Response to “An Open Letter to Christine Jolls”:
Dear “Masked Avenger” and the HLS community:
Although I was very sad to see such a critical letter in my email inbox and the Harvard Law Record, there is a silver lining: I am very glad and heartened to see values of care and rigor being given so much emphasis by the “Masked Avenger.” Although I plead guilty to such things as not consistently italicizing University of Chicago Law Review in a cover letter sent by Judge Richard Posner, Harvard economists Christopher Avery and Alvin Roth, and me to 3Ls at HLS and other schools asking them to fill out a survey about the judicial clerkship hiring process, I actually agree with the “Masked Avenger” insofar as published materials are concerned. With respect to anything of mine that is going to press, I believe that being scrupulous about all matters, from the largest matters of substance to the smallest matters of usage and formatting, is extremely important, and I spend many, many hundreds of hours on these matters in my published work. Indeed, were there more hours in the day, I would try to follow the same approach even with respect to materials not intended for publication — such as the cover letter that so perturbed the “Masked Avenger” — but, as one of my former HLS faculty colleagues once memorably commented to me in another context, “If I did X, I’d have to go down to brushing my teeth only every other day.”
For similar reasons of time, a couple of our survey questions, including one of the questions criticized by the “Masked Avenger,” were not vetted fully, and we do not consider the responses to these questions fully reliable (because multiple interpretations of the question were possible). We decided several weeks ago not to use the responses to these couple of questions in the published version of our article. The theme is the same: before something goes to press, every feasible measure is taken to make sure that the published work meets the standards defended so fiercely by the “Masked Avenger.”
Alongside the somewhat vicious communication from the “Masked Avenger” in response to the clerkship survey, I received nearly fifty kind notes from HLS 3Ls who added personal comments or wishes in responding to the survey request. As I said in responding to many of those individual notes, I was very saddened by the timing of my departure from HLS. Although it was my choice and desire to move to the smaller and more close-knit law school where I nearly chose to begin my teaching career ten years ago, I certainly did not wish to leave so suddenly, and I will use the “Masked Avenger’s” Open Letter as the occasion to express publicly my regret for any student inconvenience caused by the suddenness of my departure. If I can be of help to any of you in any way, I am still in Cambridge two days a week, and you can reach me there at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Respectfully yours,Christine Jolls
In your most recent edition, there was an article by Pia Owens called “Being Pregnant in Law School,” in which Pia asked two excellent questions from the start; she asked: “Would becoming a lawyer mean that I would end up a miserable, divorced (but rich) alcoholic…and second, would I have to put off motherhood indefinitely?” Well at least Pia got the questions correct, even if she struggled with the answers. Pia states in her article that if she had answered “yes” to the above questions (about becoming an alcoholic who postpones motherhood due to going to law school), then she would never have started law school at all. Well perhaps that is the case, but law school is the EASY part of becoming a lawyer. Still ahead, she will find Bar Exams every single time she moves from one State to another; she will find heavy debts created by her law school (payable over 10 years), and she will find law firms willing to pay her well… IF she gives up all contact with the outside world (including her new baby), due to billable hours that make every single day a 10 hour day. If Pia is one of the very few lucky ones, she will emerge a decade from now debt free (exactly back to zero assets), sober (although she may pick up a bad drug problem if she doesn’t drink to numb the pain), married (to a saint of a husband who must not need to see his wife daily), and with kids that she may or may not know well. THAT IS THE CURRENT SYSTEM AT MOST LARGE LAW FIRMS that most Harvard graduates join. None of this is a slam against Pia, for she got the two questions correct above, but she did appear to struggle with the answers. Some readers (and Pia) might argue that, well, after law school, one could avoid the large law firms, and practice “public interest law.” True, and students are well advised to follow that course of action, but the vast majority simply do not, and 10 years later, so many of them are divorced (but rich), alcoholic, and yes Pia, sadly, many do postpone motherhood while they chase the golden illusion. There is no easy answer to Pia’s two excellent questions, as long as the existing law schools charge students so much money, that they either end up in a decade of slavery at large firms, or they end up barely surviving at “public interest jobs.” You see, our profession is out of balance, there is no harmony, and not much of a middle class. Our legal profession, which should be supportive of a work/life balance, instead makes war on it. Our law schools instead of protecting our new young law students, charge them as much money as they can, and send them poor and into the streets; our Bar Associations instead of assisting our members, charge them a fortune every year “for the honor of being able to work”, and place long and expensive barriers in the way of lawyers who need to move from one State to another to follow their careers or spouses. The legal profession, and our law schools, are in desperate need of MAJOR AND RADICAL REFORM, so that good people like Pia, are not forced to ask these two excellent questions, and then they would never have to struggle with the answers! Motherhood and law school should not be on polar ends of the planet, and the legal profession and a balanced life should not exist on different planets. Those in charge of our law schools, our Bar Associations, and the large law firms, have exploited some of the most gifted minds in the land; treating them harshly with rough unkind hands, while giving voice to empty words of comfort. Perhaps someday they will be held accountable for their actions; perhaps someday a new generation of lawyers will insist on being treated like they are human…
Respectfully submitted,Charles Facktor (HLS 1990)