Zachary Bernstein

Zachary Bernstein

Class of 2013, America Field
J.D. Candidate, Duke University School of Law
Zachary Bernstein

Thesis Title: Monument or Memorial? Art and Automobiles in Diego Rivera’s ‘Detroit Industry’ Murals

What Now: 2L, J.D. Candidate at Duke University School of Law

What Next: Litigation work in the private sector and hopefully a judicial clerkship

Follow Me: @znbernstein (Twitter)

The research and writing process was always my favorite part of History and Literature. When I first considered my postgraduate path, I believed that my analytical and investigative abilities cultivated during my time in the Barker Center would translate well into legal practice. This belief has been consistently reaffirmed both in law school and as an intern this past summer for a federal judge. Intellectual curiosity, the willingness to throw oneself into an unfamiliar field, the ability to synthesize disparate texts or opinions into a cohesive narrative, a meticulous attention to detail and accuracy - lawyers and law students use these skills on a daily basis to analyze challenging cases and write compelling arguments. I can’t imagine where I would be in my professional pursuits if I had not spent three years in History and Literature honing these abilities.

However, beyond practical considerations, I’ve also learned that my academic pursuits in Hist and Lit and my professional career in law need not be distinct. I spent two years as a paralegal at a New York law firm before attending Duke and I was surprised to discover that the firm was representing the Detroit Institute of Arts, the very same museum housing the murals that had been the subject of my undergraduate thesis. Upon discovering this intersection of art, law, and civic planning, I realized that the more practical elements of legal practice provide the foundation for cases with substantial ideological, financial, and cultural stakes. I am still figuring out what exact area of litigation I would like to pursue, but I hope that my path will continue to combine my academic interests and concrete legal issues into engaging and meaningful work.