Claire Rossell Cahill (Government, ‘14) is PHC's 5th alumni to clerk for the US Supreme Court. Cahill commented that “PHC exposed me to law for the first time, and I discovered that I loved it.”
Cahill never thought about being a lawyer before PHC.
“I attended PHC largely because at the time I was interested in being a journalist, and PHC has an excellent journalism program,” she said. She also enjoyed the people she met on admitted students’ day, and she felt like PHC was a place she could call home for the next four years.
Cahill discovered a love for the legal profession primarily through the journalism class Media Law and through participating in Moot Court. Media Law, taught by Dr. Les Sillars, exposed Cahill to law for the first time in the spring of her freshman year, and she found that she really enjoyed reading the court cases. The following semester Cahill took Constitutional Law, a class in the PHC core curriculum that requires everyone to participate in the intramural Moot Court tournament. That’s when she realized she enjoyed building a legal case.
“I never really thought, before taking Media Law and doing Moot Court, of being a lawyer,” she said. “That never once occurred to me.” But, in her junior year, she switched her major to Government, with the intention of going to law school.
In the year between graduating from PHC and beginning law school at Georgetown, Cahill worked as a legal assistant. Even while attending Georgetown, she continued working in legal environments so that she could become exposed to law in practice. Her experiences during law school writing briefs and participating in court proceedings helped her decide that she wanted to pursue a litigation career—that is, argue cases rather than do transactional work.
Cahill felt prepared for law school because of PHC. “The classical liberal arts core curriculum in general really helped me build strong critical thinking skills,” she said. “You’re doing a lot of analytical reading, developing a lot of intellectual curiosity, asking ‘why’ questions.”
She also attributed success in law school to her participation in Moot Court at PHC. “It was my first time reading legal opinions, creating a persuasive argument, and being introduced to a variety of legal concepts,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have that opportunity in undergrad. … Having that foundation before I entered law school gave me a leg up as I started classes.”
Cahill graduated at the top of her class at Georgetown in 2019, and went on to clerk for Judge McFadden on the US District Court for the District of Colombia, Judge Grant on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and then for Judge Ambro on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Her daily tasks as a clerk involved helping judges evaluate the cases before them. “The most common thing is that clerks help research, analyze, and offer recommendations on the cases before the judge,” she said. “Clerks sometimes write the first draft of the opinion or provide questions for oral argument.”
Cahill applied to the Supreme Court during her second clerkship. “Clerking at the Supreme Court was something I dreamed of doing, [but I] definitely never thought it would be a reality,” she said. A month after applying, Cahill was given four days to prepare for an interview. She spent those days meticulously reviewing Kavanaugh’s majority opinions and reading law review articles. She was selected for the clerkship in February 2021 and began working there this past July.
Supreme Court clerk tasks generally include reviewing current cases before the Court as well as reviewing the petitions for certiorari and recommending whether the Court should hear a case. In her clerkships, Cahill has enjoyed researching the variety of cases. “On a given day, you can be working on five different things in different areas of law,” she said.
"What I'd recommend to college and law students and young lawyers is to focus on finding wise mentors who can guide and advocate for you as you're pursuing your career and personal goals," Cahill noted. "I've been so blessed to have outstanding mentors every step of the way who have gone out of their way to help me to get where I am today—from Dr. Guliuzza at PHC, to my law school writing professor, my judges, and law firm colleagues." Cahill added, "Developing and maintaining those relationships has been one of the highlights of my career."
Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.