Jaylen Amaker '15, Political Science and Economics

March 18, 2024

Jaylen Amaker wears a navy blue pinstripe suit with a white shirt and gray tie and glasses and smiles.

Jaylen Amaker '15 is a judicial clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. Photo by Dabian Canales

Jaylen Amaker '15 was a fresh Bucknell graduate only a few hours into his first full-time job with the finance team at Ralph Lauren when his new boss put him on the spot in a meeting.

"She asked me what the current exchange rate was from U.S. dollars to pesos," he says. "I had to admit that I had no idea. She said, 'If you're going to be my finance guy, you need to know these things.' "

Amaker could've felt embarrassed or deflated. Instead, he felt inspired and energized. "I realized I was going to learn a lot from her," he says.

His ability to recognize the value of people who push him — and his willingness to rise to the challenge in response — has helped him forge a successful career path in which he's always eager to learn and grow.

The political science and economics double-major had always planned to go straight to law school after graduation. But an externship in 2013 with Don Shacknai '83, then-general counsel for the New York City Fire Department, made him consider an alternative path.

Shacknai and his colleagues suggested Amaker accumulate more work experience first. While not initially keen on delaying his legal aspirations, Amaker appreciated and accepted their collective wisdom. He ended up spending four years working in corporate finance for Ralph Lauren and Condé Nast before applying to law school.

In 2019, when he arrived at Notre Dame Law School, he saw the payoff of his delay. Not only did he understand how legal teams fit into the business world, but his time in a corporate environment helped him develop a more disciplined and mature work ethic that benefited him as a law student.

Taking the long road provided Amaker with another major benefit: the opportunity to curate his network. "That's a huge part of this experience: Building a network of brilliant, interesting and accomplished people I can learn from," he says.

Following his 2022 graduation, Amaker secured two federal clerkships, spending a year with the U.S. District Court in Louisville, Ky., before moving to New York City to clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In his role, Amaker works closely with the judges and discusses their judicial philosophies, drafts judicial opinions and legal memoranda, engages in statutory interpretation, and digs deep into the nitty-gritty of the legal process.

"The work has been phenomenal, challenging, enriching — everything I could hope for," he says.