Spring 2023 Jurist-in-Residence shines spotlight on legal education, value of clerkships
USC Gould School of Law • June 12, 2023
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Newsom shares insights with USC Gould students, faculty
By Leslie Ridgeway
When Judge Kevin C. Newsom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard about USC Gould School of Law’s Jurist-in-Residence program from a colleague, it presented several opportunities.
The most obvious was a chance to visit his son, a current undergraduate student at USC, as well as escaping the winter weather in Birmingham, Ala., where he lives and works. But most appealing was the chance to meet students, faculty and to experience the USC Gould community first-hand.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for USC, and I love interacting with young people,” he said. “They asked about law, law school, career, life — one student who is married asked, ‘At each fork in road of your career, how did you decide what the right thing was for your family? How did you go through that process?’ That’s such a mature question.”
Newsom’s schedule Feb. 2-3 included giving a lecture, “On Being Predictably Unpredictable,” moderated by Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs Professor Thomas Lyon; sitting in on a course taught by Professor Erin Miller; and meetings with clerkship and honors scholars, faculty and administrators.
Newsom, who served as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter and Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, shared personal insights on changes he would like to see in law school curricula, including focusing more in the first year on interpretation than common law, as well as jurisprudence, “to teach about the philosophy of law, what it is, why we care, and its moral implications.”
He also updated students, faculty and staff on clerkship trends, and highlighted the value of the clerking.
Newsom noted how meaningful his own clerkship experiences were. Both on the Ninth Circuit and at the Supreme Court, he recalled making long-lasting friendships and developing a mentor relationship with judges who were influential for a lifetime. He also praised clerking as “a very intensive writing boot camp.”
“You’re writing all kinds of things — memos to the judge to help him or her understand a case, getting to write first drafts of opinions and going back and forth in the writing process …. If managed properly, it can be an amazing teaching tool. And you’re helping to solve problems of real people.”