April 9, 2004
Two Law Alums Look Forward to Supreme Court Clerkships
Students Should Prep for Clerkship Application
Season, Trujillo Says
|Ryan Shores '03 will clerk for
Chief Justice Rehnquist.
||Melissa Arbus '03 will clerk for
Justice John Paul Stevens.
Ryan Shores ’03 felt nervous as he walked into Chief Justice
William H. Rehnquist’s office, but found that the tough interview
he was expecting was more like a conversation, as he talked with Rehnquist
about the history of some of the furniture in his office.
“When I left there, I thought, ‘well, even if I don’t
get the job, I just had a nice conversation with the Chief Justice,’” said
Shores, who is now a clerk for Judge Kenneth Ripple of the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago.
Shores and classmate Melissa Arbus will begin their Supreme Court
clerkship in July; Arbus, who is currently clerking for Judge Diana
Motz on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, will clerk for Justice
John Paul Stevens.
“Any clerkship is an invaluable experience and a very good transition
between law school and the working world,” Arbus said. “With
a Supreme Court clerkship you have the rare opportunity to see the
most exciting and difficult cases there are.”
Arbus, a New Jersey native whose father is a sole practitioner and
certified civil trial attorney, plans to enter private practice or
work for the government after her clerkship. “I look forward
to learning everything I can from the clerkship, and from Justice Stevens,” she
said, and she is thrilled to tackle “some of the hardest legal
issues out there.”
Both Arbus and Shores served on the Virginia Law Review;
Shores was Editor-in-Chief while Arbus worked as Notes Development
Editor. Shores said his current clerkship depends heavily on his law
school experience. “You analyze cases over and over in law school
and break them down,” he said. “That’s precisely
what happens when we get a case here…My legal education at U.Va.
was just terrific in that respect.”
Shores, a northwest-Florida native who worked in advertising before
choosing to study law, plans to practice privately after his Supreme
Court clerkship as well. “The reason that I applied and wanted
to do it so badly [was that] I really enjoy trying to understand how
law fits into the whole process.”
Supreme Court justices typically take four clerks each year, although
Rehnquist takes three. Applicants usually must clerk with a lower-court
judge before moving on to the Supreme Court, and students begin applying
for the coveted positions as soon as they secure their first clerkship.
Second-year students interested in clerking should be looking for
judges they would like to clerk with and start requesting recommendations
from professors, said Jason Wu Trujillo, Director of Public
Service and Career Counselor at the Law School. Clerkship applications
typically include a legal writing sample, cover letter, resume, transcript,
and three academic references. Under the Federal
Law Clerk Hiring Plan, federal judges are encouraged to wait until
the fall of a student’s third year to accept applications, but
state court deadlines are more varied.
“People should not self-select themselves out of clerkships,” Trujillo
said, explaining that students often feel they won’t get a clerkship
without at least a 3.5 GPA. In reality, state supreme courts and state
courts of appeal are less grade-conscious, and competition for clerkships
varies regionally at the federal and state level as well. “State
court clerkships should not be overlooked, and they have been in the
past.” Trujillo said anyone interested in state clerkships should
meet with him, since some states require submissions as early as a
student’s second year.
Students applying for clerkships and firms at the same time may be
able to negotiate with the firm to defer accepting an offer, said W.
Stevenson Hopson IV, Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services, but
often students choose to wait until they begin their clerkship to interview
with firms. Sometimes judges don’t want potential clerks to commit
to a future law firm position because conflicts of interest may arise
if, for example, a lawyer from the firm is arguing before the judge’s
Students seeking more information about clerkships can contact Trujillo
at 924-3883 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related link: Judicial
• Reported by M. Wood