Zach Meskell '15 Prepares to Take Next Steps After Harvard Law

Zach MeskellWhen last seen in Forest Grove, Zach Meskell ‘15 was an 18-year-old graduate of Pacific’s creative writing program. He was a good student who had carved out a niche as an improvisational player within the university’s Drama Club, and he had joined Professor Kathlene Postma and three other students lecturing and leading creative writing workshops in China. All in all, he had an accomplished undergraduate career.

Today, if you want to talk about the plague of government corruption, clerking for federal judges or, yes, the genius of improvisational comedy, he’s your man.

It’s been an upward, if not straight, hike for Meskell since Pacific, when he had dreamed of entering an elite school after graduating. Now he’s in his sixth semester at Harvard Law, an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and a veteran of Boston’s improv scene. His first two years after graduating from law school are already defined, after he won competitive clerkships for federal judges in Boston and then Miami.

“I’m very excited. It’s a rare privilege,” he said. “I anticipate it to be an insane amount of work.”

It’s perhaps not a common path, going from a youthful undergraduate in Oregon, through a New England improv troupe and into Harvard Law and beyond. But Meskell’s journey has followed a crisp logic.

First, he was young as an undergraduate, so it made sense to take some time off after earning his degree. Second, elite schools like Harvard Law favor real-world experience among incoming students. Third, he liked improvisational comedy, so he practiced improvisational comedy — in Boston, which had a scene that welcomed relatively inexperienced players like himself. 

And since he was in Boston already and the nation’s most prestigious law school was in nearby Cambridge, it was an obvious move to apply to Harvard Law. Since then, his work at the law school has pointed him toward a career in the upper reaches of the legal world.

None of this is a surprise to Professor Postma, who says she is “super proud” of Meskell, and that he is “a leader with many contributions to make.”

Postma in China“Zach was a deeply inquisitive student who didn't much like following conventional rules. That approach made him a very good creative writing major,” she said in an email. “It was never boring working with Zach! He learned a great deal on the research trip with me to China. It's a lot for a student to suddenly be in an entirely new culture and asked to help, either as an English teacher in a university classroom or as an assistant at an orphanage for kids with disabilities. His curiosity and drive served him and the team well.”

At Pacific, Meskell’s capstone creative writing project was From Good to Evil: The Lucifer Effect in Fiction. He says it was an exploration of the inverse of the typical story arc of a bad person becoming good through the events described in the novel. Think Ebenezer Scrooge’s opposite.

That interest in the darker side of human nature, which has carried through his writings for The Global Anti Corruption blog and in his interest in the law, was coupled with a nimbleness of mind that is evident to anyone who has watched improvisational comedy. When it works, it’s jaw-droppingly quick and clever. And when it doesn’t, well, that just demonstrates how hard it is.

“In improv, you get up there and you’re completely on your feet,” he said. “You know you’ve got this whole team that’s there to back you up and support you, and if you say something and it’s kind of faltering, you know that they’ve got your back and they’re going to help you back up.”

Meskell said he loved his time at Pacific, and it was critical to his development. He cited as an example of what he appreciated about the university was the trip to China with Professor Postma.

“Just that opportunity through a close connection with a professor, just really honing my writing; I think I’m an immeasurably better writer for it,” he said. “And I don’t think that would have happened at a place where I would have been Face No. 500 in the back of a lecture room.”

When he was in Forest Grove, and Professor Postma asked students to describe their career hopes, Meskell mentioned attending law school and writing a novel.

Has he written a novel?

“I’ve written two,” he said. “I haven’t published them yet. Works in progress.”

(Top photo courtesy of Zach Meskell; Bottom photo of Pacific students in China, with Professor Postma third from left and Meskell at far right courtesy of Professor Postma.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2022