Supreme Court Clerks

A clerk at One First Street (click to enlarge).

Ten years after their time at One First Street, where do Supreme Court clerks wind up? Back in 2004, I tossed out a number of possibilities: high-ranking government posts, lucrative partnerships at leading law firms, and tenured professorships at top law schools.

That seems to be about right. Professor Derek Muller put together this interesting analysis — via Orin Kerr, via Judge Dillard on Twitter — of the SCOTUS clerk class from ten years ago. The clerks for October Term 2003 now occupy some pretty prestigious perches, including posts in the Solicitor General’s Office and the Office of Legal Counsel, professorships at Harvard and Yale, and partnerships at Sullivan & Cromwell and Paul Weiss.

Who will follow in their footsteps? We have some new goodies for devotees of SCOTUS law clerk hiring.

Keep reading for a look at (1) the official list of Supreme Court clerks for October Term 2013, courtesy of the Court itself; (2) our unofficial list of OT 2013 clerks, with law school and prior clerkship information; and (3) an updated list of October Term 2014 hires thus far. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hired multiple clerks for OT 2014, suggesting that she’s not going anywhere….

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It’s astonishing to me that there will be games with phenomenal graphics and orchestral scores and there will just be grammar errors. I deliberated about every single word. A lawyer is more likely to have that kind of neurotic attitude about things than your ordinary game designer.

Mark Yohalem — a Harvard Law School graduate, former law clerk to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and current assistant U.S. attorney — discussing his interesting sideline as a video game writer.

(More about Yohalem and one of his games, after the jump.)

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Mr. Milbank is a humorist and satirist. He can make mountains out of molehills if he wants to. But he should take a page out of Justice Alito’s book and pay more attention to getting it right.

William Ranney Levi and Dana Remus, former law clerks to Justice Samuel Alito, in a letter to the Washington Post responding to an article by Dana Milbank. Milbank accused the justice of “demonstrat[ing] his disdain” for his women colleagues while on the bench.

A clerk at One First Street (click to enlarge).

Readers of Above the Law aren’t the only people interested in Supreme Court clerk hiring. Televangelist Pat Robertson — a graduate of Yale Law School, and winner of our reader poll for YLS’s most disgraceful graduate — recently wondered if Justice Anthony Kennedy might have been swayed by gay law clerks when he struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

(We’re everywhere! Even the Vatican!)

For the record, I don’t know the sexual orientations of Justice Kennedy’s outgoing law clerks — well, not all of them — and I don’t intend to go digging for such info. But in fairness to Robertson, before you yell at him for making a big deal out of gay SCOTUS clerks, please note that the topic has made headlines recently. Indeed, it would be interesting to look back on his historic Term for gay rights from the perspective of a lesbian or gay clerk. Perhaps we’ll hear from such a clerk in the future (although the absence of leaks about the big rulings suggests that this group is an impressively tight-lipped bunch).

If I were selected to serve as a law clerk to a justice of the United States Supreme Court, I would be gay — as in very, very happy. Let’s look at the brilliant young lawyers who have been hired as SCOTUS clerks for the next two Terms of the Court….

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Just yesterday, the latest batch of starry-eyed dreamers sat for the LSAT (although the number of these hopeful 0Ls seems to be in freefall). As they wait for the scores to come in, these aspiring JDs will no doubt be doing their research and narrowing down where to apply. Law school applicants have no shortage of resources at their disposal to help them in making their decisions and navigating the process: from U.S. News to Princeton Review, from Anna Ivey to Top Law Schools. But we all know that there is no decision-making tool as beloved as a ranked list. People love rankings — such time and energy savers! We suspect more application and matriculation decisions are made by perusing rankings than will ever be admitted to.

Regular readers of this site might recall that a little while back we published our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking. We are proud that we, rather than burying our methodology in the footnotes or an obscure appendix, prefaced our rankings release with a detailed discussion about the choices we made in devising our methodology.

Whatever the subject matter, anyone looking to rate or rank anything has to make some choices between three basic methodological approaches:

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If you’re a former Supreme Court clerk, the legal world is your oyster. In the words of one observer, “Supreme Court clerkships have become the Willy Wonka golden tickets of the legal profession. So many top-shelf opportunities within the law, such as tenure-track professorships and jobs in the SG’s office, [are] reserved for members of the Elect.”

If you work at a hedge fund, maybe after a stint at Goldman Sachs or a similarly elite investment bank, you’re the Wall Street version of a SCOTUS clerk — at the top of the field, but with way more money. There aren’t many Lawyerly Lairs out there that cost $60 million (the cost of hedge fund magnate Steve Cohen’s new Hamptons house).

What could lure four high-powered lawyers and hedge-fund types, including two former clerks to the all-powerful Justice Anthony Kennedy, to leave their current perches? How about the chance to earn the kind of money that would make a Supreme Court clerkship bonus look like a diner waitress’s tip?

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The thousands of NYU faithful crowding Washington Square park last night unleashed a torrent of cheers upon seeing plumes of white smoke arising from Furman Hall, signaling the selection of a new dean for the School of Law.

The hiring comes after former Dean Ricky Revesz announced that he was stepping down from the post he held for the last 11 years (though Revesz will remain on faculty at NYU, sort of a Dean Emeritus).

So let’s meet the new dean…

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For Supreme Court clerks from October Term 2011, the historic Term of NFIB v. Sebelius (aka “Obamacare”), the hot firm to go to was Jones Day. As Tony Mauro recently reported, the firm hired six SCOTUS clerks from the OT 2011 class, which “may be the most clerks signed up by a single firm from a single term” (although Ted Frank suggests that Kirkland & Ellis might have had seven clerks back in 1995).

UPDATE (3/17/2013, 1 p.m.): Per Mauro, K&E has never had six or seven clerks from a single Term.

Leading litigatrix Beth Heifetz — a former SCOTUS clerk herself (OT 1985 / Blackmun), and a Tina Fey doppelgänger — confirmed that Jones Day paid the going rate in terms of SCOTUS clerkship bonuses: $280,000 (on top of the usual base salary and year-end bonus). One of the new hires, Rachel Bloomekatz, is joining JD’s office in Columbus, Ohio. She should be able to survive out there on half a million (the SCOTUS clerkship bonus plus a fifth-year associate’s salary; she’s a 2008 UCLA Law grad).

But what if you’re in the Columbus office and not a SCOTUS clerk? Don’t expect to be shown the money; instead, you might be shown the door….

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In her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounts her journey from the projects of the South Bronx to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Given that background, one would expect Justice Sotomayor to have a weak spot for young women who make it to One First Street from improbable places.

So it makes perfect sense that Justice Sotomayor has hired the first-ever Brooklyn Law School graduate to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk: Sparkle Sooknanan, a 2010 graduate of BLS who is currently an appellate attorney at the Justice Department. We’ve heard Sooknanan described as “an awesome human being” and “brilliant” — and with a name like “Sparkle,” the brilliance must be literal.

Sparkle isn’t the only bright young lawyer to claim a shiny new credential for the résumé. Read on for additional news of Supreme Court clerk hiring….

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Merry Christmas! Yes, “Merry Christmas,” and not “Happy Holidays,” consistent with the late Chief Justice Rehnquist’s preference.

Look at what Santa Claus left underneath the Christmas tree: news of Supreme Court clerk hiring, wrapped up in a bow! Just in time for the holiday season.

Keep reading to find out the latest law clerks bound for One First Street, as well as their law schools and feeder judges. Some of the justices are already hiring for October Term 2014….

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