New York Times article.
"Everyone knows that with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the number of female Supreme Court justices fell by half. The talk of the court this summer, with the arrival of the new crop of law clerks, is that the number of female clerks has fallen even more sharply.
Just under 50 percent of new law school graduates in 2005 were women. Yet women account for only 7 of the 37 law clerkships for the new term, the first time the number has been in the single digits since 1994, when there were 4,000 fewer women among the country’s new law school graduates than there are today.
Last year at this time, there were 14 female clerks, including one, Ann E. O’Connell, who was hired by William H. Rehnquist, the chief justice who died before the term began. His successor, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., then hired Ms. O’Connell.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who joined the court in January, hired Hannah Smith, who had clerked for him on the appeals court where he had previously served. So by the end of the term, and counting Ms. O’Connell twice, there were 16 women among the 43 law clerks hired by last term’s justices.
After years in which more than a third of the clerks were women, the sudden drop was a hot topic this summer on various law-related blogs."
"Who are these young lawyers who are the subject of such interest? They do not, contrary to myth — propagated in part by law clerks themselves — run the court. They do play a significant role in screening new cases, though, and they help their justices in preparing for argument and in drafting opinions.
While their pay is a modest $63,335 for their year of service, a Supreme Court clerkship is money in the bank: the clerks are considered such a catch that law firms are currently paying each one they hire a signing bonus of $200,000."