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Twelve WVU Law Graduates Accepted to Federal, State Clerkships

Twelve graduates of the West Virginia University College of Law Class of 2024 – approximately 12 percent of the class – have been accepted to prestigious clerkships with state and federal judges across the country. Of these, nine were awarded federal clerkships, constituting nearly nine percent of the graduating class. This statistic places WVU Law among the top law schools in the country for federal clerkship placement.

WVU Law Students Graduating and Taking a Clerkship

Back row L-R: Steve Smith, Ciara Peacock, Aly Fleenor, Abby Colyer, Jackie Gellner, Zachariah Spurrier. Front row L-R: Emily Ogden, Spencer VanHoose, Mary Kathryn Kay, Rozlind Russell, Caroline Toler. Not pictured: Raquel Davis.

Mary Claire Davis, a teaching associate professor at the College of Law and former federal law clerk, serves as Chairperson of the newly formed Clerkship Committee, which seeks to facilitate and promote the placement of law graduates in judicial clerkships with both federal and state judges. The Committee’s mission is to educate students about the benefits of clerking, encourage students to apply, assist students with their applications, and provide training and support for those who have accepted clerkships. 

“Every new lawyer should try to serve as a judicial law clerk,” she said. “Clerking provides a unique opportunity to improve legal research and writing skills, make lifelong connections with members of the bench and bar, and help to make decisions that shape the law.” 

Mary Kathryn Kay, a graduating student from Charleston, WV, could not agree more. She will begin clerking for Judge Robert B. King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit this fall. 

“Throughout my law school career, I have heard from both professors and peers how invaluable clerking is,” said Kay. “Clerking will challenge my research and writing skills and expose me to a different side of the practice of law, particularly practice in federal court.” 

Jackie Gellner, who will be clerking alongside Kay in Judge King’s chambers, explained, “There is no better way to better understand the court system than to immerse yourself into it. Clerkships offer a valuable, unique perspective.” 

Zach Spurrier from Wellsburg, WV, will begin clerking for Judge Joseph R. Goodwin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Charleston this fall. He said when he first came to law school, he did not know what clerking was. 

“Once I learned about it, I was intrigued,” said Spurrier. “It sounded interesting and educational: to sit in the courtroom and observe actual practitioners, to work in chambers on a variety of issues, and to see the law from a judge's perspective. Then, I spent my first summer in Judge Goodwin's chambers. I worked with brilliant clerks and learned more than I could imagine. Clerking will be a perfect start to my career. I'll have another chance to learn, and I'll be exposed to many different areas of law.”

First-generation law student from Roanoke, VA, Ciara Peacock said that when she came to WVU Law, she quickly learned more about clerking from federal judges who teach there, including U.S. District Court Judge Frank W. Volk, for whom she will be clerking in 2025. 

“Having the opportunity to take courses with federal judges is such a special experience at WVU,” said Peacock. “I love research and writing so that made me interested, and I also am interested in litigation, and I knew that being in a courtroom would offer me a great opportunity to learn more and see advocacy in action. Ultimately, the ability to build my research and writing skills, continue learning the law, and see lawyers working day to day were all the key elements that led me to want to clerk.” 

Morgantown native Rozlind Russell, who will begin clerking for Judge Volk this fall, said that the College of Law helped her prepare for and pursue a clerkship through its tailored coursework and the opportunity to serve in the prestigious position of Editor in Chief of the West Virginia Law Review.

“Following my first year of law school, I had the invaluable opportunity to immerse myself into the realm of clerking within the federal judiciary through summer internships,” said Russell. “These experiences not only honed my legal research and writing skills but also illuminated the impact clerking could have on my long-term career goals. Seeing the transformative growth in the foundational areas of legal research and writing, I recognized the undeniable value law firms place on the expertise cultivated by federal clerks.” 

Raquel Davis, who is originally from Philadelphia, completed an externship with United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Aloi during her second-year summer and will be returning after graduation. 

“During that time,” she said, “I was able to see how judges make decisions and how effective written advocacy impacts a case. I was impressed with the wide breadth of cases that come before judges, and with the challenge that comes with having to quickly and efficiently get caught up on different areas of law.”

Aly Fleenor from Oceana, WV, said an abuse and neglect externship played a crucial role in securing a clerkship with Judge Anita Ashley of West Virginia’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. 

“Last year during my externship, I had the opportunity to visit Judge Ashley's court while she was presiding over the Family Treatment Court,” said Fleenor. “I was highly impressed by her courtroom management. As I was actively searching for a clerkship after graduation, I was thrilled when she had an opening. I wanted to apply right away.”

Caroline Toler, originally from Southern California then Grafton, WV, said she discussed the benefits of clerking with professors who had clerked, to WVU Law’s Career Services professionals, and to members of the Clerkship Committee as well. She will be clerking for Judge Stephanie Thacker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 

“I was first interested in clerking after my experience as a summer intern for Judge Irene Keeley in the Northern District of West Virginia,” said Toler. “After that experience, I realized what an interesting and varied experience it would be. Also, I learned that clerking would help me to pursue a career in public interest and public service by helping me to understand the legal system more broadly.”

A few students will also have the opportunity to clerk outside of the state. 

Abby Colyer, originally from Virginia, will return to her home state of Virginia for her clerkship in Virginia’s 15th Judicial Circuit. 

“One of the attorneys that I worked for during my 2L summer encouraged me to apply for the position because of the opportunities that a clerkship would provide.” Said Colyer. “I look forward to being able to make connections with attorneys and judges in Virginia.” 

Another student is going a bit further from home. Spencer VanHoose from Martinsburg, WV, will be clerking for Judge J. Andrew Atkinson with the Second District Court of Appeals in Tampa, Florida. 

“Before the pandemic started, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, and quickly realized I missed my home state of West Virginia,” said VanHoose. “I picked WVU Law to be closer to family and because I felt a deep sense of pride in graduating from law school as a mountaineer. I hope to represent West Virginia proudly in the Sunshine State.” 

At the end of the day, these graduates are ready to put their skills to the test. 

“I think a clerkship seems like a great stepping stone for other things but also a great learning and growing experience in itself,” said Steve Smith, who is originally from Watchung, NJ, and will be clerking for Judge John Preston Bailey of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in the fall. “I’m very excited. I think it will allow me to hone my skills and to learn a ton from those around me.”

Students shared that they feel prepared to begin their clerkships.   

“WVU College of Law helped me prepare for a federal clerkship not only by offering courses in topics relevant to clerkships (federal courts, advanced legal research, advanced evidence, and trial advocacy), but also by connecting students with current judges,” said Emily Ogden, a graduating student from Bridgeport, WV, who will begin a clerkship with U.S. District Court Judge Irene C. Berger in the fall. “WVU Law is fortunate to have several federal judges who also teach courses. By having the ability to have these judges as professors and mentors, the challenging task of securing a clerkship is made more easily accessible.” 

Professor Davis explained that the Clerkship Committee’s support does not end at graduation. “We are proud of and excited for our 2024 graduates who are moving on to work in a judge’s chambers, and we remain ready to support them throughout their clerkship experience and beyond,” she said. 

Other members of the WVU Law Clerkship Committee include Interim Associate Dean for Administration Teaching Professor Jessica Haught and Assistant Director of Career Services and Professional Development Brad Grimes

Questions about clerkships or how to get involved? Email WVU Law Professor Davis here

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