This season's crop of the legal world's reputed best and brightest, the 33 law clerks at the Supreme Court, are headed mostly for jobs at private law firms.

Twenty of the 29 law clerks who reported their plans in surveys conducted by two weekly legal journals said they will become associates at law firms. Six will teach or study next year, another will stay on with Justice Byron White and two have signed up for three-year hitches with the D.C. Public Defender Service.

Nine of those entering private practice will be staying in Washington and only one will be going to New York.

Only two of the city's 25 largest firms will be getting clerks. One clerk is going to Covington & Burling, Washington's largest, and another to Crowell & Moring, the 12th largest firm. (One clerk reported only that he would enter private practice in Washington. Another who did not report final plans in the survey may be going to Steptoe & Johnson, the city's second largest firm, according to one source.)

But six will be going to firms or local branches of out-of-town firms with fewer than 33 lawyers. Onek, Klein & Farr will get one clerk, making five of the firm's seven lawyers Supreme Court graduates. Nussbaum, Owen & Webster, with 11 lawyers, is picking up one clerk as is Rogovin, Huge & Lenzer, which will have seven former clerks in the 18-lawyer firm. The 33-lawyer firm of Caplin & Drysdale is also getting one former clerk.

The 21-lawyer D.C. branch of Los Angeles' Latham, Watkins & Hills and the 15-lawyer branch of Atlanta's Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy each will get one clerk.