Gupta Wessler looks for people with exceptional writing ability, the capacity to think creatively about the law, strong advocacy instincts, and a genuine passion for public interest work. All of our lawyers have served as law clerks to federal judges—at the U.S. Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and district courts—and have a mix of top-flight litigation experience at prominent public interest organizations, private law firms, political campaigns, and state and federal government.
Each year, we hire new lawyers through our fellowship program and law students through our summer program. We view the training and mentoring of aspiring public interest lawyers as an essential part of our firm’s mission and are proud of our alumni, who have gone on to clerkships and careers in public interest and appellate litigation. Although we don’t have any posted openings for permanent positions right now, we’re always interested in hearing from talented people who share an enthusiasm for our work.
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, administrative law, 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 are now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 fellowship. This position is based in Washington, D.C. Applicants should email a cover letter, resume, transcript, list of three references, and multiple writing samples (please review the guidance below) to email@example.com. We will review candidates on a rolling basis until mid-September if a decision is not made before then, but we strongly encourage candidates to apply by August 25 to ensure full consideration. 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.
* * *
Our 2018-2019 fellow is Alexandria Twinem. She will join the firm following her clerkships with Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York. During law school, Alex was the Managing Editor of the Stanford Law Review, a student in the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and a law clerk at the Southern Center for Human Rights, Goldstein & Russell, and the public-interest firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin.
Our 2017-2018 fellow is Daniel Wilf-Townsend, who joined the firm following his clerkships with Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Danny was a summer associate at Gupta Wessler and previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and the D.C. Public Defender Service. His writing has been published by the Stanford Law Review, Slate, and the American Prospect.
Our 2016-2017 fellow was Matthew Spurlock, who joined the firm following a legal fellowship at the national ACLU and judicial clerkships on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Connecticut Supreme Court. Following his fellowship, Matt joined the Massachusetts Public Defender Division, where he briefs and argues appeals as part of the statewide Appeals Unit.
Our 2015-2016 fellow was Neil K. Sawhney, who completed the fellowship between his clerkships with Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit and Justice Goodwin Liu of the Supreme Court of California. In the fall of 2017, Neil joined the New Orleans office of the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he works on impact and appellate litigation in the Center’s Economic Justice Project.
Summer Associates/Law Students
Each year, the firm selects two or three highly qualified law students (or recent pre-clerkship graduates) to work on Supreme Court, appellate, and constitutional litigation at our office in Washington, D.C. 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 during the summer, we try to expose students to a range of activities, such as moot courts, strategy sessions, client meetings, and oral arguments.
How to apply: The application period for the summer of 2019 is currently open. Applicants should email a cover letter, resume, transcript, three references, and writing samples (see guidance below) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will review candidates on a rolling basis until mid-September, but we strongly encourage candidates to apply by August 25 to ensure full consideration. We are committed to considering candidates from all schools and backgrounds, and we 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 undergraduate 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 (e.g., journalism aimed at a general audience) 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).
* * *
Bill Powell was a reporter and an editor, at newspapers and at magazines, in sports and in news. In law school, he co-directed the Capital Assistance Project. He will clerk for Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit and Judge Randall Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Emily Villano is a student in the Workers & Immigrants Rights Clinic and has also worked with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network. She will clerk for Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit.
Michael Morse has worked at the Southern Center for Human Rights and The New Yorker magazine, where he was a research assistant to Ryan Lizza and Jane Mayer. In addition to law school, Michael is simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D. in Harvard’s Department of Government and writes about voting rights litigation. He will clerk for Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit.
Nicola (Nika) Cohen is clerking for Judge John Owens of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Ronnie Abrams of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Nika was a Phillips Fellow at the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice and worked at the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Center for Appellate Litigation, the Legal Aid Society, and on death row cases as a student.
Matteo Godi is clerking for Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He has worked at NAACP LDF, Equal Justice Under Law, and the D.C. Public Defender Service. Matteo grew up in a small town in northern Italy and is the first in his family to attend college; he is co-authoring the first casebook on Italian constitutional law.
Michael Zuckerman is clerking for Justice Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court and recently completed a clerkship with Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the Sixth Circuit. Mike was President of the Harvard Law Review, worked on criminal appeals at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, has published his journalism on the legal system and other topics, and was an assistant to David Gergen. Read about Mike in the Washington Post here.
Brian Highsmith is a Skadden Fellow at the National Consumer Law Center, where he’s launching a new project focused on the collection of criminal-justice debt. He previously worked on economic policy as a fellow with Senator Cory Booker, on consumer litigation at New York Legal Assistance and, before law school, as a staffer focused on antipoverty policy in the National Economic Council of the Obama White House.
Lina Khan is a Legal Fellow in the Office of Commissioner Rohit Chopra of the Federal Trade Commission. She is on leave from her position as Director of Legal Policy at the Open Markets Institute, where she researches and writes about antitrust law and competition policy. Read a Washington Post profile about Lina here.
Jaclyn (Jax) Harris pursued a YLS Public Interest Fellowship at the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, where she worked on housing-related issues in the city’s new Neighborhood Law Corps and where she is now a staff attorney.
Rachel F. Homer clerked for Judge Diane Wood on the Seventh Circuit and Judge John Bates on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is on the civil appellate staff of the U.S. Department of Justice. She previously worked at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, at the Democratic National Committee, and in various posts in the Obama administration.
Daniel Wilf-Townsend clerked for Judge Marsha Berzon on the Ninth Circuit and Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and rejoined the firm as our 2017-2018 Fellow in Appellate & Constitutional Litigation.
Randall Smith clerked for Judge Christopher Droney of the Second Circuit and for Justice Barbara Lenk of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and currently practices as a Managing Associate with the Supreme Court and appellate litigation group at Orrick.
Tara Stearns, the firm’s first summer student, clerked for Chief Judge Roger Gregory on the Fourth Circuit and is now an appellate litigator focused on workers’ rights in the Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of Labor.
The firm also occasionally hires top law students during the academic year. Our first such student was Bradley Girard, who was recently a litigation fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is currently clerking for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey on the Sixth Circuit, and will join Brian Wolfman’s appellate immersion clinic at Georgetown as a fellow after his clerkship.
We also worked during the school year with Shelby Leighton, who completed the Supreme Court Assistance Project fellowship at Public Citizen Litigation Group, served as a fellow at Cohen Milstein, and is clerking for Judge Kermit Lipez on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in her home state of Maine.
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
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
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