Judicial Clerkships Lead to Judicial Clerkships

Ashleigh Morris
Ashleigh Morris ('11)

Ashleigh Morris (`11) and David Ferrance (`10) began their legal careers with much-coveted judicial clerkships: Morris with Justice Charles Daniels (`69) of the New Mexico Supreme Court and Ferrance with Judge Michael Bustamante (`74) of the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

They didn’t stop there: When Morris completes her two-year clerkship with Daniels next fall, she will move over to federal court and begin a one-year clerkship with Judge Paul Kelly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. After 20 months with Bustamante, Ferrance went to clerk for Judge Jimmie Reyna (`78) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where he will remain until May 2013.

Morris, a former journalist, was drawn to apply for a judicial clerkship for its emphasis on researching and writing, and rewriting and rewriting. The workload is demanding: she prepares at least one formal bench memo per month for upcoming arguments and also prepares draft opinions for cases already argued.

“The job requires precision in your legal thinking and great attention to detail. It also requires being able to work independently,” she said. “Nothing could be better to me than spending my workday researching and polishing bench memos and draft opinions.”

To prepare for a clerkship, Morris showed her motivation to learn more about the legal profession outside the classroom. She completed two externships, along with an unofficial volunteer judicial clerkship for no money or credit with Daniels the summer after her first year of law school. At the end of the summer, Daniels maintained that volunteering would in no way guarantee Morris a clerkship after graduation. Clearly, it didn’t hurt: “I must have done something right,” she said.

Along with serving as editor-in-chief of the Natural Resources Journal, she published an article in the journal and pushed herself to take challenging courses in school, such as Evidence and Trial Practice and a two-semester constitutional law class.

“The pay-off to your knowledge and skill base is invaluable,” Morris said. “Plus, New Mexico is a small legal community, and those of us who graduated from UNM will recognize and question when an applicant for a clerkship has avoided the more demanding classes.”

She also took part in the Oliver Seth Inn of Court in Santa Fe, during which she met Kelly and his staff.

Morris discovered her dream job during an externship with the U.S. Department of Justice in its Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). Once her second clerkship ends, she plans to apply to the Department of Justice’s ENRD honors program. If she is successful, she wants to “learn everything I possibly can in Washington, D.C. for the program’s requisite three years and then return to New Mexico as a DOJ attorney litigating environmental issues.”

Ferrance, like Morris, pursued difficult courses and activities outside the classroom. To prepare him for an appellate court clerkship, he considered the year-long appellate law in practice class as one of the best experiences he had in law school. He also served as managing editor of the New Mexico Law Review and participated in the Giles Sutherland Rich Memorial Moot Court in both 2009 and 2010.

David Ferrance
David Ferrance ('10)

“The things that specifically helped me to prepare were the activities that required significant writing,” he said. “There is no substitute for writing.” His research and writing talent was awarded when he received the National First Prize in the Nathan Burkan Memorial Competition for a paper he wrote on a copyright law subject.

When he began clerking for Bustamante, Ferrance brought a goal of improving his core legal skills of research, writing and analysis.

“Judge Bustamante takes an active role in helping his clerks develop as attorneys, and I benefited greatly from his insight and experience (as well as from the rest of the court),” said Ferrance. “To be good at anything you have to master the fundamentals, and I think my time at the New Mexico Court of Appeals brought me significantly closer to that ideal.”

Following his clerkship with Reyna in Washington, D.C., Ferrance looks forward to developing a practice with a focus on helping entrepreneurs build their businesses and protect their intellectual property. 

“After three years of watching everyone else have all the fun, I’m looking forward to finally getting in front of a judge or panel and making some arguments on behalf of clients,” he said.

From the Class of 2012, eight graduates received judicial clerkships. Of those, the following seven have given permission to list their positions:

They are:
Nicole Banks
Judge Michael Bustamante (`74) of the New Mexico Court of Appeals

Matthew Beck
Judge James Browning of the U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico

Catherine Gleeson
Justice Richard Bosson of the New Mexico Supreme Court

Anne Illanes-Meyers
Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes (`73) of the New Mexico Supreme Court

Christopher McNair
Judge Cynthia Fry (`81) of the New Mexico Court of Appeals

Sarah Plazola
Judge Michael Vigil of the New Mexico Court of Appeals

Lysette Romero
Justice Edward Chavez (`81) of the New Mexico Supreme Court

September 10, 2012