Skadden Arps welcomed their summer associates this week. According to ATL, there was a lot of anxiety in this summer class as they learned that offers would be forthcoming to those workers who earned them. (Isn't it weird that, in this business, the notion that one would need to earn an offer sets off alarms?) To quell anxiety, partners reassured the summer staffers that there were plenty of offers to go around. With one caveat: the jobs won't open until 2011. That means these eager members of the Class of 2010 will need to find something else to do for a year. And if the Skadden folk won't start until 2011, something tells me that there will be a ton of summer associates receving similar offers. Hundreds of the best and brightest law grads from top law schools who will graduate directly into a one year sabbatical.
You know what that means: today's brillian rising 3L needs a one year long job that starts immediately after graduation. And there's one position that fits that requirement perfectly: the (one year) judicial clerkship.
True enough, many of the folks headed to the elite firms were already planning on seeking a clerkship. Many - but probably not most. There are the older grads who just want to start their careers already. The poorer grads who need to start dealing with loans. And all of the transactional types - corporate, tax, and T&E folks, to name a few - who accept clerkships at far lower rates than their litigation colleagues. But you can be sure of one thing: most of these individuals would rather take a moderately-paid, high-status job for a year than sling lowfat bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches at the local Starbucks.
Come this fall, federal and state judges are going to be flooded with highly qualified law graduates seeking both a learning experience and a chance to burn the clock. This will have a number of consequences. First, I imagine that the surge will make it much tougher for students at non-elite law schools to score clerkships. Like it or not, a large number of judges prefer to hire strong graduates of elite law grads. If this cohort doubles in size, that's inevitably going to burn up some of the slots typically allocated to regional law grads. (In fact, it may put even more presure on strong - but not superelite - law schools because judges may feel particular pressure or motivation to hold slots for grads of their preferred local schools.)
It's hard to know the consequences of the coming clerkship application crush. But all the players - from judges (and their clerks) to career professionals to rising 3L students - had better be prepared.