Mark Agrast is a District of Columbia Life Fellow. He is the Executive Director and Executive Vice President of American Society of International Law and a member of the ABA House of Delegates. He is also a leader of the World Justice Project and currently serves as a Vice President. Mr. Agrast joined the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation in June 2001.
What does being a Fellow mean to you?
It is an honor to serve among so many dedicated and accomplished lawyers, and to know that our engagement in the ABF helps improve our profession and strengthen the empirical foundations on which the justice system and the rule of law depend. At a time when the very notion of objective truth is under assault, the work of institutions such as ABF is more important than ever.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in the suburbs east of the city. I spent three of my four undergraduate years at my hometown university (Case Western Reserve) before going abroad to pursue my graduate studies. Although Washington ultimately became my home, I still think of myself as a Cleveland boy.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
I felt called to a life of public service from an early age. Growing up in the civil rights era, I admired the role that lawyers have played in advancing social justice–not just in court but throughout our civic life. And I wanted to emulate their ability to use reason and argument to bring about peaceful change.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in law, what would you have done?
My other great love was music. I had played classical piano from the age of four and developed an interest in conducting in my college years. I was still seriously contemplating a career in music into my mid-20s.
What do you do in your free time?
Music is still my passion–these days more as a listener than as a performer–and I enjoy running, art museums, book collecting, and good writing. Although leisure time is often in short supply, I can think of few pleasures greater than the hours spent in my library or in front of the fire with a good book and a single malt, preferably in the company of my husband, our border collie, and our Labrador retriever.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
My life has been enriched, personally and professionally, by my work with the ABA, and I believe it has been an important force for good–through the work of its many constituent entities and its support for the ABF. I hope to continue to contribute to that work in the years ahead.