Alexandra Harrison, John Marshall Fellow 2016
What is your current position?
I’m an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
A combination of divine intervention and great people! While I was in law school, I got the advice that there is no better preparation for being a great attorney than to work at a large law firm, so I decided to give “OCI” (on-campus interviews) a try. OCI is how most large law firms recruit and is a crash course in cocktail-party interviewing. I ended up really liking the people at Akin, and they liked me enough to hire me as a summer associate in 2014. After I clerked for two different judges, I am now finally here as an associate.
What are you currently working on?
I primarily work with our Congressional Investigations team, which defends companies and individuals facing congressional (or other governmental) investigations. Think of it as the prelude to traditional white collar defense. We do everything from risk assessments to deposition prep to sitting with you at the counsel table. In a congressional investigation, you’re under oath, but there are no formal criminal or civil charges—and that can have a huge effect on stock prices and on future testimony if formal charges are brought. It’s a really interesting area of law, and one I definitely didn’t learn about in law school.
I also do some appellate work, primarily in a pro bono capacity. I’m working on one agency law issue as part of a larger brief to the DC Circuit, and getting ready to represent a veteran in the Federal Circuit. It’s very different from my congressional investigations docket, and I’m very happy that I get to do both.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
I heard about it from 2014 John Marshall Fellow Marcella Burke. When I looked into the John Marshall Fellowship specifically, I found many former and future co-clerks, mentors, and colleagues.
What’s your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
Heading to the shooting range with the Claremont Institute faculty on “Second Amendment Day” was absolutely the best. A close second would be literally re-litigating Lochner v. New York against my now-fiancé. I won’t tell you who won.
There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
I think Claremont has a knack for bringing together some of the most promising conservative professionals in America. The fellowships’ alumni lists read like a “Who’s Who” of the rising conservative thinkers, lawyers, journalists, and staffers. Getting to be in a room watching John Eastman and John Yoo have a very brilliant disagreement in front of past and future Supreme Court clerks is pretty incredible. I think Claremont’s fellowships have an amazing combination of challenging faculty and humbling peers. The small size means you get to know everyone—and their ideas—far more than at a conference or larger fellowship.
If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?
While I want to say I’d have a Manhattan with my name-mate Alexander Hamilton, I think I’d have to have port with John Locke. We’d have to discuss whether Thomas Jefferson got it right in the Declaration, deconstruct his thoughts on the Constitution, and debrief westward expansion from the vantage point of the Second Treatise on Government.
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
I’m going to have to say Washington, because without him Lincoln wouldn’t have had a union to save. I think Washington’s personal character and public statesmanship were uniquely situated to lead this country in its infancy. After all, if a people is willing to risk everything to go to war with the dominant empire in the world, that people is going to be hard to corral in case of disagreement—but the electors unanimously picked Washington. His awareness of the importance of setting good precedent I think also speaks highly of his character.
What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
Factions! The idea that we’re all more different than similar is really dangerous. Yes, we can and should have disagreements about politics, and I think those disagreements will always be driven by our demographics, ideologies, and stages in life, but we’re all Americans. If we’re serious about “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then our similarities as humans—and specifically, so much more in common as humans who believe those statements to be true and act accordingly—so outweigh our differences.
What books are you reading right now?
I’m currently planning a wedding, so I’m reading Kay Coles James’s What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married, and Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, and then for fun I’m reading For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Irish Country Doctor.
What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?
Mercy Otis Warren’s pen. She was a brilliant satirist, playwright, poet, historian, and correspondent. While Mrs. Warren knew many zealous and noble patriots, I think she is underrated. Her pen not only helped move public opinion against the British, but it also recorded it in a three-part history, and inked out love letters to her husband, James. She’s quite the lady, and her pen is the best representation of her contributions to this nation.
What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?
I’m from Colorado, and I love the rugged pioneer spirit that Coloradans still have. There’s a fearlessness about nature, and an unapologetic desire to live your life without interference from others. It’s very much a “mountain people” attitude—the Swiss have some similar characteristics. It’s the same independence that I see in our nation’s founding, and in the exploration of the whole western United States. It’s very deeply American, and I think very admirable.
If you had the opportunity to present a case before the US Supreme Court, what would you hope it would be about and why?
I’d love to argue a case involving the obscenity exception to the First Amendment. It’s never formally been overturned and I think it’s gotten an undeservedly bad reputation. I’d be interested to see where it goes.
What is your favorite cultural/recreational pastime (or hobby)? Why?
I’m going to have to go with hiking 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation). It’s very seasonal and involves a lot of prep work, so I haven’t done nearly as many as I’d like to, but there’s nothing quite like getting up well before dawn, hiking for hours (often in both snow and sun), and reaching the peak. The views are incredible, and the sense of accomplishment is as well. It doesn’t hurt that you can justify eating everything in sight afterward!