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Kendrick ’06 to Clerk for Justice Souter; Will Return to Law School to Teach

Leslie Kendrick '06
Leslie Kendrick '06

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by Emily Williams

Leslie Kendrick ’06 had never set foot in the U.S. Supreme Court until she interviewed with Justice David Souter. Beginning in July, she’ll be a daily fixture there after accepting Souter’s offer to be one of his clerks. When her term ends, she will begin her career as an associate professor at the Law School.

“There’s no doubt it’s a dream come true. Beyond that, it’s a dream that largely seemed like a pipe dream. Most of my time at law school I didn’t think at all that I would be in the position to have even a plausible Supreme Court application, much less have one turn out to be successful,” Kendrick said.

Currently a clerk for Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III ’72, Kendrick was working at her desk on an ordinary Friday afternoon when the call from Souter came through. “I wondered if you are still in the market for a clerkship?” she recalled Souter asking. Of course, the answer was yes. “I had been trying not to think about it,” she said.

Kendrick will finish her clerkship with Wilkinson in June. “It’s been a fantastic year. The Fourth Circuit has a really interesting and varied docket,” she said. She received a great deal of support from Wilkinson and was thrilled to tell him she got the clerkship. “He’s the most wonderful person you could ever hope to have in your corner.” All three of Wilkinson’s clerks earned clerkships with the Supreme Court this year — an accomplishment he has achieved three years in a row.

Kendrick also received plenty of support from her alma mater. “I think having the support of the school and professors matters a lot,” she said. “It takes at least two hands to count the number of people who personally got involved with the application process.” Allison Orr ’04, who clerked for Souter during the 2005–2006 court year, also helped Kendrick through the process. “I think that UVA is pretty singular among top 10 [law] schools for the amount of wholehearted support that it gives to its students.”

Around the time she was interviewing with Souter, she also was interviewing at the Law School for a faculty position. First Amendment and torts are on her research agenda, but she’s not sure what she’ll be teaching when she joins the faculty in the fall of 2008.

Before coming to the Law School, Kendrick was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where she received her Ph.D. in English literature. “It was a huge de-skilling process to come to law school. I was starting from the ground up again after having done English for so long. I just felt so awkward all the time and I still, most days, feel like the law fits me like an awkward garment not quite tailored to me.”

As awkward as she feels, Kendrick wears the law like a glove. As a student, she received the Margaret G. Hyde Award, the highest honor given to a graduating student by the faculty, and was an Olin Scholar and Hardy Cross Dillard Scholar. She was the recipient of the Virginia State Bar Family Law Book Award and served as the essays development and book reviews editor for the Virginia Law Review. While still a student, Kendrick published “A Test for Criminally Instructional Speech” in the Virginia Law Review, a paper that won her the Law School Alumni Association Best Note Award and the 2006 Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing.

“Charlottesville is really about the right size and pace for me. I love that it is such a great university town — a quintessential university town.”