Career Paths: Randall Miller ’14L Miller is currently clerking for Judge Lawrence VanDyke on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Randall Miller is a 2014 graduate of W&L Law. Since leaving Lexington he has worked in private practice and in government and is currently a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
What types of jobs have you had since graduating?
Since finishing at W&L, I have worked as a litigation associate at a law firm in Dallas, served as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas, clerked for Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk on the Northern District of Texas, and I am currently clerking for Judge Lawrence VanDyke on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
What classes or work experience helped you prepare for this job?
The most important skills that I gained from law school were effective legal research and writing–from my 1L days working on Bluebook citation exercises to drafting my student note. The painstaking process to hone these skills–while a slow progression–is worth it to become a persuasive and credible writer. That said, an understanding of civil procedure, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction has been vital to my work as a law clerk.
With respect to my work experiences, each of my prior positions has helped prepare me for my current role.
While working for a Dallas law firm, a W&L alumnus and other partners provided me with opportunities to take and defend depositions, prepare and argue dispositive motions, and even first chair a few civil jury trials—all within my first three years of practice. While it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose at times, these experiences taught me how to manage client expectations and become a more efficient researcher. When I transitioned into government service, I maintained a trial court docket, but my caseload focused on issues of constitutional and employment law. My supervisors allowed me to work on cases of first impression, argue an appeal on behalf of a university, and defend government entities and officials facing a variety of civil lawsuits. In this role, I became a more lucid writer and strategic thinker, thanks in large part to my colleagues’ critiques and feedback.
I learned from both private practice and the government to welcome constructive criticism and approach complex issues with a can–do attitude. These two overarching lessons have served me well in both of my clerkships.
As Judge Kacsmaryk’s first law clerk, I worked closely with the Judge on case management, law clerk interviewing, and administrative tasks related to opening chambers. I prepared initial drafts of orders, organized details for his investiture, and teamed up with my co-clerks to help the Judge triage the criminal and civil dockets that he had inherited. This fast-paced and collegial environment helped prepare me for my current role by broadening my understanding of how a judge’s chambers operates and by teaching me what it means to prepare initial drafts in the Judge’s voice.
What are you most looking forward to in this job?
I am most excited to learn from Judge VanDyke. He thinks through issues deeply and makes time to meet with his clerks to discuss legal theories and case analysis. As a consequence of this position, I hope to improve my writing, and become faster at analyzing cases.
Although I have only been in this position for two months, serving as one of Judge VanDyke’s first law clerks has already been a rewarding experience. I have enjoyed the time spent with the Judge and my colleagues collaborating on cases, discussing the finer points of the Bluebook, and even debating about good coffee. I am very thankful to be clerking here, and I look forward to the months ahead.
What are your career goals for after the clerkship?
Currently, I plan to return to Texas. While I have no way of knowing what doors will be open at the end of my clerkship, I would be interested in exploring more opportunities in an appellate practice. But, based on the twists and turns that my career has taken thus far, I know that unexpected opportunities can make all the difference.