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May 15, 2006


Fact Checker

Mr. Roy:

20K is a low-end bonus for a "mere" federal district/circuit clerk. See, e.g.,

http://www.lw.com/recruiting/judicialClerk.asp ;



Sidley's even lower, surprisingly:


Jack Roy

Anyone else have serious doubts about the accuracy of the $200K figure? I had heard numbers in the $20K range and I really have my suspicions about this (not least because it's the WaPo). Say the figure were $20K---add to that $170K (the third-year salary in New York) and an estimated $15K bonus, and you get $205K comp for the first year out -in total-, not just as a bonus. Like I said, I have my suspicions.

Cry Me a River

vomitous. $200 K for a signing bonus? My clients don't make that much money in 10 years! (yes, I'm that weird thing you kids call a public interest attorney)

I love how everyone thinks it's a big sacrifice to 'only' make $50 or $60 K as a clerk and thus these kids are somehow entitled to a giant payback. Talk to the classmates of the clerks who were Skadden, Equal Justice, or Soros Fellows -- you know, the students who were equally smart, did as well as if not better in class, yet refused out of principle to rush the rugby scrum by the whiteboard to suck up to the professors at the end of class, and who thought they might actually do with their law degree what they wrote about in their law school application -- whether they would be upset to make 'only' $50 or $60 k like the Appellate/Elite Clerks are...cry me a river about the "foregone 150k in salary" from clerking.

Boo fricken hoo. It's the biggest news in ages that the Skadden Fellowship program is raising the fellows' salaries for the first time in 17 years -- from $37,500 to a whopping $46,000. Try living in New York, DC, LA, or San Francisco on either of those amounts. Heck, that's what a third year Skadden associate makes in a bonus, right? or what a first year Wachtell associate makes in a bonus?

I wonder what the market price bonus for a clerk to an inactive justice is. My bet is a whole hell of a lot less.


I heard a rumor that Justice O'Connor hired her one clerk for next year: Justin Driver (Harvard '04/Garland). Can anyone confirm?


I find this kind of thinking toxic, and that's partly because I can imagine falling prey to it myself. But it's really sad. Until you let go of this "If I don't get into Harvard ..." "If I don't get into Yale Law .." "If I don't get an appellate clerkship ..." "If I don't get a SCOTUS clerkship ..." I don't win, you're going to be a miserable sap.

It's also disturbing, because I imagine that, just as you think you pine to be in the inner circle of SCOTUS clerks, thinking they've "won," you think anyone who has not gone to Harvard, Yale Law, etc., has "lost." I'd love to hear your unfiltered thoughts on, say, people who got 1200 on their SAT's and went to a state law school.

Hate to be so earnest on a hyper-ironic web site. But your complaints aren't so ironic, are they? Hope you're continuing therapy, which you alluded to earlier.

Also: The bonus for SCOTUS clerks seems economically irrational. You'd have to think appeals-court clerks are just as good, potentially better, and at least NEARLY as good. The winner-take-all system makes no sense--unless there really is benefit to being an "insider," which doesn't speak well of our judicial system.


RE: Justin
If you take taxes into account, the SCOTUS clerks probably end up making less with that 1 big bonus in a single year (which is taxed on top of there normal salary for a 3rd year associate).


DAMN, and I was happy with a $25,000 law clerk bonus after clerking for a U.S.D.J.

Appellate clerk salary: $55K
Supreme Court clerk salary: $60K
Supreme Court clerk bonus: $200K

Total: $315K over first two years after law school.

First year associate salary: $135K
First year associate bonus: $5K
Second year associate salary: $150K
Second year associate bonus: $15K

Total: $305K over first two years after law school.

Gaining the best credential of your life: priceless


Where do you get $125 K? It's substantially more than that, when you count bonuses. Everyone should cool their jets about this -- over a three year period, Supreme Court clerks make less than their peers who go to NYC law firms.


What about Souter's impending retirement announcement?


Additionally, you're the first ex-Wachtell lawyer I've ever heard to complain that other lawyers make "obscene" amounts of money.


Yes, still exaggerated and over the top.

37 people in the country every year are singled out for special treatment and given a credential that equates with presumptive brilliance for the rest of their careers. They all work hard for it and are all very smart, but of course for every 37 selected, there's another group of 60 or so every year who were interviewed and probably could have done just as well at the job... and another 100 who were in the ballpark, and so on. But only those 37 get the credential.

So what?

The same is true of Rhodes Scholars, Nobel Prize winners, valedictorians, and people on the VIP list for clubs that Puffy frequents. There's a line drawn somewhere, and some people are in and others are out, with no "honorable mention" for the people who were "almost in."

The fact that, coming out of Yale and an O'Scannlain clerkship, you're treated better by the firm recruiters than 99.7% of other lawyers, but not as well as the other 0.3%.... Well, forgive us if we're less than sympathetic.

Bob W

This does seem exorbitant, but you must keep in my mind that these SCOTUS clerks only make about 50k/year. In the private sector they could have been making 125k/year. Given that they also served as appellate clerks, they have foregone 150k in salary over those two years.


A3G, dear, I kinda feel you on the self-pity and painful lack of a $200,000 bonus, but it might console you to keep in mind that some of us out here spend our evenings pitying ourselves for not having your day job! (Our evenings that are not spend reviewing documents, that is.)

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