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Volokh Conspiracy

Yale Law Prof. Amy Chua's Statement on Her Advice to Clerkship Applicants


Yale law professor Amy Chua has recently been accused of telling law students that Brett Kavanaugh hired only women who "looked like models," and therefore urged them to dress to interviews with him in a way that "exude[d] a 'model-like' femininity" (I'm quoting here the characterization from The Guardian). Chua had recommended many clerks to Judge Kavanaugh, and her daughter has clerked (or perhaps is clerking, I'm not sure) for him.

I have no idea whether Judge Kavanaugh has indeed preferred good-looking women as clerks; and, if Prof. Chua thought he did, I don't think giving advice based on that should be viewed as alleged "faculty misconduct" on Prof. Chua's part: Even according to these reports, she was basically doing what I think older women mentors have long done (and been expected to) for young women—teling them about what she thought (rightly or wrongly) real life (good or bad) operated in this situation, and about how to dress in order to get ahead. Nor would advice to dress "model-like" suggest to me dressing unprofessionally (though I have to confess that I pay very little attention to models or how they dress), but rather dressing in a particular professional style.

But in any event, Prof. Chua (who I'm told has had serious health problems for some month) has sent around the following statement (paragraph breaks added):

Everything that is being said about the advice I give to students applying to Brett Kavanaugh—or any judge—is outrageous, 100% false, and the exact opposite of everything I have stood for and said for the last fifteen years.

I always tell students to prep insanely hard—that substance is the most important thing. I advise them to read every opinion, including dissents, the judge has ever written as well as important recent cases from the circuit and Supreme Court. I tell them to review all the black-letter courses they've taken and to be prepared to answer hard questions about their writing sample. I tell them to be courteous to everyone, including the staff and clerks.

I advise students, male and female, to dress professionally—not too casually—and to avoid inappropriate clothing. I remind them that they are interviewing with a member of the judiciary.

I always try my best to be frank and transparent, and to hold students to the highest professional standard, and every year for the last decade I have been invited by affinity groups like Yale Law Women, the Black Law Students Association, and Outlaws to host clerkship advice sessions. My record as a clerkship mentor, especially for women and minorities, is among the things I'm most proud of in my life.

Disclosure: I don't personally know Prof. Chua (I don't think we've ever met); I have met her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, who writes on constitutional law, at conferences, though I don't think I've spoken to him or corresponded with him in years; I know Judge Kavanaugh from clerking, though I likewise haven't talked to him in a long time. But he has cited my book and my law review articles in his opinions, which is enough to strip the impartiality from all but the strongest of law professors ….