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Columbia Law Review Online

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clerkships, U.S. Supreme Court, educational pedigree


Law | Legal Education | Supreme Court of the United States


The most elite and scarce of all U.S. legal credentials is serving as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. A close second is clerking for a Justice. A Court clerkship is a prize as well as a ticket to future success. Rich accounts of the experience fill bookshelves and journal pages. Yet the public lacks a clear story about who wins this clerkship lottery. Original analysis of forty years of clerkships tells that story. New datasets detail clerks’ paths from college to the Court to careers. Research shows that Court clerkships favor educational pedigree and status over pure achievement. Post-Court, clerks enjoy a bounty of opportunities that amplify their influence on society writ large. In the elite legal labor market, some people are, in fact, more equal than others.



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