The New Market for Federal Judicial Law Clerks

Christopher Avery, Christine Jolls, Richard Posner, Alvin E. Roth

NBER Working Paper No. 13213
Issued in July 2007
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Labor Studies

In the past, judges have often hired applicants for judicial clerkships as early as the beginning of the second year of law school for positions commencing approximately two years down the road. In the new hiring regime for federal judicial law clerks, by contrast, judges are exhorted to follow a set of start dates for considering and hiring applicants during the fall of the third year of law school. Using the same general methodology as we employed in a study of the market for federal judicial law clerks conducted in 1998-2000, we have broadly surveyed both federal appellate judges and law students about their experiences of the new market for law clerks. This paper analyzes our findings within the prevailing economic framework for studying markets with tendencies toward "early" hiring. Our data make clear that the movement of the clerkship market back to the third year of law school is highly valued by judges, but we also find that a strong majority of the judges responding to our surveys has concluded that nonadherence to the specified start dates is very substantial -- a conclusion we are able to corroborate with specific quantitative data from both judge and student surveys. The consistent experience of a wide range of other markets suggests that such nonadherence in the law clerk market will lead to either a reversion to very early hiring or the use of a centralized matching system such as that used for medical residencies. We suggest, however, potential avenues by which the clerkship market could stabilize at something like its present pattern of mixed adherence and nonadherence, thereby avoiding the complete abandonment of the current system.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13213

Published: Avery, Christopher, Christine Jolls, Richard A. Posner, and Alvin E. Roth. "The New Market for Federal Judicial Law Clerks." University of Chicago Law Review 74 (spring 2007): 447–486.

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