Third Interview – March 12, 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 James J. Sandman. The
interviewer is Paras N. Shah. The interview is taking place at Mr. Sandman’s office at 1200 First
Street N.E, Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2010, beginning at 9:08 in the morning. This is our
third interview session.
MR. SHAH: Jim, the last time we spoke we were talking about your law school days. I
was wondering if you could just discuss what it was like to go to law
school during Watergate.
MR. SANDMAN: It was great. Watergate was an education in the realities of many aspects
of constitutional law, particularly separation of power issues: the battles
over executive privilege, over the amenability of the executive to
subpoenas and criminal proceedings, things of that nature. Just every day,
it seemed it was some new issue in the paper. The drama of it is hard to
describe in retrospect. I remember being excited to get the Philadelphia
Inquirer every morning to open it up and see what new Watergate news
was in there. The proceedings before Judge Sirica here involving the
break-in and the unfolding of the Watergate conspiracy—it was out of a
spy novel or something. Just very difficult to capture now exactly how
frightening it was, really. And it took a while for the story to unfold. But
I remember vividly the summer of 1974 as the Supreme Court decided that
Nixon did have to turn over tapes that he had been resisting production of
and how his presidency just fell apart as it became clear that there was in
fact a smoking-gun tape.
And I was back in Philadelphia in early August of 1974 for Law
Review duties when Nixon resigned. A few of us watched his resignation
speech on TV. It was breath-taking. But it was so interesting to be a law
student at the time and to be reading the news reports of what was going
on in judicial proceedings with an understanding of them I never would
have had just a couple of years before. Fascinating time.
MR. SHAH: Was it something that was discussed in class or in the hallways with your
MR. SANDMAN: I took Constitutional Law in the spring semester of my first year, which
would have been the first part of 1974, and there was some discussion of it
in class, but not much. It wasn’t in the case books yet (laughter). It was
too current and the professor had a curriculum he needed to get through.
So he might use it to illustrate a point, but the particular kinds of
separation of powers issues that were coming up in Watergate were not
something that had a lot of precedent. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time on
it in class. Outside of class, absolutely. It was incredible politics as well
as interesting law. People talked about it all the time.
MR. SHAH: Did it change your views on the law?
MR. SANDMAN: I don’t think it changed them, but it sure showed the power of the law. It
was a great story about how the system works and how the judicial
process can play a very important role in disciplining inappropriate
conduct, even at the highest levels. And it was a story that had a number
of heroes—people in the legal profession and the judiciary who stuck to
their guns and did the right things. Archibald Cox, the Watergate
prosecutor, who was fired by Nixon because he wouldn’t back off on
subpoenaing materials. Elliott Richardson, the Attorney General, who
resigned rather than fire Cox. William Ruckelshaus, the Deputy Attorney
General who also resigned. Judge Sirica. There were some role models
there, you know, people who did the right thing. And the system
benefitted enormously because of it.
MR. SHAH: I want to turn now to things you did over the summers while in law
school. Can you just talk about the jobs that you had after your first year
and second year of law school?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. After my first year at Penn, I worked for the Vice-President for
Student Affairs at Boston College, which I had done the previous two
summers and during the school year when I had been in college. It was
very unusual at that time for law firms to hire—we didn’t call ourselves
“1Ls” then, that was a term that was reserved for Harvard, only Harvard
students called themselves “1Ls”—first year students as summer
associates. Job opportunities, at least paid job opportunities, in law for
first-year students were few and far between. I never even tried to get a
law job after my first year and there was nothing that my law school’s
career services office did to encourage people to try. Their focus was on
second-year students.
In the fall of my second year, I began to interview for summer
associate positions for the following year. And my ambition was to go
back to Boston. I loved Boston. I had loved being a student there. My
goal was to go back to Boston and be a lawyer. Not that many Boston
firms came to Penn to recruit at that time. There were a few. Ropes &
Gray did, as I recall. But there weren’t a handful. There might have been
two. So I had to do my own job search and I wrote to the big Boston firms
to see what kind of response I might get. I had advice from my brother,
who was, at that point, an associate at Goodwin Procter in Boston. And he
had been a summer associate at Ropes & Gray. So he knew something
about the local legal scene. And I think I got interviews with all of the big
Boston firms. But for the initial interview, I had to pay my own way. The
firms that paid my way were the couple that had come to Penn to recruit
and give me call-backs.
I interviewed with Ropes & Gray. I didn’t interview with
Goodwin Procter because I didn’t want to go to the firm where my brother
was. I interviewed with Ropes & Gray and Hale & Dorr and what was
then called Bingham Dana & Gould. I can’t remember if I interviewed
with Foley Hoag. I interviewed with Palmer & Dodge. Several other
firms. And my goal was to find a firm where I’d want to be an associate.
I wanted to go through this awful process only once. And my hope was
that I would get a summer associate position in a firm that I liked, that
they would like me, they’d ask me to come back, I’d want to go back, and
I would never have to be on the law firm recruiting game again.
I decided to go to Bingham Dana & Gould. I liked the firm very
much when I interviewed in significant part because of their hiring
partner, who, because I had come in just by letter rather than through the
on-campus process, was my point of contact and my liaison throughout the
interview process. I did the best I could to compare the firms and sought
advice from my brother—I can’t remember if there was anybody else that
I knew who was familiar with Boston firms—and thought that was going
to be the best place for me. And I went there and I hated it.
There were six summer associates there, which was not an
insignificant group for a Boston firm back then. And, I think with one
exception, all of us were pretty miserable there. Only one in the group
went back. There really wasn’t much organization to the summer
program. And I wasn’t looking to be wined and dined. That’s not what I
was interested in. But not only wasn’t there wining and dining, there
really just wasn’t much attention of any kind paid to us. I compared notes
during the course of that summer with my best friends from law school—
all of them were in Washington—and they all had these free lunch
programs where they could go out to lunch at firm expense at the best
restaurants in Washington with no limit every day. My firm not only
didn’t have any free lunch program, but it was a very unusual day if
anyone asked us to go out to lunch at our own expense. It was fine with
me not to have a free lunch program. But when you got asked out to lunch
by someone in the firm only every ten days or so, that was pretty off81
putting. Almost every day the summer associates had lunch by
themselves. We went out as a group or as many of us as were available to
go out to lunch.
I got almost no feedback on my work. And I learned a very
important lesson from that experience about the value of feedback and
what the consequences of not getting it are. I had never worked in a law
firm before. I’d never had a legal job before. I was a little insecure. I
didn’t know whether the work that I was doing was what the people I was
working for expected or not.
And I’ll never forget my first assignment. I was asked to prepare a
memo that identified everything that a lender in Massachusetts is required
to disclose to a borrower under any statute or regulation, state or federal.
That’s a terrible assignment. First, how do you know when you are done?
How do you know you’ve identified everything? And when you’ve
completed your research and done the best job you can, you are going to
come up with an exhaustive list. How do you present it in a way that’s
helpful? Because there are a lot of overlapping and sometimes duplicative
requirements, especially as between state and federal requirements. I
prepared a memo that was 32 pages, single-spaced. And I turned it in and
I heard nothing about it. And the partner who had given me the
assignment was the hiring partner, the person who had been responsible
for my deciding to go there. After I turned the memo in, I would
occasionally see him in the hall and say hello to him and he wouldn’t say
hello to me. He would not even respond. And of course I assumed that
my memo was trash and that I had badly disappointed him and he couldn’t
bring himself to tell me just how bad it was. On my last day at the firm,
he called me into his office for what was—I wouldn’t have been familiar
with the term at the time—an exit interview. And he asked me, “How did
the experience compare with what I led you to expect last fall?” Of course
I needed an offer, and I told him it was wonderful. And then he said “Oh
by the way, about that memo you did for me. It was exactly what the
client needed. I did find two typos in 32 pages, but, other than correcting
them, I sent it off unchanged to the client.” And I wanted to ring his neck
(laughter). I wanted to say, “Do you know what it would have meant to
me if you told me that eight weeks ago, rather than on my last day?”
It just was not a good experience. I didn’t have anything to
compare it to at the time, but, in retrospect, I realize that it was stuffy.
Everyone called the partners “Mr.”—there were no women partners—you
didn’t call partners by their first name. I didn’t know that that was not the
way it had to be in every law firm.
I thought the work was pretty interesting. The firm had some very
interesting clients. They represented The Boston Globe and what was then
called The First National Bank of Boston, which was the biggest bank in
Boston by far. So I didn’t have any dissatisfaction with the nature of the
work. It was nature of the workplace that I found so disappointing.
I also learned something else though in my conversations with my
friends who were working in Washington firms. They were having a great
time. It wasn’t just because of the free lunch programs. When they talked
to me about the kinds of things they were working on, they were matters
that in one way or another implicated public policy. They were the kinds
of matters that you could talk to a non-lawyer friend about—and your
friend would not only understand what you were talking about, but they’d
think it was interesting. Whereas often the matters that I was working on
were things that only another lawyer would find interesting. For me, if
only another lawyer had found it interesting, you might want to do a
reality check (laughter). You ask yourself if that’s how you really want to
spend your life. The things that people in Washington worked on were the
kinds of things you read about every day in the news pages of the
newspaper. Not the business section. And that was very attractive to me.
I was very intrigued by the nature of the practice. So, at the conclusion of
the summer, I did get an offer from Bingham, but had no interest in going
back. And that experience soured me, not only on the firm, but on Boston,
which was probably a little unfair.
I did realize something else during the course of that summer
though, which is that Boston is a very different city to live in as a working
person from what it’s like to go to school in. It’s an expensive city.
Commuting was a hassle. I had a beautiful view outside my office
window of the Boston Harbor, but, other than that, it was just not an
inspiring work environment generally in Boston, I found.
And the experience also shook my confidence in my ability to
derive useful information from the interview process. I thought I had been
very rational in the decision that I made. I thought I’d made a good
decision for myself, and I was wrong. And I wondered, “How am I going
to keep from making the same mistake again?” And I decided that, you
know, I’d look for very different kinds of information in the future, and I
would look to different sources of information. And one thing that
became important to me was what people who had worked at a firm, who
had real life experience there, had to say about it, and particularly friends
of mine. So I was very interested in hearing what my law school
colleagues had to say about the firms where they had spent summers and
whether they were going back to the firms they had spent the summer with
and, if so, why.
In the meantime, though, I decided I wanted to buy myself some
time. I realized that I was going to have to go through that horrible
interview process again if I wasn’t going to go back to Bingham Dana, and
I wasn’t looking forward to that.
When I got back to school in early August or late July of 1974,
there was a note on the Law Review bulletin board that Judge Max
Rosenn of the Third Circuit was interested in receiving applications from
students at Penn. There was no fixed schedule for judges to receive
applications from students at the time. Most judges, a lot of judges, hired
earlier than Judge Rosenn did. He did his interviewing a little bit later. So
a number of opportunities were already gone, if I wanted to get into the
clerkship market as of August. But he was still looking. And I knew of
someone who had clerked for him, a Penn student who was two years
ahead of me. I think he would have been clerking for Judge Rosenn at the
time and he had been the legal writing instructor of one of my best friends
in law school, Larry Stein. And Larry had heard from him that he was
having a wonderful experience clerking and was very, very high on Judge
So I sent a letter off with my resume. And I got a letter back
inviting me up to Wilkes-Barre, where Judge Rosenn was, for an
interview. And he gave me very explicit directions in his letter—which I
still have—about how to take the Martz bus, because I didn’t have a car at
the time, from downtown Philadelphia to Wilkes-Barre, and said in his
letter that, if I could arrive by noon on the day he wanted to see me, we
could have lunch together. I took the bus up to Wilkes-Barre and I’ll
never forget that day. It was a sunny day in mid-to-late-August. I don’t
think classes had started yet. We met first in the judge’s chambers. I
liked the judge’s secretary right away and had some time to chat her up
before I met with the judge, and then met with him in his office, and then
we went to lunch. We went to the Westmoreland Club, which is a
surprisingly nice club in downtown Wilkes-Barre. But it was about four
blocks or so from the judge’s chambers. The judge’s chambers, by the
way, were in the Post Office Building in Wilkes-Barre. There was one
district judge in the building at the time, and a court room, and the judge’s
As we walked the four blocks to lunch, I was struck by how Judge
Rosenn seemed to know every single person we passed. And not just men
wearing business suits, but anybody. And they all knew him. And I don’t
think we passed a person where he didn’t exchange at least a few words.
And what struck me was what the tenor of the conversation was, how he
talked to people, and how they talked to him. He was just very solicitous
and respectful of every person that he spoke to, so kindly in a way that
was very genuine and not at all patronizing or insincere; and people spoke
to him with great . . . “reverence” would be an overstatement—they
clearly felt comfortable talking to him, they weren’t intimidated by him—
but it was clear that they adored him. It was a very interesting thing to
see. And the sort of breadth of the population that he had that kind of
relationship with was something that I noticed right away.
At lunch we sat at a table at the back of the dining room. And the
judge sat with his back to the room, which I learned later was something
very deliberate that he did because so many people in Wilkes-Barre knew
him that, if he was seated at a very prominent place in a restaurant or a
dining room and facing out into the room, he’d just be interrupted
constantly with people coming over to say hello. And we were midway
through lunch when I realized that if this guy offered me a job, I couldn’t
take it fast enough. I just thought it would be a great experience to spend
a year with him. And it was also that he had come recommended by the
friend of a friend. And what I was seeing in him was consistent with what
I had been told about the other clerk’s experience. So I was hoping that he
might offer me a job on the spot. He did ask me at the end of the lunch if
he offered me the position, would I take it? And I said “Yes, I would.”
And I definitely meant that.
I went back to Philadelphia and maybe about a week later got a
letter offering me the clerkship with him. So that took the immediate
pressure off. I knew then what I was going to being doing for the year
after my graduation and knew that I didn’t have to worry about the job
market after that for another year. So I heaved a sigh of relief.
MR. SHAH: Was that lunch session your interview or was there a separate interview in
MR. SANDMAN: There was a separate interview in chambers. We did talk in his chambers
before. I can’t remember the substance or the difference. My general
recollection is that the in-chambers interview was more substantive and
the lunch was more of a getting-to-know-you thing. It said a lot about
him—that he wanted to know his clerks as people. And I was also just
blown away by the fact that he took me out to lunch. It’s very uncommon,
I think, for Circuit Judges to take law clerk applicants out to lunch. Some
of them have their clerks do that, at least the initial screening and
sometimes even the bulk of the interviewing and do a perfunctory
interview of an applicant. Some of them do telephone interviews. Some
of them do spend a significant amount of time in chambers doing
interviews but taking an applicant out to lunch—I never heard of that
before or since. And I also thought that that was a real plus in terms of
what it said about the nature of the relationship I might be able to have
with him if I got the clerkship. I was intrigued by the possibility of having
not just a working professional relationship where you showed up at the
same office every day, but one where he might be a mentor, somebody
that I could get to know on a personal level and learn as much as possible
MR. SHAH: You mentioned getting this clerkship took the pressure off. Can you talk
about the rest of your third year of law school and what it was like?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. I spent the vast majority of my time in my third year of law school
working on the Law Review, as I spent a lot of time working on the Law
Review in my second year. As you know, second-year students on Law
Review do their work editing pieces, student notes, and articles that are
going to be published. In my third year, I was Executive Editor of the
Law Review, which was a management position. And my responsibility
was managing the work of the second-year students—distributing
assignments, doing quality control, giving feedback, things of that nature.
It was the first management experience I ever had, and I liked it. That was
the role I wanted on the Law Review. I didn’t put myself in for
consideration to be Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. I didn’t think that
was where my strengths were. And I didn’t think I was the best person for
the job either.
There were two Executive Editor positions, one of which dealt
with managing the Associate Editors and the other dealt with the technical
aspects of production—dealing with the printer and things like that. I had
no interest in that. But you had to nominate yourself for editorial board of
the Law Review and indicate what positions you would be interested in
taking. And I was interested in being a Comment Editor or an Articles
Editor, but the job I really wanted was one of the two Executive Editor
slots. And that was the one that I got. And I loved the experience. I
loved everything about it. I loved my relationships with the rest of the
editorial board. They were a very cohesive group. We liked each other.
We had fun together. We worked really hard, but the time that we spent in
the Law Review office was enjoyable. There weren’t any politics or
competition or anything like that. The Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Bregstein,
was the first woman Editor-in-Chief of the Penn Law Review and was very
capable and led a good team. She knew how to manage people. And the
board prior to ours had been fractious and there had been some difficult
personal relationships in that group. She was determined not to replicate
that and was very successful in creating a very cohesive team.
I shared an office with Gail Granoff, who was a Comment Editor,
and we just had a lot of fun and sometimes had difficulty getting work
done because we enjoyed joking around together so much. It was a part of
legal education that in many ways wasn’t legal. Of course, I learned a lot
about the substance of the law from the various articles that I edited. One
of things that the Executive Editors, both of us, did, in addition to the
Editor-in-Chief, was we did the final edit on any piece to be published in
the Law Review after it had previously been edited by an Articles Editor
or a Comment Editor. So that was a huge part of the job. Actually, in
terms of time spent, that’s how I spent the bulk of my time on Law
Review in my third year. And every subject of every article was different
and, more often than not, I was dealing with an area of the law that I
hadn’t taken a course in and had to get familiar with it. So it was a
confidence-builder in mastering the unfamiliar and learning that I could
get on top of an area quickly if I needed to. It was also a real lesson in
how to edit, how to improve writing quickly, because the turnaround times
were often very short.
I did, of course, have a full case load, but didn’t have the same
time to devote to my course work in my third year as I did in my first and
second years. The best course I took in my third year was Federal Courts.
It was taught by Martha Field. I don’t know if I mentioned her in previous
sessions. She subsequently went on to Harvard. She had clerked for
Justice Fortas. I can’t recall whether she was clerking for him at the time
he resigned from the court. I think she clerked for him in 1967-68, which
would have been the year before he resigned. She was the best teacher I
had in law school. She did the best job of teaching how to think like a
lawyer. She had a very ordered mind, but a very creative mind. And she’s
somebody who in today’s world would do everything on Excel
spreadsheets. She had boxes for everything. She would categorize issues
and themes. And without being rigid about it. I mean, she was able to
present legal analysis in almost a geometric way that was very helpful in a
very complicated subject.
She also made extremely good use of the Socratic method with a
twist that she applied to it. For every discrete subject that we covered in
Federal Courts, she would designate what she called “experts”: a panel of
students, typically three or four, who would be responsible for having
studied the material in depth before the classes during which we discussed
the subject. And those were the only people she would call on
involuntarily on that particular subject. She was happy to have other
people participate if they wanted to, but this group, the group of experts,
were the only ones who had to worry about being called upon on any
particular day. And she just went through the class in order, up and down
the rows, designating the experts. So you knew when your time was
coming and, once you’d served on a panel of experts, you knew that you
were off the hook for some number of weeks before you’d be in the hot
seat again. It was effective because of the preparation that the students
who were designated as experts had to put in. It led to much more
efficient and productive discussions than had she called on people just at
random. Especially in light of the complexity of the material. And people
took their responsibility seriously. It wasn’t a small class, but it was a
self-selected group who were interested in Federal Courts and knew her
reputation as a very good, but demanding teacher. And that also helped
elevate the quality of the discussion and the effectiveness of her use of the
Socratic method, and I liked it. I thought it was fascinating. I contrast it
to what my reaction to Civil Procedure had been in my first year when I
just had no idea what was going on. In many ways, the subjects you cover
in Federal Courts are far more abstract than what you deal with in Civil
Procedure, but I found it much more relevant and personally interesting
than I did Civil Procedure. And a good part of that had to do with the
teaching instruction. It was very effective.
And then I took courses like Conflict of Laws. And I took, in my
second semester, Decedent’s Estates, taught by a professor named George
Haskins, who was of the old school. A tiny class. I think there might
have been ten students. And my friend Larry Stein was in that class. We
sat next to each other. And Larry was very, very smart and had had this
professor for Property in our first year and had gotten the highest grade in
the class. And Haskins loved Larry and thought that any answer that
Larry gave was the correct answer. And I remember one time Haskins
calling on me—you couldn’t avoid getting called on in a class of ten
people—and I wasn’t terribly well prepared. And after I gave my answer,
he turned to Larry Stein and he said, “Mr. Stein, could you please
straighten him out (laughter)?” Larry was trying to be gracious under the
circumstances, but it was pretty funny.
The editorial board of the Law Review changed in March of my
third year. And I was kind of at a loss after that because, you know,
suddenly I was just back being a full-time student again, which I hadn’t
been in some time. And it was disorienting. I didn’t like it, and I
wondered what I would have done in my second and third years of law
school if I hadn’t spent as much time as I did on the Law Review. I’m
sure I would have gotten involved in something else, but it left a big hole
in my time and I just wasn’t intrigued enough at that point by the subject
matter of the courses I was taking in my final semester to be able to put
much energy into it. My worst semester in law school was my last
semester of third year.
MR. SHAH: Do you have any memories of your law school graduation?
MR. SANDMAN: I do. Our law school graduation was in the courtyard of the law school. It
was a sunny day. I can’t remember who the speaker was, which is
embarrassing. It was bittersweet. It was great to meet everybody’s
families, to get a sense of where they come from, but it was the end of a
great experience. I’d formed a number of very close friendships with law
school classmates, and there were a number of other people that I wasn’t
close friends with, but I knew and liked a lot. Our class was a really,
really nice group of people—not competitive, you know, generally
collegial, enjoyed each other’s company—and it was nice to be
celebrating getting our law degrees, but sad to know that we were all
going to be going our separate ways.
People the night of graduation tended to have dinner with their
families, but there were many parties over several days. The graduation
was appropriate for Penn Law School. It was not a terribly formal
ceremony. The law school courtyard is not huge. It was relatively
intimate. We were all welcome to go to the big university graduation in
the stadium, but I don’t know many people who did that. It just had a very
nice feel to it. And I also recall thinking that it was nice for my family to
be able to see what law school had been for me because it was so counter
to the stereotype. I remember going to my brother’s graduation at Harvard
and seeing, you know, just huge numbers of people. It was a nice
graduation and they had a lunch or something as I recall, but it didn’t have
the intimacy that Penn did and I hadn’t picked up— my brother was
married in law school—I hadn’t picked up a sense that he had the same
quantity of relationships with his fellow students that I developed at Penn.
I did also—but I forgot to mention—I did work at a law firm for
four weeks between the end of classes in my third year and graduation. I
worked at Jones Day in Cleveland. In the fall of my third year, a partner
from Jones Day who had gone to Penn asked me if I would be interested
in being a summer associate there following my third year, before my
clerkship. And pre-clerkship summer positions, I don’t think were very
common then, but I was basically solicited to apply. I decided to follow95
up on it. I wouldn’t have gone looking for a job during that period, but
even after I made it clear that I would be available only for a few weeks—
four weeks maximum because I needed to take the bar review course that
summer—he said that would be okay. And I thought, well gee, here’s a
chance to make some money. And I actually was willing to consider
working at the law firm because of what I’d learned about my experience
in Boston. I thought, “You know, I’m going to keep an open mind and the
city doesn’t necessarily mean that much to me.” Jones Day had an
excellent reputation as a national firm. So I figured I’d give it a try.
I went out there to interview in the fall of 1975. And I had to
spend about two days interviewing for this job that was going to be four
weeks at most. They flew me out on a Thursday afternoon, first class—
first class from Philadelphia to Cleveland, a flight that’s about half an hour
(laughter), and I was met at the airport by the partner who had recruited
me. He took me on a driving tour of Cleveland with an emphasis on
Shaker Heights and, you know, the nice parts of town, and also put a lot of
emphasis on how cheap real estate there was. So, you know, he’d point
out some huge Tudor mansion and say, “and that costs $35,000,” or
something like that (laughter). I’m probably exaggerating. And we went
to some beautiful, kind of New England-looking town in a remote suburb,
and he was trying to dispel what he probably assumed was a negative
impression that I might have had about Cleveland. I had never been there
That evening, we went to a Cleveland Cavaliers game. We went to
dinner first, I think at the fancy eating club at the arena, and then went to
the Cavaliers game. The next day, I spent all day interviewing. A full
day. Friday evening he had a cocktail party at his house for me and then
we went out to dinner. Saturday morning they rented me a car and said,
“Just go wherever you’d like, do whatever you want to do, help yourself,
no agenda.” And then I was on a flight back to Philadelphia at noon or
1:00. I actually thought that this was just overkill, and it seemed it was
difficult for Jones Day to recruit to Cleveland at that point. Cleveland in
the 1970s—I think that was when the river used to catch fire (laughter)
because of the pollution. It was not the best of times for Cleveland. But it
seemed to me they were just so defensive. I mean, to be going to those
lengths for a summer associate candidate for a four-week position. And I
couldn’t say I was particularly flattered by it because I knew they were
doing that for everybody, you know, that was just their standard protocol.
But I was impressed with the people that I interviewed with and
with the firm’s clients and the nature of the work that people did. And so
when they offered me a job, I accepted it. I went there for four weeks
starting in early May of 1975. I shared an apartment with a second-year
student from Penn in downtown Cleveland. It was walking distance to the
office. And I really enjoyed my work there. The opposing firms on the
cases that I’d worked on were Covington & Burling and Cravath, and the
firm still had a significant business base in Cleveland, you know, a
number of Fortune 100 companies headquartered there that Jones Day
represented. It was high-quality work.
They had a summer program very different from the one I’d been
in in Boston. They did have a lunch program, and they had activities
every weekend, and events at partners’ houses. It was a little too far in the
other direction for me, again, because I thought it reflected a
defensiveness about Cleveland and a sense that they really needed to do
this. Those things weren’t going to make a difference for me and whether
I went to the firm or not, you know—what people’s spontaneous
relationships were like was much more important to me. But I did like it
and I considered going back there. But I really wouldn’t have known
many people in Cleveland. I wouldn’t have known anybody except the
people I had met during my four weeks there.
I do recall being struck by the way in which the firm was managed,
which is still true today. Jones Day is managed by what they called then a
“benevolent despot”—one partner. All decision-making authority is
vested in a single person. That person may consult with others, but has the
ultimate say, including in the selection of his successor.
My last day at the firm, I was ushered in to see the – I think they
call him the managing partner, I can’t remember the title, and it was like
being given an audience. He had an office with heavy draperies, floor-toceiling
draperies, and dark furniture. And it was an intimidating
experience. It was not a long meeting; it might have been ten minutes. I
got the impression that maybe this was just a ritual, that he had to meet
anybody that they might hire. I wasn’t sure of that, but it was very
interesting. I don’t know of another firm that’s run quite that way, but it
seems to have worked very successfully for them.
MR. SHAH: Did you happen to keep in touch with this partner who recruited you to
MR. SANDMAN: I did, into my clerkship, until I decided not to go there. I don’t recall that I
had any contact with him thereafter. I liked him though. He was
somebody who, you know, kind of laid it on pretty heavily in terms of
recruiting. He did take a personal interest. He would stop by my office to
see how I was doing, you know. He followed through in a way the hiring
partner at Bingham had not.
MR. SHAH: At this stage, were you pretty sure you’d do private practice after your
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. I didn’t know what else I’d do. All of the opportunities that were
readily available were in private practice. I really would have had to come
up with something independently if I were not to go into private practice
and I didn’t have a lot of ideas about how I might go about that. It was the
path of least resistance. It was what everybody else was doing. There’s
really kind of a herd-mentality in law school—of course you are going to
go to a law firm and you’re going to go to a big law firm and you’re going
to go to the biggest name law firm you can. That seemed to be the
expectation. I didn’t buy into that. I had interviewed, you know, into the
fall of my second year in law school with a number of big New York firms
because I wasn’t sure I could get a job in Boston. Boston seemed to be
very Harvard-centric and I didn’t know how open they would be to
somebody from Penn. So I interviewed and got offers from Cravath and
Davis Polk and a number of other New York firms. And a number of my
friends were surprised that I went to a Boston firm they’d never heard of
over the big-name New York firms. That just didn’t mean much to me. I
was interested in going to a place where I thought I’d just like it and be
comfortable and fit in.
MR. SHAH: And, just to finish up with Penn, can you talk about your involvement with
the law school after graduation?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. I got a very nice letter from the Dean, I recall, I think in the fall after
I graduated. The Dean at the time was Lewis Pollak, who went on to
become, and still is, a federal district judge in the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania. He previously had been Dean of the Yale Law School.
Very distinguished career. A wonderful guy. And he sent me a letter even
though I hadn’t known him well. I think he became Dean at the beginning
of my third year. I didn’t have a personal relationship with him. But he
sent me a letter—which I’m sure was kind of a form letter—but it was
thanking me for my contributions to the law school while I had been a
student. I don’t know whether it was my Law Review experience or what
that gotten me on the list to get a letter like this, but I thought that was
very thoughtful. Whether the idea for such a letter came from him or
somebody suggested it to him, I thought, you know, somebody thought
about telling a student who just graduated that they might have contributed
something to the law school. That meant a lot to me.
I didn’t have any formal involvement with the law school
thereafter until the late 1980s when I was asked to join the board of the
Law Alumni Association, which is basically just kind of a booster group.
It doesn’t have any official role, but they would convene a couple times a
year in Philadelphia. It was a way to get back there and maintain ties and
develop some connections. I did go back to the law school regularly to
recruit for Arnold & Porter after I joined the firm. It’s a wonderful thing
to be able to go back to the law school you went to and the city where you
used to live as a student on somebody else’s money. I enjoyed that a lot
and that, in many ways, was part of the most important means for my
keeping in touch with law school for some years thereafter. I physically
visited the campus and I’d usually interview for two days, so, you know, I
would meet forty students. That was a good way of keeping in touch.
And then in the 1990s, after I became managing partner of Arnold &
Porter, I was asked to join the Board of Overseers by the then-Dean of our
law school, Colin Giver—he’s now President of Reed College in
Oregon—and that really solidified my relationship with the law school. I
was on the Board of Overseers for nine years until I was term limited.
And it was a very interesting experience. The Board of Overseers at Penn
doesn’t have any governance authority over the law school. The
governance authority is exercised by the Trustees of the University of
Pennsylvania. It’s strictly an advisory group advising the Dean. But the
two Deans that I worked with as a member of the Board of Overseers,
Colin Giver and currently Mike Fitz, really made heavy use of the Board
of Overseers and sought their counsel and never made anybody feel like
they were just window dressing. And one measure of their success is the
attendance of members at meetings of the Board. This is a group of very
prominent people, some of whom are phenomenally wealthy, and, if they
thought that they were just being used as window dressing, they would not
spend their time coming to these meetings. And they come to the
meetings. And they come prepared. And they participate. They are really
engaged and one of the reasons is they know that the Dean is listening to
them and paying attention to them and they can see that their input affects
Many of the members of the Board of Overseers are not practicing
lawyers. Very few practicing lawyers get really, really rich practicing law.
The alumni of a law school like Penn who have the most money tend to be
people who have gone into business. And I always thought it was
fascinating that people whose current professional lives are not connected
to the practice of law felt such loyalty to their law school and wanted to
participate in the law school and had views on legal education and, you
know, whatever the issue of the day might be that the Dean would bring
before the Board of Overseers. So the board would meet three times a
year: twice at the law school and once in New York at the Penn Club.
And it was a very good group of people—thoughtful, smart people from a
number of different perspectives. Not everybody is a rich businessperson.
I don’t want to give that impression. There are public interest people,
judges, and practicing lawyers as well. But I mention the rich
businesspeople only because they provide an illustration of the depth of
engagement that this group of people playing no formal governance role
felt in their law school. And it allowed me to establish personal
relationships with the Deans, particularly with Mike Fitz. I consider Mike
a friend. There are similarities between being a managing partner of a law
firm and being a law school dean, and he and I used to talk about that.
He’s a person of exceptional character and personally illustrates what I
regard as the best of the law school even though he is not a graduate of the
law school.
I’m currently on the Executive Committee of the Capital
Campaign that the law school is running to raise $175 million. That’s my
only formal involvement with the law school right now, and that typically
involves a conference call of an hour-and-a-half or hour every three
months. But it is interesting that my involvement with the law school,
especially through the Board of Overseers, really strengthened my
relationship with the law school. I feel very connected to the law school
that I graduated from thirty-four years ago in a way that I don’t feel
connected to my college. You know, for many years I felt much more
connected to my college than to my law school. My rule used to be that I
gave twice every year to Boston College what I gave to Penn Law School.
And some years ago I flipped that. And that was a reflection of how my
relationship with each institution evolved over time. My relationship with
my college over time became something historical. It was a past thing.
Whereas my relationship with the law school was current and
strengthening. It had to do with personal connections. I knew the Dean.
The Dean knew me. When Mike Fitz comes to Washington to this day, he
still comes to see me, you know, he’ll come to see me at the D.C. Public
Schools, and I’m very flattered by that. And it’s sort of a lesson in alumni
relations. And I’ve talked to people at Boston College in their
Development Office about it—that, particularly if you live at some
distance from a place that you graduated from, over time your connection
to the school is going to have to depend on personal relationships. And
especially if you are not located in a place where there is a core group of
very active alumni or you don’t have a lot of classmates that you share that
connection with, the school needs to work at developing personal
relationships with people and maintaining them. And I’ve had that
experience with Penn. I haven’t had it with Boston College.
But I’m interested in legal education. I was asked to apply to be
Dean at Washington & Lee Law School about ten years ago and was
interviewed for the job. I was an unconventional candidate as a law firm
managing partner with no academic experience and not having published a
body of scholarship. But a number of law schools see the connection
between the skill set of a managing partner and the skill set of a dean, and
they were interested in talking to me. I didn’t get the job (laughter). If I
had, I seriously would have considered taking it.