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The Legitimacy Crisis in Federal Law Clerk Hiring

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is a James E. Beasley Professor of Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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3 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    I’m puzzled by the claim that clerks with a couple of years of practice will have more influence on their judges. Students fresh out of good law schools are cocky know-it-alls who think their job is to influence their judges. Good junior associates understand how to please clients and bosses.

    If anything I’d fear that experienced clerks will be too eager to toady – or will mistake the professional ethic of serving the client for the different ethic of serving the judge, sometimes by providing resistance.

    Plus, ceteris paribus, the older the clerk, the more likely s/he has dependents, which produces risk aversion.

  2. James says:

    As a career law clerk for a federal district judge, I am not a disinterested party here. However, you failed to note the possibility that people with more experience might actually be better law clerks than people straight out of law school. You may believe that law school teaches people how to do effective legal analysis and writing, but it is my experience that this is usually not the case, at least not at the level required to be an effective law clerk. And law school only very rarely gives students the tools (analytic and otherwise) to deal with the heavy workloads faced by law clerks in the busiest districts and on the Ninth Circuit, which has far more work per judge than the other circuits.

  3. Dave Hoffman says:

    I think it’s entirely plausible (even probable) that experienced lawyers make “better” law clerks. That should have gone in the pro column.

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