During the fall 2020 semester, the Center for Judicial Events and Clerkships (CJEC) reprised its popular Alumni Clerk Chat Roundtable series in a virtual format. The series is designed to expose students to the notion of clerkships early on and to enable them to engage with alumni who are or were judicial clerks through these informal and interactive roundtables.
“We are lucky to have such a diverse and vibrant group of alumni clerks across the country,” said Suzanne M. Endrizzi ’96, CJEC assistant dean. “Though the Law School events were held virtually during the fall semester, due to the health pandemic, this created a wonderful opportunity for our students to benefit from alumni—who traveled by Zoom and shared their clerkship experiences, as well as imparted their advice and guidance. The Fordham community’s energy and enthusiasm to reach back to help the next generation of Fordham lawyers is boundless.”
Chatting with Clerks Across the Nation
Throughout the semester the CJEC welcomed alumni who are or were judicial clerks including:
Brianna Gallo ’17 [former clerk to Judges Claire Eagan (N.D.Ok.) and Bobby Sheppard (8th Cir.)]; Dan Humphrey ’19 ([ormer clerk to Magistrate Lauren Louis (S.D.Fla.) and current clerk to Justice John Couriel (Florida Supreme Court)], Mike Landis ’11 [former clerk to Judges Ronald Graves (Ret.) (N.J. Appellate Division) and Christine Arguello (D.Colo.)]; Jessica Lee ’17 [former clerk to Judge Thomas Johnston (S.D.W.Va.) and incoming clerk to Don Willett (5th Cir.)]; Reece Pelley ’19 [current clerk to Justice Maria Kahn (Connecticut Supreme Court) and incoming clerk to John Keenan (S.D.N.Y.)], and Brandon Ruben ’16 [former clerk to Judges Terrence Berg (E.D.Mich.), Claire Eagan (N.D.Ok.), and Robert Wilkins (D.C. Cir.)]
The alumni talked with students about why they personally chose to clerk and the day to day life of a judicial clerk. For those alumni who clerked on multiple courts, they talked with the students about how each of these clerkship experiences differed.
Each of the participating alumni have pursued different career paths—from large firms to government agencies to public interest organizations. As a result, students gained insights from the breadth of the alumni perspectives on how their clerkships benefited their career aspirations.
Ruben, assistant public defender in Prince George’s County, Maryland, spoke with a group of 10 students at a virtual chat on Sept. 17. Prior to starting this role about a year ago, he had completed three federal clerkships around the country.
Ruben said he was interested in clerking because he believes there is no better way to improve as a legal researcher and writer. The experience, he added, acclimates young attorneys to handling very serious responsibilities early in their career.
“I didn’t obtain my clerkships on my own. I did it in conjunction with the numerous Fordham faculty, alumni, and administrative staff who provided me immense support,” Ruben said. “Participating in the roundtable was thus my sincere pleasure, as it was an opportunity to give back to an institution that has given me so much.”
On Oct. 6, Lee told students that her 1L year solidified her desire to practice constitutional appellate litigation. She knew clerking would provide her the foundation and opportunities to do so.
“The clerkship process can feel overwhelmingly vague, especially for first-generation law students,” said Lee, who is currently an assistant solicitor general for the State of West Virginia in Charleston. “Having been in that position, I wanted to provide students the clarity I needed to succeed in the process and show them that persistence and geographical flexibility can overcome a lot of hurdles.”
Alumni Share Clerkship Experiences with Affinity Groups
This year, the CJEC expanded its Alumni Clerk Chat Roundtable series and partnered with the leadership of the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA), Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA). In September, through that partnership, the CJEC hosted exploratory clerkship chats moderated by the chairs of LALSA, BLSA, and APALSA for their student members, including first year students.
These alumni chats featured Adam Rodriguez ’07 [former clerk to Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes (E.D.N.Y.) and Judge Dora Irizarry (E.D.N.Y.)], Sheea Sybblis ’05 [former clerk to Judge Susan Wigenton (D.N.J.)], and Julie Yap ’05 [former clerk Judge Frank Damrell (E.D.Cal.) and former U.S. Supreme Court Fellow]to provide invaluable insight into their respective clerkship experiences.
Yap—who was sworn in as a superior court judge in the Sacramento County Superior Court of California in May 2020—spoke with APALSA about her clerkship experiences.
On Sept. 29, Stein Scholar and APALSA Co-Vice President Nick Loh ’22 moderated Judge Yap’s discussion titled, “From Clerk to Judge: Demystifying Post-Graduate Judicial Clerkships.”
“APALSA was fortunate to host Judge Yap who shared her experiences and path to the bench,” Loh said. “It was an encouraging opportunity for students to ask questions and receive concrete advice on navigating judicial opportunities as Asians and Asian Americans.”
“We are very grateful that our fabulous clerks are so devoted to Fordham. They provide invaluable information and assistance to our clerkship candidates,” said Daniel J. Capra, Reed Professor of Law and CJEC faculty director.