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Finding the Answers: TFAS Summer Law Fellowship Gives Law Students Inside Look at Legal World

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The TFAS Summer Law Fellowship brought together 28 outstanding law students from across the country to study constitutional interpretation, originalism and liberty during the nine-week in-person program. With internships, classes, professional development seminars, guest lectures and a “Thoughts from the Bench” series featuring several federal judges, the Law Fellows experienced a summer like no other.

Naomi Singer, Law ’21, enjoyed the opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions of Dr. Rabkin and the guest speakers throughout the summer.

Naomi Singer, Law ’21, says the most fulfilling parts of her experience as a TFAS Summer Law Fellow were meeting outstanding peers in her cohort and learning from top-notch faculty and constitutional experts in Washington, D.C. 

“I feel like those connections are valuable not just in the long-term, but also personally in terms of understanding how other people see the world,” Singer said. “The classes have provided a perspective that one would not get from their own university. The selection, the curation even, of these perspectives and the depth of knowledge and experience is unparalleled, and I’m just so grateful to have participated in it.”

The classes have provided a perspective that one would not get from their own university. The selection, the curation even, of these perspectives and the depth of knowledge and experience is unparalleled, and I’m just so grateful to have participated in it.” – Naomi Singer, Law ’21

Exploring Constitutional Interpretation

Professor Jeremy Rabkin of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University instructed the Law Fellows in constitutional interpretation with a focus on the debate over originalism. The classes served as the foundation of the program. Fellows delved into these topics and discussed limited government, legal philosophy and more.

Eric McLain, Law ’21, a student from Washington and Lee University School of Law, interned at the Senate Homeland Security Committee this summer.

One Fellow, Eric McLain, Law ’21, appreciated the difference between TFAS lessons and classes at his home university, Washington and Lee University School of Law. He enjoyed diving deeper into what he learned rather than receiving a basic overview of each lesson. McLain said the teaching style of TFAS faculty helped him gain a new perspective on critical legal issues.

“My classes here have been extremely philosophically thought-provoking,” he said. “We’re learning how to interpret the Constitution and discovering the original understanding of our founding document. I never really thought about that before, but getting that insight is extremely helpful for people who want to fight for a Constitution they believe in.”

Professional Development Seminars

Professional Development Seminars served as a way for the Law Fellows to learn more about different career paths in the legal field. This summer, Fellows heard from eight legal professionals from a variety of organizations, including:

2021 Law Fellows McCarley Maddock, Will Mercier and Anthony Papageorgiou were among the exceptional class of law students participating in this year’s Fellowship.

McLain found the seminars fascinating and enjoyed learning more about the way things work in the legal sphere in Washington, D.C.

“One of my favorite parts of the program was the professional development seminars,” McLain said. “I gained so much insight into the inner workings of the city I want to work in, which has just been fascinating.”

Understanding Originalism

In addition to classes and the series of professional development talks, Fellows also learned about America’s founding principles, legal responses to current events and more from eight distinguished legal professionals, including:

2021 Law Fellows Grace Berner and Natalie Glitz visit the Supreme Court.
  • Dr. Anne Bradley – The Economic Way of Thinking
  • Randy Barnett – What is Originalism?
  • Todd Gaziano – Ending the Administrative State
  • Lori Windham ’01 – Religious Liberty Cases in Review
  • Allen Dickerson – Campaign Finance Law
  • Brian Lopina – A Toast to John Marshall: The Original Originalist
  • Ilya Shapiro – Supreme Court Round-Up

George Mason University law student Chris Barnewolt, Law ’21, was especially interested in TFAS alumna Lori Windham’s ’01 discussion on religious freedoms because he is interested in pursuing a career in religious liberty litigation

Fellows often spoke with featured speakers one-on-one after events. Here, Lori Windham ’01 and Chris Barnewolt, Law ’21, discuss religious liberty more in depth after Windham’s guest lecture.

“Before I even made the decision to take the LSAT, I was looking at the Becket Fund to figure out what I might be passionate about,” Barnewolt said. “It’s great to actually meet some of those people, some of the faces on the website, and take a step forward in discerning my career path.”

Another student, Fred Smyth, Law ’21, from the University of San Diego School of Law, said, “It was awesome hearing from some of the people who I’ve learned about in my classes, people who argue in front of the Supreme Court about such huge cases, like Randy Barnett, and being able to hear his firsthand account of everything he’s done and what he’s going to do. It was a great experience that I’m really glad I was able to have.”

Thoughts from the Bench

Robert Williams, Law ’21, and McCarley Maddock, Law ’21, listen and take notes during Lori Windham’s ’01 guest lecture on religious liberty.

The learning continued with a special series on “Thoughts from the Bench.” This series allowed the Fellows to hear from five judges from various federal appellate courts and the Federal Claims Court to learn more about how those courts function and how judicial opinions are written. Featured speakers included:

Fellows enjoyed the intimate opportunities to connect with these accomplished men and women.

John Vatian, Law ’21, speaks with Judge Ryan Holte after a “Thoughts from the Bench” talk.

Eric Abels, Law ’21, felt that he gained a wealth of knowledge during his summer with TFAS and finally found the answers to the big questions he has encountered during his time in law school.

“This summer I definitely learned a lot,” Abels said. “I learned about originalism from our class. I also learned a lot from the guest lecturers, whether it was the federal judges or speakers from various legal organizations. Very broadly, I learned how to respond to questions in law school from professors and other students when they question my values and what I think about the law and how government should be run. I finally have some of those answers.”

Very broadly, I learned how to respond to questions in law school from professors and other students when they question my values and what I think about the law and how government should be run. I finally have some of those answers.” – Eric Abels, Law ’21

Eric Abels, Law ’21, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, interned at Americans United for Life this summer.

The 2021 TFAS Law Fellows have completed the summer with a better understanding of originalism, the legal structures that protect liberty and what it takes to be a good lawyer. Over the past nine weeks, they have laid the foundations of their professional networks, established their career interests in the legal field, and gained a unique experience that few other law students have. 

Abels said that in addition to courses, internships and lectures, he was grateful for the connections he made through the TFAS community and recognized the support of those who helped him get here.

“If I could personally thank our supporters, I would tell them that one day I’d love to be as big of an influence on someone’s career as they’ve been on mine,” Abels shared. “I wouldn’t be here in D.C. without the opportunity of this amazing program, so I really appreciate them and all the support they give us.”

To learn more about this summer’s cohort, visit TFAS.org/LawFellows21.

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