Profile with Ruth Anne French-Hodson
Ruth Anne French-Hodson (Kansas & Merton 2005) is currently a law clerk in the US District Court, District of Massachusetts. Next year, she will be clerking at the appellate level in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. She holds a JD from Yale Law School, a DPhil in Politics and an MPhil in Comparative Government from Oxford University, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Kansas.
Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in New York?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: The most recent thing I did was go to MOMA with my son. We had a really great time. I have not done as much touristy stuff, partly because I have a lot of friends there, but this time I actually just went to go to a museum and hang out all day. We had a terrific time.
The Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever held?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: The first job I ever held was probably a dish washer in a little diner in my hometown. I was probably thirteen. When I was little, I always worked on the farm, but that was the first job I had where I wasn’t working for my family just doing chores around the farm.
The Rhodes Project: What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: I just finished Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I loved it. I read that one and the first book in the series as well.
The Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you aspire to be later in life?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an author so badly. My mom would always staple together pieces of paper. I would illustrate my books, I would write. I may not be quite that creative, but I have a real love for books and literature. My dad was an adjunct literature professor, so I think my love of writing probably comes from him. I wrote a book when I was young, and I mailed it to Quentin Blake, the illustrator of the Roald Dahl books to see if he would illustrate my book for me. He wrote me a very nice letter back about how his agent would probably be unhappy if he took on another job.
I’m now a lawyer, and I always thought there was no way I wanted to be a lawyer. The people are too argumentative, too much into conflict. It wasn’t until I got to college and took a class in Constitutional Law and just loved the subject and the inherent conflict it brings up in theoretical debates, but it was definitely not something I thought I would do early on.
The Rhodes Project: What would you say is the best part of your job now?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: I work for a judge as a law clerk. It’s wonderful to work with someone who has been a judge for thirty years and see how he goes about looking at these questions, the insight he has about the law. And the freedom to be the first one to take a crack at novel, legal issues has been really amazing and has given me a lot of confidence in my abilities as well.
The Rhodes Project: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: Maybe it’s because I come from a more scholarly background, but I like to see the nuances. Now, it’s, ‘we need an answer!’ And we need to come up with it fairly quickly. I work at the trial level, so we don’t always explore the intricacies that you would at the appellate level. So doing things quickly, trusting what your gut reactions are, and learning to develop those kinds of skills as well, has been something very new for me.
The Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting law school?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: Take initiative for your education and for your learning. The whole system is designed to help and guide students, and professors are there as your resource. And usually, you’re paying a lot for it. Even if you’re at a state school, you are paying a decent amount. Take advantage of office hours, do the reading, and get into the questions because a lot of them are really interesting. Even being one year out, you don’t have that same opportunity to sit down and discuss the issues at hand with other engaged peers and professors. Take advantage of what you have instead of just sliding through. Taking that initiative helps you then take hold of what you’re going to do next.
The Rhodes Project: If you could meet one female historical figure, who would it be and why?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: I think probably Frida Kahlo. Not necessarily in my line of work, but she is someone who I think is an incredible artist and also always pushing norms and ideas. I’m not always that bold, but to have someone who can be so influential, I think that is the inspiration for me.
The Rhodes Project: What do you do to relax?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: I’ve started doing a lot more yoga over the past couple years. In part because it’s something I can do at my house, but it is something good for my body and also helps me clear my mind. I try to do some reading, to take a little time every day to read, because I didn’t have the chance to do read for fun when I was in grad school and law school.
The Rhodes Project: What brings you the most joy in life?
Ruth Anne French-Hodson: Probably my son. I can say that because I still have the joy of a fulfilling job in my life. I think the yin and yang of a wonderful child and also having my own fulfillment somewhere else as well.
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