Larry Lessig “helped arrange two clerkships” for Tim Wu with Judge Posner, a “law demigod,” and Justice Breyer “of the Supreme Court.”

May 11th, 2014

In a profile of Columbia LawProf Tim Wu, and his groundbreaking contribution to the net neutrality debate, the Times offers these gems about Wu’s clerkships with Judge Posner and Justice Breyer, which were “arranged” by Larry Lessig.

It took the form of an application to Harvard Law School, where he spent the next three years. But he didn’t really know why he was at Harvard until he wandered into a cyberlaw class taught by Lawrence Lessig, an early advocate of an open Internet. “I didn’t know what cyberlaw was exactly, but it seemed cool,” Mr. Wu said. “Larry gave me my calling.”

Mr. Lessig said he recognized that Mr. Wu was “unusually gifted” and helped arrange two clerkships for him. (Several years later, Mr. Lessig recommended that another student receive the same clerkships, and she did. Her name is Kathryn Judge. She is also a Columbia law professor and Mr. Wu’s wife.)

For one year, Mr. Wu worked for Richard A. Posner, a federal appellate court judge, influential University of Chicago law professor, prolific author and blogger. “Richard Posner is a kind of law demigod,” Mr. Wu said. “He didn’t really need a clerk. He wrote everything on his own. But he wanted someone to be his critic — to match wits with him intellectually, to fight with him and tell him why he was wrong.”

Judge Posner encouraged Mr. Wu to be a contrarian — and to find an independent road in the broad territory between heavy-handed government interference and free-market anarchy.

In 1999 and 2000, Mr. Wu served as a clerk to Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court.

I love how Posner is described as a “law demigod,” yet there are no adjectives about Breyer. Oh well. Though I do find fascinating what Justice Breyer asked of his clerks:

There he played a different role. Justice Breyer’s law clerks, Mr. Wu said, were expected to find out what the other justices were contemplating. “One of Breyer’s favorite things was to ask, ‘What does Sandra think?,’ ” referring to Sandra Day O’Connor, who was often the pivotal vote until she retired in 2006. “He believed he had a big job trying to defend the middle ground in the court — to form a caucus of reasonable adults.”

If only we knew what Sandra thought. Now we need to figure out what Tony thinks!