Xiao Wang, a professor known for his innovations as an appellate clinic leader, is joining the University of Virginia School of Law faculty to direct its Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.
Wang is currently director of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Appellate Advocacy Center, supervising the school’s Federal Appellate and Supreme Court clinics. Prior to that, he was an appellate litigator at Wilkinson Stekloff and Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Wang is also a Double Hoo, earning his bachelor’s degree in economics with highest distinction as a Jefferson Scholar and his master’s degree in public policy as one of the first students to graduate from the University’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. He is the founder of the Virginia Policy Review.
“Charlottesville is just such an entrancing and wonderful place,” Wang said. “It was a place for me to grow and develop and to learn. Hopefully it’s a place for me to still do that, and also to teach and to have a great impact and influence on the next generation of UVA students. That’s something I’m so excited for, and it is really a privilege to have that opportunity.”
Wang succeeds Professor Daniel R. Ortiz, who helped launch the clinic in 2006 and has led it in the 17 years since. Ortiz will remain on the faculty and continue to teach courses in administrative law, constitutional law and election law.
“Xiao will be great,” Ortiz said. “He’s got lots of energy, ambition and he certainly knows the tricks of the trade. I’ll be excited to see where he takes it.”
So much energy that Wang used his “down” time while recovering from a concussion to build an innovative program at Northwestern.
Because he couldn’t look at a computer screen for long, he read books on coding to learn how to make a searchable database of briefs, syllabi and other classroom resources for his National Appellate Clinic Network.
“I saw an opportunity to increase collaboration among clinics, all of which are producing high-quality work, but which didn’t necessarily collaborate or share resources,” he said. Since its launch, the network site “has been used many times by practitioners and clinicians and law students.” It also was a finalist in Bloomberg’s inaugural Law School Innovation Program award.
He plans to bring the network, and another new program ― the En Banc Institute ― to UVA. The institute offers lawyers who are scheduled to argue before full panels of appellate circuit court judges a place to practice their arguments in a full dress rehearsal before faculty, alumni and practitioners. In the last year at Northwestern, Wang has hosted 10 online and in-person moots.
“En banc cases before circuit courts, though they tend to fly under the radar, often have really high stakes,” he said. The institute is “an easy way for us to really help the bar and to help lawyers within their own communities.”
Depending on the results in the en banc proceeding, parties could get additional help from Wang and the students or the clinic could offer to take the case for Supreme Court review.
“The Supreme Court grants a significant number of cases that were previously heard en banc,” he said.
Wang hopes clinic students at UVA will get the chance to argue against participants in the institute to give them oral argument practice as well ― one area that students in UVA’s clinic can’t usually hone because they aren’t allowed to argue before the Supreme Court.
“It would be a good way for the students to exercise their advocacy skills and build up their stand-up experience in a pretty important setting,” he said.
In Wang’s appellate practice before he entered academia, he worked on cases heard by state appellate courts and federal courts all the way to the Supreme Court, and on a range of issues from property disputes to antitrust cases to high-profile criminal litigation.
“Where I really got a lot of opportunities to build my skills and help clients was through my pro bono practice, which allowed me to be first chair and to have stand-up opportunities in many of the circuit courts around the country,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to teach these sorts of skills to students.”
Wang said he wants students taking the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic to leave as “top-notch” appellate litigators, gaining skills in writing briefs and supplemental filings, crafting a convincing oral argument, and learning how to create positive relationships with teammates, amici and other lawyers.
He also will teach students about the ethics of Supreme Court practice amid a changing judiciary.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise that the court today is changing,” he said. “To think about how to craft arguments and how to represent clients amid that changing composition and changing dynamic is a really critical point.”
Though he graduated from Yale Law School, Wang’s first introduction to studying the Supreme Court and constitutional law happened at UVA, where, as an undergraduate, he took a constitutional law seminar with Micah Schwartzman ’05, a contracts course, and a mental health and public policy class with Richard Bonnie ’69. At the time, he heard the buzz about UVA’s nascent Supreme Court clinic, and when he went to Yale he decided to join its clinic, which started soon after UVA’s.
“I’m really excited to sink my teeth into bringing that Supreme Court clinic experience to students at UVA,” Wang said.
After graduating from Yale as a Coker Fellow in Constitutional Law, he clerked for Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (now on the Ninth Circuit) and Judge Karen N. Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
“Clerking was an incredible experience. To think through, with my judges, the real-life implications of what happens to the individuals and parties before you changed how I viewed the law,” he said. Building on his experiences at Northwestern, Wang looks forward to working with UVA students navigating the clerkship process.
In addition to teaching appellate courses and launching programs that benefit other lawyers and clinics, Wang also spends time on research that “helps me think through the cases that I work on.” His articles include “The Old Hand Problem,” about how the practice of allowing for judges to go senior enables court-packing, published in the Minnesota Law Review; “Is Roe the New Miranda?,” which traces similarities between the two seminal cases, published in the California Law Review Online; and “In Defense of (Circuit) Court-Packing,” which calls for more federal circuit court judgeships, published in the Michigan Law Review Online. His article “Religion as Disobedience” is forthcoming in the Vanderbilt Law Review.
Over the years, he has kept in touch and made new connections with UVA faculty members, including Ortiz and Appellate Litigation Clinic director Scott Ballenger ’96, who has been a close friend and mentor.
“The collaboration between myself and UVA faculty has always been there,” he said. “This is going to be an even more fruitful collaboration because instead of having to call Scott, I’ll just walk down the hall and pester him.”
Dean Risa Goluboff said the many experiences Wang brings to UVA make him “the whole package” for being the clinic’s next leader.
“From his time as an appellate litigator to developing his clinic at Northwestern to building new innovations into the clinical field, Xiao Wang brings extraordinary experience, energy and talent to this important role,” Goluboff said. “We are so proud of Dan’s incredible work on behalf of the clinic over the years — both the enormous role he played in building a top-notch clinical experience for our students and his highly successful Supreme Court advocacy. We are excited for that excellence to continue under Xiao.”
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.