After graduating from Michigan Law in 2010, Leah Litman held two clerkships: one with Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the other with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the U.S. Supreme Court. Both experiences, she said, "were incredible and solidified my desire to practice law.
"Clerking is really the best job I can imagine anyone having," Litman said. "You get the opportunity to work closely with someone who has been practicing the law for a long time, and you get to see how judges make their decisions, which you sort of guess at in law school or look at from afar. It's not an experience very many people get to have—to peek behind the curtain of how legal opinions are decided."
From Clerkships to Academia
Litman clerked for Judge Sutton from 2010 to 2011 and for Justice Kennedy from 2011 to 2012. She began working as a litigation associate in the Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Group at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C., in November 2012. She was a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School (HLS) where she received one of the HLS Student Teaching and Advising Awards. Litman is currently an assistant
professor of law at University of California, Irvine School of Law.
How She Started Out
When Litman graduated with an AB in chemistry and chemical biology, cum laude, from Harvard University in 2006, she knew she didn't want to pursue a PhD in that field or enter medical school. The idea of going to law school, however, kept popping up, she said, because law melded together many of her interests: research, writing, policy work, and advocacy.
At Harvard, Litman worked at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, serving as a research assistant for the professor who was leading the Managing the Atom project. She also was editor-in-chief of the Harvard International Review, and did advocacy work on behalf of victims of domestic violence. This included lobbying Harvard to change its policies on how sexual assault complaints were investigated as well as chairing the Take Back the Night activities on campus. Before Litman entered Michigan Law as a Darrow Scholar in 2007, she spent a year working as a research assistant at Bancroft Associates PLLC in Washington, D.C., "making sure that I would enjoy practicing law and that law school would be the right fit."
The Michigan Difference
Litman was drawn to Michigan Law because of its beautiful campus, welcoming atmosphere and sense of community, and the professors' full-time commitment to teaching. She made the most of her Law School years, participating in the Family Law Project; serving on the Michigan Law Review, first as an associate editor then as editor-in-chief; and conducting research for Professors Gil Seinfeld and Sam Gross who, along with Professors Don Herzog and Joan Larsen, helped her prepare for her clerkship interviews.
Now, two years after graduating, Litman couldn’t be happier that she chose Michigan Law. "I really cannot overstate how wonderful the Michigan experience was for me," she said. "The professors went out of their way to get to know lots of students and, at every turn, made an effort to help me not only figure out I what I wanted to do, but helped me get the jobs I was fortunate to have. Michigan was everything I thought it would be when I decided to go there. It's a wonderful place to be a law student."
Story written by Lori Atherton.
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