Robert M. Bernstein ’13
Counsel for the Appellant
This was a busy first year at Columbia Law School for transfer student Robert M. Bernstein ’13. As he puts the finishing shine on his arguments for the Stone Moot Court finals, he continues mentoring eight first-year students in the Foundation Moot Court program. Those students will make their final arguments to a panel of judges in April, and Bernstein has been there every step of the way.
Bernstein is an enthusiastic and accomplished moot court booster. Before transferring from Georgetown, he received the best brief award out of 156 competitors in that law school’s Beaudry Moot Court Competition. He describes moot court as an extracurricular activity uniquely suited to his interests in subtle argumentation and appellate work. “I love the craft of brief writing—honing and refining arguments and doing persuasive writing,” he says. “I’d also like the opportunity to do appellate work, and moot court is the best opportunity to pursue that in a realistic setting while in law school.”
The hypothetical problem he helped design for the first-year students he is assisting during the Foundation Moot Court involves an issue of strong personal interest to Bernstein: the interaction between religion and civil society. After completing his A.B. in religion at Princeton, he spent a year as a fellow in the Princeton-in-Asia program working at a Buddhist Temple in Tokyo. Living alongside the monks, he researched religion and law in Japanese civil society and helped implement an English-language public service program. “It was a very intense introduction to Japan, and to the language,” he says. Upon his return to the United States, Bernstein worked as a research fellow in the First Amendment Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., where he tracked First Amendment cases at the federal and state levels and helped oversee the development and launch of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project.
Bernstein has found Columbia Law School to be the perfect setting for deepening his study of religion law and First Amendment issues. Among his favorite experiences from his first year at the Law School are gatherings at the home of Professor Kent Greenawalt, a leading expert in religion law. “It’s been great to meet at his apartment, where he’s kind enough to serve us tea, coffee, and cookies during the discussions,” Bernstein says. He also cites courses taught by Professors Abbe Gluck and Jamal Greene as helping shape his academic trajectory. “Their classes have really deepened my interest in questions of interpretation,” Bernstein adds.
In May, Bernstein will return to Washington, D.C., where he will serve as a summer associate at Latham & Watkins.