It wasn't until after legal secretary Nancy Cedeno sent a funny cartoon by email to attorney Dan Matzkin that she realized her mistake.
Cedeno doesn't think of Matzkin as blind, nor does anyone else at his office at Squire Sanders in Miami.
"From day one he's always had a great sense of humor," Cedeno said.
Blind since birth with a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, Matzkin, 29, never let his disability stand in his way through undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University and law school at the University of Michigan, as a litigation associate at Squire Sanders and in applying for a clerkship with Judge Adalberto Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Matzkin beat out more than 100 applicants to land the clerkship starting this fall. According to the American Association of Visually Impaired Attorneys, few blind attorneys have ever clerked for a federal judge. Isaac Lidsky is an exception. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 2008.
"It's so competitive you have to be surprised when you get a federal clerkship," Matzkin said. "I know folks with great credentials who didn't get it. I think it will be a great opportunity to see how the court works."
The judge previously worked at Steel Hector & Davis, which merged with Squire Sanders. So when Matzkin applied, Jordan called around to inquire about him. Hearing only positive feedback, he decided to bring in Matzkin for an interview. Knowing Matzkin was blind, the judge had reservations.
"I wondered how it was someone with that kind of issue can manage the rigors of a legal practice," Jordan said.
After all, a law clerk routinely reads hundreds of pages to prepare a judge for oral argument and conduct legal research.