Gupta Wessler Fellowship in Appellate and Constitutional Litigation
Gupta Wessler PLLC specializes in Supreme Court, appellate, and complex litigation on behalf of plaintiffs and public interest clients. Our cases span a wide range of issues, including consumers’ and workers’ rights, class actions, civil rights, the First Amendment, gun control, and public health.
Each year, our firm seeks out a new attorney with exceptional writing ability, the capacity to think creatively about the law, strong advocacy instincts, and a genuine passion for public interest work. Judicial clerkship experience and experience in both public interest and appellate litigation are preferred.
The fellowship is ideally suited for a current or recent judicial law clerk interested in embarking on a career as a public interest litigator. Fellows are fully integrated into all aspects of the firm’s work and receive significant responsibility for cutting-edge appellate, constitutional, and complex litigation. They are expected to hit the ground running by researching and drafting briefs under close supervision and mentorship by the firm’s attorneys. Fellows will also play a critical role in monitoring developments in the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts, and in analyzing potential new cases for the firm.
How to apply: We will begin considering candidates for the 2018-2019 fellowship in the late summer of 2017. Interested applicants should email a cover letter, resume, transcript, a list of three references, and more than one writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. This position is based in Washington, D.C. We are committed to considering applicants from all schools and backgrounds, and we actively seek applications from women and underrepresented groups.
Guidance on writing samples: Writing samples are the most important part of the application process, and we encourage candidates to submit multiple samples. We prefer whole documents to excerpts. To facilitate blind review, each sample should be submitted as a separate PDF file, omitting the applicant’s identifying information (such as the applicant’s name, judge, and law school). We prefer writing samples that reflect a candidate’s most challenging and ambitious work so far, not cookie-cutter assignments. Scholarly papers are welcome but we would also like to see at least one in-depth advocacy piece or legal memorandum, such as a bench memo (if chambers policy permits, and redacted as necessary). Samples that have been edited or commented upon by others are perfectly fine so long as that fact is noted. We also like to see non-legal writing (or legal writing aimed at a general lay audience) that reveals a candidate’s interests and writing ability.
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The firm’s first fellow (2015-2016) was Neil K. Sawhney (Stanford Law School ’14). He joined the firm following his clerkship with the Honorable Marsha Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and is clerking for the Honorable Goodwin Liu, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California. Our 2016-2017 fellow was Matthew Spurlock (Harvard Law School ’12), who was previously a legal fellow focusing on national security at the ACLU’s national legal office in New York.
Summer Associates/Law Students
Each year, the firm selects two highly qualified law students (or recent pre-clerkship graduates) to work on Supreme Court, appellate, and constitutional litigation. We seek top students with exceptional writing ability, the capacity to think creatively about the law, and a real passion for advocacy in the public interest. We generally hire 2Ls or 3Ls seeking a position between law school graduation and the start of a judicial clerkship.
Summer associates at Gupta Wessler are given an unparalleled opportunity to take responsibility for challenging legal research and writing projects that directly contribute to public-interest advocacy at the highest levels. They work on briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts on issues of first impression, analyze cutting-edge law and policy issues, and work with lawyers on a range of substantive matters. We vow never to occupy our students with the busywork assignments typical of large firms. We strive to ensure that each student leaves the firm with high-quality writing samples for use in applications for judicial clerkships, public interest fellowships, and other competitive positions. To the extent possible, we try to expose students to a range of activities, such as moot courts, strategy sessions, client meetings, and oral arguments.
How to apply: We will begin considering candidates for the summer of 2018 in August 2017. Interested students should email a cover letter, resume, transcript, three references, and writing samples to email@example.com. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. We are committed to considering applicants from all schools and backgrounds, and actively seek applications from women and underrepresented groups.
Guidance on writing samples: We encourage multiple writing samples (legal or nonlegal) that reflect a student’s most challenging work so far–not just cookie-cutter assignments for first-year legal writing courses. Scholarly papers are welcome (including college papers), but we prefer to also see at least one in-depth advocacy piece or legal memorandum. We also like to see non-legal writing that reveals a student’s general interests and writing ability. We prefer whole documents to excerpts. Samples that have been edited or commented upon by others are perfectly fine so long as that fact is noted. To facilitate blind review, each writing sample should be submitted as a separate PDF file, omitting the applicant’s identifying information (such as name and law school).
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Our 2017 summer associates are Nicola (Nika) Cohen (Columbia Law School ’18) and Matteo Godi (Yale Law School ’18). Nika previously interned at the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project and the Center for Appellate Litigation; she will clerk after graduation for Judge John Owens on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Matteo previously interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Equal Justice Under Law, and the D.C Public Defender Service and will clerk after graduation for Judge Cheryl Ann Krause of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Our 2016 summer associates were Michael Zuckerman (Harvard Law School ’17) and Brian Highsmith (Yale Law School ’17). Michael is currently the President of the Harvard Law Review and will clerk for Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Brian will work as a Skadden Fellow at the National Consumer Law Center, where he will launch a new project focused on the collection of criminal-justice debt.
Our 2015 summer associates were Lina Khan (Yale Law School ’17) and Jaclyn Harris (Yale Law School ’16). Lina will clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Jaclyn will pursue a YLS Public Interest Fellowship with the Oakland City Attorney’s Office working on affirmative litigation.
Our 2014 summer associates were Daniel Wilf-Townsend (Yale Law School ’15) and Rachel F. Homer (Harvard Law School ’15). Danny clerked for Judge Marsha Berzon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is currently clerking for Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, and will rejoin the firm as our 2017-2018 Fellow in Appellate & Constitutional Litigation. Rachel clerked for Judge Diane Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and is currently clerking for Judge John Bates on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The firm also occasionally hires law students based in Washington during the academic year. Previous term-time interns include Bradley Girard (Georgetown Law ’14), currently a litigation fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State who will clerk next year for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and Shelby Leighton (Georgetown Law ’14), who was the Supreme Court Assistance Project at Public Citizen Litigation Group and is currently clerking for Judge Kermit Lipez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Past Summer Associate Experiences
I would highly recommend spending a summer working with the lawyers at Gupta Wessler. Their promise not to give their summer associates busywork is a real one—I had two main assignments over the course of the summer, both of which were challenging and engaging. During the first half of the summer, I helped draft sections of a brief in the Second Circuit for a fascinating, long-running international environmental dispute. After that, I drafted a brief in opposition to cert in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Article III standing. Along the way, I also got to weigh in on briefs in the firm’s other matters as they were being written and filed. Throughout these assignments, the lawyers at Gupta Wessler were dedicated to helping me improve, not only in my understanding of the subject matter but also in my understanding of the craft of legal writing. They also integrated me into conversations about the firm’s work on new and ongoing cases, and discussions about the public interest litigation community more broadly. It was an excellent summer—the kind of work and environment that make you excited to one day be a lawyer.
– Danny Wilf-Townsend is graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College. He served as a law clerk to Judge Marsha Berzon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is currently clerking for Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, and will rejoin the firm as our 2017-2018 Fellow in Appellate & Constitutional Litigation. Before his summer at Gupta Wessler, Danny worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, The American Prospect, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and Justice Carlos Moreno of the Supreme Court of California, and researched political liberalism in China as a Fulbright Scholar.
Over the course of the summer, I worked on a number of interesting projects—a Ninth Circuit brief on whether federal transportation law preempts California’s wage and hour protections; a Second Circuit brief on the scope of individual employer liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act; and a successful Supreme Court cert petition on novel constitutional issues raised by a restrictive state freedom of information law. I also helped advise a public health organization on the potential for federal preemption of local initiatives. Every project gave me the unique opportunity to work on difficult, cutting edge legal issues that could have a significant impact on worker’s rights, consumer protection, and individual liberties. I enjoyed working closely with the firm’s attorneys on every aspect of the cases, and learned a lot about how to analyze complex legal issues, how to structure a piece of writing, and how to approach the strategic decisions that go into every stage of public interest litigation.
– Tara Stearns is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and the University of California at Berkeley. During law school, she worked at Altshuler Berzon LLP, the Office of EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S Justice Department, and AARP. She also co-founded Georgetown’s Consumer Law Society and was a student attorney at the Institute for Public Representation. Following her clerkship for Judge Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Tara joined the Office of the Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor.
I contributed to a case throughout its evolution, from preparing portions of an early memorandum conceptualizing First Amendment and vagueness challenges to the law, to participating in strategy sessions with trial counsel, to drafting a brief in support of a motion for a preliminary injunction against New York’s anti-surcharge law. I had never before had the opportunity to watch the development of a case from the initial brainstorming to oral arguments. The experience provided insights into the theoretical and practical questions involved in public interest litigation. I also gained experience with appellate litigation by drafting the opening brief in an appeal before the Fourth Circuit involving the interpretation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I enjoyed the challenge of drafting the brief for this case from scratch, and learned from seeing how my draft was edited and revised by experienced appellate advocates. The firm’s small size gave me a unique opportunity to learn from experienced lawyers and to cultivate my legal research and writing skills. Because of my experience with the firm, I felt better prepared as I began my clerkship, and know it will help me as I apply for post-clerkship employment.
– Randall Smith earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his LL.M. from the University of Cambridge, and previously earned an M.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and B.A., summa cum laude, from Princeton University. During law school, he also worked at the Brennan Center for Justice and the San Francisco’s City Attorney’s Office. After graduating, he completed clerkships with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.