On good days, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall would call his then-clerk Elena Kagan “shorty.” But when Kagan messed up or disappointed her boss, he would call her “knucklehead.”

Speaking Tuesday night at an event marking the 50th anniversary of Marshall’s ascension to the high court, now-Justice Kagan and three other former Marshall clerks offered their recollections of their year with the man who has been hailed as the most important lawyer of the 20th century. He died in 1993.