Memories About Law School and my Clerkship in Colorado

by

Prof. Michael Rustad

During my first year of law school in 1980-81, I completed my dissertation at Boston College during my first year while also serving as a research associate of Wellesley College's Center for Research on Women and also teaching at Boston College. I remember taking the trolley from Newton Center each evening after a hard day's teaching. During my first year of law school, I found the transition very difficult. I began my Ph.D program at Boston College in January of 1979 and received my doctorate for my dissertation, Women in Khaki: A Study of the American Enlisted Woman. I also was in the process of searching for jobs in sociology while attending law school. Fortunately, Suffolk University Law School awarded me a scholarship.  I think the tuition was around $5,000 and I had a half-tuition scholarship. I really had to work incredibly hard to teach and go to law school and finish my dissertation. The economy for sociologists was very dim after much federal funding for social science research was slashed in 1980. 

My wife, Chryss, convinced me to go to law school and was the force behind me applying to law school. She wrote the application for a scholarship and did everything humanly possible to help me get into the law school. She also helped me by her brilliant editorial suggestions for my dissertation. She is a superb writer and I think many of the apt phrases I chose were the results of her input. My dissertation was chosen as the best paper at Boston College and I was nominated for an Arts & Sciences Award. I think I still hold the record for completing a doctoral program in the shortest period at B.C. I felt that I had no choice but to finish my dissertation because I was pressed by the obligations of law school. I was fortunate to have found a publisher for my dissertation and received a lot of national publicity on my book, Women In Khaki: The American Enlisted Woman. I spoke at Harvard's Kennedy School, St. Michael's College in Vermont (Citizen-Soldier Seminar) and was even invited to West Point as well as the Naval College.  I appeared on National Public Radio and All Things Considered as well as featured in a cover story in Psychology Today. This all happened during my first year of law school.     

My wife Chryss became my most vigorous spokesman and advocate in her own inimitable way. She convinced the Department Chairman and my advisor to appoint me as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Boston College. I became the first Ph.D. from Boston College to be appointed as an adjunct assistant professor. I taught at Boston College during 1981-82 teaching courses in Sociological Theory, Sociology of Law and Crime & Social Justice. I remember having a lot on my mind that first year of law school. We were living in West Newton. James was 2 years old and would wait up for me every night after law school. He was a very active and creative toddler. I had class preparation as a teacher and as a student. During my second year of law school, I also had to go back on the job market and interviewed at Merrimack College, Northeastern, and the University of Southern Maine. These were the only openings that year in sociology. I received offers at 2 out of the 3 places where I interviewed and accepted a tenure track position at Northeastern University. I taught at Northeastern University and completed my degree at Suffolk Law School. 

I graduated from law school in May of 1984. I managed to be first in my class and received the most outstanding law student award at graduation. I was chosen for a coveted federal appellate clerkship by William E. Doyle, Tenth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. The Tenth Circuit hears appeals from Western States: Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah & Wyoming. Each month the circuit riders convene in Denver and the court hears the appeals. We had a lot of cases involving oil and gas law, water rights, Native American rights, etc. that you do not see in other circuits. In one case, a large number of tribal leaders appeared in our court in full regalia. We also had a case involving the Sons of Satan, a motorcycle group. The most famous case I worked on was Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee. Judge Doyle was the lone dissenter in that case and I helped research the caselaw for his opinion. The record was voluminous and it was certaintly exciting to be working on such a high profile case. The Movie, Silkwood, had already been made. In the end, the Tenth Circuit ruled that the case had to be retried.  The case settled shortly after I ended my clerkship.  We lived in Lakewood, Colorado while I was a clerk. Erica was a baby and learned to walk that year. I encouraged her by having her grasp my fingers and walked back with her. We called this our "turkey trot." James was then very interested in basketball and we played nearly every night. It was a good year save for the stress of again being on the job market. I interviewed at the AALS (Am. Assoc. of Law Schools) Meat Market in Chicago and interviewed at UCLA, Rutgers, Temple, and twenty + other schools ina day and a half. I received an offer to be a teaching fellow at the University of Chicago and an offer for a fellowship at Columbia. I ultimately decided to go back to Northeastern and attend Harvard as an LL.M student. I really enjoyed my year at Harvard and was able to ably balance work, family, and school. I have attached an old clipping from the National Law Journal  on my first business adventure. My co-clerks, the inventors of the legal trivial pursuit game.  Diane DeGette later joined our team and was an excellent addition. We ended up selling quite a few games and even had our game sold in Department Stores. We sold several copies to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Diane De-Gette is now in the House of Representatives. We were co-clerks the year I was in Colorado. I actually did not take the bar examination until after my LL.M degree at Harvard Law School in 1986. The clerkship with Judge Doyle was a difficult year for us because we moved across the country and the salary then was only $27,000. I was the only Suffolk graduate among all of the co-clerks who were primarily from Ivy League schools. My co-clerks for Judge Doyle were from Columbia, Harvard, and Yale. Judge Doyle was best known for his overseeing the desegregation of Denver's schools. I clerked during his first year on senior status. 

 

PREPARING FOR the bar exam has proved to be fun and games for three Denver lawyers.

Dan A. Sciullo, Diana L. De-Gette and Michael L. Rustad made studying for the 1983 test something of a trivial pursuit by throwing out non-test-type law-related questions to one another, just for the fun of it. But then, recalls Mr. Sciullo, "we got serious last winter, and put 8,000 questions down on index cards and whittled them down to 3,000."

The questions were divided among six categories, the answers were double-checked and bingo! -- "Lawyers' Edition Technicality Cards," a game in the tradition of Trivial Pursuit, was produced by the trio as The Solicitors.

It has been a labor of love for the creators.

Mr. Sciullo of Holme Roberts & Owen concentrated on commercial law questions. Ms. DeGette, an ex-public defender who practices with Coghill & Goodspeed, P.C., worked on criminal, constitutional and general-litigation questions. And Mr. Rustad, "the scholar" who clerks for Judge William E. Doyle of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, immersed himself in matters of history, jargon and cases. Then they all voted on which questions to include.

The game, which has an initial run of 11,000 and sells for $29.95, is packaged like a legal casebook, and can be played with or without a Trivial Pursuit board.

"The lawyers love it," says Mr. Sciullo.