PUBLISHED:November 15, 2012

Boyce ’12 selected as 2013 Bristow Fellow in U.S. Department of Justice

Sarah Boyce ’12

Sarah Boyce ’12 has been awarded a one-year Bristow Fellowship in the U.S. Department of Justice following the completion of her current clerkship with Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  

Bristow Fellows assist attorneys in the Office of the Solicitor General in drafting briefs in opposition to certiorari filed against the government in the U.S. Supreme Court, preparing petitions for certiorari and briefs on the merits in Supreme Court cases, preparing recommendations to the Solicitor General regarding authorization of government appeals in the lower courts, and assisting in the preparation of oral arguments in the Supreme Court.  The Office of the Solicitor General generally admits four lawyers into the prestigious fellowship program each year. 

Boyce, who aims to specialize in appellate and Supreme Court litigation, said she was “totally in shock” to be admitted to the program ─ and to get the news directly from U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.  “It made my year,” she said.

A former editor-in-chief of the Duke Law Journal, Boyce is grateful for Sutton’s support throughout the fellowship application process.  “I’m sure it would not have happened without his help,” she said.  “When I told him I had been selected, he was thrilled.  He told me he thought it was one of the best jobs a young lawyer could get.  ”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, for whom Boyce worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher during her 2L summer, also recommended her for the fellowship, as did Ernest Young, the Alston & Bird Professor of Law, and Professor Lisa Kern Griffin

“I am delighted that Sarah will have the opportunity to serve as a Bristow Fellow,” said Griffin.  “She has a lively mind, extraordinary verbal acuity, and an impressive command of complex constitutional doctrines.  She is certain to shine as an appellate advocate.”

At Duke Law, Boyce took part in the Appellate Litigation Clinic as a 3L and won the Dean’s Cup Moot Court tournament twice, with partners James Harlow ’12 in 2011 and Chris Ford ’12 in 2012.  Before graduation, she received the Law School’s Advocacy Award.

A former teacher who attended Duke Law as a Mordecai Scholar, Boyce said she got hooked on appellate litigation through her 1L legal writing course.  “It was both writing the required legal brief and arguing in the mandatory moot court tournament for first-year students that sparked my interest.  Writing briefs played on everything I liked about being an English major and oral argument played on everything I liked about public speaking and had tried to put into practice as a middle-school teacher.  A career in appellate litigation seems to really combine those two passions well.”

Her clerkship with Sutton has been good preparation for the work she’ll be doing in her fellowship, she said.  “It’s helped me become more familiar and more comfortable with the nuances of federal law and has allowed me to delve into different areas that I didn’t have the chance to explore in law school,” she said.  “It’s also been beneficial to work on my writing on a daily basis and to think constantly about the most effective way to make an argument.  And simply being in an office with incredibly talented people on a daily basis who challenge my arguments, point to holes, and force me to think about how to be more persuasive is an experience that I think will be extremely helpful in preparing for next year.” 

Professor Neil Siegel, who served as a Bristow Fellow in 2002-2003, said Boyce will have the opportunity to work closely with some of the very best appellate litigators in the country in the Office of the Solicitor General.  “In terms of preparation for appellate litigation it’s tremendous experience, not to mention a huge honor,” he said.  “It’s also highly selective.  Each year there are 36 Supreme Court clerks ─ four per chambers ─ and only four Bristow Fellows.  Sarah’s selection speaks volumes about her abilities and the quality of the law school that produced her.”