BYU Law Professor Aaron Nielson has an excellent National Law Journal column on the collapse of the federal judicial law clerk hiring cartel:
Law students everywhere, be warned — the Federal Judges Law Clerk Hiring Plan is dead. If you want a clerkship, don’t think you can wait until the fall of your 3L year to apply. You can’t. To maximize your chance of getting hired, you should apply much earlier. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s announcement last week that its judges will not follow the plan is the coup de grace, confirming what insiders have known for years: the plan does not work. Applicants can’t count on judges to follow it. The “graduate loophole” means there are fewer slots for students. And instead of curbing “exploding offers,” the plan encourages them. Students, law schools and judges alike should be thankful that this failed experiment is finally coming to an end….
Considering the plan’s real-world effects, and not just its lofty aspirations, no one should mourn the plan’s passing. All the good intentions in the world won’t make it work. The system before the plan was not perfect, but at least it was honest. No one had to hide, and everyone played by the same rules. The D.C. Circuit is exactly right — if we can’t have order, we can at least have transparency. Until the last vestiges of the plan are gone, however, law students everywhere, be warned.
For the reasons Nielson indicates, the collapse of this cartel is a positive development. In addition to the points he makes against it, there is the fact that the cartel gave an undesirable advantage to judges on the East Coast. Because of the extremely compressed nature of the hiring season, applicants could more easily interview with the […]