Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Judges: Look Here!! A Template for your rejection letters to clerkship candidates you didn't choose!!

Dear student at one of the nation's most well-manicured law schools,

Thank you so much for thinking of me when you sent out resumes and cover letters to perhaps up to 300 of my colleagues. I'm glad to have made it onto your mail merge, and feel fortunate to have had the chance to let one of my current clerks toss your package into the trash. You spelled my name wrong. I really didn't appreciate that. You also called me a district court judge. I'm a circuit court judge. There's a difference. I'm better. Don't make that mistake again or I'll have you arrested. See, I can do that -- I'm a judge.

I enjoyed the four-and-a-half seconds I spent looking at your resume. It was not formatted in an immediately offensive manner, like on green paper, or without reasonable margins, or in the Wingdings font that so many of you kids these days seem to be so fond of. I don't care that you played trumpet in the fifth grade. Even though I know you only included it because you read in some ridiculous interview I gave thirty-four years ago that I once played the trumpet. I know you think that meant you were establishing a connection with me. But every single candidate since I gave that interview has said he plays the trumpet, gambling that I would never ask you to prove it. But I will. Every interviewee who tells me he plays the trumpet has to actually play. A song of my choice. A hard song of my choice. But, of course, you didn't get that far. Because you spelled trumpet wrong too. Sorry. I know your finger probably just slipped on the keyboard. It's tough to write 300 customized cover letters incorporating tidbits about each judge that make you seem like you're somewhere between a moron and a stalker, and then spell-check everything, but you could have put in the effort. I bet you did for the judges you knew were circuit court judges.

Frankly, your recommendation letters gave me pause. While it's quite often that I read that a student is "the best in a generation," or "the brightest I've ever encountered," sometimes even from the same professor many times in a single day, it's rare that anyone ever gets called "somewhat lacking in basic hygiene" like you did. Honestly, it made me frightened to call you in for an interview, since even the most marginally negative comment in a letter of recommendation indicates you're either insane, incarcerated, or deceased. I actually called a deceased student in for an interview one year after reading a letter of recommendation that called him "profoundly polite and decorous in mixed company," said he "knows when to be silent," and insisted that he would never compromise the integrity of my court. In fact, he got the job, despite his lack of a pulse.

But it's not excitement that you'd be in for with a clerkship in my chambers. It's hard work. And your propensity toward activities that involve other people besides yourself concerned me. We don't have much "playing sports," "talking with friends," or "existing within the proximity of other human beings" here in my courtroom, as you indicated were things you like to do in your spare time. Instead, I was looking for students more interested in "eating alone," "reading alone," and "doing a judge's writing for him, completely without credit." Luckily for me, many of your classmates fit that bill to a T, and I was able to invite them down here, coax them out of their introverted shells, and have a lovely conversation with them about how wonderful I am. You, on the other hand, seemed like you might be more inclined to talk about yourself, and, really, I can't tolerate that kind of behavior.

But what really did you in, young law student with a dismal future ahead of you, was the clear indication from your letter than you were looking for this clerkship to lead to bigger and better things for your career. A clerkship, despite what you may hear, is NOT just a stepping stone to a position as a tenured professor, or a higher salary at a law firm, or a job in government, or a further clerkship for one of my esteemed colleagues on the Supreme Court (I have, incidentally, placed 23% of my clerks in Supreme Court positions in past years; some, however, were not clerks but rather custodial staff members, but I usually choose to gloss over that portion of the statistic). No, being a clerk is a valuable exercise for itself. Because clerking is the highest honor that can ever be bestowed on you. Higher than being knighted by the British queen. Especially clerking for me, because I am wonderful.

Enjoy your life spent regretting you didn't get a chance to clerk for me, and have a miserable final year of law school wallowing in self-pity. Good luck convincing my colleagues, who are all exactly like me except I used to play the trumpet, that you are the right clerk for them.

One of your 300 favorite judges