Grads get Supreme Court clerkships

The Supreme Court is the nation’s highest and most secretive judicial body. But a select few GW Law School graduates have gotten an exclusive look at the court by serving as clerks for its justices.

Since 1990, six Law School graduates have been named Supreme Court law clerks, which are among the most coveted positions for aspiring lawyers and judges. Ann O’Connell, a 2004 graduate who works for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, is the only alum currently clerking at the court. Chantel Febus, a 2002 graduate, has been selected to begin her clerkship with justice Clarence Thomas in 2005.

More than 100 GW graduates have also clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals system.

The nine justices of the Supreme Court, like other federal and state judges across the country, select top law school graduates to serve as clerks each year. Supreme Court justices typically have four clerks, GW associate law professor Jonathan Molot said.

“Clerking for a Supreme Court justice is one of the best jobs that people ever have as lawyers,” Molot said.

Clerks are responsible for helping determine which cases go to court, developing questions for justices to use in their oral arguments and assisting judges in researching and drafting their judicial opinions.

More than 600 law school graduates apply for Supreme Court clerkships each year, said law professor Bradford Clark, who serves on a committee that helps students obtain clerkships. He added that most of the clerks are graduates of Ivy League law schools and have previously worked in a federal appeals court.

“Traditionally, Supreme Court clerkships have gone to students who graduated from Harvard or Yale law school. GW is doing well to break into the group,” Clark said. “GW students are competing against the best law students in the country.”

He said there are typically about 35 openings for Supreme Court clerkships each year. Law clerks normally serve a one-year term.

“It’s extremely competitive to become a law clerk. It is possibly the most sought after position for law school graduates in the U.S,” associate law professor Robert Brauneis said.

He added that students who are seeking a Supreme Court clerkship should have experience clerking for an appellate court and that the recommendation of an appellate court judge is the most important aspect of a students’ application.

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