Outstanding Lawyers: What Makes Them So?

Outstanding Lawyers: What Makes Them So? 2

What does it take to be outstanding in the law and to make your mark in the profession? Any number of factors, possibly, but in the case of Joshua Matz, there are some clear indications of someone who is able beyond his meagre years.


Joshua Matz teamed up with Harvard law professor CHristopher Michel to write about the Supreem Court before starting his year at the Court as a law clear to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

ABC News reports that unlike Matz, Christopher Michel is not listed as an author of the book he worked on years before his clerkship with Chief Justice John Roberts. But former President George W. Bush offered warm praise for onetime presidential speechwriter Michel as his collaborator on his memoir, “Decision Points.” Bush said in the book’s acknowledgements that Michel’s help made the project surprisingly enjoyable.

Matz and Michel stand out among their fellow clerks at the high court because of their book experiences. But they also fit right in among the young elite of the legal world who tend to be accomplished and polished beyond their years, and more likely than not to leave a mark on their profession.

Like the justices they serve, they are overwhelmingly graduates of Harvard and Yale. The 24 men and 12 women in this year’s class of clerks will spend the next 10 months reading thousands of appeals filed with the court, researching cases the justices agree to hear and drafting early versions of their bosses’ opinions.

They are sworn to public silence during their time at the court. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said no clerks would comment for this report. A private dining room in the court’s cafeteria allows the clerks to talk over lunch without worrying about who might be listening.

Bonuses of more than $300,000 await those who enter private practice. Prestigious teaching jobs, judgeships, political careers and even Supreme Court seats are real possibilities.

The ranks of former clerks include Roberts, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, and Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

In “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution,” Matz and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe argue that on a range of big issues, political gridlock and societal change have increased the court’s influence. One of those issues is gay marriage, on which they wrote that “the court left the door open just wide enough to retreat from the field if it so chooses when it accepts another marriage case.”

Matz now finds himself working at the court at a moment when the decision to take on same-sex marriage appears imminent. He works in the office of the justice who has written the court’s three major pro-gay rights decisions and almost certainly will determine the outcome once more.

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