Wanted for Judicial Clerkships: Women with More Law Review Credentials
By Milan D. Smith Jr • March 14, 2007•Internships and Clerkships
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jessie March 14, 2007
What a great insight into the clerkship application process—thank you!! My impression is that Judge Smith’s preference for law review members is shared by much of the federal judiciary. My experience is that journal membership is a good proxy for commitment and an ability to work hard and long. However, it has not been my experience that journal work improves your research skills. So I wonder how useful a guide law review actually is for predicting future performance as a clerk. This summer I heard an anecdote that seems relevant. During President Carter’s tenure, there was a concerted effort by his administration to diversify the federal judiciary. One of the most effective tools in that effort was the use of non-traditional evaluation measures. Previously, only ABA qualification measures had been addressed during Senate confirmations. If a nominee was qualified according to the ABA’s more traditional measures, that was generally considered sufficient. The Carter Administration deepened the inquiry, asking organizations like the NAACP and NOW to provide their view of a candidate’s qualifications as well. The ABA never asked questions about personal affiliations or ideology in assessing qualification, but these new evaluators did. These new perspectives on qualification helped change the face of the federal judiciary. I think there are plenty of people that would argue the recent development of the confirmation process is not a positive one, or that it hasn’t been effective enough in diversifying the judiciary. Nevertheless, I think if you want to change the balance of an employee pool you have to start by evaluating your applicant pool accordingly. Old measures of success are not going to produce a new pool of leaders.
karen1 December 15, 2007
As a member of a law review at a top ten law school, I am happy to report that the ratio of male-to-female associate editors is roughly equal.
However, Judge Smith's letter raises a different point with regard to editorial board positions. Each law review no doubt has its own method of choosing a board, but at my school, the associate editors desiring a leadership position are chosen by the outgoing board. There is no transparency in this process. If we accept the premise that, on average, men are more aggressive about going after such positions (and that women who do the same are viewed less positively), this informal process would be better suited towards producing a male-dominated editorial board.
Finally, I would urge all judges to look beyond law review membership. Although I chose the more traditional path, several of my classmates have instead carved out their own niches to focus on their passions. For example, a group of women recently founded a law journal dedicated to international human rights issues. They didn't do so because they failed to make law review (they founded the journal prior to the writing competition); rather, they loved this particular area of the law and felt it would benefit from additional scholarship. Such initiative should, I think, be looked upon favorably.