How to Become a SCOTUS Litigator

by Kaitlin Edleman | September 30, 2014

  • My Vault

Listen up litigators. Think you’re ready to tackle those tough constitutional questions; think your oral advocacy is persuasive enough to lure staunch conservative Antonin Scalia to the progressive side? Well, your best shot to stand at the podium and argue a case before the Notorious RBG and the other eight justices of the Supreme Court of the United States may be to work at one of the following five firms:

According to The American Lawyer, during the 2012-2013 SCOTUS term, WilmerHale; Gibson Dunn; and Goldstein each handled seven cases and Bancroft and Sidley each handled six. That’s 33 of the court’s 67 cases, meaning almost half of all cases heard by the Supreme Court involved a lawyer from one of five firms. 

Of course, landing a job at one of these BigLaw or boutique firms isn’t easy. Supreme Court bar hopefuls should select the law school they attend with care and excel academically once they get there. Additionally, simply working at WilmerHale or Sidley won’t propel associates to Supreme Court stardom. Firms aren’t necessarily attracting high-profile clients based solely on the reputation of the firm; rather clients are seeking a specific attorney who has proven herself or himself as the go-to litigator for questions of constitutional law. So, the following steps may make it most likely that litigators get the chance to lay it on the justices:

  1. Attend a T14 law school
  2. Get hired at one of the above five firms
  3. Cultivate the written and oral advocacy skills necessary to become one of the best litigators in the United States
  4. Develop an expertise in hot area of constitutional law
  5. Achieve a reputation as a SCOTUS Superstar
  6. Argue all the juicy cases before Supreme Court

Seems easy enough...

Those looking for a different path to 1 First Street, NE shouldn’t be discouraged. The American Lawyer was quick to highlight that although it seems like there is a concentration of the Court’s caseload in a small number of firms, the Supreme Court clinics run at many law schools can connect pro bono clients to skillful advocates regardless of the size of their firm.

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READ MORE:

How to Land a Job in BigLaw
Which Law School Do Firms Love Best?
Who's Getting the Work at the Supreme Court (The American Lawyer)
Supreme Court Work Increasingly Concentrated in Hands of Few (The Wall Street Journal)

Filed Under: Law

Tags: BigLaw | SCOTUS

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