A Conversation With the New Law Review President



The 120th president of the Harvard Law Review tells me to come over anytime to interview her. I email back, confused: “Is it safe to assume you’re always there?” She confirms: “I basically live here, yes.” So I head over to Gannett on a Friday at 5 pm, and sure enough, Aileen McGrath, 2L, is tucked away in an office, surrounded by a congratulatory bouquet of roses and shelves of musty back volumes of the Review. McGrath, a Columbia grad from Staten Island, NY, is also a 2005 Sears Prize winner. Disappointingly, she seems pretty normal.

Record: Are you working hard already? AM: Yes, I am. When the new president gets elected, the old one turns over the duties that same night. So last week I had to finish up an article with the 3Ls on the board, and I was kind of the new person in that process. Now we’ve elected a new editorial board.

Record: So Brian Fletcher is just what, drinking it up now? AM: He’s relaxing a little bit, or trying to.

Record: Is that humanly possible? AM: Right, if he knows how.

Record: So what is it you do that keeps you basically living here? AM: I work on every single piece that we publish-all the articles, notes, developments, everything. Plus there’s a lot of managerial stuff here-recruiting, all of that.

Record: Why did you join the Review in the first place? AM: I was one of those people who didn’t think it was for me. I wasn’t even going to do the competition. It was talking to people who did Law Review and getting to see the kind of people they were that made me think it was something I would enjoy.

Record: I think there’s a perception that if you do law review, you can’t do anything else, because the time commitment is so high. Do you think that’s true? AM: That’s definitely not true. We have people doing clinicals, student groups, we have someone who’s going to be a director of HL Central, and I’d say half of us are doing research for a professor, which is time-consuming. So there is room for other things.

Record: For someone with inclinations toward public interest, do you think the Review has something to offer them? AM: Oh, absolutely. We definitely have public interest-minded people. And I actually think that for firms, they don’t care so much about law review-obviously it looks nice, but it’s not really important. For judges, government work, that kind of thing, it shows that you can manage things, work on a team, write, those kinds of skills, so I think it would be really valuable.

Record: This year the Review launched the Forum [a web-based collection of replies to HLR articles], Yale launched the Pocket Part, and so on. Is more online-based journal work on the way? AM: Yes, I definitely think it’s the next thing. We’re looking to expand the Forum even more. We’re soliciting new submissions, and most of those come in on email. We’ve always published replies, but the Forum can be more timely. In general, we’re talking about how much Review content should be online, and would it be searchable, subscription-based, and so on.

Record: There hasn’t been a female law review president for a while (Anne Small in 2000-2001), or a female Sears Prize winner (Julie Zeglis in 2001). The gender study indicated that women are more likely to excel in things other than grades and law review. Do you think that says anything about the culture at HLS, or just people’s varying interests? AM: I think it has a lot to do with interests. There’s just so much to do here that people can really just do whatever their individual interests are. I think the election of a female law review president doesn’t mean much except that this time, the right candidate for the job was a woman. It goes back and forth a lot, women on law review.

Record: Yes, every year the Record runs an article about gender and the Review with people saying it’s either much better or much worse. AM: Right. I think the numbers have a lot to do with perception and with recruiting. The class of ’07 has 19 women, which is fairly equal, a good amount. And that’s largely because of really great outreach and recruiting last year, making sure people know the Review is a welcoming place, that people can make a contribution. Last year we had 100 women try out (out of 250), which is really great. I’m hoping we can do that this year, and I’m hoping people see all the women on the Review, and even me as the president, and think, this is a good place.

Record: So what will recruiting look like?AM: We’ll have a Gannett open house soon. We’ll do outreach through different student organizations. But we’ll also try to meet people personally; last year we had 3Ls taking 1Ls out for coffee, that kind of thing, to try and demystify things for people, answer questions, let them know this is a community and we really enjoy it.

Record: Given that you had a pretty successful 1L year, any advice for 1Ls about studying and success in general? AM: I think it’s hard to come here from places where we’ve all been successful and still feel confident with all these other people around. So the first thing would be to have confidence, to know that you have something to contribute, and it can be in different ways. The second would be to maintain a balanced existence. Last year, when I studied, I studied hard, but when I wanted to go to the movies with my friends, I went. I slept enough, I went running. I never felt like school dominated my life, and that really made the difference. I think people see other people studying 16 hours a day and think, that’s what I have to do.

Record: Good advice. Thanks for talking to us. AM: Absolutely. And any 1L can email me about anything, even to say “What do you do?” [She’s at amcgrath@law.harvard.edu.]

Record: I’m going to print that, then. AM: Sure.