Are the Wild West days of federal clerk hiring back? That’s what some law school administrators and judges fear. They worry that the voluntary system whereby federal judges wait until September of the 3L year to hire clerks is teetering. Judges are choosing clerks earlier in the year and are being inundated with applications as the legal job market narrows. And a trend toward hiring the already graduated means fewer positions are available for fresh law graduates.

“There has been a definite strain on the system over the past couple of years,” said Sheila Driscoll, director of judicial clerkships at George Washington University Law School and the chairwoman of the National Association for Law Placement’s (NALP) judicial clerkship section. “People are really worried that it’s not going to last.”

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