New Jones Day associates (left to right): Ryan Watson, Ian Samuel, Charlotte Taylor, Emily Kennedy, Kenton Skarin, David Morrell.
For the second year in a row, Jones Day has hired six law clerks who worked for Supreme Court justices in the term just ended. "It's a wonderful kind of deja vu," hiring partner Beth Heifetz said.
As with last year, the six hires seems to exceed the number hired by any other firm from a class of 39 clerks--four for each sitting justice and one each for the three retired justices.
Heifetz declined to get into financial details, but said the hires were in line with the current market. That likely means that the firm paid the prevailing hiring bonus of $300,000 for Supreme Court clerks, for a total of $1.8 million, apart from salaries and benefits.
The firm hired two clerks who worked for Justice Samuel Alito Jr.--Emily Kennedy and Ryan Watson–-as well as Kenton Skarin and David Morrell, who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. Charlotte Taylor, a clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Ian Samuel, who worked for Justice Antonin Scalia, round out the six.
In announcing the hires, Jones Day emphasized that of the six, only three will be working in the D.C. office, the typical perch for many former high court clerks. Morrell will work in Houston, Samuel in New York, and Skarin in Chicago. "We really do operate across offices all the time,” said Heifetz. Tina Tabacchi, head of the firm’s clerk recruitment, said the geographic spread exemplifies the “one firm worldwide” approach at Jones Day.
In an interview, new associate Skarin said he has Chicago ties that made a move there desirable, but he also has his eye on the “next phase” of appellate practices. With the increasing specialization of the Supreme Court bar in DC, Skarin said, “the next move in appellate law is to spread the same quality of advocacy to appellate courts around the country. Jones Day has always been there.”
Decentralizing the practice has long been a hallmark at Jones Day. In the late 1990s Jeffrey Sutton, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, established an active Supreme Court practice from Jones Day’s Columbus, Ohio office. “Jeff Sutton is not an anomaly” now, said Skarin.
Morrell also had personal reasons for his move to Houston, but he said, “It was important to me to find a firm that could deliver on the promise of integrating lawyers outside the Beltway into the fabric of the institution and its national appellate practice in particular.”
Why did the firm hire six more clerks after last year’s six? “We've had such a great experience in the past year,” said Heifetz. Given the opportunities and training at the firm and importance of word of mouth among former clerks, Heifetz said the fact that the firm was successful again can be read as “an endorsement of our firm’s highly collegial approach both to the practice and to client service.”
Some appellate lawyers grumble about Supreme Court clerks as high-priced “trophy hires,” some of whom move on a couple of years later after they’ve earned enough to pay off their student debt. But Heifetz said she has not seen that trend at Jones Day.
“Retention has been terrific,” she said.“They stay and make a commitment to us as well.”
Of the 15 Supreme Court clerks Jones Day has hired since 2007 (not including the newest six) only two have left the firm, said Heifetz. One was Eric Murphy, a former Anthony Kennedy clerk who in August became Ohio’s solicitor general. Murphy followed the same path taken in years past by Jones Day lawyers Sutton and Richard Cordray, now head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.