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UC Law hooding spotlight: Annie McClellan

This mathematician-turned-lawyer is taking her award-winning talents from the classroom to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Talk about a life-changing semester. Over spring break last year, 3L Annie McClellan’s second child was born. One week later, she was back in the classroom at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Three weeks after that, she and her husband packed up the baby and traveled southwest to compete in the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s National Trial Competition.

Now, weeks from graduation from Cincinnati Law, McClellan is gearing up for life as a full-time attorney and Bearcat alum.

From math to law

McClellan originally planned to become a statistician and studied math at Xavier University in Cincinnati. During her first week of undergrad, her professor mentioned that at least one math major typically takes the LSAT each year. Intrigued, McClellan started thinking about her options and decided law school would be her next step.

As a mathematician, you have to write proofs using theorems that must be in the perfect order to move to the next step. This is basically what you’re doing in law school, but law is much more gray than math. Your argument doesn’t have to be perfect. You have to be logical enough to convince a judge or a jury that your perspective should win.

Annie McClellan, 3L

Transferring from math to law was not a challenge for McClellan, in fact she believes that her math background gives her an edge in the courtroom. “As a mathematician,” she explains, “you have to write proofs using theorems that must be in the perfect order to move to the next step. This is basically what you’re doing in law school, but law is much more gray than math. Your argument doesn’t have to be perfect. You have to be logical enough to convince a judge or a jury that your perspective should win.”

Applying the classroom to the courtroom

Annie McClellan headshot.

Annie McClellan, 3L

As a summer associate at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, McClellan was exposed to all of the different groups at the firm. Known as Taft, the firm specializes in a myriad of legal practices relating to transactional law, employment and labor relations, litigation, and real estate.

Beginning in 2020, McClellan will be working for the firm full-time in their litigation group. She says her experience at Taft has taught her so much about the legal field since she started three years ago. “Taft complemented what I was learning at Cincinnati Law,” she said. “I could see how the curriculum from my courses applied in the real world.”

Until McClellan joins the firm next year, however, she will have the rare opportunity to work for a United States Circuit Court judge.

A year with the Judge

While working at Taft during her first summer, McClellan met the Honorable Judge John B. Nalbandian when he was an attorney at the firm. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed by President Donald J. Trump on May 17, 2018, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Once he was appointed, Judge Nalbandian began looking for clerks to join his team and remembered McClellan from Taft. Following graduation this spring from Cincinnati Law, McClellan will begin a clerkship with him for the next year.

McClellan’s responsibilities will mostly include prepping heavily before cases with the Judge. She will write bench memos, attend and prep questions for oral arguments, perform research, assist the judge with determining the outcome of the trial, or contribute her writing skills where needed.

Students in Texas courtroom.

Annie McClellan (center) at the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s National Trial Competition.

Thinking on her toes

While her accomplishments outside of the classroom are exceptional, McClellan made sure she had time for law school extracurriculars. As the executive director of Moot Court, McClellan and several teammates traveled to Washington, D.C. in February for the 25th Annual National Telecommunications and Technology Moot Court Competition to compete against 11 other teams from across the country. While there, she won the award for Best Oralist.

McClellan family portrait.

McClellan (top left), husband John (top right), son Jack (bottom left), and daughter Cecilia (bottom right).

Oral arguments are among many in McClellan’s skill set, but she explains that they may be her favorite. “Sometimes I’ll find myself standing on my toes and leaning forward while delivering an oral argument,” she said. “One of the reasons I think I’ve done well is because of my Myers-Briggs personality type: ENFJ (extraversion, intuition, feeling, judgment). I’m focused on bringing harmony into the room, and I can zone in on each judge on the panel and connect with them as needed.”

While there have been many that have helped her along the way, McClellan credits professors Solimine, Moore, and Bryant for making her time at Cincinnati Law memorable. She’s grateful that the university is located in a city where “the college is so well recognized and has helped set the stage for me to come in and prove that I have been taught how to become a phenomenal lawyer.”