Judicial clerkships are rare, highly sought after and deeply influential for recent law school graduates. That helps to explain the warm smile on the face of University of Tulsa College of Law 3L student Clint Summers. When he graduates from the juris doctor (JD) program in May, Summers is looking forward to not one, but two, federal judicial clerkships.
Summers’ first clerkship will be with the Honorable Claire V. Eagan in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Following that year-long experience, Summers will head to New Orleans to clerk for the Honorable Jacques L. Wiener, Jr., in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In part, this is somewhat familiar territory for Summers, as during his years at TU Law two of his externships were with federal judges.
Federal clerkships are “challenging and a great way to start your career,” says Summers, who in 2018 was selected by TU Law as the college’s Oklahoma Bar Association Outstanding Student. Applying broadly for clerkships, Summers had five interviews and received three offers. “It was a little daunting meeting a federal judge,” he notes, but “it was a fantastic experience. Some of the people I respect the most are in these positions.”
For each of his clerkships, Summers’ main focus will be on legal research and writing (e.g., orders and opinions). In Judge Wieners’ court, Summers will be working on appeals from district courts, which are typically more complex kinds of cases.
From businessman to lawyer
After a youth spent in Dallas, Summers completed a bachelor’s of business administration degree (double major in finance and international business) at the University of Oklahoma. It looked like a business career was in the cards, as for the next five years Summers worked as an analyst in the petroleum sector for Williams, Access Midstream and Chesapeake Midstream.
However, drawing inspiration from his attorney father and others —including a great-great grandfather, Philip Doddridge Brewer, who sat on the Oklahoma Supreme Court around the time Oklahoma became a state — Summers decided to strike out on a fresh path by enrolling in TU Law. “One of the primary factors that led me to be a lawyer was the desire to walk beside somebody in a law suit.”
Native American lawyer
An important aspect of Summers’ personal and professional identity is his Native American ancestry. In fact, Summers’ first scholarly article, published in the American Indian Law Journal (2018): 7.1, focuses on a dimension of that identity currently contested under the law: “Rethinking the Federal Indian Status Test: A Look at the Supreme Court’s Classification of the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma.”
A proud member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Summers notes that his tribe has been hugely supportive of his studies, offering him both scholarships and moral support along the way. “My tribe supports its members in ways I had no idea of until I started law school. It is a great community, and I hope I can make a positive difference for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation during my legal career.” A solid part of Summers’ aim is also to be able to inspire others from his tribe: “I hope that young Creek citizens can look at my career thus far and say to themselves, ‘if he can do it, so can I.’ That goes for federal clerkships and anything else they set their minds to.”