Just how much is a former Supreme Court clerk worth? How much are Biglaw firms and prestigious boutiques willing to pay to woo associates with supreme intellect and inside insights about how the nation’s highest court operates and how certain justices think? Back in 2021, we reported that $450,000 was the forecasted rate for signing bonuses for former Supreme Court clerks. Yes, you read that correctly: former SCOTUS clerks were making almost double their Supreme bosses’ salaries in bonus money just for signing on the dotted line, on top of their base salaries and regular bonuses.
Several firms that are considered heavy hitters when it comes to wooing SCOTUS clerks — off hand, we’re talking about firms like Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Gibson Dunn, and Susman Godfrey, just to name a few — have offered big-time bonuses (i.e., $400K+) to their SCOTUS clerk recruits in the past. Fast forward to 2024, where first-year salaries for associates have climbed to $225,000, and high court clerks now cost an even prettier penny.
According to the Washington Post, firms are opening the coffers wide for associates fresh off a high court clerkship. Here are some of the details:
During the courting process, the city’s top law firms treat this elite group of lawyers to perks like an expensive dinner at the Wharf or Penn Quarter or a trip to a baseball game or spa. The recruitment is so competitive that signing bonuses for Supreme Court law clerks have reached a new high — $500,000, according to a spokeswoman for law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Wow! Supreme Court clerks are now worth half a million dollars on a Biglaw market, which is an absolutely mind-blowing amount. Talk about some golden handcuffs! But if that’s the going rate for legal superstars, you can bet that Biglaw firms are going to happily pay for it.
As noted by the Post, Jones Day continues to corner the market on Supreme Court clerks, having hired 22 clerks since October Term 2020, while Gibson Dunn and Kirkland & Ellis follow behind, with 12 clerks and eight clerks each. These firms are shelling out a ton of cash to hire the very best — and it leaves us wondering if other firms are willing to follow in their footsteps.
If you know that your firm is paying $500,000 or more for SCOTUS clerks, email us (subject line: “SCOTUS Clerkship Bonuses”) or text us (646-820-8477), and we’ll compile a list of every firm that’s paying so generously for supreme talent.
Clerks for hire: The Supreme Court recruiting race [Washington Post]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.