To the Editor:
In your most recent edition, Katie Mapes wrote an outstanding article titled “Interviews R Us,” in which she demonstrates an understanding that few people want to work for large law firms, but must do so to earn enough money to pay their debts; and so the interview process with large firms is often one involving a series of lies and unkept promises. Katie describes this dance of falsehood where large firms lie about their good quality of life, and the law students lie when they explain that they are very excited about working at the firm where they know they will have no quality of life. Katie’s article is a must read for anybody who would ever think about joining such an organization, and more importantly, it is a must read for those who are already there, struggling to survive long enough to pay off their Harvard Law School debts.
Katie’s article raises very important questions about the legal profession as a whole. If partners at large law firms churn and burn the associates at the firm, and if the associates feel the fear and the crushing instability created by their law school debts (which now are being spread over 10 to 25 years for repayment purposes); are we not introducing our newest members of the legal profession to an environment where most of them will be destroyed by long work weeks, boring work, and tremendous law school debt?
Katie’s article asks the question, that leads to the obvious answer; namely that major reform of our legal profession is required now; for if we start to care for each other, perhaps our lives will be better in the long run. So, let me propose some reforms, that after 15 years of practicing law (both public service and corporate law), would, in my opinion, help us all:
1) Lobby law schools to freeze their tuition increases. The Dean and the faculty are rich enough.
2) Propose Federal legislation that says a member of one State Bar Association is automatically a member of all State Bar Associations. Our economy is a national one, the State Bars have become an instrument of oppression when they extort money and time from lawyers who have moved to their state in order to remain employed.
3) Propose Federal legislation that limits the amount of work that can be required from lawyers to 40 hours per week, after that overtime pay kicks in; and in no case should a lawyer be required to work more than 50 hours per week.
4) Each State Bar Association should freeze its Bar Association Dues. They are rich enough.
5) CLE’s should be ended. What a farce! What a waste of time and money. Enough is enough.
6) Lawyers should be encouraged to take pride in themselves, and in their profession. They should object to lawyer jokes, and encourage people to respect us. We must respect ourselves before others will respect us.
7) Harvard Law School must take immediate steps to improve the quality of life for its students, which stinks. The leadership of HLS has done little to correct this.
8) Each State Bar should publish a list of the best law firms to work for, and the worst to work for, ranking them all by their wages, average hours worked, benefits provided, and average length of service for their lawyers.
9) Katie Mapes should be made the publisher of the Harvard Law Review. My goodness she can write well, and perhaps she can actually make the Law Review worth reading.
10) Friends, this one is about spirit: We either try to improve the spirit of our profession, or we resolve ourselves to a life of lies, like the ones that Katie has so brilliantly outlined. We are some of the best and brightest people in the nation; if we cannot solve our own problems, then we as lawyers, will not solve other people’s problems. You don’t have to travel to other places to find the challenges, start right here on our own home campus.
Your Obedient Servant,
Charles Facktor, HLS Class of 1990
Richard Cravatt (“Harvard’s Ethical Dilemmas,” Feb. 2 ’06) raises an important issue that American universities should consider in the current political climate: how to promote the study of the world’s cultures without promoting a particular agenda. Unfortunately, that is the only virtue of Mr. Cravatt’s article.
Mr. Cravatt’s analysis of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s $20 million donation to Harvard is simplistic and misleading. He asks readers to believe that Prince Alwaleed is somehow responsible for a “repressive, totalitarian, sexist theocracy” even though he has no political role in Saudi Arabia. If anything, one might that think that Prince Alwaleed’s education in the United States has prompted him to build bridges between the two cultures. Note that he has simultaneously donated $15 million to the American Universities in Beirut and Cairo to boost American studies in the Arab world.
Let’s also be clear what the $20 million will be used for. The Harvard Gazette reports that it will “add strength in important disciplines such as the history of science and new areas of study, such as Islamic Inner-Asian, Southeast Asian, or South Asian studies.” The faculty positions it creates will be “from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.” And yes, there’s the question of an online database of digitized Islamic documents to “guard against the potential loss of important texts”. That’s a far cry from Mr. Cravatt’s fear of a “campaign that minimizes the defects of Saudi society and culture and promotes a sanitized, disingenuous view that ignores religious intolerance, a lack of pluralism, and homicidal religious fanaticism.” The money belongs to Harvard, and Harvard’s doing the hiring. There is no Saudi bogeyman here.
Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, to which Prince Alwaleed also donated $20 million, is a strong example of the kind of scholarship this support can enable. If Georgetown is not American enough for Mr. Cravatt, perhaps the example of Phillips Academy, which accepted $500,000 from Prince Alwaleed in support of the George Herbert Walker Bush Scholarship Fund will be more to his liking.
If Cravatt’s agenda is unclear from his analysis of Prince Alwaleed’s donation, his derogatory assertions about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) make it painfully obvious. Calling a civil rights advocacy group “an apologist for terror and anti-Americanism” is a clear and lazy attempt to jeopardize bridge-building efforts in and by the American Muslim community. CAIR’s countless denunciations of terrorism are clear to anyone who visits its official web site. Had Mr. Cravatt done so, he may perhaps stated its mission correctly (it is not simply to “promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America”, but rather to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding”). No responsible person calls the NAACP un-American, although its past campaigns (anti-lynching, women’s suffrage) were unpopular in certain quarters. We hope that, in time, the work of CAIR and other civic-minded American organizations will be met with the same maturity.
Mr. Cravatt argues that universities should resist foreign political agendas when accepting financial support. The informed reader will thank Mr. Cravatt for illustrating so well that bigotry is as often found at home.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – Massachusetts Chapter, Steering Committee