Clerking in Paradise: Palau

Former JETs naturally have a little bit of adventurer in them.  Unfortunately, the sedentary life of the law student spells disappointment for those of accustomed to a more active life.  This isn’t to say going out and enjoying life doesn’t happen in law school.  But if you like inordinate amounts of time reading and editing italicized commas, however, you’re in for a real treat.

Fortunately, life after law school doesn’t necessarily have to be like that — and if you still have that glimmer of a sense of adventure and the desire to live in not-so-often traveled parts of the world, a judicial clerkship in on of America’s international territories might be what you’re after.  After graduate clerkships with various courts across the country are a common (if not somewhat challenging route) to post-graduate employment.  The pay is typically lower than you would expect if you went to a firm immediately after graduating, but some firms still offer clerkship bonuses for those who bring that experience with them in tow.

But, more than you might expect, America is a big friggin’ country, and clerkships are not limited to the fifty states alone.  Clerking and court employment opportunities exist in America’s international territories as well, including Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and Palau.  Living here will be not unlike JET – many of these places offer subsidized housing and pay for you to come over, so while your clerkship income is small, your imputed income is not so bad.  A recent law review article was actually written describing much of the process in detail.

But each territory has its own recruiting schedule, and its own preferences.  I hope to share that with you piece-by-piece, and since Palau is the island I currently have the most information on, it makes sense to start there.

Palau is a small island territory located several hundred miles east of the Philippine Islands.

Positions in Palau are possible at all levels of the judiciary, including not only the Supreme Court of Palau, but also in the attorney general’s office, the public defender’s office, as legislative counsel for the Senate and the House of Delegates, or with Micronesian Legal Services Corporation.

The court typically hires under the following timeline: the position is posted late in the year, around December, with the application deadline being mid-March.  Interviews follow in May, and hiring shortly after that.  Like JET, it seems, the process is long and cumbersome, but certainly worth it if a clerkship on a tropical island is your goal.

Additionally, the information I have indicates that, while you can apply to the court without prior clerkship experience, the court is typically trending towards hiring those with court clerk experience – meaning a Palau court clerkship straight out of law school may be a long shot.  Other sources, however, have indicated to me that travel and experience living in the east / southeast Asia area can be a plus, as well as a background in Japanese.  These were both speculation on my source’s part, but if those two factors are a plus, then the JET experience stands to benefit anyone seeking a position in Palau.

Additional sources on Palau are available, including an older blog run by a former Palau clerk: StuffedWombat.com

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