400,000 Reasons to Be a Supreme Court Clerk

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 16, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Supreme Court law clerks are like professional athletes; they work under the bright lights of a world stage.

But there are 400,000 more reasons that those law clerks are like the pros. That's how many dollars some law firms will pay them as a signing bonus.

Not to compare apples and oranges, but many pro athletes don't command that much coming out of college. At this clip, some rookie attorneys will be looking for endorsement contracts, too.

Signing Bonus

If you didn't know, athletes often make more money from endorsement contracts than from playing sports. Michael Jordan, for example, makes $110 million a year from Nike and he hasn't played professional basketball since 2003.

So it's not entirely irrelevant to compare Supreme Court law clerks to star athletes. With big-time signing bonuses, both can make a lot of money before they actually practice with their team for the first time.

And when the former clerks sign with some firms, they will get paid more than their former bosses at the Supreme Court. That's how it works in sports, too, where players typically get millions more than their old coaches.

BigLaw teams have set the $400,000 standard for signing former Supreme Court clerks. After all, the big firms are the only ones that can afford it.

BigLaw Strategy

According to reports, those firms are:

  • Orrick
  • Jones Day
  • Paul Weiss
  • Skadden Arps
  • Kirkland & Ellis
  • Susman Godfrey

Critics call the big paydays "absurd," and suggest it is not about talent. It's about access and insight into the judges, says Todd Peppers.

For the law clerks, however, it's about working under legal luminaries. And with nearly a half-million dollars to start practicing law, they don't need endorsements.

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