Fifteen Members of the Class of 2013 Pursue Clerkships
Every year a number of successful BU Law graduates enter into local, state and federal clerkships, gaining exposure to a variety of legal issues; working closely with judges and other court personnel; and obtaining the training necessary for practicing law regardless of specialty.
From the Class of 2013, 15 graduates have added this prestigious credential to their résumés, including seven who are clerking at the federal level. Their placements are as diverse as they are, ranging from North Dakota to Puerto Rico, state courts to the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review.
We caught up with four of these accomplished graduates to learn about their transitions from law student to judicial clerks.
- Kevin Gregg, Department of Justice - Executive Office for Immigration Review (Attorney General's Honors Program)
- Amber Charles, U.S. FIrst Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Juan R. Torruella ('57)
- Ben Woodworth, U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, Judge J. Garvan Murtha
- Alexander Barrett, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Judge Joseph L. Tauro
Kevin Gregg (’13), who has always been passionate about immigration law, landed a dream first-job out of law school. He is currently working in the Department of Justice for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in San Diego, where he is a judicial law clerk in the Attorney General’s Honors Program.
A graduate of the University of Florida, where he studied political science, international relations, and history, Gregg served as a field worker for the Alliance Association for Rural Restoration. In Pursat, Cambodia, he observed and analyzed local villages for loan allocation and wrote case studies evaluating the economic progress of target villages.
When it came to decide on a law school, Gregg felt he would receive valuable practical experience at BU Law. Looking back, he credits the many opportunities for hands-on, real-world training during his three years for helping secure his current position—not to mention preparing him thoroughly for it.
Gregg began to pursue his interest in immigration law immediately, volunteering for Justice Without Borders - Migrants as a case study editor throughout his 1L year. He edited submissions to the UN and drafted press releases regarding the treatment of African refugees in Europe.
Within the classroom, Gregg was very inspired by Lecturer David McHaffey’s immigration law seminar. Particularly impressive, he says, is how “he manages to teach as much immigration law as possible in a very short amount of time.” Gregg also joined Mr. McHaffey on a pro bono spring break trip to Harlingen, Texas, to work with the South Texas branch of the Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBar), a national nonprofit organization that provides legal services to asylum seekers detained by the United States government.
What he describes as one of his more formative experiences during law school, Gregg also was a research assistant for Professor Susan Akram, an expert in refugee law, international human rights, and domestic immigration. Among many other assignments, Gregg worked on Professor Akram’s forthcoming refugee volume with Cambridge Scholars Publishing, coordinated a portion of The Law and Politics of Unresolved Refugee Crisis symposium, and drafted a habeas corpus petition for a detained non-citizen for submission to federal court.
Aside from its intellectual appeal, the assistantship opened a professional opportunity for him. “Due in large part to my research work with Professor Akram,” says Gregg, “I received my internship at the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL).”
Gregg headed to Washington, DC, to serve as senior legal intern for the Civil Division of OIL - Appellate in May 2012, and he was able to stay in Washington and continue through fall of his 3L year through the Semester in Practice Program. “Those extra months were vital,” he says.
On a day-to-day basis he drafted merits briefs and motions for summary denial for submission to the U.S. Courts of Appeals, researched and wrote memorandum on asylum and criminal-alien law, conducted intern trainings, and participated in two mock appellate arguments in front of senior OIL directors. “I learned an immense amount about immigration law, legal and appellate brief writing, and the Department of Justice in general.” Gregg also was able to build a highly valuable network while in DC.
“My time at OIL made a career in the Department of Justice possible,” he says. “I made my most important professional contacts during my Semester in Practice, and I put myself in a very competitive position to attain a position through the Attorney General’s Honor’s Program.”
The highly regarded clerkship program is challenging, but Gregg feels well prepared. He particularly enjoys interacting with the judges. “I speak with them multiple times each day, discussing everything from immigration issues to my own personal development,” he says. “My experience working for Professor Akram particularly prepared me for this aspect of my clerkship.”
In addition, says Gregg, “I speak my mind often—my time in Professor [Tracey] Maclin’s classes very well prepared me for this. And I, of course, enjoy drafting decisions and am very thankful for the writing skills I learned at OIL and BU Law.”
To law students hoping to follow a similar career path in immigration law, Gregg advises: “Become a good writer. Demonstrate a passion for immigration law. Take advantage of the opportunities offered at BU Law. And get your foot in the door.”
“And reach out to me!” he adds.
At the conclusion of his two-year clerkship, Gregg hopes to attain a federal clerkship or to work in another component of the Department of Justice, and one day, to work at the State Department Legal Advisor’s Office.
Amber Charles ('13) entered law school thinking she might never practice in the United States.
After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in political science and mass communications, she served as a program coordinator at the Carter Center, an Atlanta-based nonprofit working on various human rights issues across the globe.
"I was part of the team that worked with Former President Jimmy Carter to observe and report on the legality of elections in countries undergoing democratic transitions," Charles explains.
Specifically, she trained election observers on human rights and election law for missions to Lebanon, Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Ghana. She also drafted and edited public statements and final reports on electoral processes in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.
After three years, Charles applied to law school seeking the advanced legal education she would need to make an even greater impact on global development. Thus, she came to BU Law in 2010, and was awarded a highly competitive Public Interest Scholarship for her demonstrated commitment to pursuing a career in public service.
"I chose BU Law because it felt like a school where I could make my own way, rather than follow a preset path," she says. "The staff and faculty were always supportive and available, but the School also clearly celebrated individuality and creativity."
Since graduating in May, she has clerked for Judge Juan R. Torruella (’57) of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is a very prestigious, ideal opportunity for Charles, who seeks to learn about the workings of the federal judiciary before entering U.S. practice, with the goal of eventually returning her focus internationally.
Looking back, her three years in the tower proved to be ideal training for this next step toward her professional ambitions. "I think what most prepared me for this job was the careful balance of academic and substantive experience," she says.
At BU Law, Charles was an article editor on the Boston University Law Review, a student advisor, and a Public Interest Project board member. She served as a LL.M. writing tutor and was team captain of BU's 2012-2013 Jessup International Law Moot Court Team, which won the team award for overall best brief, competing against teams from Harvard, BC, and Columbia.
"Through my various activities and leadership opportunities at the School, I graduated with a sense of knowledge and confidence in myself as a lawyer that really has done more for my career than anything I learned in a class," she states.
Charles also served as Professor Rob Sloane’s research assistant. This role allowed her to pursue her academic interest in international law—specifically international and foreign relations law (including corporate liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act), international law concerning inter-state use of propaganda, and claims of necessity in the law of war.
Charles’s legal internship at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti gave her valuable hands-on experience pursuing legal matters in post-disaster recovery situations. And her judicial externship at the U.S. Court of Appeals helped hone critical skills like preparing bench memos, researching applicable law, and finalizing draft opinions for a variety of civil and criminal appellate cases.
In May, she graduated at the top of the class of 2013.
Charles points to the courses she took while at BU Law as important preparation for her career. But, she says, "At a more macro level, BU Law gave me the confidence to believe in my own voice in the law, and to trust that I had the ability and skills to contribute to a court like the First Circuit."
In San Juan, clerking for Judge Torruella, Charles continues to earn her stripes. "It has pushed me mentally, making me an expert (or at least well-versed) in areas of law I previously had no exposure to," she explains.
In her clerkship, Charles is responsible for one quarter of the chambers' caseload, assisting the judge in preparing for oral arguments, determining the appropriate resolution, and assisting with draft opinions. "My day-to-day includes case research, drafting, peer-editing, supervising interns, and corresponding with other panel members as necessary," she says.
After completing her clerkship, Charles hopes to gain litigation experience and eventually rededicate herself to social justice and global development.
As a transfer student, Ben Woodworth ('13) came to BU Law because of his desire to live and work in the Northeast, not to mention the unmistakable draw of the city of Boston. “The transfer was well worth it,” he says.
After earning a degree in English and government from Connecticut College, Woodworth attended New York University's Summer Publishing Institute and then moved back to his home state of Maine to work on a gubernatorial campaign. One year after graduating, he decided to put his English and government background to use to earn a law degree.
As Woodworth settled into Boston his 2L year, he applied to clerkships around the country, eventually accepting his current position as law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont with Judge J. Garvan Murtha. For Woodworth, each day offers a different learning experience. "I've been able to work on all kinds of different cases, and I learn new things every day," he states.
His clerkship has not only allowed him to work with and learn from knowledgeable colleagues, but also it has expanded his experience and helped him refine his writing skills. He says, "I work with engaging, smart people, and I'm getting substantive experience in both criminal and civil cases. By its nature, a clerkship forces you to think critically and become a better writer."
Woodworth credits his BU Law education for helping him sharpen his writing skills— specifically his Judicial Writing Seminar with Clinical Teaching Fellow Hermanth Gundavaram and Persuasive Writing seminar with Associate Director of the Legal Writing and Appellate Advocacy Program Jen McCloskey.
Seeking experience outside the law tower, he completed an externship at the Massachusetts Land Court and another at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor. He gained experience in civil litigation at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen during a summer internship. Each experience gave Woodworth a new perspective and a better sense of a lawyer's day-to-day work. He also worked as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maine in the summer of 2011, which gave him valuable government experience and a solid writing sample to use in clerkship applications.
For current students interested in clerking, Woodworth recommends applying widely and early and seeking the help of professors. "Reach out to professors early in the process and explain your interest in clerking," he says.
After completing his district court clerkship, Woodworth will gain appellate experience by clerking for a second year on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. His long-term goals include working for a firm in New England.
Though Alexander Barrett ('13) wasn’t sure what type of law he wanted to practice long-term upon graduation, clerking for Judge Joseph L. Tauro in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts is giving him plenty of ideas.
"Working at the trial level has allowed me to see numerous types of cases, both civil and criminal, take shape from the initial complaint up to trial,” says Barrett. “The work is varied, and there is rarely a dull moment.”
Though his schedule differs each day, Barrett's duties include updating bench memos, attending court, and assisting the judge during hearings. After the court concludes for the day, Barrett drafts orders that resulted from the previous hearings and writes bench memos and opinions for upcoming hearings.
An exceptionally bright student, Barrett graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri – Kansas City with a major in history and a minor in political science. He spent a year as a pharmacy technician at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, before joining the BU Law class of 2013.
During law school, Barrett served as managing editor of the Boston University Law Review and as research assistant to Professor Tracey Maclin. He asserts that the valuable writing and editing experience he gained in these two roles helped him secure his clerkship.
"Any judge will be looking for candidates who have honed those skills," he says. "Judges only have a few clerks each year, and serving as a research assistant demonstrates that you are capable of working closely with a professor in a similar manner."
In addition to mastering those practical skills, Barrett credits his well-rounded legal education from the best law professors in the nation for his early professional success.
"I left law school with a handle on the various doctrines and rules in a number of areas,” Barrett says. “But, just as important, the professors at BU Law do a fantastic job conveying why things are the way they are and providing practical insight on how to think about issues. Approaching cases and problems with common sense is something all clerks need to be able to do."
Barrett has a few words of advice for current students who are interested in clerkships.
"Pick up at least one course or extracurricular activity that is writing-intensive, given the importance of the skill," says Barrett. "Those serious about clerking should consider seeking a position as a research assistant or taking a seminar that will allow them to work closely with a professor. Recommendation letters are a very important part of any clerkship application and these opportunities allow a professor to get to know a student much better and speak to their abilities and personality."
This fall, Barrett will complete a second clerkship for Judge Bruce Selya in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Providence, Rhode Island.
Reported April 22, 2014