For the bar’s best and brightest, landing a clerkship for a Supreme Court justice is like winning the lottery—and not only because many law firms offer $250,000 signing bonuses to recruits who have clerked on the high court.
Clerking provides unparalleled legal experience, such as helping decide which cases the Supreme Court will hear and assisting the justices in writing opinions. Each sitting justice hires four clerks a year, and retired justices Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens have one clerk each.
This term’s clerks have been settling in over the summer. As in past years, Yale and Harvard have the strongest representation. They were tied, with eight alums each, until former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan was confirmed as an associate justice. Not surprisingly, she chose three Harvard Law grads; her fourth clerk is from Yale.
No Supreme Court clerks are from Washington law schools—a difference from last term, when Georgetown University Law Center had two and George Washington University Law had one. Duke Law made its best showing yet, with three alums clerking at One First Street.
While the high-court bench has the most female justices ever, this year’s group of clerks—as in the past—is predominantly male: 14 women and 25 men.
This crop boasts the usual credentials: degrees from the country’s best law schools, clerkships with federal appellate judges, and stints at prominent firms such as O’Melveny & Myers, Williams & Connolly, Jones Day, and Wiley Rein. But also among them are two former public-school teachers. Amy Bergquist, clerking for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, taught at Minneapolis South High School for more than a decade before entering the University of Minnesota Law School. Kevin Arlyck, clerking for Sonia Sotomayor, spent seven years teaching French, English, and social studies in Louisiana and New York City before attending New York University School of Law.
One of Samuel Alito’s clerks, Garrick Sevilla, exemplifies the dedication it takes to become the kind of lawyer who gets a high-court clerkship. On his way back from serving as a Marine officer in Iraq, Sevilla bought an LSAT study guide in Australia, studied aboard his homebound ship, and took the test when he got off the boat.
There’s also a budding power couple: Kristen Eichensehr, clerking for O’Connor, and Richard Ré, clerking for Anthony Kennedy, were married in 2008. The Yale Law alums likely aren’t lacking in interesting dinner conversation—and together they’re potentially looking at a cool half million dollars in signing bonuses after completing the term.
This article first appeared in the September 2010 issue of the Washingtonian.