2023 ABA Clerkship Program Informs Students, Cultivates Diverse Candidate Pool
Recently, six students from South Texas College of Law Houston attended the prestigious American Bar Association’s 23rd Annual Judicial Clerkship Program. Julianne Castillo, Raymond Dennison, Olivia Ekeke, Jacob Monty, Samayia Sneed, and Paola Vela joined 83 other students in New Orleans for this year’s conference, which drew participants from 19 law schools.
The ABA event is designed to give J.D. candidates from underrepresented groups a better understanding of judicial clerkships and how to apply for them. The long-term goal is to increase the diversity of the pool of applicants for these positions, thereby increasing diversity in the legal profession overall.
The group of STCL Houston students who participated in this year’s program reflects the multicultural makeup of the law school. While each student has a specific reason for wanting to become an attorney, they all wanted to learn more about clerkships and how to position themselves for success when applying.
Here are reflections from some of the students who attended.
I am a second-year STCL Houston student from Dallas. I currently serve as BLSA’s Academic Chair and a Torts I Langdell for Professor Shelby Moore. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in African and African Diaspora Studies.
I decided to attend law school because I wanted to advocate for underserved communities through legal work and effective problem solving. I chose South Texas College of Law Houston because of its dedication to serving underserved communities and diverse students.
I attended the ABA’s Judicial Clerkship Program because of my interest in courtroom procedure and the opportunity to learn about judicial clerkships. Before law school, I was a civil court clerk for a Justice of the Peace. In that role, I developed a love for the justice system, the people it served, and how the courtroom operated.
Attending the ABA’s JCP helped me learn more about what a judicial clerkship entails and what serving as a court clerk at a higher level would look like. Additionally, the program offered me the opportunity to speak with different Judges about legal issues, and how to brainstorm and outline those issues. I found the candid conversations beneficial to my development as a future attorney. Also, the career development and networking opportunities were invaluable. The experience was very rewarding, and I am grateful to STCL Houston for the opportunity to attend the conference!
Jacob M. Monty, Jr.
I am a second-year student from Houston. I am involved in the Aggie Club, Immigration Club, the Student Bar Association), PDP, and the Hispanic Student Law Association. I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Texas A&M University.
I came to law school to be an immigration attorney. Before law school, I was in El Paso volunteering and getting a master’s degree in Latin American and Border Studies. I worked with families who had just crossed the border and found out their “why” for coming to America. I was studying border issues in the classroom, and it was a perfect combination for me. I wanted to help these individuals and families and felt law was the only path I could take to do so.
I chose STCL Houston because I attended the open house and immediately felt a spark. I talked to (then student) Heaven Smith and could feel her passion for the school, the culture, and the professors. She pointed to her favorite mentor, who was Professor Shelby Moore. It turns out I had Professor Moore during my first semester, and it all came full circle. STCL Houston stressed that the professors care about their students’ success, and I felt that power during the open house and my first week of school. Also, my older cousin attended South Texas, but I fell in love with the school on my own.
I attended the ABA JCP because I want to be a federal judicial clerk. My first week of Legal Research and W I is where I first heard the words “judicial clerk.” My Legal Research and Writing professor was a clerk for two years, and hearing her stories and experiences encouraged me to become one. I made it my goal for after graduation, and I plan to achieve it.
At the conference, I learned that judges may consider more than grades as the qualifications of an applicant. They look at factors such as personality and they want to know if the applicant’s personality matches theirs because as a clerk you will spend a lot of time with a judge. I learned that the legal profession is the least diverse profession in America. Being at STCL Houston, it is hard to see that statistic, but it is a reality. Thus, judges are encouraging individuals of diverse backgrounds to apply for clerkships. They want our legal advocates to match our citizens, who come from all over.
I am a second-year law student from Houston. I am currently a Langdell Scholar, treasurer of ACLU @ STCL Houston, and the communications chair for the First-Generation Law Student Association. I graduated from Texas State University with a B.A. in communication studies and a B.S. in public relations.
I have always wanted to become an attorney. I want to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. What drew me to South Texas is the community. All the professors are very knowledgeable, supportive, and focus on ensuring students understand the law.
I chose to attend the ABA Judicial Clerkship Program because my big life goal is to become a judge, and becoming a judicial clerk is a great step in the right direction. Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to get to know judges, attorneys, and law students from across the nation. I learned about the process of becoming a judicial clerk, the duties and responsibilities of a clerk, and how clerks help in the judicial process. I think the biggest thing I learned is how to be more confident in interviews and networking.
Raymond K. Dennison
I am a 2L at South Texas who was raised in Houston. I have moved away a few times, but I keep coming home. I attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and graduated in 2009. I then moved back to Houston and taught special education at YES Prep Public Schools for several years. After that, I became the editor-in-chief of Houston Magazine. I moved to Colorado in 2018, where I was a freelance journalist. I decided to return to Houston for law school, and I am honored to be at South Texas.
I chose to attend law school because I am passionate about social justice and the power of words. The pen is mightier than the sword, and over the years, I have learned how to use language, like magic, to make things happen in the real world. I am inspired by reading, writing, and using my skills to help people. I want a career that affords me independence and security, but deep down I am most passionately driven by doing the right thing and making the world better. Sometimes that means big sweeping changes. Sometimes that just means holding a door open for someone. Each day, I hope I make someone’s life better, even if it’s just a small but meaningful way.
I attended the ABA’s JCP because I hope to be a term clerk upon graduation, either at a federal district court or state Supreme Court. I have a history of service, and I want to continue that. I have already had the honor of interning at the Harris County Civil Court for Judge Beau Miller, and it was a dream job. I like helping judges navigate the law, deeply research legal issues, and then find ways to make the law work for justice and equity. I always research an issue first and find the law that binds. But I never forget that in the courtroom sit real people. The law is not just books and precedent, it is an active being that is meant to help people and make our society better. I always try my best to find outcomes that render equity and fairness, while respecting all sides.