Pamela K. Terry ’13 received the John D. Feerick Award for Most Outstanding Note for “E Pluribus Unum? The Full Faith and Credit Clause and Meaningful Recognition of Out-of-State Adoptions,” published in the Fordham Law Review in 2012. Yet, in spite of her note’s acclaim, the prospect of succinctly explaining the note, a product of months of work, initially gave Terry pause. That is, until Professor Daniel Capra’s mock interview helped her refine an answer— preparation that proved invaluable during Terry’s interviews with the Hon. Wilma A. Lewis, chief judge for the District Court of the Virgin Islands.
Terry clerked for Judge Lewis from 2014 to 2015 before subsequently clerking for a year with the Hon. Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Today she is a litigation associate with Herbert Smith Freehills, having recently moved there from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, where she worked for a year prior to her first clerkship.
Although Terry did not seek to clerk for judges with any particular background, she feels lucky to have served and learned from two judges with diverse careers.
Judge Lewis began her career as a civil assistant U.S. attorney, worked at the United States Department of the Interior as inspector general, and was ultimately nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as assistant secretary of the interior for land and minerals management.
Terry, who attended college and law school in New York City, was excited to live and clerk somewhere else for a year. The matters before the District Court of the Virgin Islands were mostly similar to those in the United States, Terry observes, except for novel issues of territorial law. However, life in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which she describes as “an absolutely beautiful island,” barely resembled life on the decidedly more urban islands of New York City.
“I’d meet two people in two different environments, one professionally and one at a running race, and I’d find out later they know each other,” Terry recalls, likening St. Croix with a small community compared with the metropolis she’d arrived from.
For her second clerkship, Terry clerked for a judge with a background different from that of Lewis. Notably, Judge Greenaway, who is based in Newark, had been an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. District of New Jersey (where he served as the district’s chief of narcotics), general counsel for Johnson & Johnson, and a district judge prior to joining the Third Circuit.
Terry learned the skills to be a persuasive appellate advocate from her time in Judge Greenaway’s chambers. Likewise, her year with Judge Lewis highlighted the rigorous, thorough decision-making that takes place in chambers. These experiences made Terry a better advocate when she returned to practice, she says.
Attracting the interest of judges outside New York requires adherence to time-honored techniques rather than a secret method, according to Terry.
“For any applicant, it’s important to convey that you are hardworking and thoughtful and you would be an asset to the judge’s chambers because of your research and writing skills,” Terry says, noting that law students should also express their interest in learning about how judges decide matters.