245 ORAL HISTORY OF JOHN ALDOCK Eighth Interview July 22, 2010 This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is John Aldock, and the interviewer is Judy Feigin. The interview is taking place in John’s office in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2010. This is the eighth interview. Ms. Feigin: Good afternoon. Mr. Aldock: Good afternoon. Ms. Feigin: When we left you several weeks ago, you were about to go off to New Orleans for a huge trial. Want to give us a taste of what happened down there? Mr. Aldock: Well, I got back. Ms. Feigin: That’s good. [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: That was the priority. [Laughter] I was down there three or four weeks, fifteen hours a day, seven days a week. The judge did take off the weekend of the Fourth of July. That, of course, didn’t do the rest of us any good. You’re there with your expert witnesses who need care and feeding at all times. [Laughter] Also, when you are in trial, there is never too much preparation, so we worked hard. It went as well as it possibly could. Our case went in better than it had gone in our practice sessions. Their case went in worse than we anticipated. I thought that every day we were ahead on points, including at the end of their case when we expected to be behind on points but thought we would make it up when we put our case in. While there was no way this judge was going to grant 246 summary judgment at the end of the plaintiffs’ case, I do believe, if he had, we could have sustained the ruling on appeal. But, in fact, we did not want a ruling at the end of their case. Ms. Feigin: Why? Mr. Aldock: At this point, it is a potential mass tort of 21,000 cases. I want a full record. I want every ruling I can get and I want to lock the plaintiffs into everything in their best case, including their best cross. What I said to the judge at the end of their case was that, for the record, I was renewing our motion for summary judgment, although we were eager to put on our case, and that we understood and appreciated the wisdom of the judge in hearing our case and rethinking the issue at the end. He, of course, got it. [Laughter] The plaintiffs were somewhat surprised. They had planned to argue against something but, when the lawyer got up to speak, he couldn’t figure out what he was arguing against. [Laughter] I made a somewhat unconventional opening statement in that I did not preview the evidence, which is what you usually do. I thought that the judge was too well prepared to waste time doing that. The judge had read the pretrial statements that had all kinds of detail in them; he knew what the evidence was going to be, so there was a need to do something else. In the opening, I tried to take on all the issues in a thematic way to show the weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ case. I basically had an Ockham’s Razor approach: Our evidence was straightforward and logical. The plaintiffs’ case was complicated, inconsistent, and thus implausible. The plaintiffs had the barge moving all over the canal, 247 always against the winds and currents. I described their case and then said, “It can’t be.” I also did some things in the opening statement that were risky. I said that the plaintiffs had a key eyewitness that they had relied on to block summary judgment but who was not on their witness list and whose testimony was being submitted by deposition designation. The witness was beyond the court’s subpoena power, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers had produced him two times for a deposition, so surely they had some control over him. I argued that he must not be the witness they represented him to be and that they were not prepared to put him on the stand. It was a risk that the witness might be given $5,000 in gambling chips and a free trip to New Orleans so that they could get him to come to the trial. I concluded that they weren’t going to get him or did not want him to come. The other strategy was to argue that plaintiffs had changed their theory three or four times since the case started and predicted that they would change it again at trial. That was probably less of a risk. They had to change their theories and they did. I argued why our experts were better than theirs. The plaintiffs went first since they had the burden of proof. The plaintiffs’ lawyer started his opening, “This is an eyewitness case and, of course, everybody has experts, but they are just necessary evils.” Well, that just played into my, “We have experts who really are experts. They don’t do this for a living and they aren’t professional testifiers. They have ‘hired guns’ and they are ‘necessary evils.’ To us, they are the heart of the case.” The opening held up completely. 248 We also had the most high-tech case that I have used in a courtroom. Ms. Feigin: That’s what I wanted to ask about. You were worried about that last time. Mr. Aldock: Yes. I became good at it. I just had to press the clicker [laughter] and something good appeared. I said, “Andrew,” (my terrific tech assistant) “a picture of the pole in the middle of the levee breach, please.” And a slide with the pole instantly appeared on the big screen in the courtroom and on the judge’s computer. With good technology people, it’s a great tool. In addition, we had a 12-minute movie showing waves and the movement of the barge and the break in the levee and the dispersement of the houses, etc. It also was keyed to the time and wind direction. We put it on as a summation by our key expert, and the expert narrated it. The judge appeared riveted. We also had models of levees where the walls could be taken out and then put back in. We could superimpose things on the model and show how the sheet metal bends when the levee fails. We had something on the screen every second of the trial. It was effective, and the other side’s technology was terrible. They would request “Slide 8,” then would have to walk back to their assistant and would need a break because they couldn’t find Slide 8 or Slide 8 was the wrong slide. At various points, the plaintiffs asked, “Would the defendants be so kind as to show the exhibit they used earlier.” Ms. Feigin: Oh really! [Laughter] The bracketed material should be embargoed for ten years while this matter is still active. * 249 Mr. Aldock: The judge would look at us, and I’d say, “All right, we’ll send them a bill.” [Laughter] Also, there was the stuff we did on the fly. We had an argument with the plaintiffs about one of the breaches that they alleged the barge caused. But the breach had a utility pole in the middle of it. The 200-foot barge couldn’t have gone through the pole without knocking it down, and the barge couldn’t have gone around it. It was an 80-foot breach and a 200-foot barge. During trial, we had a slide made that superimposed the barge on the opening with the pole there. Plaintiffs’ expert said, “There was no such pole. It was not there. It was put there after Katrina.” We came up overnight with photos from the Times Picayune the day before and a few days after Katrina with the pole there. Those kinds of things always were fun when we could do them. [ ] The plaintiffs ran their case by committee. They couldn’t make a hard * decision and they certainly couldn’t make a concession by committee. No one was going to show weakness, so no arguments were given up, good or bad, consistent or inconsistent. We didn’t work that way. I would consult with my able team but, in the end, I would make the decisions. The main players at my firm were Mark Raffman, Adam Chud, Rick Wyner, Kirsten Robbins, Eric Goldberg, ** and Ezra Geggel. Our team also included New Orleans lawyers Derek Walker and his firm, and Dan Webb. Our able technology assistant was Andrew Sloniewsky. On January 20, 2011 Judge Stanwood Duval issued a 42-page opinion rejecting all of the plaintiffs’ claims and *** finding: “Simply put, the barge did not do it.” See In Re Katrina Canal Breaches Consol. Litig., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44615 (E.D. La. Jan 20, 2011). The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal and then withdrew the appeal. 250 Ms. Feigin: Is that always part of your legal style? Mr. Aldock: Yes. You have one case, you can have only one captain. You can consult all you want but you need a decision maker. You can’t run a case by committee. Our group was cohesive and collegial, as well as able, which made it easy.** Our biggest stress was working out of war rooms that were filled with experts half the time and the clients much of the time. It is not ideal for others to see “sausage being made.” But the clients were pros, and the witnesses were as good as they could be in terms of trying to stay out of our hair except when they were supposed to be performing. Nevertheless, it was tiring. If you win, you don’t remember being tired. [Laughter] If you lose, it was exhausting. Ms. Feigin: [Laughter] We will have to find out when the final result comes in, but that sounds great.*** I’ve asked you about your career but not your personal life very much. I’d like to go into that a little bit. Do you want to start by telling us about your family? We know a little about your wife because we heard about her Watergate and early working experiences, but you might want to add to that and fill us in about your children and grandchildren. Mr. Aldock: Judy and I have two daughters, Jessica and Stephanie. 251 Jessica (1974) is 36 years old. She went to Haverford College and the University of Virginia Law School. She clerked two years for Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the US District Court for DC. Ms. Feigin: Did you not appear before him when she was clerking? Did that impact your career at all? Mr. Aldock: It didn’t, because I never had a case before him. The Chief Judge had two clerks and certainly would have recused Jessica. Hogan would not have recused himself after Jessica’s clerkship. The strong judges have a way of avoiding recusal. Their approach is to say to the litigants, “The plaintiff’s lawyer is my brother-inlaw, whom I adore. But that fact will have no effect on my judgment. Unless you disagree, counsel,” [laughter] “we’ll just proceed.” [Laughter] Not many object. [Laughter] That’s the right way to do it. The wrong way is the method that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, whom I had represented in the Mayor Barry case, did it. The judge said, “Mr. Aldock was my lawyer.” But before Judge Jackson asked for the lawyers’ views, he told them that he was inclined not to transfer the case before him that one set of lawyers wanted transferred. Then, Judge Jackson offered to recuse himself. That is the wrong procedure. [Laughter] One of the major cases before the Chief Judge during Jessica’s clerkship was the vitamins antitrust case. One of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case was my friend Ken Adams. The special master in the case was my partner Steve Pollak. Jessica knew both of them personally. It was a high-profile and Summer of 2011 Jessica became a senior policy adviser to the FDA Commissioner. **** 252 important case, and Chief Judge Hogan has told me on numerous occasions that Jessica was terrific. Jessica assisted the judge with one opinion that was reversed in the DC Circuit, and then the DC Circuit decision was reversed by the Supreme Court 9-0. This is a district judge’s dream [laughter]: to have the circuit reversed unanimously by the Supreme Court in your case. Hogan could not have been happier. I think there are awards given to district judges who get those kind of rulings. [Laughter] As a result of the vitamins case, Jessica became interested in the health field. Jessica always said she would not do what I did; i.e. she wasn’t going to be a trial lawyer and she wasn’t going to be a lawyer in a private firm. She wanted to do something useful. [Laughter] She took a job in the office of the Chief Counsel at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She has held various positions at the FDA and now is associate director of regulatory policy for biologics. Jessica’s husband, Steve Tave, also works at the FDA, representing **** the agency in criminal cases. They have two girls. Samantha is 6 and Alyssa is 4. Their parents drop the girls at their schools on the way to work. Alyssa attends a Montessori school, and Samantha is in kindergarten at the neighborhood public school. Jessica works 8am to 3pm and picks up the girls after school. The US Government is much friendlier to working mothers than are private law firms. The Taves live in 253 Carderock Springs in Bethesda, ten minutes from our house. I see the grandchildren every weekend, and Judy sees them several times a week. We are the babysitters of choice; Judy is the caretaker when one of the girls is sick, there is a field trip, or their parents have to work late. The two girls are a big part of our lives. My younger daughter, Stephanie (1978) is 32. She went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was the co-captain of the varsity softball team. I guess all my years of coaching her teams as a child did not cause her much harm, although Stephanie claims she had to re-learn much of what I taught her. For several years, Stephanie worked for the Edison Electric Institute in DC. They paid her tuition to get a masters degree at night from the Johns Hopkins School of Communications. She subsequently moved to Boston to seek a job as a marketing director in an alternative energy firm. Stephanie said she wanted to be on “the right side.” [Laughter] While the electrical industry certainly is not like working for tobacco, I guess it is not quite “the right side” to this generation. The right side is solar and wind. Stephanie was unemployed for two months while seeking a position in Boston. Judy and I thought that she should get a new job before quitting the old one, but Stephanie was confident, and it paid off. She was hired by Emerging Energy Research (EER) based in Cambridge, where she ultimately became the Marketing Director. This year EER was bought by IHS, a public company, and she got the cash equivalent of a stock interest in EER even though she did not own any stock. She remains in her current position now as a part of a larger organization in a holding company structure. 254 Stephanie travels domestically and abroad to attend conferences, mostly on wind. To her surprise, Shea & Gardner merged with Goodwin Procter, and I am frequently in Boston. [Laughter] Stephanie thought she was escaping from her parents, but it didn’t work out all that well. [Laughter] We often have dinner together. Judy has a younger sister, Claudia, who is married to Dr. Daniel Esposito, and they have two children and two grandchildren. Dan is my personal physician. I have no brothers or sisters. As far as grandparents, there is one left, Judy’s mother, Frederica (Zapi), who is 91 and lives at Brighton Gardens, an assisted living facility in Chevy Chase. Judy visits her most weekdays. Our small family would fit into a large phone booth. Ms. Feigin: Your mother-in-law has an interesting history. Could you tell us about it briefly? Mr. Aldock: My mother-in-law, Frederica Robichek, is an interviewee of an unusually long oral history project. The interviews took place years ago and, since then, Judy has been editing them. It’s called “My Casablanca Story,” and is about to be published by us this year. My mother-in-law was an orphan and lived with her grandmother in Prague, Czechoslovakia but she spent most of her time as a teenager at her future husband’s house where she was part of his family. They married at age 19 in 1938. Almost immediately, my father-in-law, Walter Robichek, got a scholarship for foreign students to Harvard University. It was the same scholarship that Henry Kissinger and other Europeans received just as the war was beginning. My mother-in-law stayed in Prague to take care of my father- 255 in-law’s mother and got caught by the Nazis. Walter’s mother died in the Holocaust as did most of the rest of his family, but my mother-in-law eventually got out of Europe. My father-in-law had money in Switzerland, and she escaped in a manner that could be a novel today, including forged passports, “underground railroad”-type arrangements, long trips through Europe and Cuba until she eventually arrived in the United States and reunited with my father-in-law in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My father-in-law graduated from Harvard, served in the US Army, and took a job in the Treasury Department as an economist. He became concerned when the Joseph McCarthy era started, and Eastern European names like Robichek became suspect in the US Government. My father-in-law then accepted a job at the International Monetary Fund, where he remained his entire career. He rose to be Director of the Western Hemisphere, a very senior position. I believe he was and remains the only non-Hispanic to hold that position at the Fund. My father-in-law died in 2003 at the age of 84. By the way, the interviewer for the oral history was our friend, Pat Silbert, who is Earl Silbert’s wife. Ms. Feigin: I want to talk a little bit about some of your hobbies and interests. I know travel is one of them. Do you want to give us a sense of how you pick where to go and the extent of your travels? Mr. Aldock: Since the AIESEC trip I took during my sophomore year in college, I have become a travel addict. Judy and I spent our honeymoon in Greece and 256 Yugoslavia. That just worsened the addiction. [Laughter] Before the children were born, Judy and I vacationed out of the country every year, including threeweek trips to both Mexico and France. After the children were born, we took a few trips when they stayed with my mother and father. One was to Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. But at the point when Jessica was 10 and Stephanie 5, we started taking the children abroad every year until they graduated from college. Our travels included the UK, France, Thailand, Bali, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, and several times to Italy. When the girls were older, we took walking trips to Switzerland and Costa Rica and several Backroads walking trips in the United States. When they were young, the girls would take their cameras – Polaroids mostly in those days – and make a scrapbook. We found that, if children take a picture of something, they actually look at it. Otherwise, the odds are not good. We took a slightly different approach to trips when the children were young. We agreed to a beach-type stop between every two cities, so Bali was picked between Bangkok and Hong Kong. Bali was the hit of the trip although it was almost an afterthought at the time. We also limited ourselves to the number of and time spent in museums. When we were in Rome, we focused the children on Michelangelo, and searched for his work throughout the city: the sculptures, the Sistine Chapel, and his other works in Rome, including his great statue of Moses. We went to Florence but visited only one museum. [Laughter] So with the children our travels were different. In Paris we spent a lot of time pushing toy boats with a 257 stick in a fountain in a park. We took the children to a lot of plays, both here and in London, and they are very interested in theatre today. Since the children have moved out, Judy and I have focused on Asia. Our most recent trips have been to northern India, China, Tibet, Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand, and Australia. We are going to Egypt and Jordan in October and southern India in 2011. We usually travel with different friends on different trips. I’ve given thought to 2012, possibly Sicily, but we haven’t booked yet. I like to plan several years in advance. It’s part of my psyche; there always needs to be a trip on the horizon. Ms. Feigin: Are you the trip planner? Mr. Aldock: I’m the trip planner. Ms. Feigin: It sounded like it. [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: If there is no trip on the horizon, my equilibrium is off. [Laughter] Travel has been and remains an important part of our lives. We also skied with the children between Christmas and New Year’s almost every winter. We might resume again with the grandchildren when they are ready. We still ski, usually once a year with friends. We now go to the Caribbean, usually Turks and Caicos, with the grandchildren between Christmas and New Year’s. We stay at a Beaches resort that comes with Elmo, Grover, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, etc. [Laughter] This may be the year that the granddaughters figure out that the Sesame Street characters are not real, but maybe not. [Laughter] We have a New York City trip planned with the grandchildren, their parents, and Stephanie for a Mary Poppins 258 show, Eloise Tea at the Plaza, FAO Schwartz and American Girl stores, Central Park, etc. Ms. Feigin: I know art is important in your life. Would you tell us about your art collection? Mr. Aldock: Probably less a collection than a hobby. We tend to pick up something on most of our trips which has resulted in some semblance of a collection. At present, we have many Buddhas, indoors and outdoors, and a lot of Indian religious folk art. We also like abstract modern art. We have a number of pieces but mostly they are by one artist . Judy is a specialist. She finds an artist she loves and she can’t get enough. Ms. Feigin: Who is that? Mr. Aldock: We have a large collection of works by Sam Gilliam. Sam is a local artist and part of the 1960s Washington Color School. When Sam had his last show at the Corcoran, we had one piece in the catalogue. We have something from almost every period of Sam’s quite diverse career. We probably have ten Gilliams. If Judy had her way, we’d probably have twenty. [Laughter] Fortunately, we have run out of walls. [Laughter] One value in having a glass house is a limited amount of wall space. This is true with our house at Bethany Beach, Delaware, also a flat-roofed, glass house with limited wall space. We also are interested in craft art. We belong to the Renwick and go to the Smithsonian and Baltimore craft shows every year. We favor unique things made by artists. They hold the most interest for us. At the beach house, we have 259 a fair number of contemporary crafts made out of wood and glass as well as some ceramic and pottery pieces. We also support the Corcoran, Phillips, and Sackler galleries as well as the Textile Museum, and we go to the major shows at each of them. We are big movie and theatre fans. We go to the Studio Theatre regularly and, of course, at least two plays every year in London on the way to or from my annual business trip to Zurich. We see a movie nearly every other week, mostly independent films at the Landmark Theatre in Bethesda. We used to subscribe to the symphony, chamber music groups, and the Washington Opera, but we gave up the subscriptions when I had to cancel so many because of work. We likely will re-subscribe if my next career is less demanding. We attend jazz performances at the Kennedy Center and abroad. I listen to a lot of jazz at home. I still listen on occasion to the Beatles and 1950s and 1960s Rock-and-Roll but, by and large, the music is limited to jazz and opera. Ms. Feigin: And I gather, in addition to art, you have quite a wine cellar. Is that the case? Mr. Aldock: Growing up we had no wine at home. My father would drink a bourbon now and then, but my parents really weren’t drinkers. In college I started drinking wine and did some reading about it. In those days, I didn’t have much wine of any real quality because I couldn’t afford good wine. When we were first married, Judy and I were in France and ended up in Burgundy. We went to restaurants, and I 260 saw the names of all the great wines on the menus. Surprisingly, they were at prices I actually could afford. The dollar was pretty strong then, 4 or 5 francs to the dollar, so I started ordering wonderful wines that I never had tasted. There was no such thing as wine by the glass or half bottles of the top wines, and Judy doesn’t drink at all, so I had a bottle for lunch. [Laughter] I had a bottle for dinner. [Laughter] Each one was a great bottle of wine. [Laughter] We had to plan a second vacation in France to see what I had missed, since I was in a wineinduced fog during the entire first trip. [Laughter] When I got home I decided to start buying wine. I read that 1982 was the best Bordeaux vintage in recent history, but I didn’t realize they say that every year. [Laughter] It turned out that 1982 was a special year, so I bought Bordeaux futures. I still have some of those 1982 Bordeaux that I paid $20 for and now sell for $600 or more if they can be found. They’re not worth it. Now that they cost so much I feel badly drinking the wines with pizza, but somebody has to drink my old wine before it goes bad. [Laughter] Stephanie drinks a bit. Jessica doesn’t drink at all, but her husband, Steve, is interested in wine. These days, I buy less pricey wines from Italy, Spain, Austria, and New Zealand. As recreation, Judy and I also are into fine dining. It’s hard to cook for two people, so we eat out several days a week, mostly at ethnic restaurants but also at various fine restaurants that have opened in DC and Bethesda in recent years. Judy is the designated driver, so I can drink when we go out for dinner. Ms. Feigin: You could cook. 261 Mr. Aldock: I have no idea how to cook. I am absolutely hopeless. Like her mother, Judy is a very good cook and uses some of her mother’s recipes. Judy makes goose for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The grandchildren don’t eat much meat. At this point, their diets consist mostly of Cheerios, bagels, and pasta. My daughters don’t eat much meat either, but that’s fine with me. I eat most of the goose. [Laughter] I also drink most of the wine. [Laughter] Ms. Feigin: One other part of your private life that I wanted to cover here is your involvement with the Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Could you tell us a little bit about that? Mr. Aldock: We give a fair amount of money to charities but I always have thought that I ought to do something professionally beyond writing checks. Because it is a very good organization, I’ve stayed active with the Legal Clinic for the Homeless and have been on the Board for about twenty years. Shea & Gardner gave the Clinic free rent in the law firm for about ten years. At this point, I mostly fundraise. To my mind, it is one of the best legal services providers in the country on a problem, homelessness, that is important and that the DC government handles badly. Ms. Feigin: I know you have different plans for your legal career in a couple of years. Where do you see it going? Mr. Aldock: I’m not quite sure. Judy has made it clear that coming home for lunch is not part of the marriage deal. [Laughter] I never took up golf, so full-time recreation seems inconceivable. We could travel more, but there’s a limit as to how much. 262 Maybe I could take a position abroad for a while, but then we would miss the grandchildren. I will step down at the firm at the conclusion of the year when I turn 70, which is September 30, 2012. I can have an office for life and will keep it as long as I find that doing so is useful, but I need another career. I am not going to compete with my former partners and think that at some point I should give up the courtroom. Then the question is, what else is there? I am unlikely to teach. I think that my days of writing the great American novel are past. I would act as an arbitrator on interesting matters, but I’m not keen on being the mediator. If, however, the arbitrations don’t come with lunch in Paris or London, I’m probably not going to do them either. [Laughter] I also would have to break in on the international side, since all of my arbitration work to date has been domestic. I will continue to serve on the Board of the Swiss think tank that I have been involved with for thirty years, but that doesn’t take a lot of time. If the voters are wise enough to re-elect President Obama and there are dollar-a-year positions to do things that career people don’t want or aren’t situated to do like some impossible treaty negotiation, that would be attractive to me. I have thought about a consulting firm that would be made up of friends who have held prominent positions in various fields. We would be on retainer to kibitz on big problems and offer a second opinion and we would be very cheap. [Laughter] If I had my druthers, I would do philanthropy. I don’t have enough money but I could spend someone else’s wealth. I am sure that Bill Gates has a lot of 263 people to evaluate his projects, but there are smaller foundations that may want help in evaluating how to contribute their funds. That would be interesting. Eventually, I will need to find something but I have time to think about it. I can’t explore options fully until I am ready to accept a position that is offered, so I will get serious about looking sometime next year. I only can do so much reading, traveling, and recreating. I have escaped boredom my entire career and I need to continue to achieve that result after I give up my trial career in private practice. Ms. Feigin: Before we end, I would like to get your overarching view of the legal profession as to how people should go about it and what you have learned. Your philosophy of life as it were. Mr. Aldock: The one thing I learned from my father was that there is only so much common sense given out, and he maintained that it is granted equally to every human being at birth. My father predicted that my generation was going to have a real problem, because so many people now have received the benefit of higher education. Most such people will sound reasonable, but my father said that I should not be fooled, because the amount of common sense these highly educated people have and the amount of common sense our plumbers and roofers have likely is equal. As a result, it will be harder to figure out who’s got common sense and who doesn’t. Over the years, I have met lawyers, doctors, CEOs, Ph.Ds, and professors with no common sense whatsoever, and I have meet some 264 brilliant tradesmen. I share my father’s view that common sense and good judgment do not increase with education. Ms. Feigin: Do you think it can be acquired? Mr. Aldock: After a certain age, I think not. You can grow as a person until you are about thirty. Beyond that, if you don’t have any common sense or judgment, you probably never are going to acquire it. So I think it is useful to have that skepticism. It is good not to assume that the person who was first in his class at the Harvard business school and the CEO of a company always knows what he or she is talking about. I also have come to the view that career-planning is a lot of fun, but it’s of no real value because it’s just going to happen the way that it’s going to happen. Ms. Feigin: So all those alternatives we just went through? [Laughter] Mr. Aldock: I am confident that whatever I do won’t be one of those options we just have discussed. It will be something else. [Laughter] Careers are most often the result of a little bit of luck, although not entirely. I just have to keep my antennae up. Some people will walk past their three opportunities in life, and others will seize all three. Some go through life with their eyes open, and others with their eyes closed. I guess the philosophy I’ve lived by is that, if you are not afraid of change and are open to new challenges, you will have an interesting life. If you do everything you can to avoid boredom in your job, you will have an exciting and 265 interesting career in the end, and it will work out. But if you fall into a rut and resist change, you are going to be bored, and it will be downhill from there. Ms. Feigin A last thought on how to get the career that you want and sound advice for young lawyers. What do you think of the common law school wisdom that the path to follow is to get the judicial clerkship if you can? Mr. Aldock: I wouldn’t listen to law professors. Many have a narrow view of life at the bar. Most have done nothing except finish high in their law school class, clerk, and teach. Such a person is not best positioned to give advice except to a student who aspires to teach at a law school. If I were coming out of law school today and had the ability, I would try to get a Supreme Court clerkship. If I were considering a circuit clerkship and thought I might be interested in becoming a trial lawyer, I might take a district court clerkship. If I were uncertain that I was going to practice law or what kind of lawyer I wanted to be, I probably would find a star in the Executive Department of the US Government and attach myself to him or her. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, might be a good choice today. I would pick a mentor who is doing something new and interesting and who also is a nice person, and I would hang my hat there. I would treat this period of history like the New Deal. Many professionals got their jobs in the New Deal in government and moved to interesting careers, resulting, in part, on help from people they had met and impressed along the way. I think a legal education is a good skill, but private practice is not necessarily the career of choice that I would make today as a young lawyer. I’m 266 not sure that I necessarily would be a litigator. I don’t regret anything that I have done. I’ve had a wonderful career, but times are changing. Trials are disappearing. Private practice is getting harder, particularly at the entry level. Public issues today are more interesting. I would get into a new, changing field for which I had some passion. If I picked the wrong one, I would choose another. I would do that over a law clerkship today. I have, however, sold that proposition to no one. [Laughter] Ms. Feigin: Maybe someone reading or listening to this oral history will take that advice. Thank you so much for sharing it with us and for the whole overview of your career that you have given us. Mr. Aldock: Thank you. It has been a pleasure.