By Lori Atherton
Matt Gregory, a 2014 graduate of Michigan Law School, received an unforgettable gift last Christmas when he was offered a coveted clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy for the 2017 term.
Justice Kennedy personally called Gregory the day after his in-person interview, which was held in late December, to share the good news.
“It’s certainly not a call I ever expected to get,” Gregory says. “It took a while for everything to sink in, and it’s still a bit surreal. Justice Kennedy is someone I have a lot of respect and admiration for, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to clerk for the Supreme Court.”
When he starts his clerkship in July, Gregory will be the 33rd Michigan Law graduate to clerk for current and former Supreme Court justices since 1991, and he’ll be the third to clerk for Justice Kennedy.
Gregory — an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C., where he practices administrative law and appellate litigation — never set out to become a lawyer. The Eugene, Oregon, native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oregon in 2004. Several years later, he opened his own business — Sunshine Limousine and Oregon Wine Tours in Portland — which got him involved in drafting regulations for town cars and limousines. Gregory discovered that he enjoyed the regulatory issues he was working on and, upon the advice of a city attorney he had gotten to know, took the LSAT and applied to law school. A visit to Michigan Law during Preview Weekend solidified his desire to become a Wolverine.
During his 1L year, Gregory became interested in appellate litigation and was encouraged to pursue clerkship opportunities.
“Enough people told me it was a good experience that I took their advice seriously,” Gregory says. At the suggestion of Joan Larsen — now a Michigan Supreme Court justice who previously served as Michigan Law’s clerkship adviser — Gregory applied for a clerkship with the Hon. Raymond Kethledge, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and a lecturer at the Law School. The experience was “fantastic,” and taught Gregory how to write clearly and concisely, as well as gave him the confidence to apply for a SCOTUS clerkship.
“Judge Kethledge is everything you’d want in a federal judge and as a clerkship mentor,” says Gregory, who clerked for him in 2014–2015. “He takes a lot of time with his clerks by going through their writing sentence by sentence and word for word; the most valuable part of the clerkship was getting a chance to learn how to write from Judge Kethledge. Every day at Gibson I’m doing something that I would have done differently if I hadn’t had that experience.”
Also invaluable to Gregory is his Michigan Law education, which he says was instrumental in getting him to where he is today. In addition to a class on appellate litigation taught by Judge Kethledge, Professor Christine Whitman’s Supreme Court Litigation seminar was a standout for Gregory. It gave him the opportunity to study current cases pending before the Supreme Court and hone his litigation strategy and persuasive writing skills. He also cites several Michigan Law professors who were particularly influential, including Gil Seinfeld, John Pottow, Adam Pritchard, and Julian Davis Mortenson.
“I’m grateful every day that I chose to go to Michigan and that I had the professors I did,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to get the opportunities I’ve had because of my degree from Michigan.”
By Lori Atherton