When Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was a recent law school graduate in 1996, she sent a clerkship application to federal appeals court Judge Bruce Selya that he said stood out among the hundreds his chambers received that year.

Selya described Jackson as an impressive writer who grasped big-picture ideas, possessed strong analytic skills and “was able to think outside the box”—attributes that those who have worked with Jackson say make her well suited for the U.S. Supreme Court.