Through the glass storefront, I spotted Jeremy. He saw me too, grinned, and waved like a beauty queen on speed. Phew: he was clearly very happy with how his clerkship search had turned out.
Jeremy blew into Willoughby’s, pecked me on the cheek, dropped off his bag at the table (was that a new Jack Spade?), and went up to the counter to order a drink. I fiddled with my phone as I waited for him, texting my mother to say that I’d call her tonight to let her know how my L.A. trip went.
“So,” said Jeremy, sitting down with his large soy latte, “tell me everything, Miss Audrey. I want to hear every last delicious detail.”
Before I could even open my mouth, he interrupted me.
“Actually, hold it right there,” he said, raising his right hand in a stop-sign motion. “Let me guess. You interviewed with Stinson, she loved you, you loved her, she made you an offer, you accepted, and everyone lived happily ever after. Am I right?”
“Well, that’s the abridged version, but that’s basically right! How did you know?”
“Oh come on, how could you not hit it off famously! Two fabulous fierce females, fighting the good fight against judicial activism run amok on the crazy liberal Ninth Circuit?”
“Wow, you’re good. I think I may have even used those words — ‘fight the good fight’ — during my interview.”
“Of course you did. The interview was probably a textualist, originalist love-in, where you quoted Frankfurter and Holmes to each other. And then you braided each other’s hair.”
“Ha! Yes, there was some quoting of great justices from our nation’s history. But it was a little more complicated than that….”
I proceeded to give Jeremy a blow-by-blow of the interview, including the moments where I thought I almost blew it. He listened attentively, savoring every detail as he sipped his soy latte, and congratulated me at the end, standing up and reaching over to give me a big hug.
“But enough about me,” I said, “what about you? Your day was far more exciting than mine — or at least more active.”
“Can you believe it? Three cities in a single day? This is how my dad must feel.”
Of the four judges who called me for interviews, only Judge Stinson insisted on interviewing me yesterday, the first day interviews could be conducted according to the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (a non-binding set of guidelines governing the timing of clerkship applications, interviews, and offers). For Jeremy, all three of the judges he interviewed with wanted to move on day one. This required him to meet with three different judges, in three different cities, all on the same day.
For a clerkship applicant, this kind of interview schedule was on the demanding side, but not unprecedented. Luckily for Jeremy, expensive travel wasn’t a problem: he came from a wealthy family, so unlike me, he’d graduate law school without any loans. His father was the managing partner of Jenner & Block — based out of Chicago, but constantly traveling to visit the law firm’s far-flung outposts.
“You must be exhausted,” I said.
“Actually, right now I feel just dandy,” said Jeremy, sipping daintily at his soy latte. “But maybe it will hit me this afternoon. I think I’m still just processing it all.”
“So give me the rundown. Start at the beginning. I want to hear everything.”
“First I interviewed with Paul Kenote in New York. That was at seven in the morning — crazy! As you know, I am so not a morning person. But since I had to make it out to the West Coast for two more interviews, I asked him if he could interview me first thing, and he was nice enough to squeeze me in. I was thinking it would be at nine, but when he found out about my flight schedule, he suggested seven, just to make sure I made my flight. He was really cool — the courthouse wasn’t even open then, but he met me outside and walked me into the building. When we got up to chambers, we were the only ones there.”
“That’s really great of him. How did the interview go? What was he like?”
“Very nice, very smart, very bald,” said Jeremy. “And the interview went great! We bonded over Yale stuff and gay stuff. I asked him about the work he did on L v. T, which was fascinating to hear about.”
L v. T – shorthand for Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s law against sodomy.
“And then, like 15 minutes into the interview, he makes me an offer! Which I accepted! So I’m going to be clerking for Paul Kenote!”
“That’s awesome! Congratulations!”
“Thank you! I am totally, totally excited. I think I’m going to learn so much from him and from clerking in the Southern District.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “My only disappointment is that we won’t be clerking on the Ninth Circuit together!”
“Hold your horses, girlfriend! I forgot to mention — he’s actually already hired for next year, so he made me an offer for one year out. Which I accepted, on the spot. But which left me still open to do my two Ninth Circuit inteviews, since those clerkships would start right after we graduate.”
“So you still flew out for your interviews with Judge Barzun and Judge Gottlieb, even after getting the offer from Judge Kenote?”
“Yup. So I fly out to Pasadena for my Sheldon Gottlieb interview, early afternoon. You and I probably just missed each other. When was your Stinson interview?”
“Noon. I was done by one, one-thirty.”
“Yeah, so we just missed each other. My Gottlieb interview was around two. Oh, by the way, how ridiculous is that courthouse?”
“As in, ridiculously beautiful?”
“Yes! It’s insane. It looks like a freaking luxury resort hotel. I could not believe it. I was like, this is a federal courthouse? Funded by taxpayer dollars?”
“It actually once was a resort,” I said. “Before World War II….”
“I am not surprised,” said Jeremy, cutting off my history lesson. “So, anyway, I interview with Gottlieb. He is amazing. Just brilliant. And so full of empathy. You name a group, and he has stood up for them at one point or another – gays, African-Americans, women, immigrants, labor. He is such a big part of what the Ninth Circuit stands for.”
“Yes, if by that you mean judicial activism, and liberal judges run amok….”
Jeremy raised a sarcastic eyebrow in my direction.
“By the end of the interview,” he continued, “I am dying to work for this man. We seem to hit it off so well. But no offer, either during or by the end of the interview.”
“So up to San Francisco to see Judge Barzun.”
“Yup. I fly up to S.F. to see Marta Marta Marta!”
(I noticed how Jeremy referred to Judge Kenote as “Paul Kenote” and Judge Barzun as “Marta Barzun” or just plain “Marta.” When you grow up as the son of a law firm partner and a tenured professor at the University of Chicago Law School — Jeremy’s mother, Judy Silverstein, was a tax law goddess — you are more likely to see federal judges as part of your family social circle than, say, the children of nurses and handymen.)
“Judge Barzun has a reputation for being… demanding,” I said. “What is she like in person?”
“Kind of odd, honestly. Not a very natural conversationalist. Not well put-together — no make-up, dark frizzy hair with mega-split ends.”
“Well, she’s a federal appellate judge, not a model,” I said. (It did occur to me, though, that the gorgeous Judge Stinson probably could have been a model in her younger days, if only she were taller.)
“Barzun asks me for a copy of my writing sample, which was the latest draft of my Note. I hand it over — it’s like thirty pages — and she starts flipping through it. I’m sitting there awkwardly, staring at the ugly-ass modern art on the walls. Then Barzun looks up, after like two or three minutes, and starts asking me about it. And her questions are great — incisive, penetrating, raising points that had never occurred to me. She’s telling me to check out specific cases — I had to take out my pen to start writing them down. She’s interrogating me about stuff in the footnotes. I couldn’t keep up with her!”
“That’s kind of scary.”
“Yeah,” said Jeremy, nodding, “she just speed-read the thing, all thirty pages, and in a manner of minutes she had mastered it. Her mind is lightning-fast. It was freaky. I mean, I think she understands it better than my faculty adviser!”
I felt a chill go through me. Judge Barzun, a hard-core leftist, would be my archenemy as a clerk to Judge Stinson. I viewed myself and my future boss as very smart. But could we hold our own against the icy brilliance of Marta Barzun?
“And then what happened? How did the rest of the interview go?”
“Pretty normally. We spoke for about half an hour. She’s clearly a genius. But on the cold side, definitely not warm and fuzzy. And we don’t click they way I clicked with Gottlieb or Kenote. The whole time, I’m praying she doesn’t give me an offer….”