A Look Inside UT Law ...

A Look Inside UT Law’s U.S. Supreme Court Clinic | Erin Busby

June 9, 2022 | by D. Todd Smith

For the lucky few who get them, U.S. Supreme Court clerkships provide a lifetime of memories in a single year. But imagine if your clerkship included not only working for a Supreme Court Justice, but also with a future Supreme Court Justice. For Professor Erin Busby, the Co-Director of the Supreme Court Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, that turned into a reality when her co-clerk, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was confirmed to replace Justice Stephen Breyer. Professor Busby joins Todd Smith and Jody Sanders to discuss her clerkship experience and offer her insights on the clerkship process, particularly for interested law students. Professor Busby also describes the outsized impact that UT’s Supreme Court Clinic has at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Listen to the podcast here:

A Look Inside UT Law’s U.S. Supreme Court Clinic | Erin Busby

Our guest is Professor Erin Busby. She is the Co-Director of the Supreme Court Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law. Welcome to our show, Professor Busby.

Thanks. I’m happy to be here.

If you recognize Professor Busby’s name, we’ll put it out there. She is related to a previous guest of our show. I bring this up because probably more than once during this episode, I will slip and say Justice Busby instead of Professor Busby. I’m sure she’ll own up to being married to Justice Brett Busby from the Supreme Court of Texas.

Yes, for many years.

Thank you very much for being with us. We won’t linger on that relationship too long, but it’s good to get it out there. Maybe toward the end of the show, we’ll get to where we’re telling some stories about your husband. For now, we want to focus on you. We wanted to have you on the show for several reasons. One is to talk about the Supreme Court Clinic at UT. Before we get to that, will you tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a lawyer?

I grew up mostly on the East Coast, some near Boston and some near Philadelphia. My father was a lawyer, although he did not practice for most of the time I was a child. He went into being an executive. I went to college at William & Mary in Virginia and decided I wanted to go to law school. I headed up to go to Harvard for law school. I spent another year in Boston after that clerking for Michael Boudin on the First Circuit. From there, I went to clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer in Washington.

After clerking, I went to New York for a couple of years. I was a tax lawyer, which is not something everyone knows about me. I eventually decided on two important things. One, I would rather be an appellate lawyer. Two, I wanted to marry this guy who I had started dating in Washington, who had moved to Houston.

Two birds with one stone. I moved to Houston and became an appellate lawyer. I practiced with Bracewell. It was then Bracewell and Patterson and then Bracewell and Giuliani for a few years. Once I had kids, I decided the law firm thing was not necessarily what I wanted to do. I started working part-time with the UT Supreme Court Clinic. As the years have gone on, I’ve picked up more of that to the point that I’ve been the Co-Director of the clinic for years.

Bracewell was the firm where I know Brett was. Bracewell was a firm where Brett had spent some time too, as I recall. Did you all overlap?

No. I had left already and was doing independent work and raising kids when Brett interviewed. He relayed that one of the interviewers said, “Does this mean Erin is not coming back?” He said, “Yeah, she’s not.”

I’m curious. When you were on the First Circuit, did you get a chance to go to Puerto Rico to sit with them? That’s such an interesting little jurisdictional nugget.

It is and I did not get to go. My judge was not a fan of the trip to Puerto Rico.

That’s quite a history. It is useful to us to hear your story about how you wound up in Texas, marrying a Texas born and bred Brett Busby. In the First Circuit, most of us know that circuit clerkship is generally a prerequisite to spending time at the Supreme Court of the United States. Tell us about your experience clerking for Justice Breyer.

It was a great experience. Justice Breyer is a nice guy. I joke that I clerked for two judges who were very secure in how smart they were. It meant that they wanted you to bring your best arguments and all of your thoughts about cases, whether or not they aligned with what the judge or justice was thinking about the case to begin with. They wanted to hear and incorporate everything into the opinions that they would write.

A Supreme Court clerk helps go through cert petitions. Justice Breyer was in the cert pool, which means his clerks get, at that point, 1/8 of all the petitions to divide amongst the 4 of us. You write memos, doing a bit of a summary of the case so the justices can go through those faster. You then work to prepare for argument and on opinions with the justice. Some justices have you write big, long memos about every case that’s going to argument. Justice Breyer would ask for what he thought he needed in a case, which might be a full workup or one aspect of the case.

I can think of one case where he came out and said, “Can you write every good argument you could find for affirming the decision below? I’ve got the other side covered.” It’s funny because Justice Breyer comes off very much like the absent-minded professor. In some ways, he is. He tends to walk into your office, asking you a question about a case that he started 4 feet before he entered your office. You have to catch up and figure out what case he’s talking about.

In other ways, he’s an intensely practical person. He’s not going to have somebody do a bunch of work that he doesn’t need them to do. That was working with the justice. I had three great co-clerks who we shared offices with and worked together with. You also spent a lot of time, at least the year I was there, with clerks for the other justices.

There are about 36 of you there. You’re there a lot. The vast majority of your time is spent in that building. It varies from year to year. For some years, I have heard that it’s not a great atmosphere. I got lucky the year I was there. People got along over what would be considered ideological lines or partisan lines. It was a lot of smart people trying to do good work. I’m trying to have a little fun since we were all there so much.

person writing in notebook
A Supreme Court clerk helps go through cert petitions. You basically write memos doing a bit of a summary of the case so the justices can go through those faster. You then work to prepare for an argument, and you work on opinions with the justice.

Which term did you clerk?

I clerked in the ‘99 term right before Bush versus Gore.

Were there any particularly notable opinions from your term that stuck with you?

I am not going to remember names. We had a partial-birth abortion case, a First Amendment abortion protest bubble case, and the Miranda redo whether Congress could pass a law erasing Miranda. It was funny. We had many hot button issues that when we came to the end of our term, we said, “Next year is going to be boring compared to our year.”

With every term, there are hot button cases. I’m sure during the time you’re there, it seems that way. Yours is the toughest term in terms of controversial issues.

I’m sure. The truth is pretty much every case that ends up at the Supreme Court is interesting because it’s difficult enough generally that Courts of Appeals have come out different ways on it. There’s got to be something going on there that’s interesting if you dig in enough. The hot button issues make all the press about cases, but it’s all interesting.

Justice Breyer has been in the news a lot with his retirement coming up. I’m curious about whatever insights, whether personal or legal, you can share about his impact on the Supreme Court, the law or anything like that, his legacy.

I mentioned before him being a very practical person. That was his approach to the law as well, which in some ways leaves less of a sweeping legacy than someone who was more theory-driven. Justice Breyer wanted to apply things to the facts of that case. One example that probably most people have heard of was the 10 Commandments cases. Whereas 1 was about the 10 Commandments Monument on the Texas Capitol Grounds and 1 was about a courthouse in Alabama, I believe.

Those two related cases both came out 5-4 but the one in the courthouse was ruled unconstitutional. As visitors to the Texas Capitol, I’ve noticed the Texas one is still there. The only difference in the voting lineup between those two cases was Justice Breyer, who looked at the history of when the things were put up, the context they were in and said, “There is a lot of history of the one in Texas. It’s in this park-like setting with lots of different monuments by lots of different groups.”

That wouldn’t express that the state was establishing this religion, while the context and history swung the other way for the Alabama case. That’s a very Justice Breyer thing. People joke he never met a seven-factor balancing test he didn’t like. There was a certain aspect of truth to that. He would apply balancing tests to areas where certainly a lot of people would not, such as the First Amendment. There will be a legacy of that approach somewhat, but it will be more muted than some other legacies that there may be.

You had some relatively famous co-clerks besides Brett, which if we didn’t make that connection before, we should make sure and clarify it.

That is how we met.

You met him when you were in Washington but you certainly had a unique opportunity, in addition to clerking for Justice Breyer, to meet your future spouse while clerking. There are some of those stories like that in Texas through the Texas Supreme Court, like Fifth Circuit clerkships, but yours is also a great story.

This relationship blossoms and the next thing you know, you’re married with kids, Brett is a justice on the Texas Supreme Court and you’re teaching at UT. It sounds a little idyllic but as with everything, there’s way more to the story than where you are now. It’s interesting that it also relates to Justice Breyer in a way. Should we keep our audience waiting any longer before we reveal the connection that I’m getting at?

Probably not. My co-clerks for Justice Breyer, of the 4 of us, 1 of them was Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has been confirmed to take over the seat that Justice Breyer is about to retire from.

He’s heard his last case but he hasn’t stepped off.

The opinions have to come out.

Talk about a small world. We come to expect this here in Texas among our judiciary and bar, but that is an incredible connection. The fact that not only did she clerk for Justice Breyer, but she’s going to replace him on the court. We’re curious about what it was like to work with her as a law clerk.

Can you give us any insight on what we think we might be able to expect from her as a Supreme Court justice? We don’t want to put you in a position of making any commentary that you feel uncomfortable with. It’s not every day we have someone with your history with soon-to-be Justice Jackson that we could offer something to our readers.

I don’t know anyone who knows her who doesn’t like her. She was great to work with. She’s incredibly level-headed, thoughtful and super smart. She was a great person to have working with you in the office. Clerks don’t normally work on opinions together. That’s generally just you and the justice working on one opinion. We share offices, bounce ideas off of each other and that sort of thing. I got to see how her brain worked a little more up close.

In a lot of ways, she will be a lot like Justice Breyer in terms of approach to cases. It was very important to Justice Breyer that everyone, not just lawyers, be able to read the opinions that he wrote and understand what he was saying about the law and how the law applied to ordinary life. That is also important to Ketanji, that things be accessible to people who want to find out about the law.

She will be different in terms of incorporating more current approaches to originalism and textualism into her reasoning. I’m not saying she will be Justice Scalia. My guess is that she will be more like Justice Kagan, who I’ve heard people say is the first progressive justice who speaks textualism as a first language. That is something that I think Ketanji will be skilled at going forward.

We talk a lot on this show, too, about judicial clerkships generally. There’s no short path to a US Supreme Court clerkship it wouldn’t seem. We want to get your take on clerking. First of all, maybe it would help in my understanding to hear you talk about what is the path, if there’s a commonly accepted path, to a US Supreme Court clerkship?

Back in the dark ages, when I did it, the commonly accepted path was essentially clerk for a Court of Appeals and clerk for the Supreme Court. That has expanded in the last several years. Many people do more than one clerkship. They may do a District Court and a Court of Appeals. They may even do two Courts of Appeals clerkships.

Many people also do something else relatively short-term like a fellowship at the DOJ, work for a state SG’s office, practice for a couple of years, that kind of thing. The clerks tend to be a little more seasoned than they necessarily were many years ago. I can see some advantages to that to the justices. I teach law students. I know how little they know and that’s not an insult. That’s an observation. It was true of us when we were law students too.

I worry, though, that it is putting that clerkship out of reach of some students, ones who may have financial barriers to taking what are essentially low-paying jobs for several years. It also weighs heavier on young lawyers who may want to have families. It’s not a great plan to have a baby while you’re clerking. There’s no real maternity leave or anything. I have worries about that but I’ll be honest, that is the way things stand.

You are describing it that way, I hadn’t thought about it but it almost sounds like a medical school residency. It’s a multi-year path that you may or may not get paid. Your hours are wild and unpredictable.

It’s a little bit. I probably learned more during my 2 years of clerking than I did during my 3 years of law school, at least as much. It was incredibly useful and I looked at it as a couple of extra years of law school, which I wasn’t paying for but I also wasn’t getting paid that much to do.

It’s a sacrifice for those who go through it on the financial side. I like to think that there’s so much to be gained from it.

I recommend it to anyone who can swing it.

Do you have any other tips? I don’t know if you happen to be advising any of your students who are interested in clerking. To most of us, a US Supreme Court clerkship seems like a pie in the sky dream. You have to have impeccable credentials. Circuit Court clerkships are a steppingstone. If you can’t ever get to the Circuit Court Clerkship in the first place, it’s not something that probably ought to be dwelled on for too long as a practical matter.

What about other clerkships? Circuit Court is great. District Court clerkship is another possibility. We’ve talked a lot here about State Court clerkships and the fact that they shouldn’t be overlooked. In terms of generating and cultivating advocacy skills, writing skills and all of that, do you get the chance to talk with your students much about these things?

Yes. As you would imagine, in the Supreme Court Clinic a lot of my students are interested in clerking. The right clerkship for a student is going to depend partly on where they can get hired. It’s also going to depend on what they want to do. If you’re going to be a trial litigator, there are few more educational things than clerking on a District Court.

People come out of being District Court clerks knowing how that courtroom runs, how things work, what judges are looking at, all of that stuff. That’s invaluable if you were going to spend any time in the courtroom. If you’re going to practice a lot in a Texas Supreme Court, a Court of Appeals clerkship makes a whole lot of sense for a lot of those same reasons.

Also, learning about making arguments, how judges address things and all of those things. Your experience and the amount of education that you get out of a clerkship depends a lot on who the judge is for whom you’re clerking. Judges have different approaches. They have different ideas about how much teaching they should be doing for their clerks.

Some of them are better writers than others. It depends on who you’re copying. I encourage my students at least to find out as much as they can about the judges they’re applying to. A lot of them do a lot of research. They look at their opinions, find people who’ve clerked for them in the past and talk to them. They’re all great ways of finding this stuff out.

It would be a good time to focus on the clinic since we’ve talked about your students and your role in encouraging them with clerkships. Let’s start from the beginning with the Supreme Court Clinic at UT. You’re spending the majority of your time, at least your professional time, spent there. Give us the elevator speech for the clinic and let’s dive in.

The UT clinic is me, my co-director Lisa Eskow and our third co-director who says he’s co-director emeritus, Michael Sturley, who was one of the founders of the program. Every semester, we have about ten students who take the clinic as a six-credit course. It’s about half their work for the semester. We take real Supreme Court clients and represent them. We may be writing cert petitions or merits briefs.

We often write Amicus briefs so that we do not always have time for doing merits work. That’s usually our priority. We also, every semester, usually do a couple of moots to prepare someone who is arguing at the court. Those moots may be mostly professors or sometimes they are the students doing the moot. It’s somebody who is three weeks out from flying to Washington to do an argument comes and we pepper them with questions for often upwards of an hour to get them.

The idea is that they won’t hear any question in the Supreme Court that they didn’t hear from us first. We do pretty well on that. That’s the clinic in a nutshell. Students can come back as advanced students and do a credit, 2 credits or 3 credits in a semester following. We have had some students who have stuck with us for four semesters in a row. They like doing the work so much.

They’re coming to you most as two L’s, it seems like.

It’s a mix of 2 L’s and 3 L’s. Students apply for the clinic and we mostly screen them on the basis of do we think they can do the work. To be honest, the more law school they’ve done, the more confident we feel about making that call. In the fall, we’ll have largely three L’s and then in the spring, we’ll have a mix. They do a lot of work. We probably have four classes that we talk about in general like, “This is what goes in a cert petition. This is how to think about the arguments,” that kind of thing.

The rest of the time we are working almost like a little law firm. Students are researching. We’re brainstorming and arguing with each other about what should go in the brief, trying to get out a product that can go to the Supreme Court. In the end, things have to be filed under my name or Professor Eskow’s name. The court does not allow students to practice but there are two of us, so we rely heavily on the work of the students.

I can see how that would be like a little law firm with a bunch of law clerks, essentially but smart law clerks. People who have been screened to the point where you feel somewhat confident they can do the work and you’re working on important issues. I was curious about where some of the alums of the clinics that you’ve been involved have wound up. Have you seen any of your former students who have gone on to do great things or folks we would have heard about perhaps?

You may have heard of Scott Keller who became SG of Texas. He is one of our former students. We have former students at DOJ. We have a lot who are appellate lawyers at various firms. We have a large number who are still clerking. We’ve sent at least one to the SG’s office in Florida. They’ve scattered about the country largely doing appellate law.

How many cases do you handle at a time? I feel like with the two of you and the clerks that demand has got to be huge and the supply is probably not quite as big.

It’s interesting because there’s a huge competition for the cases that we want to work on. We never take a case that we think is a non-starter to have something for students to work on. We’ve ruled that out. People do bring us cases. Once in a while, one of those is something we can work on. We also look for circuit split cases that look like they would be good candidates for taking up to the court.

We have a few issues that we keep our eyes on, looking for cases that we think will be good. It’s not like we’re buried under available cases. Getting good cases is a pretty significant part of my job at times. If we’re going to do Amicus briefs, there’s almost always somebody who wants us to do one of those for them. We also are limited in our cases to people who it’s appropriate to do pro bono work for.

If your pro bono line is people who can’t afford good Supreme Court representation, that’s a pretty high line. Most individuals will meet that category. That’s where our work comes from. We probably, as a practical matter, have only a couple of cases going at once. We try to keep it so that things are in different stages to the extent that we can.

We will have filed a cert petition in one case, and we will be waiting for the other side to file the brief in opposition. We can do a certain amount of preparing for our reply during that time, but we will also work on another case at that time. With only 10 students and 2 of us, trying to file cert petitions within a month of each other or something would be a little bit crazy.

By subject matter, you have the ability to work not only on civil cases, which is what we on this show focus on largely because that’s our practice area but some criminal cases too. Is that right?

We do some criminal work. In terms of taking cases, I won’t take any cases that could put my students in danger. We have been presented with a few of those. We also try not to take any cases that a student would have serious moral qualms about working on. That is our choice. Students don’t know what cases we’re working on when they sign up for the clinic because we don’t know what cases we’re working on when they sign up for the clinic. There’s not that much lead time on Supreme Court cases.

Those are limits, but we have done First Amendment criminal work and a couple of Amicus briefs in capital cases. We took on what was technically a civil case under their religious land use and Institutionalized Persons Act, but it was challenging the conditions of an execution. It was a cross between a capital case and technically a civil case. We will do a mix. Professor Sturley is an Admiralty expert, so we’ve done a surprising number of Admiralty-related cases. If we have an appropriate client and it’s a good case, we will do pretty much any topic.

You alluded to it, but you wanted to specifically talk a little bit about the Ramirez versus Collier case.

Yes. It was an unusual case because it was on such a tight timeline. The court granted cert the day that Mr. Ramirez was scheduled to be executed. Instead of giving the usual amount of time, they gave us 27 days to write the petitioner’s merits brief. It’s usually considerably longer than that. Usually, people filing Amicus briefs get an extra week after the party they’re supporting files and they cut off that extra week for the Amicus as well.

The case was going up. There had not been evidence presented in the District Court, and it was an area of law that depends a lot on the government has to show that their actions are the least restrictive means of pursuing a compelling governmental interest. That’s supposed to be done on an individualized basis. We knew that Amicus briefs were the only way the court was going to get a lot of the information that it needed to make any decision about the case.

Seth Kretzer, the prisoner’s lawyer, called to ask us to help. We essentially had to turn around, call our students and say, “Are you willing to devote the next six weeks of your life to this?” It was also the beginning of the semester, so that was largely our advanced students, students we’d already been with for a semester or two. Luckily, all four of them said, “We’re in,” and we were off to the races.

The students did such great work that I love to tell everyone about the experience of working on that. Eventually, it was, “Hurry up. File these briefs so fast. Go to argument,” two months after the case was granted. We then waited for four months for the court to come out with their opinion. When it came out, it was 8 to 1 in favor of the prisoner. It was a wild ride.

Do you have any provision for if one of your cases is going to go and be heard in Washington that they can attend the oral argument?

In the before times, we would take students every semester. We are hoping to get back there. Even if we didn’t have a merits case, we would take students. This time around, when Ramirez was argued they would only let in two lawyers. They wouldn’t even let in all of the lawyers. There was not much point in trying to take students to DC to sit on the steps, so we didn’t. The silver lining is that the court now does live audio from the arguments. We could all at least listen in.

I know the clinic is affiliated with UT, but because you are doing seemingly a lot of public interest work is all the funding through the law school? Do you have separate sources of funding for the clinic, like grant funding, for example?

At this point, it is all through the law school. Several years ago, we did work on a case where we recovered fees and we recovered a lot of fees. To a certain extent, we’ve been self-funded. Other than that, the law school pays my salary and the other professor’s salary. We don’t spend a lot of money. We pay for printing and filing fees.

One thing I want to ask about, a subset of all this, is teaching appellate advocacy to law students and young lawyers. Do you have a particular focus? Do you just do it moving along the case process and teach by doing?

We largely teach by doing. I don’t know if mindset is the right word but with any writing, knowing your audience is of the utmost importance. The Supreme Court is a very special audience. They are interested in your case, but I always tell my students that they’re thinking about the case after your case. The focus has to be on how what they do, in your case, will affect the law going forward.

That’s going to shape how you write a cert petition and what your emphasis is going to be. Your emphasis can’t be, “That lower court was wrong.” It has to be bigger than that. It affects what you write in your merits brief. It affects how you do your oral argument. We are emphasizing that every step of the way.

One other thing I haven’t noticed as much, but it may have been the sorts of cases we’ve been doing. A lot of students aren’t ready to deal with statute-heavy cases. Much of early law school is still case law-driven. There are cases that we work on. The Ramirez case was case law-driven and any of the First Amendment cases we do will be. If we’re working on a case about the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, it’s about the statute and what other statutes say that have used the same words. It’s a different form of analysis that, in the modern world, lawyers need to be able to do. We are filling in that part of the education a lot.

Are they teaching statutory interpretation in law schools? I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but it’s something that we deal with all the time. As a law student, everything I ever learned about statutory interpretation was in practice and not in law school.

I tell my students that I don’t think it matters that much which class they take, but they should take a class where they have to deal with a big, meaty statute. It could be straight up ad law, bankruptcy or securities regulation, just anything where you have this monster of a statute and figure it out.

professor standing at the front of a classroom
It doesn’t matter that much which class they take, but they should take a class where they have to deal with a big, meaty statute.

That’s good, practical advice. They’re getting a lot of good practical experience in the clinic period it sounds like. You’re instructing them on the written advocacy clearly. Do you see a lot of your students go through the oral advocacy programs at UT to strengthen that part of their skillset?

They do. We don’t get to give them experience in that except that they get to be on the other end of it in a way when we do moot courts. With the people we’ve had come in, they see a wide range of approaches and styles. They get to think about what is effective and what would work for them. Trying to adopt a style that is very much not your personality is probably not going to work. They at least see what the options are and what can be good and bad in using a certain style.

We have occasionally had pre-clinic UT alums like Lisa Blatt and David Frederick, who are both incredible Supreme Court advocates, who happened to be in the same year in law school, the same small section in law school even. They have opposing styles of argument. Lisa comes in and is on the attack from minute one and just going.

David arrives and he’s a little more like your favorite law professor explaining the case to you. They’re both great. If David tried to do Lisa, Lisa tried to do David, I don’t think they would be very good. I love that our students get to see those different approaches and styles and think about what will work for them when they go into court.

Authenticity is the key and all of it is in the writing and the oral side of it.

They’re developing some important skills in your clinic. You can develop those skills later, perhaps in a clerkship or practice certainly, but you’re showing them with the benefit of your experience as an advocate, your co-directors and all the people that they’re exposed to. It’s no doubt a great experience for them no matter what level of the student that you’re dealing with. It’s been great to hear about what you all are doing over there. Now I have a resource. If I ever have a case, I’m like, “I’m going to call Professor Busby.”

We encourage it. We love partnering with people on cases. To be honest, we do give out a lot of free advice too.

As we reach the end here, our tradition is always to ask for a tip or war story. I don’t know if you have anything you’d like to share as we wrap up.

Being a professor, one of the privileges is giving out a lot of advice. One thing that students have told me that they’ve thought about a lot after being out in the real world is something we talk about. I like to call it the Arc of Despair, which is a phenomenon I’d always known about. I was on a panel with a woman who was then SG of the District of Columbia named Loren AliKhan. She said, “It’s the Arc of Despair.”

It is that when you take a case, especially if you’re in a situation like we are where you largely choose your cases, you think it’s great. You’re going in and you’re going to win. It’s super. You then start working on it. You research and start seeing the problems and more problems. You see the points that the other side has. It gets worse until, at some point, you’re thinking, “How can I get rid of this case? Can I back out? It’s terrible. There’s no way you could win. It’s a disaster.”

At that point, you are at the bottom of the Arc of Despair. If you keep working on it, keep researching and start writing, almost always, by the time you file the brief, you’re sending it off to the court thinking, “We are going to win this one.” You’ve reached the top and probably you’ll do it again on the reply brief. When you’re getting ready for an oral argument, there may be multiple Arcs of Despair.

The important part is to realize that it’s an important part of the process. You will not have a good brief if you haven’t reached the bottom of the Arc of Despair because you won’t have dealt with everything that the other side has to throw at you. Those won’t be incorporated into your brief. I have had students come back and say, “I was working on something. It was terrible and then I thought, ‘It’s the Arc of Despair.’” That is my most useful advice to students.

group of students sitting at a table
You will not have a good brief if you haven’t reached the bottom of the Arc of Despair because you won’t have dealt with everything that the other side has to throw at you.

Todd and I are both smiling and nodding our heads because we know exactly what you’re talking about. Although I’m going to have to borrow Arc of Despair because I like that and it’s a perfect description.

I’m going to steal it. I’m going to use it here in our firm, working with our younger lawyers. It’s a brilliant description and 100% accurate. That’s a great tip. Erin, thank you so much for sharing that with us and for being with us. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about what you’re doing at the clinic. It’s been great to hear about.

Thanks. It was my pleasure.


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About Erin Busby

Erin Glenn Busby, Co-Director of the Supreme Court Clinic, is an appellate specialist with experience at all levels of the federal and Texas state courts.  She has authored briefs in cases involving a wide range of issues, including First Amendment protection of speech, maritime law, class action procedure, contract disputes, administrative law, immigration law, and the federal preemption of state law.

Ms. Busby graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Michael Boudin of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  Before joining the Supreme Court Clinic, she was an independent appellate specialist and, earlier, an associate at the firms of Sullivan & Cromwell and Bracewell & Giuliani.

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