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Summer 2011 Volume 20 Number 3

Hillsdale Builds a Legal Legacy


Alumni Enter Top Tier Law Schools, Land Prestigious Clerkships, and Break Into Legal Academia

hen Joel Schellhammer, 01, considered attending law school, Hillsdales record of graduates entering the legal profession was sporadic, with few alumni boasting top tier law school degrees. But that was about to change. Hillsdale really stepped up its game, he said. When I was at Harvard [Law School], there were four of us there from Hillsdale, which is really amazing. Joining Schellhammer at Harvard were Paul Watkins, 03, Kathleen Gray, 03, and Coral Shaw, 04. And it marked the beginning of a new era of Hillsdale graduates entering top tier law schools, including Yale, the University of Michigan, Columbia, Cornell, and Notre Dame. Ryan Walsh, 09, now entering his third year at the University of Chicago Law School where he is editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review, said law school is a natural choice for a Hillsdale student steeped in the study of first principles. Its almost a calling to go to law schoolyou show up the first day of Constitutional Law, and the attitude of everyone toward ideas of first principles or justice in the Constitution is default disrespect, knee-jerk hatred for whatever is old, belief that the Constitution and old laws need to be re-worked in a subtle way to reflect modern progressive ideas, he said. Thats why I went to law schoolI felt a calling to this, and I knew the things I learned at Hillsdale were true, but that it was trickier than just that.

Hillsdale prepares students for the rigors of law school, Walsh said, and many of his classmates dont have the study chops I have from Hillsdale. His Hillsdale education also set him apart in his ability to manage and direct others, key qualities for being named editor-in-chief of a prestigious law journal.

Hillsdale alumni and lawyers Paul Ray, David Morrell, Megan Lacy, and Steven Klein attended the Federalist Society Convention last fall.

2009 alumnus Ryan Walsh will enter his third year at the University of Chicago Law School this fall.

Hillsdale turns you into a wellfunctioning person who can get along with others, and remarkably, a lot of my peers who are very smart cannot deal with people, he said. I cant just say, were not doing this because its not right, even though thats the correct viewI must hear people out and argue with them in a way thats not condescending. That art of dealing with people in a prudent way: Hillsdale certainly taught me its the right thing to do, even in small matters. Paul Ray, 08, graduated from Harvard Law School in May and

is preparing to take the bar exam before beginning his clerkship with Judge Debra Livingston on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. He was a member of the Harvard Law Review and Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, and graduated magna cum laude. Law school gives you a very particular framework, and while important, its not the only universe, he said. From Hillsdale I learned things that allowed me to step outside the legal framework and import ideas from other systems, from Plato or Aristotle, thinkers who didnt have the same assumptions, and I found this very valuable. David Morrell, 07, a Yale Law School graduate, agrees. Hillsdales approach of thinking about the foundations of our convictions and reasoning from first principlesthat process lends itself well to law school, where youre trying to make sense of hundreds of years of case law or doctrinal development, he said. Being able to understand the Constitution and the intellectual heritage of the founding is very helpful. It doesnt mean its easy, but that understanding helps inform your approach to the law and the application of cases and controversies. For law school graduates, clerkships are highly sought after and competitive, and reserved for only the finest students around the country.

Morrell is finishing a clerkship with Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston. He says his Hillsdale degree was an asset during the courtship process for obtaining a clerkship. Among judges, I think Hillsdale is a good signaling device, said Morrell. A number of judges have a lot of respect for Hillsdale, for its environment, or have interacted with the school, and Ive found their responses very favorable. I didnt sense any disadvantage competing against people with Ivy League degrees. Megan Lacy, 07, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, said the network of Hillsdale graduatesalready a close-knit groupwho also attended law school has meant immediate professional support and encouragement. We are able to help each other and give advice because we share similar positions, she said. We meet up at Federalist Society conventions, and its incredibly helpful to have a built-in starter network of professional support. As a clerk for Judge Sidney Fitzwater, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, Lacy appreciates the interpersonal skills Hillsdale taught her, and considers her Hillsdale education invaluable. We were taught to read carefully and think critically and write precisely, and those are exactly the
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skills you need in law school, and in practicing law, she said. That approach to education, of taking a hard document and having to read it, pick it apart, and make an argumentthats exactly what we do as attorneys. one Hillsdale graduate who is paving an impressive path for other alumni is Derek Muller, 04, who will teach as an assistant professor of law at Pepperdine Law School this fall. Legal academia is a difficult profession to break into, and Muller and Chad Flanders, 97who teaches at the St. Louis University School of Laware the only two Hillsdale alumni cur-

rently teaching in the field. Muller got his law degree from Notre Dame Law School, and Flanders from Yale Law School. The rigorous writing standards at Hillsdale helped me achieve success in law school, publish articles, and now obtain a position in the legal academy, Muller said. Im immensely grateful for the mentorship of so many professors whom I continue to contact on a regular basis. I hope to pass along that mentorship and those high standards as I now prepare to teach. Schellhammer has found his Harvard Law degree valuable, but not as a lawyer. Despite the prestige of being editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, he broke the

mold by taking a job with McKinsey & Company and thriving in the world of global business strategy consulting. A man of diverse interests, his resume includes a masters degree in oriental studies at Cambridge University. Hillsdale teaches critical thinking and instills principles, things I didnt appreciate much at 22, but do at 32, he said. Retrospectively, I see the value of those things more and more, of the core classes, being required to read politics and Western Heritagefor me it wasnt a road to Damascus moment, but over time its shaped who I am. The pressure of attending a prestigious law school is tremendously strong, said Ray, and at Harvard Law, graduates are expected to follow a par-

ticular path of ambition. He said law school can transform what you think is important in life, but his Hillsdale experience has been a significant compass. For Walsh, stepping out of the law school vortex of expectation has included marriage and having a child during his second year. Hillsdale points you to the good life, and the good life has variety, Walsh said. If youre married, part of the good life is having children. Hillsdale encourages that kind of expansive view of what is the good life. Hillsdale makes people think primarily of their duties and secondly of their rights, and for most modern people, especially law students, its the reverse.