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Published June 27, 2019
One of the most prestigious options for new lawyers embarking on their legal careers is to clerk. When it comes to looking for post-graduate employment, the College of Law is in a unique position to help a high proportion of our students into those coveted position. Due in large part to the incredible relationships with our alumni and members of the judiciary, Wyoming graduates have proven their worth repeatedly in those positions. Consequently, our employment statistics reflect a high proportion of law graduates serving in judicial clerkships.
These numbers are particularly impressive when you consider that there are far more clerkship positions available (federal and alike) in other areas of the country. In a smaller pool of regional opportunity, Wyoming graduates are exceptionally competitive.
For the class of 2017, the College of Law was flagged by “Above the Law” as one of the top schools to attend for federal clerkships. The metrics for this ranking is based simply on the proportion of the students in the class that go into federal clerkships upon graduation. In a class of 70 students, the College of Law sent 7.14% (five students total) into federal clerkships and 15.71% (eleven students total) into clerkship positions overall, including positions with the Wyoming Supreme Court and District Courts around Wyoming and surrounding states.
While the percentages of the class of 2018 where slightly lower due to a larger class size of 85, the hard number of actual clerkship hires increased with twelve students accepting offers into these esteemed positions upon graduation, two of which were federal.
The class of 2019 is currently on track to mimic that trend with fourteen students placed in clerkship positions from a student body of 70. Those students entering clerkships account for 20% of the class, and of those, 5.71% are in federal clerkships. Students moving into clerkship positions from the class of 2019 include:
Keeley Cronin of Powell, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Greg Phillips (J.D. ’87) of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit;
Kaylee Harmon of Cheyenne, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Scott Skavdahl (J.D. ’92) Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming;
Madeleine Lewis of Cheyenne, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Nancy Freudenthal (J.D. ’80) of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming;
Emily Madden of Torrington, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Kelly Rankin (J.D. ’94) Chief United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming;
John Fritz of Streetman, Tex., who will be clerking for the Honorable Lynne Boomgaarden (J.D. ’91) of the Wyoming Supreme Court;
Catherine Di Santo of Jackson, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Kari Jo Gray (J.D. ’87) of the Wyoming Supreme Court;
Samuel King of Missoula, Mont., who will be clerking for the Honorable Michael McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court;
David Roberts of Jackson, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Tori R.A. Kricken (J.D. ’00) of the Second Judicial District of Wyoming;
David Hill of La Mirada, Cali., who will be clerking for the Honorable Bobbi Overfield (J.D. '02) of the Fifth Judicial District of Wyoming;
Zachery Leininger of La Junta, Colo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Patrick W. Korell (J.D. '91) of the Eighth Judicial District of Wyoming;
Jada Garofalo of Ft. Collins, Colo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Herman Walker (J.D. ’92) of the Alaska Superior Court;
Shelby Hayes of Collierville, Tenn., who will be clerking for the Honorable Erin Marston of the Alaska Superior Court;
Sara Waeckerle of Rapid City, SD., who will be clerking for the Honorable Michael Day of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of South Dakota; and
James "Jay" Jennings-Gresham of Greenville, SC., who will be clerking for the Honorable Edward W. Miller, At-Large Judge of the South Carolina Circuit Court.
Why are clerkships so valuable? Beyond the distinction of the position, students gain valuable mentorship from an inside perspective. This engagement with the judiciary not only enriches their education and amplifies their skills, but it also makes them better researchers, writers, and advocates in their future practice.
Recognizing the opportunity to have a positive and lasting impact on law students, many judges are able to cultivate relationships with our students by taking on multiple externs throughout the course a student’s legal education. Externships provide a snapshot for the student of life in chambers, and provides a gateway to post-graduate positions.
One such student to land a clerkship position from her externship experience is recent law graduate and Brimmer Scholar, Emily Madden.
“I had the privilege of externing with Judge Rankin during the summer of 2017,” she says. “The externship was only five weeks long and, at the time, I had only completed one year of law school. Despite the position’s short duration and my limited knowledge, Judge Rankin and his staff trusted me with the responsibilities of a clerk and gave me the courage to fulfill them. That experience gave me confidence and competence that never would have manifested by just sitting in the classroom.”
Madden’s time in Judge Rankin’s chambers inspired her to complete three more judicial externships while in law school and ultimately led her to apply for the post-graduate clerkship position with Judge Rankin, which she secured.
“My experience with Judge Rankin was so positive and transformative,” she concludes. “Returning to Judge Rankin’s chambers this fall is truly my 1L-dream coming true.”
Clerkships do not only benefit the students. Recent law graduates bring a fresh perspective to the status quo and are eager to make themselves useful. Wyoming students in particular have continually proven to be tenacious problem solvers. Often demonstrating grit, resilience, and resourcefulness, our graduates are proactive in finding solutions for their judges, as well as demonstrating a steadfast work ethic.
“We have a strong preference for hiring law clerks with Wyoming roots and graduates of the University of Wyoming College of Law,” says Chief Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin. “We find these are the people most invested in Wyoming and most likely to practice law here after their clerkship. We also find UW trained lawyers frequently stack up better than other lawyers trained across the country.”
While the vast majority of the clerkship positions garnered for our students are in Wyoming, many students have gained clerkships in other states as well, including Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas, Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, and Colorado.
“Wyoming law students are extremely fortunate to have such an accessible judiciary,” adds Madden. “Every judge that I have worked for, and nearly every judge that I have met, is happy to provide students with meaningful, hands-on experience while in law school. Applying for a judicial externship as a 1L seemed like a stretch at the time, but it is easily the best decision that I’ve ever made.”
The College of Law is extremely grateful to all of our incredible judges for the graciousness in which they lend their time, the engagement they offer to our students, and the confidence they have in the education we provide. We are incredibly fortunate to enjoy such a dedicated and loyal group of amazing people.
*This article was updated 8/6/2019 to include Zachery Leininger as an additional clerkship hire from the class of 2019, and again 6/21/2020 to include James Jennings-Gresham.
Interested in hiring a law clerk from Wyoming? Please contact the Director of Career Services, Ashli Tomisich to post a position the upcoming fall. The Career Services Director can arrange on campus interviews, help with the collection of applications, and facilitate communication with our students! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (307) 766-4074.