being a secretary. A guy may like the feeling of being someone's right hand man. You can say right hand woman, but it's not a normal phrase. Being a close, subordinate assistant resonates with a long line of inferior positions offered to women.

So that's my speculation: clerking doesn't seem so strikingly advantageous to a woman the way it does to a man. We may want do it because we've been told this is the best path to start your career, but something inside says I don't like the look of myself in that position.

ONE MORE THING: Please connect this discussion to an analysis of the style of writing and reasoning found in Supreme Court opinions.

65 comments:

Mary said...

I don't get it.

Are you saying women are childish and withhold more than men?

Ann Althouse said...

If I were, I'd also be saying the UW lawprofs are a bunch of babies!

Come up with a narrative where all the pieces fit.

Mary said...

Is it a puzzle then? I was going to guess weather/location. If you're a coastal person, it may take some time adjusting here and you may not feel at home after just a few look-see visits, with the area or the people.

(A classmate from CT/NY told me she was seriously considering transferring after 1L because she missed... art! That was before the Overture Center opened though, and she did graduate with the class. Still I can understand how the early adjustment was hard for her, being used to the East Coast ways of people.)

Seriously though, what are you trying to say in that last paragraph?

Amber said...

Asperger's is much more common in men than in women.

Ann Althouse said...

"If you're a coastal person, it may take some time adjusting here and you may not feel at home after just a few look-see visits, with the area or the people."

What does that have to do with our not extending offers to people who interview with us?

Ann Althouse said...

Amber offers an interesting clue!

Mary said...

Why so dismissive? Let me spell it out:

If I were interviewing someone who was uncomfortable in this environment and perhaps was not exuding his best self, maybe I could "see" that? If I believed someone would not be happy and "fit into" our culture here, I probably would vote not to extend the offer. You want people who can work well with the team, right? And not be unhappy later with their choice.

For example, if an admissions committee had personally interviewed the classmate I spoke of, perhaps she would not have been offered admission in the first place?

Old Dad said...

I'm not sure the bell curve phenomena is at work here. As I understand it, the idiot/ genius factor occurs at the very tail of the curve--three standard deviations out. We're talking super genius territory--one in many thousands.

There may be genetic factors at play here, but I doubt it's IQ. Pure speculation here, but if we assume a minimum IQ threshhold for SCOTUS clerks, I'd bet the male female distribution would be very close at the threshhold and well beyond.

Mary said...

Just a guess:

The types that serve as Supreme Court clerks are immature, or are prone to personality/physical disorders that could affect work output? The thing that helps them to achieve in the first place sets them apart in the behavioral/personality part of the job?

(or maybe they're just interviewing in March and their personalities are affected by the greyness and the weather? :)

Ann Althouse said...

So, Mary, you're point is that these tremendously successful candidates just don't give their all because they find themselves in the -- gasp -- midwest? Candidate after brilliantly successful candidate systematically fails to give their all because of Madison? Meanwhile, other candidates, who do get offers, who are also often from the coasts, outstrip these Supreme Court clerks? Why??? Madison is disproportionately disabling to those who have been Supreme Court clerks? Sorry, I'm even more dismissive of that.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: Your most recent comment is more like what I'm thinking, though I'm not endorsing any insults aimed at members of the lawprofosphere in which I live.

Dr. Melissa said...

Not being in the law field and having never met a SCOTUS law clerk, a couple possibilities come to mind. 1) Law clerks have the personalities of a tree stump and are less useful thus not a good fit at Madison 2) Law clerks must be smart, constitutional technicians with a flair for kissing important ass and since Madison lacks important ass--present professor excepted of course....

When you get into specialized fields, personalities seem to fracture into extremes--extreme jerks, extreme sensitivities, extreme genius, extreme dullards.

Bissage said...

I hope I'm not swinging the insult stick, here. But, maybe the answer has something to do with a kind of write-long-to-please-the-boss kind of thing versus a kind of self-directed-seeker-of-truth kind of thing?

I mean, Ann, you couldn't type for fifteen minutes. Right? Because you didn't want to. Right? So you didn't. Right?

When a Supreme Court Justice tells you to write it and write it long, a law clerk pretty much has too. Right?

What that has to do with Asberger syndrome, I have no idea.

Mary said...

I think there are scientific studies that show weather and environment affect people differently.

I don't think it's a conscious "not giving it their all". Just that anyone who has interviewed knows sometimes you've "got it" and are on top of your game, and sometimes if you feel out of place, it comes across.

Not saying this is the "one true answer", but perhaps whether or not you truly want to end up here comes across in the interview.

-----

I didn't think you'd be so insulting publicly. That's why I put my basic thought down and wrote "just a guess". Not my personal thought process, just trying to figure out what you were hinting at.

I tend to think if that theory were true, wouldn't those folks get "screened out" earlier -- at the undergraduate, law school, or clerkship levels? If not, perhaps the mechanisms of evaluation should be expanded at those lower levels?

It might make it easier for some of the discussion classmates/law review workers to effectively participate if the immature "me-me-me-me-me-me" ones are taken out earlier. I mean, if you don't want to work alongside those types...

Mary said...

Dr. Melissa:

Nothing wrong with tree stumps :)

They generally provide a nice, quiet, conflict-free place for contemplation, and are not disruptive to others!

ben wallace said...

Law clerk experience might influence a hiring decision if two candidates are relatively equal in all other respects; if these candidates are not essentially the same in all other respects, we cannot really infer that clerk experience determines hires. There are good reasons to believe that clerking for the Supreme Court is not a stong predictor of a academic success holding constant other factors such as peer reviewed publications, quality of law school, the job talk, holding a joint PHD/JD, and fit with faculty interests. Moreover, being a law clerk has an opportunity cost; this cost might be less time and effort devoted to research that forms the basis for a job talk.

Based on the job talks I've seen at the law school, a bigger issue for actual offers seems to be methodological orientation. I don't see many people doing at UW doing quantitative work or economic modeling.

Michael Farris said...

I'm guessing it's a question of incompatible skill sets. The things that make you a clerk for the Sups is not necessarily going to help you thrive in a university setting.

One of the things that's not listed in most faculty advertisements, but which is very important, is being able to deal with other people and (as put best by Joanna Russ) dealing with people is not only work, it's _hard_ work that not everyone is cut out for.

Dr. Melissa said...

Mary says:
I tend to think if that theory were true, wouldn't those folks get "screened out" earlier -- at the undergraduate, law school, or clerkship levels?

Really, now. The most immature geniuses I've ever met have been in the medical field. You can be very bright and have zero clinical intuition and even less sense. In fact, watch your health at University Hospitals. Nothing like a bunch of really smart people applying the "latest research" to your malady. You're likely to end up dead. My experience has been that the people who reach the top may be gifted, but what they possess in excess of the ordinary human is the ability to endure. A lot of smart docs opt out earlier and help people in their small corner of the world.

And, Mary, that was just my point. Tree stumps are useful.

Dave said...

The snarky response: women are smarter than men and therefore better perceive the misery that would be working in the Supreme Court better than do men.

If ever there was a soporific institution of bureaucracy the Supreme Court building would be it. But then soporific institution is also why I avoided law school, and I therefore may be showing my own bias.

ben wallace said...

It is possible "clerking doesn't seem so strikingly advantageous to a woman the way it does to a man." But then how do we explain why 15 of 35 clerks were women in the last term? And if Scalia's clerks are excluded from the sample, there is overrepresentation of women despite women representing less than a majority in at Harvard or Yale.

Seems that the more interesting issue is minority exclusion, where there clerking is much more out of step with demographics (according to the new book by Todd Peppers).

Ann Althouse said...

Ben: Why jump on Scalia and not Kennedy? His numbers are just as out of line.

David said...

Also, re Volokh's comment about the "genius-idiot syndrome"...are we really to believe it takes a genius IQ to be a law clerk? What is it about the job that can't be done with intelligence in the high normal range?

The Drill SGT said...

One of the posters at VC made an interesting observation:

The simplest reason why women do not do well in supreme court hiring is that women tend to have inferior credentials existing law school. For instance, in the class of 2006 at Harvard, there are 22 people who graduated magna or summa cum laude and were on law review. 20 are men and 2 are women. 17 of them are clerking; 16 men and 1 woman. I'd suspect that if you limited your sample set to those that exit law school with the necessary resume baubles, men and women would do about this same. Why fewer women leave law schools with the necessary credentials, I couldn't tell you, but let's not blame it on the judges.

The other big issue that no one has mentioned is the strong difference between the Justices. Here are some statistics on how many clerks from both genders the Justices hired:

Justice Breyer: 14 men, 16 women
Justice Stevens: 18 men, 12 women
Justice Thomas: 18 men, 12 women
Justice Ginsburg: 18 men, 12 women
Justice O'Connor: 14 men, 10 women
Justice Souter: 20 men, 10 women
Chief Justice Rehnquist: 13 men, 5 women
Justice Kennedy: 25 men, 3 women
Justice Scalia: 26 men, 2 women

The gender disparity in the Kennedy and Scalia chambers is quite resounding. I think that such huge disparities might in part be explained by the paucity of qualified women and especially qualified conservative women, but the 51-5 ratio (as compared to the ratio of even Justice Thomas) makes me wonder whether some kind of sexism is at play.



actually this observation cuts both ways. That Scalia and kennedy favor men over women by a wide margin, but also:

If one set the gold standard as Harvard Honors and Law Review, or it's equiv, then there are far more 90% men versus 10% women in a generalized extrapolated overachievers pool. Thus the statistics for the rest of the court, absent Scalia and Kennedy, indicates that they apply reverse discrimination and favor less qualified women over men.

ben wallace said...

You're right, but we only need to eliminate one (either will do) and there is gender balance during that term. Thus, with either Kennedy or Scalia out of the calculation, there is no gender bias the clerks of the SC; there is an equal number of men and women in that term. There might also be some good reasons to eliminate outliers like Scalia or Kennedy in determining the extent of gender bias, or to argue that Kennedy and Scalia are driving the gender imbalance but the rest of the court is representative.

Ann Althouse said...

David said..."What is it about the job that can't be done with intelligence in the high normal range?"

I think it's just that if the justice is choosing based on intelligence, he will end up with all geniuses. I don't think that is the basis of choice, because behavioral and personality is going to matter a lot. The "genius" has to want to work at a desk a lot and do some hardcore cite checking and write what someone else wants written and show proper respect at all times and be reasonably affable, etc. etc.

Amber said...

Of the clerks from my class at HLS, about half are very social BMOC types who happen to be totally brilliant. Are they the smartest, raw intelligence-wise, of the class? I don't know. There is also the famous anecdote about why Frank Easterbrook was rejected by every Supreme Court justice. Personality counts!

Maxine Weiss said...

I think it's a coastal thing. The Mid-West would have to offer a tremendous amount of money to get someone to cross off the coast.

A clerkship is a stepping stone, and the mid-west might look like a consolation prize to some.

(Not me, but then again, I'm not getting offers from Law Schools anywhere on the planet, so...).

I've heard, I don't know this for a fact, ....again I've heard thru the grapevine that Midwest firms and schools have to bend over backward to get all the good talent that gravitates toward West and East coasts.

Regarding the "secretary" stuff. That can't be it. It's not like clerks are pouring coffee and picking up dry-cleaning. The Mexican maids do that.

I like the "coastal" explanation better. Again, I, personally, LOOOOVE the Mid-West.

Peace, Maxine

DCWilly1 said...

Ann:

If I recall correctly, Larry Church's wife (Fredrika Paff (sp?)) was one of Rehnquist's first clerks. I guess she is not techincally on the faculty, but she has appeared with him, co-teaching ConLaw at for some time.

Jonathan said...

Maybe Scalia and Kennedy get fewer female applicants than the other Justices. Of course, if women aredisproportionately likely to choose pro-choice/feminist judges, it doesn't make sense for them to apply to Thomas and not Kennedy. I think though that Thomas has a unique method of choosing law clerks that involves someone else doing it for him.

Ann Althouse said...

DCWilly: That's true. I believe she moved with him from the Dept. of Justice when he was first appointed and is not someone who went through the ordinary route.

Jonathan said...

In defense of Supreme Court clerks, some of of my favorite law professors clerked for SCOTUS justices. One is undoubtedly the most popular, socially adept professor at the law school, and another is outgoing relative to the world of people who make a living in tax law.

I think getting a Supreme Court clerkship generally requires people to be fairly balanced, because, among other things, the hiring process includes an interview. With regard to UWMadison not having former clerks on the faculty: former Supreme Court clerks have fantastic options leaving the clerkship - $300k bonus at firms, great schools wanting them as professors, etc. If U. W. Madison doesn't have a reputation for being a stepping stone to Harvard/Yale/Stanford (not to say that such reputation is wholly desirable), then the former SCOTUS clerks who apply there might not be the cream of the crop in terms of whatever makes someone stand out in the law prof hiring process.

Bissage said...

Ann Althouse said: "I don't think [only intelligence]is the basis of choice, because behavioral and personality is going to matter a lot."

That reminds me of an amusing anecdote: I was once part of a conversation where one judge was incredulous that another judge hired clerks only from the very top of the very best schools.

He said, "Why would anybody want to be surrounded all day by people who make you feel stupid?"

Rob said...

Ann wrote: "Maybe a lot of judges really don't want persons who might become pregnant to be clerks. Care to share any stories about judges -- maybe even impeccably liberal judges -- who have revealed their prejudice against pregnancy and motherhood? I could recount a shocking one, but I won't."
Is this a subject which is off limits? Isn't it rational to be concerned about the loss of a valued employee to pregnancy? I often read of choices criticized as "discrimination" as though whether the discrimination is rational or not is irrelevant. Should the NBA have a percentage of players of each size consistent with the general population? Could there be any rational reason that men might make better law clerks? And, again, is it not politically correct to discuss whether the possibility of pregnancy might be a rational concern by an employer?

Ann Althouse said...

Rob: You realize the discrimination is illegal, don't you?

Ann Althouse said...

Jonathan: "With regard to UWMadison not having former clerks on the faculty: former Supreme Court clerks have fantastic options leaving the clerkship - $300k bonus at firms, great schools wanting them as professors, etc. If U. W. Madison doesn't have a reputation for being a stepping stone to Harvard/Yale/Stanford (not to say that such reputation is wholly desirable), then the former SCOTUS clerks who apply there might not be the cream of the crop in terms of whatever makes someone stand out in the law prof hiring process."

Well, these are people who are beaten out by non-Supreme Court clerks.

Anyway, in fact, Wisconsin has a huge reputation as a stepping stone to those other schools. The list of ex-Wisconsin lawprofs at the top schools is extremely impressive. And this is in part because of our selection process. We find people those other schools wouldn't find, and they prosper here and get noticed by those schools with a less subtle eye for candidates.

Kim Cosmopolitan said...

The pregnancy aspect of things seems unlikely to me -- it's a one-year job, and I would think that most women would choose to maximize that one year opportunity rather than say "hey, let's use my SCT clerkship as the year to have a baby!"

Here's a theory. The world of the appellate judge, be it Supreme Court or Court of Appeals, is a small one. It's the judge and his or her 3-4 clerks, day in and day out, without a whole lot of other human contact. The judges I have discussed this sort of issue with uniformly say that they look not only for smart clerks, but for people whose constant presence will be enjoyable for the judge -- i.e., personality fit.

If judges are looking to spend their work hours with people with whom they are comfortable, then it may well be the case that certain male judges prefer to surround themselves with male clerks, and certain female judges prefer to surround themselves with female clerks simply because it is more comfortable.

(I don't have an opinion to offer on why SCT clerks don't fit in at UW, however.)

The Drill SGT said...

Rob,
Though the pregnancy question for a 20 something female temp employee (1 year term) might be a rational concern for an employer, my HR people counsel me that it is one of 10 questions that will send you right to court with an EEOC complaint. even questions that skirt the issue are verboten.

You don't want to ever ask questions about pregnancy, marriage, children, husband, sexual orientation, age, and amazingly though I don't understand the pattern, some immigration questions are also off limits.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary said...

Drill Sgt.:

Aren't some employers able to figure this out by themselves though, without direct questioning?

ie. Young woman of childbearing age, wedding ring, etc. You could screen out candidates from that demographic under other pretenses, whether or not they were planning a pregnancy that year. (She might become pregnant "as a result of accident or impulse." Fine?)

There might be traditional/religious reasons they think a pregnant woman would be better off not working the long hours and making the career a top priority at that time?

(Just an aside. Not that I think this is a reason why women are under-represented as SCt. clerks.)

Rob said...

Ann: Should it be illegal? Is is a legitimate use of governmental power? Does the fact it is illegal make it something that may not be discussed? Are laws that forbid employers to ask certain questions good laws? Are they constitutional laws?

Perhaps more to the point, is it surprising that possibly irrational laws are habitually disobeyed even by otherwise law-abiding persons? One must have a consensus for a law forbidding a certain behavior before it will be enforceable, a mere majority of opinion is not sufficient. See, e.g. Prohibition.

The Drill SGT said...

Mary,

As I understand "our" guidelines, I can ask questions about the applicant's ability to travel for short or extended durations, if that is a factor for the work. I need to be very circumspect about pursuing follow-up questions to avoid the verboten topics.

I should not ask about an applicant's ability to work long hours, weekends etc, but can present those as considerations in describing the job and let her talk.

Religion? no way!

I'm of course describing the safe side approach. I couldn't tell you precisely where the boundaries are, I expect that the HR people safe side the issue, because the courts/juries rule differently on what appears to laymen to be the same fact set.

As for whether one could discriminate without direct questions, sure. That's not my intent though. And our HR people have to keep an amazing array of demographics on all applicants (hired/interviewed/not interviewed) because the EEOC DoL people require it so that they or some lawyer can come in an make a fast buck off of a "disparate impact" lawsuit.

AJD said...

One little fact to counter Ann's claims about Wisconsin:

Brian Leiter recently posted a list of all of the visitors for next year at the top six law schools. There are 78 people on the list.

Guess how many are visiting from Wisconsin?

Zero.

Mary said...

"...because the EEOC DoL people require it so that they or some lawyer can come in an make a fast buck off of a 'disparate impact' lawsuit."

Thanks for the response.

I wonder if there are more false "disparate impact" claims nudged on by lawyers out there, or more underground discrimination situations like I described earlier, where candidates are quietly screened out under other pretenses and never challenge the result.

Maybe it all equals out, depending on the type of workplace.

Jonathan said...

I admit that I don't know much about UW law. Maybe, however, it's because UW can't attract some of the S Ct clerks who are able to get jobs at top 15 law schools soon after they clerk (because they measure well according to the traditional standards), and that, rather than going for the people who are almost as good by traditional standards (the other S Ct clerks), UW takes a non-traditional approach. It's kindof like the moneyball strategy - teams can't afford the superstars so they pick a different filtering strategy and get the players that rich teams using traditional criteria won't find.

ben wallace said...

Ann: We need some more information. We know that there were some clerks who did not get hired at UW but we don't know where they ended up or what they ended up doing. Perhaps the ones UW did not make offers to got better offers and ended up publishing a lot. We cannot decide how great the UW selection process is until we can determine how well the candidates who were selected fared against the ones not selected.

Ann Althouse said...

AJD: You're right. That's a little fact. A very little one. Here's one: two regular faculty are moving permanently to Stanford this year. I'm not going to dredge up the facts of what is a decades-long trend, but it's quite well-known.

Ann Althouse said...

ben wallace said..."We need some more information. We know that there were some clerks who did not get hired at UW but we don't know where they ended up or what they ended up doing. Perhaps the ones UW did not make offers to got better offers and ended up publishing a lot. We cannot decide how great the UW selection process is until we can determine how well the candidates who were selected fared against the ones not selected."

Ben, I'm not saying these people don't get offers better than the ones we didn't give or that they didn't do well wherever they went. I'm just saying that I find it bizarre that there is this category of extremely well-qualified applicants that keeps not impressing us in the end. That says something about us, something about what we're looking for. But I speculate that it says something about the kind of people who get hired as Supreme Court clerks. That's not to say that in doing appointments in the coming year, I wouldn't give high regard to the individual and interview him or her in exactly the same way I would anyone else. I'm always hoping anyone we interview will be impressive and everyone is judged individually, largely on the quality of their job talk.

ben wallace said...

Thanks Ann. One possibility is that clerks care more about marketable skills than academic skills. For example, UW might seek out someone with strong historical skills (in the tradition of J.W. Hurst or S. Maccaulay), as opposed to someone who has expertise on more practical (yet boring) legal skills that a clerk might possess. Justices also seem to place a premium on attention to detail and knowledge of the system above all else, so the UW tradition of asking big legal questions or normative questions is probably not what most clerks are good at. This is probably why UW does better on academic rankings than overall rankings which include beginning average salary and so forth. At the same time, schools that reward people who pursue marketable (yet probably boring) skills such as those possessed by clerks will probably have higher overall rankings than UW (since students will probably get higher paying jobs if taught by a bunch of people who know how to train people to get clerk jobs) but lower academic rankings. So in this respect, I think UW is noble. But I still think UW law would benefit a lot by making some hires of people who are using the Chicago approach!

Mary said...

Hypothetical: You've mentioned your son is in law school and even has a leadership law review position.

Would you encourage him to pursue a SCOTUS clerkship after clerking elsewhere, even after your observations of those candidates in the interview process?

Internet Ronin said...

AJD: You are always such a bright ray of sunshine ;-)

Ann Althouse said...

Mary said..."Hypothetical: You've mentioned your son is in law school and even has a leadership law review position. Would you encourage him to pursue a SCOTUS clerkship after clerking elsewhere, even after your observations of those candidates in the interview process?"

I have two sons. One is in law school. And I absolutely would want him to take a Supreme Court clerkship if he could get it. It's a fabulous opportunity!

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Ben. I'm glad you appreciate what makes Wisconsin special. I agree that it would be good to hire people who would bring more dimension to the already intellectually deep environment here. I hope you realize that there is not a bias against conservative here at the law school, only a bias against boring.

ben wallace said...

You're right Ann, I think UW law is a great academic environment that could be made even better by getting a couple more people doing theoretical or quantitative work. The only difference I see between UW and law programs at places like NYU, Norhtwestern, and Wash U. is that those places have some people doing statistical and game-theoretic work. Northwestern law even hired Lee Epstein away from the polisci dept at Wash U., which is the type of hire I think is off the radar screen for UW.

Of course, UW squashes those other places on a tradition of legal scholarship. Hurst's history of lumbering in WI should be required reading for law students here!

downtownlad said...

I think it's pretty obvious why. Most judges are males. And most people tend to hire people like themselves. Men are more likely to hire men.

I don't have any studies readily available. But I've read this before. I don't think it's discrimination. I just think that people like being around people like themselves.

lpc said...

Re Wisconsin and clerk hiring. The fact is, the top academic candidate Supreme Court clerks are snapped up by the top 15 schools before a school like Wisconsin (a fine school, btw) have a shot at them. Wisconsin winds up interviewing the second-tier of USSC clerks. These folks tend to get better jobs then they should, because some schools really overvalue the clerkship, which says little if anything about one's future professorial talent. Thus, it would seem that Wisconsin deserves praise for not overweighting the clerkship credential, but I'd strongly suggest that if UW was interviewing the kind of clerks who wind up at Harvard etc., they would be getting offers.

lpc said...

Re Wisconsin and clerk hiring. The fact is, the top academic candidate Supreme Court clerks are snapped up by the top 15 schools before a school like Wisconsin (a fine school, btw) have a shot at them. Wisconsin winds up interviewing the second-tier of USSC clerks. These folks tend to get better jobs then they should, because some schools really overvalue the clerkship, which says little if anything about one's future professorial talent. Thus, it would seem that Wisconsin deserves praise for not overweighting the clerkship credential, but I'd strongly suggest that if UW was interviewing the kind of clerks who wind up at Harvard etc., they would be getting offers.

Moi said...

I had the same reaction to the Volokh post as you did. And, I find it a bit infuriating to read the comments section on any post regarding women's issues at that blog from of a bunch of conservative men who think that they're oh-so-smart. I tend to skip right over the comments section of those posts at Vlolokh at this point. I'm just not a glutton for punishment.

I haven't yet broached this topic at my blog, but may very well do so in the near future. In the meantime, your post gives me some food for thought.

Stephen said...

I'm late to the party, but I'll take a stab -

"I've just spent 15 minutes trying to write the next sentence to that paragraph. I give up! Maybe if I was the Supreme Court clerk type, I'd have framed that damned sentence. Because you need me to. I say no. I won't. Nooooooooooooo. I don't wannaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

Prima donnas?

Stephen said...

lpc, I'm actually not so sure. When you look at the amount of openings that the top 10-20 schools have in a year (not lecturers or adjuncts, but positions with a shot at tenure), there just really aren't that many. A USSC clerk class is as big as the entire faculty of smaller schools, plus they're competing with full profs at other places.

Take a look at the faculties of third-tier law schools sometime and I think you'd be surprised at what it takes even to get that sort of slot. Obviously there are clerks going into private practice, but when you add in the number of clerks who did that and now are trying to break into academia, I'd be surprised if Wisconsin isn't getting a crack at them.

AJK said...

But not all Supreme Court clerks look for academic jobs - not with $150,000 bonuses for joining law firms. It is my understanding that only a fairly small minority do.

Stephen said...

Obviously -

(That's why I included the "when you add in the number of clerks who did that and now are trying to break into academia . . .") - but assume none did - I'd be willing to buy that's a small factor. The bigger problem is a new USSC clerk is competing against full professors at other schools. They'll already have books and articles to produce on their cv.

If Harvard wants a full-time prof, they can get a guy who's already been teaching for 20 years at a top 10-20 school. There's no need to roll the dice on a new graduate even if the guy's a Supreme Court clerk.

The SC gets ~40 clerks a year. Harvard has something on the order of 70-80 full-time tenured/tenure-track profs total and it's obviously much larger than most other schools.

If they want an adjunct and lecturer position, I would think a clerk could get it, but, if he wants anything more, I think the people on this thread are vastly underestimating how hard it is to get that type of position.

AJK said...

Just off the top of my head, I'm aware of Supreme Court clerks with no prior teaching experience hired in the past year or two (as professors, not "lecturers") by Michigan, Berkeley, Cornell, Columbia, and Virginia. And I'd be astonished if there were more than 10 or so Supreme Court clerks on the market in any given year. So the hypothesis that the top 10 or 20 schools can absorb the most talented Supreme Court clerks makes sense.

Ann Althouse said...

AJK: But you don't seem to be paying attention to the facts: these are people who accept interviews with us and go to a lot of trouble to give presentations. You're suggesting reasons why they might not interview or might turn down an offer. That is not the fact setting I've presented.

Stephen said...

Got bored, did a search –

Here are Supreme Court clerks at Fordham

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q=%22supreme+court%22+clerk+site%3Alaw.fordham.edu%2Fihtml%2F

UC-Davis School of Law –

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q=%22supreme+court%22+clerk+site%3Alaw.ucdavis.edu%2Ffaculty

and the University of Georgia –

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q=%22supreme+court%22+clerk+site%3Alaw.uga.edu%2Facademics%2Fprofiles

This article implies that while the majority of clerks go into private practice right after a clerkship -

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/14/AR2006051400788_pf.html

It’s not that common to stay there. A clerk wanting to get into academia will be competing with past clerks bailing from firms.

Ann says they reject SC clerks. I believe her. If you’d argue these guys would reject her anyway - ok, but because of the above, I disagree. The thing that I really get a kick out of, though, is that even though she’s saying it, this thread seems to be premised on the idea it’s just not true. I see no reason to believe she’s lying or that she’d be wrong about it. I do see a reason to believe that these guys aren't being absorbed by the top schools.

TW Andrews said...

old dad said:

I'm not sure the bell curve phenomena is at work here. As I understand it, the idiot/ genius factor occurs at the very tail of the curve--three standard deviations out. We're talking super genius territory--one in many thousands.


I don't really have any strong positions on whether or not the distributions of intelligence have the same variance or not, but three standard deviations is *not* one in many thousands. It's 1 in 200. That's frequent enough for it to be a plausible factor.

My own intuition leads me to believe, like old dad, that among the sort of people who are likely candidates for Supreme Court clerckships, the spread of intelligence is most likely quite small, and hence other distinguishing factors are probably more relevant in selecting which applicants are accepted.