Top Ten Ranking Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings
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 ¶  Supreme Court Clerkship Placement, 1996 Through 2006 Terms
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Writing Essays

Posted August 26, 2006

Earlier studies of Supreme Court Clerkship placement covered a longer period of time (1991-2005); this study covers the past decade, and so permits some sense of which schools are increasing their success at securing Supreme Court clerkships for their best graduates, and which are having less success.

Because of the small number of clerks chosen in a given year; because clerks are only chosen from the very top of any law school’s class; because current clerks participate in the process of selecting new clerks; and because the Justices themselves have particular school loyalties,[1] gross numbers are probably more informative, and so the ranking below is based on the total number of clerks placed on the Supreme Court. For informational purposes, the approximate size, rounded to the nearest 25, of recent graduating classes is listed in the final column.

This includes all clerks on the Supreme Court from the 1996 term through the current 2006 term. The late Chief Justice Rehnquist’s clerks were accepted by the new Chief Justice John Roberts, and so are counted; the clerks C.J. Roberts brought with him from the D.C. Circuit were not counted, since they were selected in a less competitive process; the same applies to those Judge Samuel Alito brought with him from the Third Circuit, but not those he chose for the 2006 Term.

The changes in rank from the 1991-2005 inclusive ranking of placement in Supreme Court clerkships give some indication of which schools are becoming more successful, and which less successful, at placing their graduates in these highly competitive (though also somewhat politicized) positions.

The class size (rounded to the nearest 25) is taken from the most recent ABA guide data on matriculating students (on-line here: http://officialguide.lsac.org/search/cgi-bin/results.asp?PageNo=). This is misleading in one important respect, since class size may have been very different over the period of time during which the clerks were selected.

Rank

School

Total number of clerks

Recent Class Size
(rounded to nearest 25)

Total Number of Clerks
Divided by Recent Class Size
(rounded to two places)
(the higher the number, the better the success rate)

Rank Based
on Total
1991-2005 Clerkships

1

Harvard University

95

550

.17

1

2

Yale University

70

200

.35

2

3

University of Chicago

45

200

.23

3

4

Columbia University

27

375

.07

5

5

Stanford University

26

175

.15

4

6

New York University

16

450

.04

8

 

University of Virginia

16

375

.04

7

8

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

14

375

.04

6

9

University of California , Berkeley

10

275

.04

9

10

University of Texas, Austin

9

450

.02

10

11

Northwestern University

8

250

.03

11

12

University of Notre Dame

6

175

.03

14

13

Georgetown University

5

575

.01

12

14

Duke University

4

200

.02

12

15

Brigham Young University

3

150

.02

18

 

George Washington University

3

525

.01

15

17

University of California, Los Angeles

2

325

.01

17

 

University of Georgia

2

200

.01

23

 

University of Illinois , Urbana-Champaign

2

200

.01

21

 

University of Kansas

2

150

.01

18

 

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

2

225

.01

21

 

University of Pennsylvania

2

250

.01

15

 

Vanderbilt University

2

200

.01

18

The following schools each graduated one student who secured a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship between 1996 and 2005: Boston College; Cornell University; Ohio State University; Oxford University; Rutgers University, Newark; University of Arizona; University of Missouri, Columbia.

[1] Justice Stevens, for example, taught at Northwestern, and often hires Northwestern clerks; the same is true for Justice Breyer and Harvard; Justice Ginsburg and Columbia; and Justice Scalia and Chicago. Justice Scalia is also partial to Notre Dame.

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