Where were you working after you graduated in December and what did you do/are you doing? I am a law clerk in the Commercial Division of the New York Supreme Court (which in New York is a trial court). The Commercial Division is located in downtown Manhattan and exclusively hears cases of a complex commercial nature with at least $150,000 in dispute. Our cases often have hundreds of millions in dispute, one recent case even reaching $6 billion. During my clerkship we have heard several high profile cases, including the Goldman Sachs derivative litigation, a lot of Bernard Madoff-related litigation, and fallout from the Facebook v. ConnectU case. My responsibilities include briefing the judge before oral argument, drafting opinions, overseeing discovery, conferencing with attorneys appearing before the court, handling frequent requests for provisional remedies, and counseling with the judge on whatever matters he wants to discuss.
When and how did you first make contact with your employer? I learned of this job through a PDO posting. I sent in an application and was contacted about a month later to come to Manhattan for an interview.
How did you get the job? I first interviewed with a panel of judges and shortly thereafter was contacted for a follow up interview with the judge who ultimately hired me.
What kinds of things do you think helped you land your job? A combination of things likely helped me land the job: I had published an article with subject matter related to issues with which the court often deals. I was a JD/MBA student, and this court only hears business cases, so that probably helped. I had completed several clinical internships prior to applying, all of which seemed to impress the judge (he asked several questions about my judicial clinic). I prepared thoroughly for the interview. I reviewed about 20 of his recent decisions, and carefully studied four of the most noteworthy. During the interview I quoted a line from one of his decisions and applied it to one of the findings I had made in the article I published. I think that was huge. I had a well-polished answer ready for the anticipated question (which was in fact asked) of why I wanted to move to New York. I also believe he was genuinely impressed that a guy from Utah would fly across the country to meet with him. Undoubtedly that helped me stand out–he said he almost never received applications from non-New Yorkers. After the interview, I sent him a bag of Utah salt water taffy. Cheesy, but I think it helped further establish me as a unique candidate.
What tips do you have for students who are job seeking? I think it’s very important to look outside of Utah. I am convinced that Utah produces more competitive legal talent than its market often has room to feasibly bear. Many SJQ students’ best job opportunity out of law school will be outside of Utah. While I was in law school, I noticed an “I won’t leave Utah” mindset among many students. Had I maintained such a mindset, I would’ve missed out on a life changing opportunity. And be willing to take some calculated risks. I flew to New York two times in the middle of the semester. It wasn’t cheap or convenient, and at the time I was definitely hesitant about whether it was a good use of my time and energies. But I’m certainly glad I did so now.
Takeaway from PDO: If you are interested in a specialized legal area (like Adam’s interest in business) consider doing a judicial clerkship with a specialty court. You will not only reap the benefits of doing a judicial clerkship (enhanced research and writing skills, mentor relationship with a judge, insider knowledge of the courts), but you will also gain expertise in the specialty area of the court. Below is a list of some specialty courts.
U.S. Bankruptcy Courts: tax, commercial and consumer law
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces: reviews court martial convictions
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: IP
U.S. Tax Court
U.S. Court of International Trade: international trade and customs issues
U.S. Court of Veteran Appeals: appeals involving benefits
U.S. Court of Federal Claims: claims against U.S., including claims for money damages and disputes over federal contracts
State specialty courts, such as Delaware’s Court of Chancery or the Tax Court of New Jersey
Administrative Law Judges (ALJs): used by over 30 federal departments and agencies to conduct formal hearings and issue decisions. Agencies using ALJs include the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and many more. For more information on the agencies using ALJs and their contact information, see www.faljc.org