The Top 10 Stories Of 2022
Reviewing these stories offers a quick way of looking back on an eventful year for law and the legal profession.
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Happy new year. I hope that you had a great 2022 and your 2023 is off to a wonderful start.
Last year was a successful one here at Original Jurisdiction. A year ago, I expressed the hope that writing this newsletter could turn into a livelihood for me, and today it is. I’m grateful for the ability to make a living as an independent journalist, not dependent on a large news organization for my job, and I have you, my readers, to thank for this.
I’m still on vacation, visiting family in the Philippines, but I wanted to offer you some reading material until I return: the top 10 stories of 2022. As I did the last time around, I’ll actually give you two lists: the top 10 stories by readership, and the top 10 stories based on my own personal preference.
Let’s start with the list based on readership, i.e., total views (including both newsletter opens and views on the web):
With a $44 billion deal on the line, Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk in Delaware Chancery Court was one of the largest civil cases in history—which turned the lawyers involved into celebrities of the legal world. (I later interviewed one of them, Alex Spiro—a partner at Quinn Emanuel, famous for representing celebrities including but not limited to Elon Musk—as the inaugural guest of my podcast.)
I urged Dean Gerken to take a stronger stance in defense of free speech at YLS—and based on recent changes she has instituted, it seems she’s moving in this direction. (See also how U.S. News rankings guru Bob Morse overhauled their law school rankings, along the lines that I proposed.)
My readers enjoy (a) coverage of SCOTUS clerk hiring and (b) rankings, so of course a ranking of “feeder judges,” the lower-court judges who excel at sending their clerks on to One First Street, was going to be popular.
As we learned in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Supreme Court’s landmark abortion decision, most large law firms have left-of-center views on controversial social issues (and I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, as long as they’re honest about it).
Eight months after the historic leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs, we still don’t know anything about who leaked and why—but it’s fun to speculate, as I did in this fictionalized op-ed confessing to the transgression.
Some additional speculation about the leak: the Politico reporters who published the draft opinion actually don’t know the identity of their source, further increasing the likelihood that we won’t be learning the identity of the leaker anytime soon (unless the leaker comes forward and confesses).
Two top topics for these pages are (a) free-speech and cancel-culture controversies and (b) clerkship hiring. So the popularity of this story, discussing the decision of Judge James Ho (5th Cir.) to no longer hire law clerks from Yale Law School until YLS cleans up its act on free speech, was no surprise.
March 2022 witnessed two distressing developments at U.S. law schools: a successful attempt to shout down Ilya Shapiro at the school formerly known as UC Hastings Law (now UC Law SF), and a nearly successful attempt to do the same to Kristen Waggoner and Monica Miller at Yale Law.
Based on the justices’ questions at oral argument, it looks like the Supreme Court will do away with racial preferences in education. And that might not be a bad thing, if the current emphasis on “visual diversity” is replaced by richer forms of diversity, including socioeconomic diversity, diversity of experience, and diversity of viewpoint.
It’s important for media outlets to have differentiated content, i.e., content that’s not available anywhere else. For this newsletter, that includes detailed coverage of SCOTUS clerk hiring, plus Bristow Fellowships and Skadden Fellowships.
For my second list, here are ten more stories from last year that I consider personal favorites, which showcase both the wide range of subjects and different types of writing featured in these pages:
To folks who have been reading me since Underneath Their Robes, this story—about Chief Judge Priscilla Richman of the Fifth Circuit and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court getting married—is for you. See also my interview of Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Cir.) about the romantic novel he published last year.
One of the most fun parts of my job is interviewing smart experts about trending topics—like when I interviewed Professor Ingrid (Wuerth) Brunk about letters of marque and reprisal, an obscure part of constitutional law that surfaced in the news as a possible response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. See also my interview of Craig Seebald of Vinson & Elkins about antitrust enforcement in the Biden Administration.
Although it’s not glamorous, the “explainer” piece is a useful and popular piece of journalism (reflected in the rise of Vox, aka the House That Explainers Built). I enjoy writing explainers, such as this one about the ruling by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (M.D. Fla.) vacating the Biden Administration’s mask mandate. I penned similar FAQs about the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs and the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
There are few things I like better than taking a deep dive into judicial nominations, especially SCOTUS nominations, and 2022 was a great year for this. I correctly predicted, in late January and again in early February, President Joe Biden’s nomination of then-Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. I also published a detailed analysis of Biden nominees to the circuit and district courts.
The courts receive copious coverage from several excellent Substack newsletters, including at least three that launched this year—Shapiro’s Gavel by Ilya Shapiro (June), Law Dork by Chris Geidner (also June), and One First by Steve Vladeck (November)—but the world of large law firms aka Biglaw is relatively neglected. Although I don’t write about law firms as much as I expected when I launched this newsletter, I still write more about the business of law than almost any other Substack—as reflected in these breakdowns of industry rankings of profitability and prestige, as well as my weekly Judicial Notice news roundups.
I also write about the in-house world, especially in-house leaders—like Rachel Brand, the top lawyer at Walmart, the #1 company in the Fortune 500 for the past decade. She offered advice to both outside counsel hoping to work for her company and young lawyers aspiring to careers like hers.
After years of complaining about the U.S. News law school rankings, this year law school deans took action. Yale and Harvard Law withdrew from the rankings, other top law schools followed suit, and the magazine just announced dramatic changes to its influential rankings.
The launch of the Original Jurisdiction podcast was the biggest addition to this newsletter last year, and I’ve been honored to welcome high-profile guests like Paul Clement, Robbie Kaplan, and Alex Spiro. My conversation with the funny and frank Lisa Blatt, a top Supreme Court litigator with a style all her own, has been one highlight of the series so far.
Judge Laurence Silberman (D.C. Cir.) was a giant of the law, and his passing represented a great loss to the legal profession. I spoke with several of his former clerks, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, about what he meant to them as a boss, mentor, and friend.
The D.C. litigation boutique of Cooper & Kirk is tiny, with fewer than 20 lawyers, but its alumni include two U.S. senators, three federal judges, and a former U.S. solicitor general. I profiled the firm on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, producing a magazine feature-like piece exploring the secrets of the firm’s success.
These are just some of the more than 130 stories I published in 2022. I’m proud of what I produced last year, which I believe represents some of my best work over the past two decades, and I’m grateful to you, my readers and subscribers, for making it possible. Thanks as always for your support, and I look forward to seeing what the year ahead has in store for us.
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