Ruth Payne '02 Joins Law School as Director of Career Services for Clerkships and Programs

August 13, 2008

After more than four years with the U.S. Department of Justice, Ruth Payne '02 returns to the Law School this year as the new director of career services for clerkships and programs.

"We're delighted to have someone of Ruth's experience and ability to assist with the judicial clerkship application process," said Steve Hopson, senior assistant dean for Career Services. "In addition to bringing energy and expertise to that all-important role, Ruth will be a valuable addition to the Career Services Office's general counseling staff. We are very, very pleased to have her!"

In the newly created position, Payne will help students identify and apply for judicial internships, clerkships and other opportunities.

"I'm very excited. There's a lot of opportunity here to have new ideas implemented, and it's fun to feel like you can have a real impact," she said.

The former articles editor for the Virginia Law Review is joining the administrative faculty from the Office of International Affairs in the criminal division of the Department of Justice, where she served as a liaison between U.S. authorities and foreign governments and helped educate prosecutors about topics such as the extradition of suspected criminals.

"It involved a lot of diplomacy and a lot of law enforcement," Payne said of her former job. "I worked really closely with the FBI, the DEA and others. I'd work with the officers directly, coordinating things like 'OK, how are we going to get this guy out of this country?'"

Payne, who is married and has two young children, said her family was happy to return to Charlottesville and the Law School when the opportunity presented itself.

"There's sort of a two-part draw: One is that we love Charlottesville; it's a great community. And I really like the idea of working for the Law School. There are few places left in America where you have this sort of collegiate environment."

She recently discussed some of the changes in the department and the role she'll have.

Q: What career path did you take after graduation?

A: I did a clerkship here in Charlottesville with Judge [J. Harvie] Wilkinson [III, of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals]. After that, I did the Bristow Fellowship, which is a one-year fellowship with the Solicitor General's Office.

After that I went to work for the honors department at the Department of Justice. Every division of the Justice Department hires honors attorneys. It's the only way the Justice Department hires people right out of law school or right out of clerkships. And now I'm here, which I'm very excited about.

Q: What can you tell us about your new position?

A: My primary responsibility is going to be for the clerkship program, which has recently been brought under the career services umbrella. A clerkship is the first step for a lot of students before they move on to a career in either public or private life. People from all walks do clerkships, and doing a clerkship is a public service. It's considered something that's not only good for you but good for the government to have clerks. Clerkships fit in well in Public Service as a free-standing public service job, but it probably fits in better with Career Services.

Q: What's going on right now with the clerkship program?

A: At this point in the year, we're mostly just getting ready to send the students' applications out. When the fall comes around, we'll be helping the students prepare for interviews - doing mock interviews with them if they want to - and counseling them when they get offers or if they don't get offers. We'll talk about what their options are and what their best fit is going to be if they're lucky enough to have more than one offer. If they don't get an offer, we'll also help students decide going forward if they want to do more applications. It also involves helping the 2Ls start to wade through what a clerkship is, and helping the 1Ls think about summer jobs and judicial internships.

Q: When you started law school, did you know you wanted to do a clerkship?

A: When I started law school, I sort of saw myself as a prosecutor. When I got into law school, there were so many different things that you could do that I looked at a lot of different things like 'Oh this could be great, or this could be great.' And so the clerkship was a really good way to try some things out. I do encourage people to do a clerkship, because it's a great way to try out an area of law you may or may not be interested in. It's also a great way to see an overview of things.

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