Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Thinking It Through

with 9 comments

Total Black: $237.73
Total Red: $226,219.40

I mentioned in a comment to Nerves a Jumble that I had received another offer to interview for a law job.  I’ve been trying to think through each.  I’ve not mentioned that both would have me working for a judge.  They’re clerkships.  The brass ring I’ve been reaching for since graduating law school.  I know I’m law clerk material.  And this blog has certainly further polished my writing skills.  But now, as my luck would have it, I might be presented with both and then forced to choose between them.  I can’t really give specifics about them.  Well, actually, I won’t—out of an abundance of caution.  But judges are known to give what’s referred to as an “exploding offer”—one you must accept or reject on the spot, or within a very short turn-around . . . perhaps twenty-four hours.  So the analysis and decision-making must occur beforehand.  Just not sure which I’d take.

Both clerkships would be trial-level courts.  I welcome that because it’s the type of clerkship I’ve wanted: to see trials, to watch juries deliberate, and to see voir dire occur or the machinations of motion practice.  I like the trial level.  So that analysis is a wash.  Both opportunities—at least as far as I know—would have me start fairly quickly.  This isn’t a September-start.  This is now.  So that too is a wash.

One question is: go far or stay close.  Part of me is leaning towards far: to just see someplace different—to go somewhere I’ve not been before.  The other half of me is leaning towards keeping one foot in New York—keeping my plates spinning here, and my ties, since I’ve got so much going on right now.  As I mentioned in Decisions, Decisions: the first opportunity would take me over 1,600 miles away.  Draw a circle that wide with New York as the center and you’ll see where I might end up—and how far away that is.  As for the second opportunity, it would also have me leaving New York, but I could keep at least my apartment in New York (and certainly get a roommate in that case) and possibly return on weekends.  It wouldn’t be that far away and I also wouldn’t have to rent a place in the other location as housing would be taken care of.

Another question is cost-of-living: staying close, and not having rent to pay, would mean that much more money in hand to pay down my debts.  If I take the far-away opportunity, I’d have to rent an apartment, buy—or lease a car (that much I was told during the interview) and take care of all other household-related expenses.  Not exactly the same for the second opportunity.  The clear choice here would be the financially cheaper choice.

As for career: the far away opportunity would be involve a very interesting set of laws and could possibly lead to another clerkship.  But it’s not a federal clerkship.  Any clerkship is better than none, but trial level, and non-federal—well, not much lower you can start out at.  But I’m happy to start at the bottom of the ladder.  It’s where I’ve always found myself.  And still I climb.  The second opportunity would be federal.  But magistrate level.  The lowest level in the federal clerkship system.  I don’t know if there’s a ladder there to climb.  I can’t give more details than that.  Career-wise, the far away opportunity might open more doors.  But the closer opportunity probably would present more research and writing experience—something one expects from a clerkship.  And federal tends to trump non-federal, in most cases.

It seems each way I run the analysis, I come out back where I started.  One is costly and far away, but could lead to better connections and more opportunities.  The other is closer, keeps me in the New York-loop, and I wouldn’t have to worry too much about cost of living expenses; but it probably wouldn’t open too many doors—at least not just by having that clerkship.

Of course, I’m gun-jumping a bit as I don’t have an offer for either.  But as noted at the outset of this entry, I need to be prepared to say yes when offered a position.  I can ask for a day to consider the offer—but really . . . why would you?  I mean, why did you bother going on the interview if you were unsure.  Had the salary been too law—well, that’s a reasonable way to bow out of any opportunity.  No one expects you to go deeper into debt to take a job.  But it’s looking like both might pay the same.  Financially-speaking, the cheaper and closer opportunity is the wisest choice.  Career-wise, I’m not sure, but the farther may be the better of the two.

When, if ever, is it acceptable to let your finances suffer a bit just to give your career a boost?  I wonder.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

March 20, 2010 at 22:52

9 Responses

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  1. Update fail.


    March 21, 2010 at 16:47

  2. Step 1: Decide what you WANT to do.

    Step 2: Decide what you NEED to do.

    Step 3: Choose between the two.

    (Lather, rinse, repeat).


    March 22, 2010 at 01:23

  3. So far, you don’t strike me as someone that would likely enjoy living anywhere that I can find 1600 miles from where you are.

    If you’re going to give this a shot, and it is actually, currently a pay cut, I would take the closer job and ditch your current apartment. That still keeps you close to NYC (so you say, even close enough to keep the apartment), so you can maintain contacts there reasonably well, and federal judges to talk…even at the magistrate level.

    It would hardly be a bad thing to get your name in a few of their heads for being a great clerk.

    If it weren’t for you saying that you’d have an improved cost-of-living arrangement from the close job though, I’d be against it because of the pay cut, but consider this: if you’re willing to leave your apartment for one or possibly both of these jobs, then why aren’t you willing to leave it with neither? Get rid of that financial drain…



    March 22, 2010 at 07:37

  4. Either way, ditch the apartment. It’s a financial black hole.


    March 22, 2010 at 09:03

  5. I agree with the folks who are suggesting you get rid of the apartment, but I think that given the choice you should, if offered, take the federal clerkship. Federal magistrate judges do a lot in the system. Having practiced in front of one in a previous life, they’re definitely more knowledgeable and prestigious than state trial judges, and you’re likely to see more interesting cases and have better networking opportunities.

    Jim in Chicago

    March 22, 2010 at 13:27

  6. I’m not understanding how staying local leads to reduced housing costs if you keep the apartment. Given the frequent controversy with the landlord, it appears you are not making monthly expenses.

    But if you figure out the respective costs of living in each place (ie., reasonable rent, food, car, etc.) you’d then be able to determine how much money would be left each month to pay debt and have a clearer image of which would be better in terms of cash flow.

    Incurring student loans is by definition letting your finances suffer to start a career. Taking either position would not be the equivalent of quitting a high paying job for something more interesting that pays less, either possible new position would help get your career rolling.

    I hope at least one of these positions is offered and you accept. It sounds like you’re in a rut, and a change might do you good. The formula for paying off your debt by August has eluded me, but since the current approach hasn’t made much of a dent, its fair to say that a change may be in order.


    March 22, 2010 at 21:23

  7. I’ve not had a formula, per se, for paying it off by August. Just trust that it will occur. Life may have given me the “close opportunity” to help me get there.

    As for both opportunities, I wouldn’t be keeping my apartment if I were moving 1,600 miles away. At least not as primary tenant. And for the closer opportunity, I wouldn’t keep the apartment without a roommate who would have the place during the week. Thus, rent would be cut in half.

    Fingers crossed though. I’ll definitely accept whichever one I’m offered. If both are offered, that’ll be when the brow-furrowing occurs.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 22, 2010 at 21:35

  8. If the clerkship takes you somewhere outside of New York (I’m guessing close to your mother, so you could live at home), give up your apartment entirely. You cannot afford the luxury of a weekend home in the city.


    March 22, 2010 at 22:19

  9. I have the sinking suspicion that this entire blog and its attendant debt purge goal was concocted after a night of Malibu and watching “The Secret”. Belive me dude, “The Secret” is bullshit. The only way to ensure that something happens is massive action, not just asking the “universe”.

    The Dude Abides

    March 23, 2010 at 18:36

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