Twenty Someone: Jonathan Flack


Name: Jonathan David Flack

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

College: George Washington University

Law School: New York University School of Law

Age: 27

Occupation: Currently a 2L — class of 2016 at NYU Law

1. Describe your job in three words: Amazing! Sometimes oppressive.

2. Why sometimes oppressive? It’s hard! Challenging was the first word that came to mind for your last question. It’s challenging because you have never-ending work. Literally — you could always do more to prepare for the exam and the exam is 100% of your grade. And grades mean a lot (or so “everyone” tells you). So there’s a lot of stress and it’s easy to psych yourself out. But law school has also been totally amazing for me. Thrilling, exciting, and inspiring — I could have used those words, too.

3. When did you know you were interested in law? My dad is a lawyer — the good kind — so the law was always in the back of my mind as a potential career path. But I didn’t truly know until I was working on Capitol Hill, where a handful of different things made me realize law would be a good path for me. Those things were: realizing that I wanted to acquire the skills law school teaches (analytical mind, good writing and speaking skills); becoming disillusioned with the political process as a way to make positive change and thinking that litigation (i.e. winning judgments on behalf of clients) would be impactful, fulfilling, and fun; and, thirdly, thinking that I might actually enjoy the study of law — subjects like Contracts and Criminal Law.

4. I’m going to throw out some hot button issues. You have to respond/react in five words or less to each. Okay.

The recent elections: Uninterested. Let’s move to Canada.
Gun control:  More regulation needed.
Marijuana policy: Fascinating. Liberalizing trends will continue.
Ferguson: We always need to be talking about race. That’s more than five words and I want to say something more powerful, but that’s what came to mind and I’m not sure how rapid fire you want…
Same-sex marriage: Hallelujah! Still many more barriers.
War: Human nature sucks.
5. Okay of those six, which one interests you the most and why? Same-sex marriage. Civil rights and equality work is the field of lawyering I want to enter. Impact Litigation a la Thurgood Marshall is basically what inspired me to come to law school. Some people have argued that impact litigation is dead, but Windsor defies that notion. Today, largely as a result of that one Supreme Court case with a sympathetic plaintiff, 32 states have legalized gay marriage.
It’s also interesting to me from a federalism perspective — state power vs. federal power. Some liberals want the Supreme Court to declare a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage (nationwide), but other liberals think its better to do it state-by-state, piece meal. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is actually in this latter camp. It’s interesting to think about how best to achieve the goal of equality. And then there’s sooooo many other areas of discrimination against gay people that we’ll need to address after this.
To name a few? Gay people can’t donate blood even though we screen people/blood for HIV. Gay people can be denied the right to serve on a jury….solely for being gay. There’s also a lot of state-level discrimination in terms of the dispersement of benefits for gay people. And the discrimination faced by transgender people (a different affinity-group) is absolutely appalling.
6. What civil right or liberty do you think will be at issue for your children? I think racial injustices will persist for generations to come. As will abuses against gay and transgender people. So the goal for our children will be for all beings to live in harmony with each other. Creating a compassionate society, based on simple justice, as MLK and John Lewis say — that is the goal today, and, sadly, I think it will still be the goal when our children are striving.
I do believe we’ll inch closer and closer to that goal. Perhaps that goal will shift to become a more internationally-focused one. If gays get equal rights in GA, and Ferguson, MO, becomes all copacetic, but gays in Russia and Italy are still being abused and 50% of people in West Africa have Ebola…what have we accomplished?
I think our children will be pursuing similar equality goals, but doing so at a more advanced stage and with a more international focus. But the world also needs good people doing non-Justice/Equality type of work! Doctors, blue-collar workers, engineers, mothers, fathers etc.
Oh! One more hot button issue before I forget. Education in America: Education in America is still starkly divided based on race, as is housing. And these are remnants from the Jim Crow era and slavery before that. We’ve admitted as a society that those policies were racist and abhorrent, but we haven’t admitted their entrenched effects that last to this day. We need to recognize those effects and find ways to ameliorate them. That was way more than 5 words! We deify MLK, but ignore his focus on income inequality and anti-war at the end of his life. So we hold up MLK, but it’s basically a sanitized version of him. Some might even call it whitewashing. Yeah, you didn’t specify 5 words there. Sorry! Lawyers…I tell ya.  
7. Jonathan, what do you read everyday? Where do you receive your news? I stopped reading the news after I left Capitol Hill. Now I scan headlines, or get a “buzz” from my Facebook feed and from just talking to classmates. I hardly read one article per week. I read books for law school and random books for pleasure. Why did you stop after you left Capitol Hill? I was so disillusioned after I left the Hill! I wish I read more news actually. I think a weekly news dose is a good amount. How can I have ideas of engaging with the world if I don’t even know what’s happening in it? I’ve been thinking about re-subscribing to The Economist which I read last year in school. [Update: Jonathan has since re-subscribed to the Economist.]
8. Your law hero is______. Your non law-related hero is______. Only one? I really can’t choose between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. Non law is Thich Nhat Hanh. Really? I tried to read a book by him the other day and ehh…Buddhist, non-violent activist. (Laughs) I’ve only read one of his! But also all my heroes are law-related. Abe Lincoln, Ghandi…so I say Thich, but I don’t know that much about him, like I do RBG and the others. My parents are also my heroes. Don’t get me wrong. He seems like a cool guy. I liked his thoughts on mindfulness, but the book was just boring. I’m partial to fiction, but anyway. Read Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Lots of one page vignettes on mindfulness. I’ll try that one. Anyone who loves RBG and Marshall has to have good taste. 
 9. When you’re not thinking of human rights, what are you doing? I‘m studying law. (laughs) Which, unfortunately, has little to do with human rights most of the time, given the pedagogy. I’m also doing yoga, playing soccer, talking to friends/family in other cities, or just hanging out with my buddies here in NYC! Remember when you saw me on the street and said, “Oh you still live in New York?” Yes. I think I started partying more after that. Had to get back on the scene. I’m glad I inspired you to party! But I think the real reason underlying my ignorance was my own lack of leaving my apartment, not yours.
10. Okay let’s hear it. In ten years you will be…All we do in law school is plan five years out. Ten years out, too. It’s terrible. So this was the one question I predicted and was dreading. Really? I thought the questions on war, race and bans on gay marriage were pretty dreadful. You aced the hardballs and get caught up on this? Ten years is 2024. I’ll be eight years into my career then. I hope to do a judicial clerkship for two years. Who knows where I’ll start my career — government, private practice, non-profit, etc. Ultimately, in ten years I hope I’m doing something that accords with my law school application’s personal statement — Justice/Equality work. That was a good question Robin. It’s a good way for me to think about my career.
Thanks! Apparently my three grades in early December will dictate much of the answer to that 10-year “where will you be” question — and that is why law school is absurd. I’m not joking — I could actually make that link for you, and do so reasonably and convincingly. (Laughs) I believe you. You’re going to make a great lawyer. 

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