Record Number of UVA Law Alumni Clerk for U.S. Appeals Courts
Among the 90 University of Virginia School of Law alumni who are clerking during the 2016 term, a record 37 are clerking for U.S. Courts of Appeals.
Federal appellate court clerkships are sometimes stepping stones to clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court, where three alumni — Andrew Ferguson ’12,Nicole Frazer ’15 and Austin Raynor ’13 — are currently clerking. Rounding out the bench, 40 alumni are clerks for U.S. district courts and other federal courts, while 10 are clerking for state courts. Members of the Class of 2016 tallied 20 clerkships with U.S. Courts of Appeal, 25 with U.S. district courts and other federal courts, and eight with state courts.
Among the trends in clerkship hiring, many judges are moving toward a model of hiring people one or two years out of law school, said Director of Clerkships Ruth Payne. Of the 37 alumni at federal appellate courts, a whopping 17 graduated in 2014 and 2015.
“This happened to be a year where those judges made that change and we had a lot of alums on the market who accepted clerkships,” she said, adding that the judges appreciate clerks who have experience.
Some alumni will even have the opportunity to clerk multiple times. For example, Jared Kelson ’16 is currently clerking for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III ’72 on the Fourth Circuit, and will clerk for Judge Thomas B. Griffith ’85 on the D.C. Circuit during the 2017 term.
“We’re finding increasingly that students who want to clerk in the big cities need to be flexible on the term they’re willing to clerk for,” Payne said. “It’s not as difficult if they’re not moving.”
Payne said clerkships offer graduates the invaluable experience of learning law on the ground; many firms offer bonuses to those who clerk.
“Firms value people who have clerked because of the intensive legal research and writing experience they get during that time,” she said.
The clerkships hiring season has expanded in recent years to begin the summer after first year through the end of the third year of law school. Payne has been holding lunches with groups of first-year students to explain in general terms how the process works.
“There is not a ‘too-late’ point in the clerkships search,” she said, urging students who may be interested to make an appointment with her.
And this year, more judges will likely be hiring after the presidential election, as judicial nominations that had been on hold are affirmed by Congress.