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Supreme Court - The Hottest Docket In Town

Publication Date: 
April 22, 2008
Daily Journal
Brent Kendall

The Daily Journal describes how important law school clinics have become in Supreme Court litigation. Lecturer in Law Thomas Goldstein and Professor Pamela Karlan, who founded the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, are featured:

Thomas Goldstein of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., working with Stanford University's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, sent Jimenez a letter immediately, offering to represent him for free. But anticipating that Jimenez would receive many other overtures, the group decided its letter wasn't enough.

Goldstein, who has argued 18 Supreme Court cases, called Akin's Dallas office, which sent a partner and an associate on a 2 and a half hour drive across East Texas to visit Jimenez in prison. The house call worked: Akin and Stanford got the case. Goldstein himself made a trip to the prison shortly thereafter.

"There are so few cases and such competition for them that you have to go the extra mile," Goldstein said. "The number of opportunities is vanishingly small."


By his count, Goldstein said there are roughly 25 firms looking for Supreme Court work these days, a trend he attributes to "national law firms deciding that, in order to have highly credible litigation practices, they need to be able to say that they operate at the court."

There are also the law school clinics, designed to give students hands-on experience with Supreme Court cases - a trend that Goldstein and Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan started when they launched Stanford's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic in 2004.

In all, Goldstein said there are five times as many players now as when he began searching for clients to build his Supreme Court practice in the late 1990s, "and they're five times as aggressive."

Why the intense battle for high court cases, even ones that don't pay a dime?

Building your Supreme Court resume with a huge volume of cases, even pro bono cases, Goldstein said, is a huge help when trying to compete against the nation's most prominent lawyers for paying clients: "It's hard to position yourself."


The Stanford clinic is counsel or co-counsel in seven cases this term, including a high-profile death penalty case examining whether Louisiana can execute an inmate for the crime of child rape. In all, law school clinics are involved in 15 Supreme Court cases this term.