MLaw grad receives prestigious Bristow Fellowship


By Kristy Demas
Michigan Law

When his clerkship with The Hon. Raymond Kethledge ended, John Ramer departed for Washington, D.C., to begin his Bristow Fellowship in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Only four to five Bristow Fellowships are awarded annually by the U.S. Department of Justice. A prestigious honor, its holders are allowed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ramer has a unique understanding of its prominence after having worked for the Solicitor General (SG) as a Phillips Fellow in 2018.

“Both fellowships involve supporting the office’s attorneys, but Bristow Fellows have much more responsibility,” Ramer said.

In his current role, he conducts research, helps attorneys prepare for arguments, and assists with brief writing.

“Bristows work hard to improve the career attorneys’ chances of winning their cases before the Supreme Court,” he said.

The fellows also assist with the SG’s authorization of appeals in the lower courts.

“When the government loses in trial court, the local U.S. attorney’s office must seek permission from the SG to appeal,” Ramer explained. “Bristow Fellows craft
recommendations on each case so the Solicitor General can decide whether it deserves to be appealed.”

Most Bristow Fellowship applicants have completed a one-year judicial clerkship; all must have stellar law school credentials. Upon learning of his selection, Ramer was understandably excited, but also overwhelmed with gratitude.

“My immediate reaction was thanking everyone who helped me along the way, since I received this honor only because of their support,” he said.

First, he thanked his wife, Whitney — they married after his 1L year — for supporting him through the stress of law school. Next, he thanked his family and then, Judge Kethledge for his mentorship.

Ramer also is grateful to his alma mater.

“Michigan Law offered an unparalleled opportunity to learn for the sake of learning alongside incredibly impressive classmates,” he said.

Making the most of his law school years, Ramer participated in everything from the Federalist Society to the Campbell Moot Court Competition to the Michigan Law Review. Also unique to the Law School, he believes, is its collegiality.

“Michigan Law has a special culture,” he said. “Lawyers can have a reputation for being difficult to work with, but most Michigan alumni don’t have that reputation, largely due to the kinds of students Dean Z admits and to the professors.”

Ramer has kept in touch with many of his Michigan Law professors since graduating summa cum laude in 2017. He obtained recommendation letters for his Bristow Fellowship from Professors Margaret Hannon, whom Ramer credits with introducing him to the foundations of legal writing, and Adam Pritchard — a former Bristow Fellow — who has advised Ramer through the years.

Ramer’s appreciation extends to the exemplary education Michigan Law provided, such as Professor Eve Primus’s Evidence and Criminal Procedure courses.
“She trained us how to think on our feet,” he said.

Ramer recalls her telling students to argue a case from one perspective only to ask them to argue the other side when they were done.

“I also learned the importance of effective communication through good legal writing from Judge Kethledge’s Appellate practice course and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack’s State Supreme Court Practice course.”

Ramer believes writing well is critical to being a good lawyer but especially so in appellate law, which is what the SG’s office does. In the coming months, Ramer will be assigned his own case to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals. It is a heady experience for any young lawyer, but especially for Ramer, who hopes to practice appellate law when his fellowship ends.