Jones Day has just hired its sixth former law clerk from the last U.S. Supreme Court term, possibly setting a record for the most clerks hired by a single firm from a single term.
Since the firm acknowledges that it adheres to the prevailing one-time hiring bonus of $280,000 for high court clerks, it means Jones Day has spent $1,680,000 on last term’s clerks, apart from their salaries and benefits. Lawyers at other firms that often hire former high court clerks could not recall any firm reaching the mark set by Jones Day.
"It is working out fabulously for us," said Beth Heifetz, a Washington partner in charge of Jones Day’s clerk recruitment, turning away suggestions that the investment might not be worthwhile. With one of the six hires in Columbus, Ohio, another in Atlanta, and the rest in Washington, she said the hiring burst reflects the firm’s policy of "involving appellate lawyers throughout the country at all levels" of a case. Putting the lawyers to work on cases at earlier stages also is a way of dealing with the ethical rule that bars former clerks from handling Supreme Court work for two years.
The latest hire is Rachel Bloomekatz, who clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer. She is following in the footsteps of some other notable former clerks by heading to Ohio, not Washington, to join Jones Day’s appellate practice.
Columbus is where Jeffrey Sutton, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, built a bustling outside-the-beltway Supreme Court practice for Jones Day. He had clerked for justices Antonin Scalia and Lewis Powell. Columbus is also where Richard Cordray—a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy—once practiced. Cordray is currently director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Scalia once worked for the firm in its founding office in Cleveland.)
Eric Murphy, a former Kennedy clerk, also is based in the Columbus office, as is Chad Readler, who argued a case before the high court just last month in McQuiggin v. Perkins. Readler was not a high court clerk.
"We’re a well-kept secret," said Liza Kessler, partner in charge of the Columbus office. "For all the rarified air in D.C., we have quite an appellate practice here." Approximately 65 lawyers work in the Columbus office, she said.
Last year, the hiring bonus for Supreme Court clerks grew to $280,000, and Heifetz confirmed that that figure is still what the market supports. She said the firm has no regrets about the bonuses.
The large number of clerks drawn from the court’s historic 2011-2012 term gives Jones Day another distinction. It now has the highest concentration of people, outside of the court building itself, who are knowledgeable about the behind-the-scenes intrigue leading up to the decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act.
Heifetz quickly shut down any suggestion that people curious about what happened should talk up the new Jones Day associates. "Every clerk I’ve ever known is scrupulous about confidentiality," said Heifetz, herself a former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun.
Heifetz confessed with a laugh that "I’m as curious as the rest of the world" about how the Affordable Care Act decision came about. But she did not ask the clerks during the hiring process, and never would. "I don’t know the answer. We would never try to undermine that confidentiality in any way."
Tony Mauro can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.