University law grad selected for U.S. Supreme Court clerkship

Amy Bergquist will clerk with Justice Ginsburg in 2010.

by Betsy Graca

Teaching her debate students how to prepare and execute strong arguments, Amy Bergquist was always a little jealous that her students were the ones who got to go out and deliver their debates.

However, the former high school teacher and University law school graduate will get the chance to aid debate at a high level. Bergquist was selected for a clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg , to begin in 2010 – the fourth University student since 1965 to complete a clerkship.

Bergquist underwent the standard application process, sending in a cover letter, resume and letters of references to all the justices before being contacted by Ginsburg, who was hiring earlier than the other justices.

Erik Larson , Bergquist’s significant other, said that, as he waited for her post-interview phone call to tell him how it went, he knew things must have gone well when her call came later than he expected. She was offered the position with Ginsburg on the spot.

Bergquist said that simply hearing Ginsburg’s stories and experiences in person was exciting enough, and being offered the position was all the more rewarding.

Supreme Court clerks are often in charge of research, preparation of oral arguments and selection of petitions from those who want to be heard by the court.

Each justice is allowed four clerks for a year-long clerkship. Each individual justice assigns their clerks varying tasks.

After spending some time instructing in Moscow and receiving her teaching license from Macalester College , Bergquist spent 11 years teaching at South High School in Minneapolis.

At South, Bergquist said she taught many refugee students who shared stories of their home countries and what they’d left behind, which developed her personal interest in human rights.

“I was still being challenged in terms of the creativity of developing lessons and working with the students,” she said. “But I felt as though, if I jumped into law, I’d have more of an intellectual challenge than teaching could give me.”

While law school can be notorious for long hours and tedious readings, Bergquist said that her dedicated time as a teacher and debate coach really prepared her for law courses.

Law professor Laura Cooper said Bergquist immediately stood out from her very able classmates.

“She does everything well,” Cooper said.

Bergquist, who received the 2007 William B. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership and Service, said she enjoyed every subject in law school.

Cooper said that, while Supreme Court clerkships have always been very competitive, more established lawyers from firms have been interviewing, making the competition more intense than ever.

Bergquist, who is currently clerking with a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, said she has not thought about plans after her clerkship with Ginsburg.

However, she does think she will return to Minneapolis.