Bell Law Lecture turns to fireside chat

Emma Reiner

Senior Features Writer


The 23rd annual Bell Lecture, entitled “The Beauty of the Law,” was given on April 14 over Zoom and featured Ben Mizer ’99. It was co-sponsored by the College’s pre-law advising program and the Bell Distinguished Lectureship in Law Endowed Fund. Named after Samuel Bell ’47, a U.S. federal judge in Ohio who passed away in 2010, the lectures feature speakers discussing a specific topic ranging from immigration policy to constitutional law. 

This year, the organizers and Mizer took a different approach by instead hosting the lecture in the style of a fireside chat. This format gave students, faculty and guests the opportunity to ask questions about Mizer’s work in the legal field and his experience with law school. It was moderated by Madonna Hettinger, a history professor at the College who also serves as one of the pre-law advisors.

After graduating in ’99, Mizer went to the University of Michigan for his J.D.. He then went on to complete two clerkships, the first in the Court of Appeals, and the second in the Supreme Court for the late Justice John Paul Stevens. After clerking, Mizer worked as an associate legal officer for an international criminal tribunal, before moving back to Ohio and serving as the Solicitor General. These experiences helped lead Mizer to work at the Department of Justice with the position of Acting Assistant Attorney General in the Crime Division. Mizer is now a partner at the law firm Jones Day. 

The lecture kicked off with a brief introduction of Mizer, the lectureship series and the pre-law advising panel at the College. The fireside chat was then split into two Q&A sections —  the first comprised of questions asked in advance by various members of the community, while the second consisted of live questions asked by the audience. Hettinger asked Mizer the questions in the first section, and helped moderate the second section, giving the students the option to pose their own questions directly to Mizer. 

The first set of questions focused more on Mizer’s career, covering his past work in the Department of Justice. One of these questions asked if he ever got over the magical feeling of working near the White House, to which he responded “it never got old.” Mizer also talked about working during the Ferguson protests in 2014, which felt even more timely with the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin and protests across the nation. 

The second set of questions, which were asked live by students, focused more on Mizer’s preparation for the legal career. One student asked if the College’s emphasis on reading and writing helped prepare him for law school. Mizer affirmed that law school requires a great deal of these skills, and that Wooster helped him prepare for that. He also noted the College’s moot court program and Professor Emeritus Mark Weaver for their influence on his legal career.

Students who intend to enter the legal field, and those who do not, agreed that this lecture was a success. Jenna Dyroff ’23 said that she enjoyed hearing from someone “who has delved into many aspects of [the legal field].” Riley Smith ’22 agreed, noting that it was “reassuring to know that even in the legal field there are opportunities to try a bunch of different things.” Both Dyroff and Smith are involved with the moot court team and are considering law school after graduation. Shankar Bhat ’22 said that even though he is not considering the legal field, he thought the event was “very informative and engaging.” Despite the online format, participants were still able to engage with Mizer and the event helped current students connect with a successful alumnus.