Justice Clarence Thomas — who tends to hire clerks from a wide range of law schools, including some schools far outside the so-called “T14″ — has had to defend himself against (unfounded) allegations that his clerks are “TTT” (an epithet so ridiculous it always makes us laugh). At the same time, because he’s the justice tasked with going to Capitol Hill to beg for money to testify in support of the SCOTUS budget request, he also has to defend the Court against charges of elitism in law clerk hiring, leveled by grandstanding lawmakers.
Hiring law clerks from Ivy League law schools: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
For this coming Term, October Term 2010, Justice Thomas has steered his chambers back in the direction of elitism. All of his clerks for OT 2010 hail from top schools.
Today Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, regarding the Court’s budget. It started out jovially, with Justice Thomas poking fun at Justice Breyer for agreeing with him for the very first time (at the 15 minute mark, regarding taking questions from the committee).
But an hour in, things got testy between the congressmen and the justices. Josh Blackman brought to our attention that the issue of Supreme Court clerk diversity came up. Congressman Ander Crenshaw asked the Justices why the members of the Elect are overwhelmingly graduates from Yale and Harvard. He delicately asked if they’re more qualified or if there are a disproportionate number of them applying for clerkships.
This led to a fifteen-minute discussion about clerkship diversity that started with alma maters, then moved to ethnic diversity. In response, Thomas threw the other SCOTUS justices under the bus (e.g., “MY clerks are diverse”), then threw feeder judges under the bus, and then threw law schools under the bus (e.g., “that pool comes from the law schools”).
But then Congresswoman Barbara Lee hit him with the bus…
Ed. note: Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project. The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks, ever since its publication (including hitting the #1 spot).
Although she’s now a writer, with a total of five bestselling and/or critically acclaimed books to her name, Rubin started her career as a lawyer. She graduated from Yale Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Feel free to check out her blog, follow her on Twitter, or join the Happiness Project Facebook page.
We asked Gretchen Rubin to offer us some happiness advice aimed at a lawyerly audience. Her guest post appears below.
By Gretchen Rubin
A few years ago, I decided to do a happiness project. I spent a year testing the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. From my experience, to be happier, it helps to think about the little things in life—and also the big things. Here are some ideas specifically targeted to lawyers:
Tackle the little things: Happiness can seem like a lofty, abstract goal, but a great place to start is with your own body and daily schedule.
Get enough sleep. We adjust to chronic sleep deprivation and don’t realize how much it weighs on us. According to one study, a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people’s daily moods at work (along with tight work deadlines — another problem many lawyers face). It’s tempting to stay up late, especially if that’s the fun part of your day, but the morning comes fast. (Here are some sleep tips.)
Get some exercise—preferably outside. You don’t have to train for a marathon. Just go for a ten-minute walk at lunchtime. People who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, feel cheerier, and perform better at work. (Here are some tips for sticking to an exercise routine.)
After yesterday’s report on the latest developments in Supreme Court clerk hiring, we received word of several new hires, both by email and in the comments. So we thought we’d do a quick follow-up to pass along what we’ve heard.
Please keep in mind that we have not verified every hire to 100 percent accuracy; corrections may be posted later. This information is unofficial; the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office does not release the official list of October Term clerks until the immediately preceding summer.
With these caveats in mind, let’s take a look at the latest news, shall we?
Supreme Court clerk hiring is once again in the news. This subject, usually of interest just to hard-core legal nerds, migrated over to the mainstream media in Jeffrey Toobin’s recent New Yorker profile of Justice John Paul Stevens. Toobin cleverly used the topic of clerk hiring as a backdoor way of getting at JPS’s retirement plans:
With the election of Barack Obama, the question of Stevens’s retirement has become more pressing. Even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican President, many assume that he would never willingly have turned his seat over to George W. Bush. I asked Stevens about his plans.
“Well, I still have my options open,” he said. “When I decided to just hire one clerk, three of my four clerks last year said they’d work for me next year if I wanted them to. So I have my options still. And then I’ll have to decide soon.” On March 8th, he told me that he would make up his mind in about a month.
April 8 is just around the corner. If you hear of Justice Stevens re-hiring his former clerks (or hiring new clerks) for October 2010, please let us know.
In an interesting online chat with Toobin about his JPS profile, the subject of clerk hiring came up again….
Sorry, we didn’t mean to get your hopes up (or maybe we did). The famously sphinx-like Justice Thomas did not ask a question at oral argument yesterday — but he did open his mouth and emit hearty laughs. From CNN:
Sometimes the most complicated of cases at the Supreme Court brings out the best arguments. It certainly brought out the giggles in a little-watched appeal Tuesday over federal prison terms.
The justices managed to crack themselves up — along with the public audience — at least a dozen times in the hour-long oral debate. Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks at the high court’s normally sober sessions, but he especially enjoyed the gentle insults and self-deprecating jibes his colleagues showered on each other. His booming laugh could be clearly heard at times.
On Monday, Adam Liptak had an interesting article about Supreme Court clerk hiring and possible political polarization. From the New York Times:
A new study has found that former clerks have started to take jobs that reflect the ideologies of the justices for whom they worked.
“It’s cause for concern mainly because it’s a further piece of evidence of the polarization of the court,” said William E. Nelson, a law professor at New York University and one of the authors of the study.
Now, anyone who follows SCOTUS clerk hiring today might yawn at this. Is it really surprising that, as reported in the study, the Bush Administration hired more clerks from the conservative justices, the Clinton Administration hired more clerks from the liberal justices, and certain firms skew conservative (Kirkland & Ellis) or liberal (WilmerHale) in their hiring of former Supreme Court clerks?
But here’s the interesting part:
Until about 1990, the study shows, there was no particular correlation between a justice’s ideological leanings and what his or her clerks did with their lives…. Before the 1990s, the study found, all sorts of former clerks served in the government under all sorts of administrations….
In addition, there have been changes with respect to clerks entering academia:
From about 1940 to 1990, the study found, about a third of all clerks became law professors. There was variation among the chambers, but it was not correlated to the justices’ ideological leanings…. [But now] clerks from conservative chambers are less likely to teach. If they do, they are more likely to join the faculties of conservative and religious law schools.
We’ve heard anecdotally about anti-conservative bias in law faculty hiring (similar to what you sometimes see in law firm hiring). Does this study support the sense of some conservatives that the legal academy is hostile to their ideas?
More discussion of the article, plus the latest in Supreme Court clerk hiring news, after the jump.
Our obsession with Supreme Court clerks is longstanding, dating back to our blogging for Underneath Their Robes (where we used to profile SCOTUS clerks). And it seems we’re not alone in lusting after the Elect.
Apparently oral argument makes people think of other oral activities. Check out this “Missed Connection” from Craigslist:
Law clerk at SCOTUS honest services argument – w4m (Supreme Court Building)
We were both there to hear the honest services arguments, which were fascinating. You were siting with the law clerks, I think, so I’m wondering if you’re one of them. You looked slightly older and more mature than the rest of the people you were sitting with. You’re quite handsome and I enjoyed watching you as you followed the arguments. Too bad you left at the case break–I’d been trying to catch your eye. (I was sitting in the front row of reserved seating.) I promise that if you agree to meet me for dinner that I won’t mention Black or Weyhrauch. What say you?
If you’ll forgive the quibbling, this posting is subpar; it’s missing some information. First, the poster has omitted her age (which typically goes after the “w4m”). Second, she offers little identifying information about herself (e.g., “I was wearing a red scarf”).
Third, she offers little identifying information about the clerk, other than that he’s “more mature” and “quite handsome.” We suspect that every male Supreme Court clerk fancies himself “more mature” and “quite handsome.”
Typically a missed connection involves, well, a “connection.” The lack of identifying information suggests that no such connection was forged here. But we admire the poster’s effort.
This is not, by the way, the first time a CL “Missed Connection” has arisen out of a Supreme Court argument.
There’s nothing scary about this Halloween edition of the Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. Our featured newlyweds include two Skadden associates, a SCOTUS clerk, and a famous heiress / model / entrepreneur.
Here are our fabulous finalist couples:
Supreme Court clerks continue to flood the NYT wedding pages this month, creating grim LEWW odds for mere-mortal Cornell grads and Skadden associates. Like Troy playing Florida or North Texas playing Alabama, these folks are welcome to suit up, but the only question is how bad their whuppin’ is going to hurt.
Here are your three finalist couples for the week:
We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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