Crocker '12 to Clerk for Justice Scalia
One University of Virginia School of Law student walking down the Lawn on Sunday has lined up the most prestigious job a law graduate can have.
Graduating law student Katherine Mims Crocker will clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during the 2013-14 term.
While at the Law School, Crocker served as the articles development editor for the the Virginia Law Review and was a quarterfinalist in the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition. She also led a team of research assistants for Professor A. E. Dick Howard, was a member of the Federalist Society, and received the Jackson Walker LLP Award, given to the student with the highest grade-point average in his or her class after four semesters. (More)
Crocker said she is looking forward to clerking at the Supreme Court, and particularly enthused about working for Scalia.
"Mostly I'm just hoping to soak in as much as possible about how the justice reasons through tough questions and crafts his opinions," she said. "Being able to serve as a judicial clerk at all is such an honor, but I'm especially excited to have the opportunity to learn from one of the Supreme Court's true intellectual leaders."
Following graduation, Crocker will first clerk for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III '72 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a year in Charlottesville.
"UVA has helped prepare me for the clerkships by placing such a strong emphasis on effective legal writing," she said. "I love to write, so I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to clerk for Judge Wilkinson and Justice Scalia, both of whom are known as exceptional wordsmiths."
Her time at Virginia Law also taught her "how to balance a desire to perform as well as possible on any given task with a respect for efficiency," she added. "That's something that I know will be helpful for me and all other UVA Law grads in any future job situation."
Crocker is the latest of a number of Virginia Law graduate to land a Supreme Court clerkship in recent years. Two 2011 graduates, Lauren Willard and Rebecca Gantt, will clerk during the 2012-13 term for justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, respectively.
For the current 2011-12 term, four graduates are clerking at the Supreme Court, tying Virginia Law for second among law schools nationwide in the number of alumni clerking for sitting Supreme Court justices.
When asked what she expects her biggest challenge will be at the Supreme Court, Crocker pointed to the court's massive caseload.
"A big part of a Supreme Court clerk's job is to advise the justices on cert petitions," she said. "Nowadays the court receives about 10,000 per year, which the clerks divvy up, so the sheer number of cases that clerks deal with seems like quite a challenge. Keeping up with my co-clerks, who will have exceptional and intimidating backgrounds, will also be a challenge, I'm sure."
Crocker credited Virginia Law faculty members for their support and advice in applying for the Supreme Court clerkship.
"A good friend who clerked for Justice [Clarence] Thomas once told me that getting a Supreme Court clerkship is like getting struck by lightning, so I don't really know what made me stand out amongst so many other highly qualified applicants," she said. "I did have incredible advisers and recommenders on the UVA faculty who really helped make my application as strong as possible. I know that I would never have made it this far without their gracious and generous help."
A number of Crocker's other advisers and recommenders outside of UVA, such as those she met during her summer jobs and through the "Wilkinson clerkship family" also played an instrumental role, she said.
"It takes a village, as the African proverb says," she said.
During the summer following her first year at Virginia Law, Crocker worked for Judge Henry Hudson on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
"Judge Hudson was the first judge in the nation to rule that Obamacare was unconstitutional, and I got to work on that case all summer. It was such an interesting experience, especially for the first summer of law school," she said.
That same summer, Crocker also worked at the Richmond law firm Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle. And after her second year of law school, she worked for the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C.
Crocker graduated from Harvard University in 2009, majoring in history and science, a small program in which students study the history of science, as well as one science field in-depth — microbiology, in her case.
During her second and third year of law school, Crocker commuted from Richmond because her husband, Mark, is a dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Driving two hours a day was definitely a challenge, but I think that it allowed me to form special relationships with professors and my law review family because everyone had to be so understanding about my crazy schedule, which I really appreciated," she said. "Ironically, Mark and I are moving out to Charlottesville this summer for my clerkship with Judge Wilkinson at the same time that all of my friends will be graduating and leaving."
Crocker, whose father is Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bill Mims, thanked her family for their support during her three years in law school.
"I'm extremely grateful for so much support from my husband and parents during law school, especially when times occasionally got stressful," she said. "My dad has been a special inspiration to me, both as a person and as an incredibly gifted attorney who has chosen to devote his life to public service."