Jon Vaitl knows the value of hard work — but that sometimes luck isn’t such a bad thing, either. The third-year law student at Dickinson Law has secured a coveted federal clerkship with Judge John E. Jones III ’80, Middle District of Pennsylvania, a position for which Vaitl neither applied nor interviewed. That’s the luck part. The hard work came in months before this offer when Vaitl was an intern with Judge Jones. After remembering how diligent and dedicated Vaitl was during his internship last year, Judge Jones asked him to fill a two-year clerkship vacancy.
Vaitl, who hails from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and is engaged to be married, will begin the clerkship in August after he takes the Pennsylvania bar exam.
In discussing his upcoming clerkship, Vaitl acknowledged how unconventional the job offer has been. “I had been interning with Judge Jones through Dickinson Law’s federal judicial internship program last spring and fall,” he said. “In fact, I had another job lined up for last summer with a firm in Lancaster, but things happened and they couldn’t hire someone, so I started networking. I went back to Judge Jones and his career clerk. I talked to Judge Jones about what he could do to possibly help me find a job.”
The irony is that the candidate whom Judge Jones initially offered the clerkship to withdrew, and so when Vaitl called the judge’s chambers to seek guidance on his employment quandary, Judge Jones and his career clerk remembered how well he performed during his internship. “They knew my work, they knew that I knew the office, that I fit really well. They offered it to me on the spot,” Vaitl said.
During his internship, Vaitl spent a lot of time researching and writing about civil matters but now will have the opportunity to dive into criminal work, as well. “As an intern, I only worked on civil matters, so I spent most of my time researching and drafting orders for the judge to sign,” he said. “As a true clerk, I will be helping Judge Jones with criminal matters and all sorts of things, so I am taking a class now to help me get up to speed on some of that.”
Vaitl is well aware of how competitive the job market is for lawyers upon graduation — and on top of that — the business of rankings. “I’m sort of in this bubble range where I’m competitive for a lot of jobs, but so is everybody else. It’s a tough place to be, when you’re coming out of law school and you know that you’re competitive, but you’re competitive with thousands of other people who are also competitive,” he said. “I’m really excited about this opportunity because not only does it give me additional cache on my résumé, but also that extra knowledge. I can go to a firm and say, ‘I spent two years working with federal rules and motions. I know this stuff now.’ That’s something that somebody who’s coming fresh out of law school isn’t going to know. It gives me a big leg up in my career.”
He credits Dickinson Law, the professors and his internship opportunity with paving the way to this incredible job offer, as well as a few of his professors that had faith in him when he wasn’t so sure he had it himself.
“The craziest part of this story is that I almost didn’t apply to the internship program at all, and without that, I never would have this job. Thankfully, my professors, in particular Professor Marion and Professor Conner, encouraged me to apply. Professor Marion was my legal writing professor, and Professor Conner was managing the internship program,” Vaitl said.
“My internship itself was entirely worth it, and the fact that it led to a job is even better,” Vaitl said. “I experienced first-hand the value of hard work and the benefits of Dickinson Law's strong alumni network.”