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Alumni Spotlight: Matt Kaminer ’18, ’22L Matt Kaminer is clerking for Judge Julio Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

kaminerprofile Alumni Spotlight: Matt Kaminer '18, '22LMatt Kaminer ’18, ’22L

Matt Kaminer ‘18, ‘22L is from Hewlett, NY. He received his undergraduate degree in journalism from Washington and Lee University, where he captained the varsity wrestling team. Before law school, Matt worked as a paralegal at Nussbaum Law Group, a boutique plaintiffs’ antitrust litigation firm in New York City. At W&L Law, Matt served as Lead Online Editor for the Law Review, a Burks Scholar with the Legal Writing Program, and a Kirgis Fellow. He was also active in Moot Court, winning the school-wide John W. Davis Appellate Advocacy Competition and finishing as runner-up in the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. After graduation, Matt served as a law clerk to Judge Elizabeth Dillon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Currently, Matt is clerking for Judge Julio Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, based in Newark, NJ. Following his clerkships, Matt will join the New York office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP as a litigation associate.

Discuss your career path and how it led you to your judicial clerkships, first in the Western District of Virginia and now at the Third Circuit.

Early on in my first year of law school, one of my professors suggested that a summer judicial internship would be a great way to figure out whether a career in litigation was for me. I was fortunate to get an internship offer in my home state with the late Judge Paul Feinman of the New York Court of Appeals, thanks to the good word of a fellow W&L Law student who had interned for him the previous summer. That was a formative experience. I loved working with the clerks and other interns, observing Judge Feinman on the bench, and hearing his take on effective forms of advocacy. Every day, we were researching and discussing complex legal questions to help the Judge make hard decisions with broad, real-life consequences. When the summer ended, I remember thinking, “If there was any way I could do something like this as a full-time job, that would be the dream.”

That led me to start applying for post-graduate judicial clerkships in the spring of my second year. Because the clerkship application process is very competitive, I focused my search on judges with whom I might have some shared background or connection, no matter how small. One category I targeted was federal judges in the Western District of Virginia—where W&L is located and where I had lived for nearly a decade. After sending many applications (most of which were rejected), I finally got an offer from U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Dillon to clerk in her Roanoke chambers my first year out of law school (2022–23). I truly couldn’t have asked for a better first legal job. During that year, I drafted dozens of judicial opinions and served as the lead law clerk on four trials, so I really got the full perspective of working in a busy trial court. And Judge Dillon was the ideal boss—not only is she one of the nicest and most humble people I’ve ever met, but she genuinely valued my input on our cases and also afforded me a lot of flexibility as I traveled back and forth to visit my fiancé, Maddie, who was living in New York City at the time.

At one point in the year, I briefly considered trying for a federal appellate clerkship, though that really seemed like a pipe dream—those positions are even more difficult to land, especially in the NYC area (which was my target market). But a little luck came my way; in spring 2023, I got a phone call from Judge Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (whose chambers are just outside Manhattan) inviting me to interview for a clerkship position to begin that upcoming fall. It had been nearly two years since I sent in that application. As it turned out, Judge Fuentes and I also shared some background in common: both he and I were collegiate wrestlers (the Judge was actually inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005). During the interview, we went back and forth with fond memories of our days on the mat, and I emphasized the profound impact wrestling had on my life. A few days later, his assistant called me to extend the clerkship offer, which I was thrilled to accept. I’ve been at the Court for nine months now, with about three left to go.

Of course, a lot of hard work went into this whole process. But it’s not lost on me that good fortune, timing, and mentorship all played a huge role as well. I owe thanks to so many people for offering their time and advice to me over the years, and I try to pay it forward as best I can.

What sort of legal issues do you handle on a day-to-day basis?

The Third Circuit is an appellate court that sits just below the U.S. Supreme Court in the hierarchy of the federal judicial system. It hears all appeals from the federal district courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unlike the District Court, the Third Circuit doesn’t hold trials or hear witness testimony. Instead, its function is to review decisions made by lower courts to determine if legal errors were made or if the lower court’s decision was inconsistent with applicable law.

As a law clerk, my main role is to help the Judge reach decisions in the dozens of cases on his docket. For each case, that usually begins with me writing a memo to the Judge that summarizes the facts and relevant law, analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of arguments presented by the parties, and provides a recommended outcome for the Judge to consider. We’ll also discuss the cases as a group so that everyone in chambers can weigh in. When the Court hears oral argument in Philadelphia (usually only for especially challenging cases), my job is to prepare the Judge for the hearing by drafting possible questions to ask the attorneys and providing any additional research he may need. Then, once the judges have decided how the case will be resolved, I will spend several weeks preparing a draft opinion that reaches the agreed-upon conclusion and explains the Court’s reasoning. That draft will go through several rounds of edits before it finally gets published to the parties and the public.

Because the Third Circuit has jurisdiction over all cases arising under federal law (as well as some state-law disputes), there is so much variety in the legal issues we see. I could be working on a securities fraud litigation in the morning, a First Amendment case before lunch, and a bankruptcy in the afternoon. It’s hard to find a job with such a mixed bag.

What do you like about your current job?

I love the collaborative aspects of the work. Although most of the research and writing is done individually, I have two awesome co-clerks who are always down to talk about our cases and bounce ideas off one another. While I came to my clerkships straight from law school, both of my co-clerks spent several years at law firms first. As a result, they bring a more practical perspective to the job, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

The work of the Third Circuit itself is also collegial in nature. In the District Court, only one judge is assigned to each case, so the judge can make decisions without needing to reach consensus with colleagues. But at the Court of Appeals, cases are assigned to panels of three judges and must be decided by majority vote. So, when I’m thinking about how to draft the opinion in a case, I have to consider not only “my” judge’s view of the legal issues, but also what the other judges on the panel might be thinking. Sometimes they will disagree on how the case should be decided (or, if not the outcome, the legal reasoning used to reach that outcome), and we may have to make certain changes before that judge will be willing to sign on to the opinion. Drafts will be exchanged back and forth between chambers until the judges reach a resolution. I find that process so interesting and love playing even a small part in it. The clerkship has really opened my eyes to how valuable it is for an advocate to appreciate the perspective of the impartial decision maker when deciding how to litigate a case.

What are some practices you have in your daily life as an attorney to maintain wellness?

Personally, I find wellness in pursuing my passions. So, at any given time, I try to dedicate myself to one personal goal that has nothing to do with work. Usually, that goal will relate to one of my hobbies (for example, I recently signed up for an open-age wrestling tournament later this summer, so I’ve already dusted off my wrestling shoes and am now training to prepare for that!). Or it will relate to my lifestyle (such as trying to get to a morning workout class a certain number of times per week). Whether I ultimately achieve the goal is less important than simply having one; it keeps me ambitious and excited. People devote so much energy to career advancement and moving up the proverbial ladder that we often forget to bring that same spark to non-work interests. Goal setting helps me do that. And I actually find myself more engaged and less encumbered at work when I’m chasing some sort of goal outside the office.

Which W&L classes and/or experiences do you think were most helpful in preparing you for this job?

Throughout my clerkships, I often run into concepts that were first covered in some of my black-letter law classes like Civil Procedure, Federal Jurisdiction, Evidence, and Constitutional Law. That familiarity obviously helps. But the practical learning opportunities at W&L were what helped me hone the skills that I use on the job. The Complex Litigation and Statutory Interpretation practicums taught me how to apply legal principles to realistic fact patterns. Writing my Law Review note and drafting briefs for Moot Court forced me to become a more detail-oriented writer and thinker. And the Judicial Externship Program exposed me to what’s expected of a law clerk and how to effectively manage the judge-clerk relationship. The through-line of these experiences is that they each instilled in me the self-belief that I really can do the work. Any opportunity that will leave you with this confidence is worth your time.

What advice do you have for prospective law students?

Aspire to be the person worth taking a chance on. As a prospective law student, you are just getting started in your journey. You may be very smart and skilled, but so are many others out there. Sooner or later, you’ll be looking for someone higher up in the field to see your potential and decide to take a shot on you—whether for a summer internship, full-time job, or just as your mentor/advocate. Strive to stand out not just for your knowledge, but for your passion, integrity, and work ethic. Once you’ve made it through the door, your character will often speak louder than your grades. Make every effort to be someone others can believe in and are willing to invest in, because eventually, that is what will attract the big opportunities that could shape your career.

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Outside of Work


I picked up golf about two years ago and have been hooked ever since. I set a goal to score under 100 and finally accomplished that earlier this summer (don’t ask me how many attempts it took).

Book/Podcast Recommendation

I’ve listened to “The Brilliantly Dumb Show” religiously for the past three or so years. Every week I laugh harder than the week before.

Favorite Travel Location

I just returned from a family trip to the French Riviera. I’m not usually the biggest traveler, but the sightseeing, culture, and food there were unbelievable.