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Career Paths: Stephen Halpin ’15L

Stephen Halpin ’15L, from Rockville, MD, is a graduate of the University of Virginia. For the past year Steve has served as a judicial extern and Editor in Chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review. After graduation, he will clerk for the Honorable Robert B. King on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

stevehalpin Career Paths: Stephen Halpin '15LStephen Halpin ’15L

Who will you be clerking for, and what will your responsibilities be?

In August I will begin as a term clerk for Judge King on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In general, my responsibilities will encompass whatever I can do to serve the Judge, my fellow clerks, and others in chambers. I expect to perform significant amounts of legal writing and research.

Why are you interested in clerking after graduation?

Having worked as a paralegal for two years prior to enrolling at W&L, I thought it might be beneficial to gain experience outside the law-firm setting during my first summer. I was fortunate enough to land a summer internship with a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., and had a fantastic time in chambers working with the clerks and other interns, observing the Judge on the bench, and hearing his take on effective forms of advocacy.  I ultimately hope to focus on litigation, and that first summer opened my eyes to how valuable it is for an advocate to appreciate the perspective of an impartial decision maker when appearing in court. Relatedly, researching and discussing complex questions of law in order to help a judge make difficult decisions with practical consequences strikes me as one of the most challenging and fascinating undertakings a lawyer can experience.

How did you secure this clerkship?

The Clerkship Committee at the law school informed me that Judge King had hired W&L graduates in the past and my mother’s family is from Charleston, WV, where the Judge maintains his chambers. I called chambers to ask if the Judge was accepting applications and subsequently submitted my materials.

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

In addition to required courses such as Constitutional Law, I believe electives I took during my second year will prove particularly helpful during my clerkship. Specifically, I completed courses in Federal Jurisdiction & Procedure (frequently known as Federal Courts), Criminal Procedure, and Conflict of Laws. I had incredibly knowledgeable, engaging professors for each, and believe completing these classes will stand me in good stead next year.  In terms of experiences, my time on Law Review has been invaluable for developing my writing, editing, and collaborative skills. Additionally, W&L’s third-year program has provided a number of enriching opportunities. Since September I have externed for a federal district judge two days a week and in the fall I completed a practicum course on appellate advocacy taught by the current Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. I think these experiences will help me transition to my clerkship.

How is clerking linked to your career objectives?

Judge King brings tremendous breadth of legal experience to the bench. I am excited to assist him however I can and hopefully forge the kind of special bond that I have heard so many clerks–whether at the trial level, the appellate level, in state or federal court–speak fondly of when discussing their experiences. Wherever my legal career takes me, I am confident the skills I develop and the feedback I receive from Judge King over the course of my clerkship will make me a better lawyer.

What are you most looking forward to about this clerkship position?

I am most looking forward to helping and learning from Judge King and my fellow clerks while grappling with some of the most intricate and nuanced legal questions that arise in our country. For the vast majority of litigants in federal court who cannot resolve their disputes, a circuit court of appeals is their final stop for relief. I look forward to assisting the Judge in ensuring those parties are carefully and thoughtfully heard.