Driving into Boston on I-90 on the morning of Wednesday, January 29th, I spotted the familiar Boston skyline that I had missed so much over the fall semester; it was wonderful to be back in the Boston that I knew and loved. However, this was no ordinary visit to the Hub.
Instead, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a Princeternship with Professor James Fleming *88 at the Boston University Law School. Ever since I took U.S. Government in high school I knew I had an interest in Law and Government (in addition to Economics, Computer Science, and Physics!), but I did not have the opportunity to explore these disciplines at Princeton yet, and was curious about what law school might have to offer. Luckily, this Princeternship presented itself as the perfect opportunity to discover a few answers to my questions.
Entering Professor’s Fleming’s office at 9:00 am sharp, I was immediately greeted by him and my two fellow Princeterns, Josh Roberts and Durva Trivedi. We began with introductions, and Professor Fleming told us a little about his background. He graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri, and received his Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton, and his J.D. from Harvard. After working for a couple of years as a corporate lawyer, he became a law professor at Fordham University, and joined the B.U. Law School in 2007. His specialties are Constitutional Law and Theory.
He is currently the Associate Dean of Intellectual Life at the Law School, which means he is responsible for fostering the intellectual community at the school. To accomplish this, he organizes a number of events, among other projects, which bring law professors from within the University and from other institutions together to discuss trending legal issues.
Interestingly, one of the first things that I noticed about his office, aside from his gigantic bookshelf, was how purple it was; a deep, merry purple. There was a purple stool, purple mugs and purple pens. Purple shirts were on hangers and behind his door he even had a rack of purple ties. The professor himself was wearing a purple sweater. It turns out that purple is his favorite color, and every year a few students give him new purple items to add to his collection! I wonder what color I would choose if I become a professor, hmm.
Later that morning, we joined Professor Fleming for one of his periodic meetings with the dean of the law school, Maureen O’Rourke. Professor Fleming shared some ideas for the upcoming conference on the Constitutional War Powers that he is organizing, and then we all chatted with Dean O’Rourke about law school in general as well as our own personal college experiences.
Afterwards, we met with Professor Naomi Mann, who teaches in the disability clinic, and had a very interesting conversation about her experiences in disability law, with a focus on disability education laws. I thought I might be interested in disability law and advocacy, being Deaf myself, and was quite thrilled that Professor Fleming was able to introduce me to Professor Mann.
After Professor Mann bid us farewell, one of Professor Fleming’s students, Chris Mercurio, stopped by for a meeting to discuss a paper topic for a seminar in the Constitutional Theory class that Professor Fleming teaches. Initially, I was slightly frightened by the scope of Mercurio’s paper, but then I really enjoyed watching how the professor and the student played around with various ideas and suggestions. The opportunity to have such an in-depth one-on-one discussion between a professor and a student is truly special.
In the afternoon, we all enjoyed a good discussion about studying law and Professor Fleming shared a lot of advice from his own student experiences and from what he has learned as a law professor. We then headed to his Constitutional Law class where the discussion focused on the concept of the right to vote and how it relates to the Constitution (fun fact: the right to vote is not explicitly stated in the Constitution!). Professor Fleming brought up three significant cases regarding voting rights: Reynolds v. Sims (one person one vote), Harper v. Virginia (invalidating a poll tax – we branched off a bit to discuss the current controversy regarding voter-ID laws), and Bush v. Gore. I especially enjoyed learning about the latter as I never fully realized the constitutional controversy that surrounded that election; I had previously thought that most of the issues stemmed from voting equipment malfunctions in Florida.
We then called it a day, and headed home.
The next day we met in Professor Fleming’s office again, and talked a bit about future prospects for law students and pursuing a career in law. There are actually many diverse career opportunities within the field of law: one can practice many different kinds of law, teach law, or branch off into something else!
We then had pleasant meetings with a few additional law professors on the faculty. Professor Mike Harper spoke to us about employment discrimination law in general, and then, responding to my request, touched on disability employment discrimination laws. Professor Daniela Caruso, another expert in disability law, shared her experiences working to ensure appropriate education for the autistic. Professors Rob Sloane and Pnina Lahav discussed topics in international law, the Constitution, and foreign affairs, which my fellow Princeterns were interested in.
For lunch we attended a very interesting faculty workshop where the entire law school faculty came together to eat and listen to Professor Gary Lawson present an ongoing paper on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal beliefs, “The Rule of Law as a Law of Law (Except When It Is a Law of Diminishing Returns Instead).” After Professor Lawson shared his thoughts on his project, various faculty members made comments and suggestions for refining the paper. It was one of the few times I had the opportunity to observe firsthand an actual discourse between professors, and it was fascinating to see the law experts share their thoughts and debate at such an advanced level.
At the conclusion of the workshop, we headed to another of Professor Fleming’s classes: Constitutional Theory. Unlike the Constitutional Law class on Wednesday which was relatively large, this class numbered about ten students and was more of a seminar than a lecture. For most of the two-hour class, the professor engaged the students with direct questions, which made for a very interesting discourse. The main discussion points were on the renowned law expert James Thayer’s argument regarding courts deferring to the processes of representative democracy along with Ely’s famous beliefs that courts should reinforce the processes of representation, especially in the context of the well-known United States v. Carolene Products case.
Afterwards we attended a short lecture on the legal questions surrounding the use of military drones in Middle Eastern conflicts, and ended the day joining Professor Fleming’s family at his home for a delicious meal. We had an interesting conversation over dinner with Professor Fleming’s wife, Professor Linda McClain (who also teaches at the BU Law School) about feminist legal theory, gender issues, and clashes between religious liberty and antidiscrimination norms. We also spent a fair portion of the dinner trying to convince one of Professor Fleming’s daughters, a junior in high school, to attend Princeton!
I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to experience firsthand a view into the vast discipline of law. My conversations with the many law professionals whom I met and my attendance of a couple of law classes granted by the experience of this Princeternship, have confirmed my initial interest in law. While it seems early for me to decide on a specific area of law to study, I have come to realize that law is definitely something that I would like to pursue further as I discovered that it combines my interests in history, government, and policy. I am also very glad to discover that law is a very broad field; I have diverse interests, and I know I will be happiest if my chosen career is in a field that would permit me to incorporate my various interests into my work. The Princeternship Program has given me a wonderful opportunity to further explore an area of interest. I would strongly encourage all students to consider applying for a Princeternship. It was certainly an invaluable experience for me.