Scales sitting on a pillar
Nearly a quarter of the UCI law school’s inaugural class of 2012 have received coveted clerkships, most with federal district or appellate judges – reflecting both the quality of the program and the promise of the students. Vladimir Cetinsky / Getty Images, iStockPhoto

As the first UC Irvine School of Law students look toward graduation in May, one measure of their potential impact on the legal profession is the number who’ll go on to clerk for state and federal judges.

Already, the school has placed nearly a quarter of its inaugural class in prestigious clerkships, putting UCI behind only Yale University and Stanford University in the percentage of graduating students at the top 20 law schools to land such positions, according to the latest available figures from U.S. News & World Report.

“The impressive strength of our first graduating class is fully evident in the large number of judicial clerkships they’ve received,” says founding Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. “These clerkships are among the most highly sought-after jobs a new law graduate can get, and there is a tremendous amount of competition for these spots.”

As of mid-December, 14 students – or 24.1 percent – of the 58-member class of 2012 had obtained 16 judicial clerkships. (Two have accepted both U.S. District Court clerkships for 2012 and U.S. Court of Appeals clerkships for 2013.)

Eleven students – or 19 percent – have positions with federal district or appellate judges, so-called Article III judges with lifetime appointments. The other three will clerk for a justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, a Nevada bankruptcy judge and a California bankruptcy judge. (Several additional students are still waiting to hear about clerkship applications.)

In comparison, 30.6 percent of Yale’s 2009 graduating class had clerkships, 27 percent with Article III federal judges; and 26 percent of Stanford’s 2009 law grads had clerkships, 24 percent with Article III judges. Harvard University’s 2009 numbers were 20.6 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively.

Law clerks conduct research in cases before the court and help judges write decisions. Their input is often sought on cases, so their potential power is enormous – especially for individuals typically in their mid-20s.

“I applied for clerkships because I learned from former clerks that working for a judge is a wonderful way to gain insight into the judiciary, become exposed to various areas of law, and develop valuable mentor relationships,” says UCI’s Jillian Cook, who’ll be clerking for a federal district judge next year and a federal appellate judge the year after. “I’m eager to gain experience to supplement what I’ve learned through law school classes and practical training.”

The competition to fill such positions is fierce not only for students but also for judges themselves, who’ve been known to jump the gun on the suggested hiring timeline in order to secure the best students. In addition, top law firms pay big premiums to attract former clerks.

Graduating UCI law students will be clerking for judges across the nation, including:

  • Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan;
  • Catherine Bauer of the Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California in Santa Ana;
  • Cormac Carney of the Central District of California in Santa Ana;
  • Andre Davis of the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Baltimore;
  • Dana Fabe of the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage;
  • Andrew Guilford of the Central District of California in Santa Ana;
  • John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg;
  • Bruce Markell of the Bankruptcy Court in the District of Nevada in Las Vegas;
  • John A. Mendez of the Eastern District of California in Sacramento;
  • John Nixon of the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville;
  • Dean Pregerson of the Central District of California in Los Angeles;
  • Thomas Reavley of the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in Houston;
  • Stephen Reinhardt of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Los Angeles;
  • Barry Silverman of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Phoenix;
  • C. Lynwood Smith Jr. of the Northern District of Alabama in Huntsville; and
  • Jane Stranch of the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Nashville.