Sears Prize winners announced


3L Sears Prize winners Daniel Hinkle and Jared Kramer.
2L Sears Prize recipients Benjamin Roin and Stephen Shackleford.

At a law school where class ranks are not assigned and grade distributions are not published, it is often difficult for students to have a sense of where they stand in their class. However, four students recently received the satisfaction of knowing that their course performance during the 2002-2003 academic year went unmatched.

The Joshua Montgomery Sears, Jr. Prize, an annual honor given to four students, two from each of the first and second year classes who obtain the highest averages in their coursework, was awarded this year to 2Ls Benjamin Roin and Stephen Shackleford and 3Ls Daniel Hinkle and Jared Kramer. Not only do recipients have the distinction of being recognized as at the top of their class at Harvard Law School, but they also each receive a check for $11,000 from a fund established by Sarah C. Sears in memory of her son Joshua, who graduated with an L.L.B. in 1904.

Kramer has earned the further distinction of being awarded the Sears Prize two years in a row, following in the footsteps of Michael Shah, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2003.

Kramer, who became managing editor of Harvard Law Review last February, admitted that he was surprised to win the Sears Prize a second time. “I didn’t have as much time to do the regular class work, so I sort of wrote off the semester,” he said. “All I can say is that law school grading is totally random!”

A computer science major while an undergraduate at Princeton University, Kramer claims, “I don’t like mushy things. I like analytical rigor.”

He spent his 1L summer working at the patent firm Fish & Neave, last summer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and has accepted a clerkship position for next year with Judge Michael Boudin, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“Hopefully eventually I’ll become an academic,” Kramer added. “I’m a law and economics dude I guess!”

Of his academic success, he said that writing his own outlines for classes has been the most useful, and he has not done much studying in groups. “People learn differently, though,” he added. “That was what worked best for me.”

Hinkle, who graduated from Brown in 1998, majored in economics and political science and used to think he would get a Ph.D. in economics. After graduation, however, he spent a total of three years working as a legal assistant at Covington & Burling and then at Reitler Brown, and enjoyed it so much he applied to law school.

At HLS, Hinkle has devoted his time outside of classes to the Harvard Defenders and the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, and is the only student of the four winners not on Law Review.

While Hinkle said he has thought about legal scholarship or potentially becoming a professor, “I don’t think it’s for me. I’d like to do something more in the real world.”

He spent last summer working at the Securities and Exchange Commission and will be participating in the on-campus recruiting process this fall.

In response to whether he has any tips for students hoping to achieve such academic excellence, Hinkle wisely suggested, “Don’t fall behind or you’ll never catch up!”

Roin and Shackleford, who rank top in last year’s 1L class, have shared much of their time at the Law School together. Section One comrades last year, Roin said they were in the same exam study group, did practice exams together, and “bounced ideas off one another.” The two students also both did research for Professor Martha Minow during their first semesters and are currently members of Harvard Law Review.

Shackleford, originally from Jackson, MI, graduated from Harvard College and then spent a year consulting in New York City and later founded two start-up companies in Washington, D.C.

“My father is a lawyer and I always thought that I would go to law school, but not until much later,” he said, adding that he had expected to spend more time on the start-up companies. Neither company – one an attempt to help non-profit organizations use the Internet more effectively and the other an effort to develop textual search technology for large databases – is still in existence.

Of winning the prize, Shackleford said he was “very excited about it. I’m honored and humbled… I was extremely impressed with the people I spent the year with, and a lot of it does come down to luck of the draw.”

Shackleford spent last summer working at Dow, Lohnes & Albertson in D.C. and plans to look for a firm job for next summer and after graduation, although he feels strongly about always being involved in his community in whatever way possible.

Roin attended Amherst College, where he majored in political science and sociology and wrote a thesis on rational choice theory. He claimed that although law school was “always a possibility, my senior year I almost went to grad school.”

Before coming to HLS, Roin was a paralegal at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz and then spent about eight months traveling in Asia. After arriving on campus, Roin joined the Human Rights Journal, and also did research for Oren Bar-Gill, candidate for S.J.D.

Roin admitted that after receiving his grades, “I was hoping I was going to get it [the prize]. I am very excited!”

Last summer, Roin worked at Miller Shakman & Hamilton, a boutique litigation firm in his hometown of Chicago. Still unsure of his future plans at this point, Roin said he is interested in potentially clerking or going into academia, but it is just too soon to tell.

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