Faculty Inspire Alum to Seek SCOTUS Clerkship

Laura Ruppalt
Laura Ruppalt

Laura Ruppalt, ’21, discovered that her background in electrical engineering prepared her for the logic and precision of legal studies. Her Scalia Law professors awakened an interest in the judicial system that has culminated in a Supreme Court clerkship.

Ruppalt enrolled in the Law School’s part-time JD program after earning a Ph.D. in engineering and spending about 10 years working at two research labs that support the United States Navy. Looking for a new challenge, she was attracted to the law because of the opportunity to make a more immediate and broader impact. “The part-time program was a great fit for me because I was able to continue with my research—and keep paying my mortgage—while going to school in the evening,” she explained.

At Scalia Law, Ruppalt found herself among a community of dedicated professors and talented classmates. “I wasn’t aware of many of the career options that would be available to me in the law, and my professors opened my eyes to several avenues,” she said. “They encouraged me to apply for a federal clerkship, and I ended up working for Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Third Circuit in Pittsburgh, who became both a mentor and an influential role model.”

Ruppalt’s clerkship led her to an important discovery: “I realized how much I enjoyed being on the side of the law versus on the side of one party,” she recalled. “I had planned to return to Washington after my clerkship but never dreamed that a Supreme Court clerkship was within reach.” Judge Hardiman thought otherwise, as did several of Ruppalt’s former professors, and they encouraged her to apply. Her efforts paid off. In July, she began working for Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Although the Court’s oral arguments begin in October, Ruppalt was immediately involved in reviewing briefs and cert petitions and in other behind-the-scenes activities. “I am tremendously grateful for my Scalia Law education and the opportunities it has provided me,” she said. “I really enjoyed law school, despite all the hard work, in large part because of the supportive professors and classmates.”

Ruppalt is one of two recent Scalia Law alumni at the Supreme Court. Daniel Shapiro, ’18, is also clerking during the 2022 Term for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.