By Amy SpoonerMay 4, 2016
Caroline Flynn, '13, is not new to the world of clerkships. But it still was a surprise for Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. to call personally and offer her a clerkship position for the 2017 term. And unlike some job offers, Flynn didn't need time to weigh her decision. "I accepted on the spot," she said.
Flynn is an attorney-adviser at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, and previously clerked for the Hon. Joel Flaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Hon. Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit. Those experiences helped her consider throwing her hat into the SCOTUS ring. "I loved my clerkships, both in terms of the work I did and the judges I worked for," she said. "Being in their chambers taught me so much, and they encouraged me to apply to the Court. But it still felt like a moonshot."
Flynn will be the third Michigan Law graduate to clerk for Roberts in five years, and one of 32 to clerk for current or former U.S. Supreme Court justices since 1991. In addition, 15 current members of the Michigan Law faculty have clerked for current or former U.S. Supreme Court justices. Flynn credits their advice and encouragement with helping her through the process.
"I have no doubt that the support I received from the Michigan faculty and alumni was instrumental in each opportunity I've been given, including this one. At every step of the way I've had professors in my corner, and alumni to turn to as well—many of whom I had never met, but who were still willing to offer their help."
One piece of advice was to enjoy the fact that—whatever the outcome—the interview offered a rare opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with the Chief Justice. "He did a wonderful job of making me feel at ease, and I genuinely enjoyed our conversation—it was a promising sign of what I have to look forward to," Flynn said. "As a clerk for the Chief, I will represent a chambers that has a unique role within the Court. I couldn't be more excited."
Some post-job-offer advice came from Michigan Law Professor Julian Davis Mortenson, Flynn said. "He suggested that I go take a walk around the [National] Mall and take some time to reflect and let it sink in, and I did exactly that." And while Flynn savored the moment, Mortenson wasn't surprised that the moment had happened. "Caroline stood out from the first time I called on her in Constitutional Law as a preternaturally gifted legal thinker. But she's not just brilliant and creative; she's also community minded, public spirited, and a thoroughly decent person. She's already made Michigan very proud, and our pride will only deepen as her career continues."
Flynn said that clerking at any level is an unparalleled opportunity to work with highly intelligent and thoughtful people to figure out the best answer to hard legal questions, and she looks forward to the additional challenges that accompany the nation's highest court. "In clerking, you learn so much about legal reasoning, writing, and persuasion. But the Supreme Court is of a whole different magnitude. Cases wouldn't be at the Supreme Court if they had easy answers."
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