“A fortuitous Fordham story” is how Martha Leibell ’10 describes her path to clerking for two district court chief judges—Judge Loretta A. Preska ’73 in the Southern District of New York and Judge K. Michael Moore ’76 in the Southern District of Florida.
Leibell’s path to clerking started during her 2L summer as an intern in Judge Preska’s chambers, an experience Leibell loved for the opportunities to write, research, and observe high-profile matters such as the criminal case of a Somali pirate. At summer’s end, Judge Preska offered Leibell the chief law clerk position upon graduation.
“I can’t overstate how much I learned from Judge Preska,” reflects Leibell, citing the importance of preparation, what makes a persuasive oral argument, and what makes a compelling brief as examples.
In 2010, following her clerkship with Judge Preska, Leibell joined Mayer Brown LLP as a litigation associate. While at the firm, Leibell received an email from fellow Fordham Law alumna Mackenzie Duane ’13, who was then clerking for Judge Moore. Duane asked if Leibell would be interested in interviewing with Judge Moore for the role of chief law clerk—a role Duane was leaving to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
Leibell began her clerkship with Judge Moore in the spring of 2016. “I went into this clerkship knowing it would be a serious endeavor,” says Leibell. Leibell researches and prepares memoranda, orders, and opinions for criminal and civil matters. She also handles other tasks such as communicating with local and federal government entities and the media, managing the judge’s caseload, supervising and training law clerks, and attending conferences with Judge Moore. In the fall of 2016, Judge Moore participated on a panel as part of a symposium on forensic expert testimony, Daubert, and Rule 702. In conjunction with the symposium, Judge Moore and Leibell co-authored an article published in the Fordham Law Review this spring, “Fast Times in Federal Court and the Need for Flexibility.”
Miami is a smaller legal market than New York, Leibell notes, but the pace in both jurisdictions is “incredibly busy.” Judge Moore’s focus on promptly resolving cases is a necessity given the massive caseload the Southern District of Florida handles and also serves to make law clerks better lawyers, Leibell adds.
Leibell loves clerking and “encourages students to pursue a clerkship—or two.”