California state courts do not offer clerkships to new law school graduates. And that decision affects the employment outcomes of graduates of California law schools.
Federal clerkships have been examined at great length (here and elsewhere). State court clerkships, however, remained relatively underexamined. And they are a source of significant volatility in comparing employment outcomes of graduates.
It's a crude general statement to say that law students tend to practice in the state in which their law school is located. I looked at how many law school graduates came from each state's law schools in 2013. (Alaska has no law school.) I then looked at how many of those graduates obtained state court clerkships in the reported ABA employment statistics. Lacking more granular data, it was a rough proxy--graduates, after all, may clerk in another state rather than the state of their law school. (For more details, see the bottom of this post.)
Here's a map (courtesy of Choropleth.us) of how many law school graduates from each state's law schools obtained state court clerkships, with figures in a table below:
|State||St. Clerks||St. Grads||Pct.|
|District of Columbia||113||2211||5.1%|
For most of the top few states (e.g., Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Dakota) have similar characteristics: one in-state school, a relatively insular market, and small law schools. Those schools each send a handful of their graduates to clerk in their states' courts--at least, it's probably a good guess, despite the lack of more granular data, that they're clerking in their home state.
A state like New Jersey is an anomaly. It has a robust state court clerkships system designed specifically for recent law graduates. Its website boasts 480 one-year positions. So it's probably no surprise that New Jersey-based law schools channel an extremely high number of graduates into state court clerkships.
Other states are not so fortunate--California among them, as it sits near the bottom of the list.
Here are the numbers as a percentage of full-time, long-term, bar passage-required jobs. (As a note, even though these positions are often only one year, they are still considered "long-term.")
|State||St. Clerks||FTLT BPR||Pct.|
|District of Columbia||113||1441||7.8%|
Now, of course, if California courts began offering robust clerkships opportunities for graduates, it might simply be that graduates who otherwise would have pursued other job opportunities would instead take a state court clerkship first. But, this data, I think, does show that regional employment opportunities greatly affect the short-term legal employment outcomes of graduates. (And I imagine many will draw a variety of conclusions from this data--but, the primary purpose of this post is to provide the data.)
Methodology note: A few schools do distort the picture for a few states (like Yale in Connecticut sends relatively few of its graduates into state court clerkships). So I thought I might define each school's "home market" as the state where the school sent the largest percentage of its graduates. The only schools that had a percentage difference of at least one-half of one percentage point were Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Connecticut--and the greatest of these was Connecticut at a 2.6-point difference. These were too small for me to decide to use this metric--particularly because the state where the school sends the largest percentage of its students may change from year to year, which would make future comparisons across years more difficult. As the methodology only examines graduates from each state's schools, Alaska lists zero, but it has does offer state clerkships.