|Christopher DiPompeo L’09|
Two years after graduating, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Christopher DiPompeo L’09 has landed one of the most coveted positions in American law: a clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court. In July, DiPompeo will begin clerking for Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
What path did DiPompeo take to land a litigator’s dream job? He answers the question with characteristic humility – a trait that belies his considerable achievements.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2004, DiPompeo joined Penn Law in 2006. During his first year, he took the standard 1L classes, which he “enjoyed very much and in which I happened to do well.” At the end of that year, he participated in the Law School’s journal writing competition and “happened to be accepted on the Law Review.” In the spring of his 2L year, he applied for a number of Law Review Board positions and “happened to be picked” as Editor-in-Chief.
DiPompeo served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review for almost half of his law school career. “That really dominates what I remember about law school, because we were, in some sense, entrusted with keeping this great institution that had been around for 157 years or so going,” he said, adding with self-effacing humor, “We always joked that hopefully it would take more than us to stop it.”
DiPompeo ran the Law Review successfully, including publishing a comment, "Federal Hate Crime Laws and United States v. Lopez: On A Collision Course to Clarify Jurisdictional Element Analysis," which was awarded a 2009 Burton Distinguished Writing Award as one of the 15 best student-written articles of 2008.
In the fall of his 3L year, DiPompeo applied for clerkships, and during the 2009-2010 term clerked for Judge Paul V. Niemeyer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. “That was a great year, we had a lot of interesting cases,” DiPompeo said. “I had two co-clerks, both of whom were fantastic, and it was great to work with the judge and get an understanding of his perspective, how he approaches cases, writes opinions, and decides cases. I can’t think of a better way to start a career than to work with and learn from someone like Judge Niemeyer.”
Meanwhile, DiPompeo was encouraged by faculty and fellow students to consider applying for a clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court. “Several people at the Law School were helpful – Dean [Michael] Fitts, Professor [David] Skeel, and Professor [Matthew] Adler wrote recommendation letters for me, and Chris Fritton in the Career Planning and Professionalism office was very helpful, too.”
Also helpful, he said, was Penn Law’s Clerkship Committee, comprised of Penn Law faculty and staff who work closely with students on their applications. “I took a class with Professor [Christopher] Yoo, who is a member of the Clerkship Committee, during law school. Over the years, we talked a lot about the process and strategy - about the interview, what to expect, and how to prepare for it, which was very useful.”
DiPompeo emphasized the importance of good writing in his career development, starting with “Penn Law’s Legal Writing program, then as an editor on a law journal, and the editing and writing skills I developed while clerking. I think it’s really important. In fact, I think it’s one of the main reasons Judge Niemeyer and others were willing to write letters for me, because all judges are looking for clerks who can write well. And that’s a skill I learned at Penn Law.”
DiPompeo also credits his Law Review experience with helping him make connections with his past and future clerkship colleagues. “One of the great things about working on a law review like the one at Penn is the opportunity you have to meet your peers at other schools working in the same positions. In fact, I first met one of my co-clerks from last year when we were roommates at a law review conference in Virginia. And going into this clerkship with the Chief Justice, there are several people I’ll be clerking with whom I know from various interactions we had while working for our law reviews.”
DiPompeo discussed the importance of those relationships during his interview with Chief Justice Roberts. “One of the questions I was asked in my interview was, ‘What are some of the things I missed about clerking?’ And that was interacting with my co-clerks, the judge, and his secretaries in chambers. My co-clerks and I had lunch together almost every day and talked about our cases. It was a unique experience, because every week we had different cases coming in and new fact patterns that we’re dealing with, and new areas of the law, to which we were complete novices.”
His interaction with his co-clerks, DiPompeo said, was similar to his interaction with other members of the Law Review. “I think one of the best aspects of working on the Law Review was the opportunity it gave us to sit around in the office and talk about the articles and different questions that were coming up, whether through editing or while going over some of the substance. That’s something I missed about law school –it’s something I really enjoyed when clerking last year, and something I’m looking forward to again next year.”