RECORD EDITORIAL: HLS administration takes step forward, leap back

BY

The renovation of the Hark may not seem like much to 1Ls, but to those of us who have been here a year or more it makes an enormous difference. Before, the Hark held a place on the aesthetic scale only slightly above the Gropius Complex. The new renovations at last place the Hark on par with the facilities availble at many other law schools, a development that should not have taken this long for the world’s richest law school to accomplish. Dean Kagan, as well as the staff, students, and workers who contributed to these changes, should be applauded for their fine efforts in making the vision of a better Hark into reality with the speed and diligence that Harvard should be known for. Less worthy of congratulations, however, is the decision by the administration to close down the Office of Student Life Counseling (OSLC). OSLC provided a valuable resource for harried students seeking assistance or a sympathetic ear. While it is true that students retain the ability to go to Holyoke to receive similar services, the sad fact is that the decision to eliminate OSLC points to a blindness by the school administration in recognizing that law students have different psychological needs than other populations. The legal profession is not one that bodes well for the mental health of its practitioners. Lawyers are near the top (or at the top) among all professions in regards to rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. A significant portion of lawyers burn out after only a couple of years. Similarly, law students face challenges during law school that will only grow worse upon passing the bar and entering into practice. Rather than taking a preventive step and maintaining a commitment to assist students during their time in school, the administration has decided to take a leap back in taking care of its students by closing off a valuable resource that catered specifically to the needs of law students. The administration has stated that OSLC was replicating services elsewhere and the cutting it was a way of makin the school more efficient. The manner in which it ws done, without student input and without warning, creates the impression that HLS does not believe its students to have needs particular to their profession. There now exists a void at HLS that leaves the needs of future legal professionals in the hands of someone else. If the school stepped up with other programs that recoginzed the pressures inherent in the legal profession, perhaps the closing of OSLC would not be such a problem. At the moment, however, all that reamins is a marked silence by the school as to prioritizing an attempt to deal with the high rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide among lawyers. Harvard has always been a leader in the legal field. It is time to take the lead in helping lawyers live healtheir lives.

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