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Alumni Short

Eduardo Bruera ’11

From Academia to a Supreme Court Clerkship

By the time he completed his doctorate in political science at Stanford University, Eduardo Bruera ’11 was having second thoughts. So instead of beginning a career in academia, he decided to enroll at Cornell Law. Midway through that first year, he knew he’d made the right choice, and after serving as editor in chief of the Law Review and graduating summa cum laude last May, Bruera is now clerking for Hon. Carolyn Dineen King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“In these first two months I’ve worked in every kind of law you can think of, and every day is fascinating because there’s always more to learn,” says Bruera, talking by telephone from Houston. “Sometimes we answer straightforward questions about the law, and sometimes we go into the record of the case, read arguments from both sides, and determine if the evidence supports their position. It’s perfect training for thinking critically, and if you’re going to be a lawyer, this is the greatest job on earth. Easily. Bar none. It’s awesome. And I say that with real enthusiasm.”

It’s easy to hear the excitement in Bruera’s voice, whether he’s speaking about the pleasures of mentoring 1L students as academic co-chair of the Latino American Law Student Association or the lessons he’s learning from King. Calling himself “really, really fortunate,” he credits the support he received from his professors at Cornell, especially Stephen P. Garvey, Valerie Hans, and Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, who wrote letters of recommendation for the federal clerkship, and Sherry F. Colb, Michael C. Dorf, and Eduardo M. Peñalver, who encouraged him to aim even higher: the U.S. Supreme Court.

“You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” says Bruera. “So they encouraged me to apply for a clerkship with Justice John Paul Stevens, who had recently retired, and about a week after I did, he invited me to Washington for an interview. This is someone whose cases I read all through law school. He’s a living legend, and I should have been rightfully terrified to be in his presence. But the thing about him is that he’s extraordinarily disarming, and so nice that my anxiety just faded away. He called to offer me the job later that day, and all I could say was, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And he joked, ‘Well, if you’re not excited about it, son, you don’t have to take the position.’ I thought that was a good start.”

The 2012-13 clerkship begins next summer, when Bruera expects to help Stevens prepare books, talks, and articles for publication, along with clerking informally for one of the Court’s sitting justices. With his career just beginning, he already has a long list of honors—including the Order of the Coif, the Kasowitz Prize for Excellence in Legal Writing and Oral Advocacy, and CALI Awards in four courses—and the self-confidence that comes from being well prepared.

“I loved being at Cornell,” says Bruera. “I loved studying the law. I loved working with professors who made it fun and exciting and challenging to learn. It was a great education, where I was exposed to a ton of substance, an incredible range of legal styles, and a powerful vocabulary for thinking about the law. Right from the get-go, Cornell made me want to rush out into the world and become a lawyer.”

By Kenneth Berkowitz