John Henry Thompson, ’18, Earns Bristow Fellowship

John Henry Thompson
John Henry Thompson

John Henry Thompson, ’18, who was known as a brilliant student during his time at the Law School, has been selected as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General in the US Department of Justice. Thompson will begin the one-year fellowship this summer after completing a clerkship for Judge Thomas B. Griffith on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

“We are extraordinarily proud of John Henry,” said Dean Thomas J. Miles, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics. “He will be an outstanding Bristow Fellow, undoubtedly bringing to bear the intellectual talent we saw during his time at the Law School. This is a well-deserved accomplishment.”

Thompson, who clerked for Judge Diane S. Sykes on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit immediately after graduation, said he was looking forward to seeing the appellate courts from another angle and to “working with a team of the nation’s top appellate lawyers.”

“I'll be fascinated to learn more about what practice is like before the Supreme Court and the lower courts of appeals, especially having clerked in two of those courts this year and last year,” Thompson said. “It has been great to see [the process] from the judges’ side … But now it will be exciting to take an advocacy role and see that up close.”

Lior Strahilevitz, the Sidley Austin Professor of Law and one of Thompson’s recommenders, said Thompson was well-suited to the Bristow Fellowship.

“John Henry is a consummate professional. He’s inquisitive, fair-minded, principled, kind, and extremely bright,” Strahilevitz said. “One of his favorite aspects of the Law School was the great intellectual diversity in our student body. He developed strong friendships with classmates who thought about the world differently than he did, and he’s often reminded me how important it is for the Law School to facilitate those kinds of connections. John Henry has all the intellectual tools to thrive in the solicitor general’s office, but beyond that he has the temperament to make the most out of his year among some of the country’s finest lawyers.”

Bristow Fellows help draft briefs in opposition to certiorari filed against the government in the US Supreme Court, and they prepare recommendations for the solicitor general—an office currently occupied by Noel Francisco, ’96—regarding government appeals in the lower courts. They also assist staff lawyers in preparing petitions for certiorari and briefs on the merits in Supreme Court cases, work on special projects, and assist the solicitor general and other lawyers in the office in preparing oral arguments in the Supreme Court.

Thompson, who graduated with highest honors and was a member of both the Federalist Society and the University of Chicago Law Review, said he remembers the Law School as a place where “people who disagree in some fundamental ways can exchange ideas civilly and honestly with one another.”

That culture, he added, played an important part in preparing him for his clerkships.

“It frees you up to get to the heart of the matter when confronted with complex legal questions, to feel confident seeing outside the box, and to feel confident in coming to your co-clerks … and saying, ‘Here's how I'm thinking about this legal problem—am I off-base or do I have something here?’” he said.  “Those instincts of seeking advice and not holding back are really valuable.”    

Thompson said he was grateful for the support and guidance the Law School’s Office of Career Services and members of the faculty offered as he pursued clerkships and the Bristow Fellowship.

“I am incredibly honored and blown away by the support that the Law School community has shown me through writing letters [of recommendation] and in urging me to apply,” he said.

Thompson said he was thrilled to receive the fellowship offer—though spotty cellular service created a, well, memorable start to the call.

“I was on the Metro train here in DC and was struggling to hear because I was coming in and out of reception,” Thompson said. “I heard ‘solicitor general’ and I heard ‘Bristow’ but I had no idea whether it was good news until we came to a station. It was kind of a dramatic moment, but I was very excited to receive the news.”

Thompson is one of several recent Law School alumni to earn a prestigious Bristow Fellowship, following Eric Tung, ’10; Evan Rose, ’13; Joseph Schroeder, ’15; and Maggie Upshaw, ’16.

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