UT law graduate to clerk for federal appellate court judge

October 3, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Feliza Casano



UT College of Law graduate Jessica Vartanian recently accepted an offer to serve as a judicial clerk for Judge Richard Allen Griffin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“It’s good for a legal career — you’re handling complex issues and working closely with a judge, which can be really helpful when you become an attorney so you can see the case from the judge’s point of view,” Vartanian said.

“Most legal careers don’t get the range or challenging legal issues found in a clerkship; they’re usually confined to just one area. In terms of career, my options are unlimited.”

Vartanian, who graduated from the UT College of Law in 2010 and currently serves as a clerk for a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, said she is honored to receive this opportunity and credits her past experiences.

“This is very exciting for Jessica,” said Nicole Porter, interim associate dean of the UT College of Law. “She is one of the best students I have ever had, and she’s done great work. Jessica stood out as a wonderful student when she was here, so all of us at the law school are really happy for her.”

Vartanian explained that clerks get the case, review briefs and conduct research to prepare a bench memo for the judge.

“Clerks can sometimes have a lot of power in a case, though the judge ultimately has discretion and makes a decision,” Vartanian said.

Vartanian said the skills gained at the clerkship, in which she will serve for one or two years, will have an impact on her post-clerkship options because the position requires a heavy amount of writing, which improves a clerk’s skills and opens doors to law practice or academia.

Griffin is seated in Traverse City, Mich., but the Sixth Circuit Court convenes in Cincinnati, meaning Vartanian will travel about once every six weeks.

The opportunity is very prestigious as this court is just below the United States Supreme Court and there are only 12 federal circuit courts in the nation, said Porter, professor of law.

“These federal judges receive applications from students across the country from schools like Harvard and Yale — in the hundreds if not thousands. UT has a great law school, but it’s not instantly recognizable like those schools are,” Porter said.

Vartanian graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and earned a juris doctor from The University of Toledo in 2010.

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