Matthew F. Kuhn
Things have a way of coming full circle for Matthew F. Kuhn ’11. Following his first year at Columbia Law School, he worked for the Senate judiciary Committee under its Ranking Member, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. It was the summer of the confirmation hearings for Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court, and Kuhn was on hand to witness history in the making. Two years later, as one of this year’s four finalists in the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition, Kuhn will present his case before Sotomayor as the counsel for the petitioner.
Last year, the South Carolina native advanced to the semifinals in the annual competition. “Appellate advocacy is something you learn by doing,” says Kuhn of his reasons for participating again, adding that he takes advantage of other experiential learning opportunities at the Law School. Through the Mediation Clinic, for example, Kuhn works directly with clients to mediate community disputes and small claims cases. By facilitating communication, he aims to empower both parties in every matter to reach a resolution that can be considered a win-win situation. “It is incredibly rewarding work,” says Kuhn. “Afterwards, the parties often come up to me and say: ‘Thank you. We wouldn’t have arrived at this settlement without you.’”
In terms of classroom experience, Kuhn cites Professor Nathaniel Persily’s Redistricting and Gerrymandering course as a highlight. And as new congressional districts are drawn based on the 2010 Census, Kuhn will be able to say he not only learned about the law and politics behind the process—he may also have influenced the lines that are drawn. “It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have at any other law school,” he says. In the class, Persily asked students to draft redistricting plans using cutting-edge software and a decidedly nonpartisan approach. In addition to posting the material online as a resource, Kuhn and his classmates attended a conference in Washington, D.C., where they ran simulations and provided training for the legislators who draw the congressional districts for their states.
Kuhn earned his B.A. from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where he majored in economics and political science. After graduating from Columbia Law School this May, he will move to Washington, D.C., where he has accepted an associate position with Jones Day.