September 24, 2011

Judges and law students experience a free market... or as the NYT calls it, "a lawless terrain."

It's clerkship time. I mean, it was, when it was, which was not when they said it was. Which was oh-so-stressful for some really terribly elite characters in the legal world. The NYT empathizes, unsurprisingly.


Carol_Herman said...

Well, well, getting admitted to law school doesn't promise you a job where you need to run and find clients.

Doesn't matter though if you're rich and well connected. Because you can look to see if with enough money given in donations, you can land a seat on a "bench."

You'd be surprised ... but we've got judges now who are from hunger.

As to NOT making a living as a lawyer? I blame the market that changed the secretary ... who used to run circles around "da boss" ... And, who knew every single legal form you needed ... and where they get signed! Then? She could type these forms in triplicate without making a single typing error or mistake.

Hats off to the real jewels of yesterday.


Just printing a business card doesn't make you a lawyer!

Even having computer skills doesn't help.

Too many judges are so old fashioned ... you still need a good secretary ... to get your work done. Today? Maybe, they're called "legal assistants?" Many are Asian gals. You think I'm kidding?

I wouldn't hire an attorney who was "too nice." I'd hire Ken Thompson, though! He's not afraid of nothin.

traditionalguy said...

Politics is everywhere.

sorepaw said...

Universities keep moving their application deadlines up, and making offers that require a quick decision by the applicant.

edutcher said...

Lawyers in "a lawless terrain"?

I think I hear Gene Pitney singing, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", somewhere in the background.

ndspinelli said...

Gee..that Judge Kozinski looks like a pleasant man. Who wouldn't want to work for him?

Is it me or is The Ditz getting worse?

Synova said...

I sort of skimmed. Perhaps someone could explain what the problem is?

Wince said...

The should use open auditions to select clerks.

Fred4Pres said...

Ooooo, how stressful! Stop being babies. Some federal judge offers you a job. It does pay you money, it is great experience, and it is almost a guaranteed slot into a prestigious law firm after you do that clerkship.

Most people do not have jobs at all out of college.

David said...

"“When I came out of my first interview in the morning, I checked my voice mail to find that most of my interviews scheduled after that had already evaporated,” said Hyland Hunt, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School who ended up clerking on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Supreme Court and now works for a law firm in Dallas. “I couldn’t believe it. One hour in and all those judges had already completed their hiring for the year.”

Poor baby had to settle for a Supreme Court clerkship.

I wonder what the New York Times hiring practices are like. I'm sure there's no stress at all getting a job with them, they are so thoughtful and considerate.

Ann Althouse said...

@Synova & Fred It's about the absence of an enforced starting time for considering applications to these prestigious positions.

Synova said...

I think I sort of got that part, I just don't understand why it's a problem.

The only other possible solution I can see to placing so very many people in so very few jobs is a lottery.

A set starting time isn't going to solve anything at all.

Beldar said...

Any rational judge would agree that it's to his benefit to have as much meaningful information as possible about those applying to be his law clerks.

Those judges who have the greatest "buying power" in this market, though -- for example, those federal appellate judges who've previously had several clerks go on to clerkships on the SCOTUS, and who are considered "feeder judges" -- can guarantee themselves the pick of the litter if they're but willing to trust their own talent-scout instincts and decide with less information (e.g., without knowing whether the student has completed a publishable quality law review note, or without knowing the student's second-year grades).

And judges have proven themselves no more effective than NFL owners ultimately did in conscious parallelism (or explicit agreement) not to "draft" too far downstream. Just as the likes of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was willing to start drafting kids who hadn't played out their college eligibility, some judges want to skim what they perceive to be the earliest-rising cream from the top of each law school class. The resulting feedback loop means more judges hire earlier and earlier, and with less and less information, thereby making (in the aggregate) less well informed decisions. But thus does the free market reward those whose prognostications turn out to be the most accurate, and punish those whose guesses misfire.

somefeller said...

I'm not sure I'd call this system a free market. It really might be better referred to as an entry point into a guild, namely the guild of former law clerks for federal judges. For one thing, if it was a free market one would find salary/price differentiation from clerkship to clerkship. I wouldn't call this a major crisis, but it does seem a little unfair to set up a scheduling system that isn't enforced, so those who play by the rules by waiting until the scheduled date to set their interviews get hosed by those (both interviewees and judges) who ignore the scheduling system. But I wouldn't make a federal case out of it.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think I sort of got that part, I just don't understand why it's a problem. The only other possible solution I can see to placing so very many people in so very few jobs is a lottery."

Well, if everyone would observe the starting line and allow the competitors to interview before withdrawing offers, then it would avoid the complained-of problem. But judges are jumping the gun to nab the best applicants. It's always in somebody's interest to jump the gun, unless all the judges would somehow agree to care that these students are getting sent into a crazy frenzy.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm not sure I'd call this system a free market. It really might be better referred to as an entry point into a guild, namely the guild of former law clerks for federal judges. For one thing, if it was a free market one would find salary/price differentiation from clerkship to clerkship."

The salaries are the same, so it's not a market that is works on price. It works on the inherent value of the particular clerkship with varies from judge to judge. The applicants aren't trying to get the most money but the "most judge." The judges are trying to get the best applicants.

I say that's a market.

somefeller said...

I say that's a market.

I'd agree it's a market. But not all markets are free markets. I don't think the judicial clerkship market would fall into the category of a really free market for various reasons, including the fact that there is only one employer in that market - the federal government. That isn't a terrible thing and is inherent to this sort of system, but I think that reason among others would lead us to describe this as more like a guild market than a free one.

Carol_Herman said...

Talking about Alex Kozinski (of the 9th). I didn't know he had an office in Pasadena, until an article showed up. Written by an attorney. Who had a client. Who needed a judge to sign some sort of "verification of his signature" ... so that he could get his birth certificate out of the State of Maine. (I think it was Maine.)

And, this lawyer tried "everybody." No one would "verify." Until he tried the clerk (a woman), in Kozinksi's office. Who set up this 5 minute "thing." Where Kozinski "came down" ... or "out" of his office. When this lawyer and his client showed up.

It's very formal.

"Raise your right hand."

Kozinski signed the "formal" note.

Most judges are horses behinds.

Alex Kozinski is not.

And, I'd bet he gets all sorts of calls from people who apply to be his clerk.

His office, let me tell ya, maximizes officiency.

Talk to his clerk.

(And, go know the 9th has an office in Pasadena.)

Learn something hew every day.

While I've known for a long time that Alex Kozinski is an American treasure. The 9th? It's still a clown show. Being a lawyer who becomes a judge, however, means keeping secrets.

Gene said...

Alex Kozinski is funny and unorthodox. He used to evaluate prospective law clerks by challenging them to a game of chess.

The very liberal senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio once tried to block Kozinski's appointment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by making the shabby argument that Kozinski used his law clerks for demeaning manual labor.

Kozinski's response (as I recall)--Well, what's wrong with that? We were moving my files from one office to a new one on a Saturday morning. I was there too in jeans and tennis shoes carrying boxes myself.

Beldar said...

Not all market competition is conducted through short-term cash prices. Indeed, in terms of serving as a potential launching pad for a legal career, there's no doubt that judicial clerkships are extraordinarily valuable, even though such clerks forego market salaries while clerking. (Some of them make at least part of that differential up later through post-clerkship sign-on bonuses and deemed seniority at BigLaw firms.)

Anonymous said...

Federal judges are entrusted with interpreting and applying rules fairly and consistently. Except, it seems, when it comes to hiring their own staff.

You mean they act in their own interests?