Alumni Interrogatory: Kyle Hawkins ’09, Solicitor General of Texas
Were there any formative experiences at Minnesota Law that helped send you on your path (a class, a clinic, a professor, etc.)?
Yes, many, but I’ll pick two. First, Professor Kristin Hickman’s administrative law class opened my eyes to the power of the administrative state and its pervasive role in our daily lives. Second, serving on the Minnesota Law Review introduced me to legal scholarship on dozens of different topics and made me a better writer and clearer thinker.
Did it ever occur to you while you were roaming the corridors of Mondale Hall that you might one day be Texas solicitor general?
No way. I grew up in Minnesota and always assumed I’d wind up practicing law in Minneapolis. I fell in love with Texas when I moved here after law school to clerk on the 5th Circuit. The January weather sealed the deal.
You were a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. What was that experience like, and how does it inform what you do today as solicitor general?
Clerking for Justice Alito was a dream come true. By interacting with the justices every day, clerks come away with profound insight into how the Court works as an institution and how to advocate persuasively. As solicitor general, I practice in the Supreme Court regularly, and every day I draw from my experiences as a law clerk there.
Can you very briefly describe a typical day as Texas solicitor general?
I’m the chief appellate lawyer for the state, and I run a department with 18 lawyers. Much of my day is spent formulating strategy in ongoing and upcoming appeals. I also spend a lot of time editing briefs and preparing for oral arguments.
What might people find surprising about your work?
When I’m in court, the judges sometimes address me as “General Hawkins.” I thought that title was reserved for senior military leaders with armies and tanks, but apparently it also covers certain government lawyers.
What are a few interesting items that one might find decorating your desk or office?
I inherited from my predecessor a bobblehead collection of the lawyers named “Jurist of the Year” by the Texas Review of Law and Politics. I also have a framed photo of all my colleagues from volume 93 of the Minnesota Law Review. And I have a bunch of photos from my wedding.
Previous occupants of your office have gone on to the U.S. Senate and the federal appellate bench. Any thoughts about what you might do in the next stage of your career?
I have no idea what’s next, and hopefully I won’t have to figure that out for a few more years! I have the best job in Texas. When it’s eventually time to move on, I’m sure I’ll look for opportunities to keep practicing law in the areas that I love.
What advice would you give to a current Minnesota Law student trying to determine his/her own career path?
Find a mentor—ideally, a professor you really connect with. That mentor can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and long-term goals. And once you’ve got that figured out, your mentor can help you plot a course. It’s very difficult to do all that on your own without help.
Being solicitor general of Texas is no doubt a very stressful job. What do you do to maintain wellness and/or life balance?
This job definitely can be all-consuming. I try to maintain my physical health with regular trips to the gym. I try to maintain my mental health by having dinner with my wife every night, even if I have to hop back on the laptop after dinner. That helps me maintain my mental balance and keep things in perspective.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Minnesota Law community?
I always encourage students to enjoy law school to the fullest. Mondale Hall offers a special opportunity to learn something interesting every day and interact with some of the brightest minds in the country—both in the classroom and (perhaps more importantly) at the Town Hall Brewery. I really enjoyed my time at Minnesota and am grateful for the opportunities it prepared me for.