Student Testimonial – Benjamin (Ben) Smith, Scalia Law ‘21

I wanted to join the Free Speech Clinic because of my commitment to the right of freedom of speech under the First Amendment. In college I wrote my senior thesis on John Stuart Mill’s theory of freedom of speech in On Liberty. In law school, I took a class on the First Amendment and freedom of speech, had an LRWA problem on free speech on college campuses, and wrote my comment on a First Amendment issue. My experience and my interest in the First Amendment are what led me to the Free Speech Clinic so that I could work on real world free speech cases and defend and uphold the free speech rights of everyone.

Freedom of speech is easy to claim to support, but much more difficult to defend when you are defending views you disagree with, especially when you believe they may be harmful. Nonetheless, as one who believes in the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech, I wanted to defend everyone’s right. This clinic gave me the ability to uphold the free speech rights of all individuals which made it a meaningful experience. The Free Speech Clinic also gave me a deeper appreciation of free speech because I was actually working on the cases we were assigned.

While I personally do not plan on pursuing a career as a First Amendment advocate or litigator, the Free Speech Clinic helped improve my legal research and writing skills generally which will help me immensely in my career. However, my current projected career path is in employment law, and some employment law cases involve First Amendment issues, so I may litigate First Amendment issues. Regardless of whether I encounter First Amendment issues in my career or not, the Free Speech Clinic definitely helped prepare me for my legal career, and if I do encounter First Amendment issues, it will have especially prepared me for those cases.

One of my favorite parts of the Free Speech Clinic was out guest speakers. We got to hear from some prominent First Amendment lawyers, advocates, and parties from landmark First Amendment cases. For example, we got to listen to Margie Phelps and Mary Beth Tinker. It was incredible to hear their first-hand experiences about what it was like to fight for their First Amendment rights. While Margie Phelps may not be the most well liked litigant in First Amendment law, to listen to her speak and hear what she had to say was powerful. So too powerful was Mary Beth Tinker’s story as well as her life story. And to listen to stories and get advice from prominent First Amendment lawyers and advocates is something that I will always remember, as I plan to use their advice in my career. For all that I got out of the Free Speech Clinic I would definitely recommend it to other students!

I truly enjoyed my time with the Free Speech Clinic. It was an incredible and extraordinary experience that furthered my commitment to the First Amendment and provided me with an experience that I will never forget!

Ben, Scalia Law ‘21