U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Clerks Congregate in Law Firms with Like-Minded Practice Groups

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U.S. Supreme Court law clerks are increasingly landing jobs in law firms filled with clerks of like-minded ideologies, a new study has found.

Clerks who worked for liberal justices tend to end up Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Jenner & Block and O’Melveny & Myers, while those who worked for conservatives tend to go to Sidley Austin, Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis, according to a summary of the study in the Am Law Daily.

The study also found that clerks for conservative justices tended to land in the Bush administration, and clerks for liberals in the Clinton administration, the New York Times reports. The study was published last month in The Vanderbilt Law Review and summarized in the autumn issue of The Green Bag (PDF).

One of the study’s authors, New York University law professor William Nelson, told the Times that the results are a cause for concern “mainly because it’s a further piece of evidence of the polarization of the court.”

Before 1990, there was no particular correlation between a clerk’s future employment and the ideology of the justice for whom he or she worked, the study said. But that changed, beginning with the Clinton administration, according to the data, which examined job choices for Supreme Court clerks through 2006.

“The Clinton administration hired 96 former clerks, but only 16 percent of them came from the chambers of the four most conservative justices—Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy,” the Times reports. “Of the 89 former clerks hired by the administration of George W. Bush, on the other hand, 68 percent came from those four chambers.”

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