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Judicial Clerkships: An Inside Look


Adrienne Bradley
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Judge: The Honorable Lavenski R. Smith

 
A NOTABLE CASE I WORKED ON: I loved working on cases where we had the opportunity to interpret the Constitution. It is so interesting to consider the different ways it can be viewed—from a historical context or a more textual one, for example. I enjoyed discussing different points with Judge Smith to help prepare him for what he might hear during oral arguments.
 
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EXPERIENCE: It was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone graduating from law school. I would advise someone considering a clerkship to be open about where you go; research the judge to get background; and then, once you’ve started, really dive in, appreciate the entire process and value the opportunity. Judge Smith was wonderful to work for—he wanted to hear a critique of everything and encouraged us to bring rigorous analyses and well-constructed arguments to him. His philosophy is to be open-minded, humble and considerate to all those around you—working for someone like him gave me faith in the judicial system.


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Stephen Guynn
Court: U.S. District Court, Oregon
Judge: The Honorable Michael Mosman
 
A NOTABLE CASE I WORKED ON: While clerking in Oregon, I had the chance to work on a patent infringement case in which the plaintiff ultimately won. Intel Corporation was the largest buyer of both plaintiff’s and defendant’s competing devices, which were essential to Intel’s computer chip manufacturing business. It became clear that Intel was not happy about the litigation and the potential impact it might have on its business. Intel’s company witness expressed concerns on the stand about any ruling that would force Intel to switch devices mid-production. By the end of the trial, word on the street was that Intel, upset with plaintiff’s non-responsiveness to its concerns, intended to shift almost all its purchases of these essential devices to another device offered by defendant. The plaintiff had a $36 million award in its pocket, but it had lost a likely much larger sum in future profits due to the way it treated an important third party. I learned a valuable lesson about the different types of concerns you need to have in your mind as you advise a client who wants to take a hard line in negotiating a transaction or pursuing a certain litigation strategy. You have to think about how things you do or say today will impact essential commercial relationships tomorrow.
 
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EXPERIENCE: During my clerkship, I learned to distill complex sets of facts or law into simple, short written memos or oral presentations. Time was often of the essence in chambers, so the judge needed to easily digest summaries of the background facts and the parties’ legal arguments. I have found that many of my projects so far at S&C have required the same skill. Partners and senior associates are often strapped for time. As a result, they expect you to be able to identify the most important issues and to explain those issues concisely without sacrificing thoughtfulness or accuracy. 

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