U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spends day at Wake Forest Law

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says he likes hanging out with law students because he invariably returns to the high court thinking about things in a different way.

“I love the questions from students,” he said. “For me, I come away invigorated.”

Thomas visited Wake Forest University School of Law on March 6, meeting with students, faculty and alumni throughout the day, even visiting a class and lecturing on professional responsibility. The highlight of his visit was a “Conversation With …” where he was interviewed by Marc Rigsby (’12) in front of a 350-plus audience in the Worrell Professional Center.

During the talk, Thomas told the students that his favorite law school experience was graduation, which drew an appreciative laugh. “Law school was a mystery to me except for the code courses like bankruptcy and tax law,” he explained. “Law school had its challenges, but in the end it was good for me to be there.”

He talked about growing up in Savannah, Ga., his grandfather’s influence and why he chose to enter the law after leaving the seminary. “My grandfather was a hard man,” Thomas explained. “His motto was, ‘Do what I do,’ and he was consistent. That’s a hard thing to do.”

After being on the Supreme Court bench for two decades, Thomas said it’s a wonderful place to work. “All the people are really nice,” he said. “I wish I could take each one of you in and show you how the place really is instead of what you are being told.”

Justice Thomas accepted an invitation from Dean Blake Morant to visit the law school when a group of Wake Forest law alumni were inducted into the U.S. Supreme Court Bar in spring 2011.

Kelly Amell (’12) said having Justice Thomas visit the law school was an unbelievable experience, and that he offered some sound advice for students facing a tough job market.

“It was very inspiring and we are really honored to have him here today,” she said. “A lot of the things he said hit home with third-year law students. He didn’t have a job when he graduated and he took a chance on the one he was offered.”

Anthony Keys (’14) said he was surprised at Justice Thomas’s sense of humor. “My perception of him was very different,” he said. “I thought he was very stern and serious. I liked what he said about being positive and that it’s always easier to be negative. I thought that was a very important take away.”