Female student pictured near U.S. Capitol

Bekah Carey '19 stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Roanoke College News

“Unparalleled opportunities” lead to Harvard Law success

Bekah Carey ‘19 had a dream in early July that she was selected to be on the staff at the Harvard Law Review.

The second-year Harvard Law student had applied earlier in the year and was hoping to be one of the select few to be chosen for the prestigious publication on legal scholarship. The dream came as she was waiting to hear back.

“I woke up and was like, ‘Well, that was fun while it lasted,’” Carey said.

Two weeks later, Carey got a call that she was chosen. She had to pinch herself, just to see if it was real this time.

“I’m still waiting to wake up,” Carey said.

Carey, who graduated with degrees in political science and criminal justice from Roanoke, is one of 48 people in her class of 565 who earned a spot as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. She said about 200 students each year complete the arduous editing and writing competition in an attempt to get selected, and 48 of them eventually get selected.

Former President Barack Obama, current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are among the Harvard Law Review’s alumni. Each issue of the Harvard Law Review, which is published each month between November and June, numbers about 2,500 pages.

This opens doors for Carey that are not open for most people, she said, and she’s curious to see how this affects her trajectory in her career and life. From a fairly young age, Carey wanted to be an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. After her experience at Roanoke College and working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Roanoke, she said, she thought about becoming a federal prosecutor.

Now, the possibilities in front of her appear limitless after being selected to the Law Review staff and seeing what Law Review alumni have gone on to accomplish.

“It opens more doors for me, and doors that are not open to most people,” Carey said. “I would say it isn’t fair that those doors aren’t open to more people, but they’re now open to me. I’ve definitely been thinking about what obligations I have to kind of use the opportunities and how blessed and privileged I am to have all these doors open.”

Carey is taking a leave of absence from classes this fall due to the fact that Harvard is all online this fall and she’d rather take classes in person. But she’ll still be working for the Law Review.

“I got such an incredible education and was able to hold my own at Harvard Law in a class of people who have a master’s from Oxford or had 10 years of a career somewhere and went to Ivy League undergrad.”

Bekah Carey '19, about her Roanoke education preparing her for Harvard Law School

Carey, originally from Maryland, said her time at Roanoke helped set her up for the success she’s having now. 

“Roanoke trained me really well on all the things it said it does,” Carey said. “How to think critically, how to write, the opportunity to do research from day one. Unparalleled opportunities.” 

In particular, her time doing research with Dr. Todd Peppers sparked interest in areas of the law she hadn’t thought about much before. Peppers, the Henry H. & Trudye H. Fowler Professor in Public Affairs at Roanoke, has spent years researching clerks to the Supreme Court. He has written books on legal history, and recently wrote a play on former Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that is set to become the first play ever performed on the floor of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The time Carey spent learning from Peppers was integral to her academic journey, she said, and her time at Roanoke overall allowed her to succeed at Harvard. Roanoke doesn’t have the name recognition that schools such as Yale or Stanford have, but Carey said she fits right in with classmates who have gone to those institutions.

“I got such an incredible education and was able to hold my own at Harvard Law in a class of people who have a master’s from Oxford or had 10 years of a career somewhere and went to Ivy League undergrad,” Carey said.

Now, she’s working to figure out what to do with the opportunities she’s earned. 

Carey said she’s always liked to have a concrete plan about what her life will look like in the future and what path she’ll take. But after the events of the past few months, she knows she can’t map every little detail of her future out.

“If people hadn’t realized before 2020 that that is not how life will work, then 2020 has been that kind of wake-up call for a lot of people,” Carey said. “You can plan your life, but there are going to be a lot of curve balls that come your way.”