Changes to Law Clerk Hiring by D.C. Circuit Judges Start in 2014

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 23, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The D.C. Circuit judges have made changes to their law clerk hiring practices for the 2014-2015 term.

In the past, judges were encouraged to hire third-year law student students based on the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. However, the plan wasn't a requirement for the judges, and many opted to hire based on their own timelines, so the hiring system was not cohesive amongst all the circuit judges, the D.C. Circuit Court website explains.

Now hiring terms are based solely on a judge's discretion and "exploding offers" are off the table.

Out With the Old ...

Once upon a time, federal judges were encouraged to hire 3L law clerks following the now defunct Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. The hiring plan covered all federal judges and was a voluntary guideline for judges, law schools, and third-year law students.

One of the goals of the hiring plan is to set a critical hiring date for hiring 3Ls. At the time, federal judges would get together to choose a date when the majority of law schools turned in their final grades for 2Ls to send out job offers.

All other law clerk applicants that aren't 3Ls were free to apply whenever there was an opening. With more than 3,000 opinionated federal judges in the United States, you can understand why it was difficult to get everyone on board with this plan.

So the D.C. Circuit led the way, nixed the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan, and made some changes to their hiring process.

... In With the New

Although all federal and D.C. Circuit judges continue to use the OSCAR system for job postings, some key changes are in place now that the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan is no longer used.

The D.C. Circuit judges set their own hiring schedules and positions may be available throughout the year. They've also agreed to eliminate "exploding offers," which are offers that expire if they aren't accepted immediately, according to their website. These changes to D.C. Circuit law clerk hiring process are good. It gives law students and post-grads the opportunity to evaluate all of their offers and choose the best fit for them.

With the D.C. Circuit being positioned as the baby sister of SCOTUS, it's no surprise that law students and attorneys are clamoring to clerk -- especially since many Big Law firms shell out serious moolah for former clerks.

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