“I want the intellectual challenge” was my go-to explanation for why I was planning to attend law school when the question was posed by people I didn’t care to explain the complexities of my career decisions to. But was that glib response true? My concerns were quelled by an unlikely source: Nino Scalia.
When a political science professor at my undergrad announced that Justice Scalia would be speaking at a nearby university I grabbed my LSAT study buddy and made sure we got on the list of approved attendees. Justice Scalia’s lecture (although I didn’t quite agree with many of his points) made the law seem exciting and vastly complex and, yes, to my great relief, legitimately intellectually challenging. My fears and anxieties about my upcoming 1L year hardly vanished, but I was reassured that following my fascination with the law was what I wanted to be doing.
The friend I attended the Scalia lecture with now goes to Georgetown Law, practically on the front steps of the Supreme Court building, but has yet to see another justice speak. I got my chance last week when Justice Stephen Breyer spoke for the inauguration of BU Law’s James N. Esdaile Lecture series.
Despite growing up in Philadelphia a stone throw away from the site of the Constitutional Convention -my high school even held senior prom at the Constitution Center- I can’t claim to have devoted much thought to what an incredible document the Constitution actually is and the herculean task of the Supreme Court to apply centuries old values and priorities to the ever-changing circumstances of our modern world. The division between constitutional and unconstitutional had seemed somewhat arbitrary, a flip of the coin based on the whims of a smattering of ancient politicians.
My opinion has begun to change as I delve into my Constitonal Law coursework however, and Justice Breyer’s discussion of his 2010 book ‘Making Our Democracy Work’ was thought provoking even further. The rule of law and the power of a single yellowed document is well worth studying.
Unrelated: I think it speaks highly for my credibility as a legal geek that I would count seeing all nine justices speak as a crowning achievement. Two down, seven to go! Attending nine lectures over the course of my legal education and career is probably more likely than the chance of attending the opera with avowed opera lovers Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, which would’ve been my number one dream as the juxtaposition of their disparate jurisprudences yet close personal friendship is highly fascinating to me.