March 13, 2007
Supreme Court Clinics & Supreme Court Clerks
Posted by Christine Hurt

Blogs have been going crazy over Dahlia Lithwick's article on Supreme Court clerk bonuses.  I think Orin Kerr's response is particularly reasoned:  $200k is not much when you think of how much large firms spend per recruit in a given summer season, and these recruits are harder to land than the average top ten-percenter.  An interesting comparison would be to attorneys who leave firm practice to go to "the administration" for a few years and then return to private practice at the next election or whenever.  It is my understanding that these attorneys return either to their old firm or a new firm at a completely new pay scale, which may over time far outshine the one-time Supreme Clerk bonus.  (Or think about the DOJ attorneys prosecuting corporate law cases that have gone into lucrative private practice.)  These are extremely small cohorts of individuals who obtain very specialized knowledge and prestige that firms value.  (You can also consider that the starting salary at the largest firms is now $160k, although the median starting salary is either $80k (according to Altman Weil) or $100k (according to NALP).  So, top-performing students at top-performing schools are getting a long-term increase that has a present value of at least $200k.)  Perhaps what galls critics of the Supreme Court bonuses is that they are given to people so young in a lump sum, but that criticism is not entirely convincing. 

On a related note, I am a few days behind in blogging about a different article on Supreme Court Clinics.  My brother-in-law, Mark Stancil (coincidentally, a former Rehnquist clerk), is mentioned in the article as both an appellate attorney at the boutique firm Robbins Russell and one of the supervistors of the Supreme Court clinic at the University of Virginia.

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