Going Off the Record

BY ANDREA SAENZ

After three years as an editor for this paper, it’s finally time for me to stop emailing you and begging for low-quality pictures of your moderately attended panel. The Record closes up shop for the year this week, and I’m feeling pretty nostalgic about the good times with this fine publication during my law school career.

There was the time we won two ABA Law Student Division awards for writing, and the time the local Spanish newspaper wanted to rerun our editorials about the lack of Latino faculty. There was the time American Lawyer magazine commissioned its own Fenno column, the time the Globe quoted our April Fools’ Day issue because it was funny, and all the times our stories were picked up by law bloggers. There was every time I convinced myself no one reads this paper, and then someone wrote me an email about some column or told me in person something they’d learned from our coverage.

There was also the time that commentator Debra Dickerson came to HLS and went on an extended tangent about how the Record used to be awesome when she was a staffer and how it now “sucks” and is “like the Pennysaver.” And the time Ralph Nader did an interview with us and went on an extended tangent about how the Record used to be awesome when he was an editor and how it is now “thin” and “too much like a student newspaper.” (We have the full archives, guys. The Record’s never been the Washington Post.) There was the time our prospective coverage of a protest freaked out everyone involved and we had to meet with the Dean of Students, the president of Fed Soc, and assorted professors before running an article that no one hated us for. And the time I wrote a joke column that resulted in a bunch of crazies on Autoadmit.com saying I should be set on fire and evaluating my appearance. Also, the time a lawyer threatened to sue us. Fun!

Oh, and there was the time an article started a JLSA vs. Justice for Palestine war in the letters section. Oh, that happened five times? Right.

The thing is, it really was fun, even that stuff. I wouldn’t trade any of it.

Writing and editing for this paper has been the most major of the slightly atypical choices I’ve made during my law school career; instead of Tax and Corps, take Poverty Law and Disability Rights; instead of OCI, prostate myself at the feet of Fellowships Director Judy Murciano; instead of ACS or Fed Soc, join the a cappella group; instead of the law review competition, clean out the Record office. (Did you know the April Fools’ Day issue was once titled “The Rectum”? Now you do!). I say “slightly” atypical because I never put on an orange jumpsuit or told my friends I wanted to use fellowship money to destroy capitalism from the inside (you know who you are); I hold no illusions that I’m a crazy trailblazer. And I would add having a baby to that list, but as we reported in the Career Guide this year, babies are hot fashion accessories this year, so I don’t get any originality points for that one.

The point is, I’ve been happy. I hope you have been too. I came to this law school to become an immigration lawyer, learn some lawyerly skills, and get my loans paid for, and guess what, I’m about to be an immigration lawyer and my loans are getting paid for. Hooray! I wouldn’t characterize my skills as “mad” quite yet, but I’ll get there. Also, I made some wonderful friends and met even more people who I hope will donate generously to my organization when I come calling.

So since no year-end column is complete without unsolicited advice, that’s mine: do a bunch of weird stuff with your law school career and life without any regard to whether it’s prestigious or really lucrative or has, god forbid, “exit options.” You’re all pretty awesome and will land on your feet somehow. Help someone. Have an adventure. Be really, really happy.

There is a lot of crazy bad stuff happening in the world, and I won’t detail it all because I want this column to be hopeful and happy, but you know what I mean. In my chosen field, the government holds hardworking people who don’t have legal status in jails, moves them around the country however they want, frequently denies them decent health care, and tries them in proceedings where the government gets a lawyer but they don’t, even if they don’t speak English, have no formal education, and need asylum because they’re going to get killed if they go home. It’s insane. But you don’t have to love immigration to have a cause. I mean, right now people in Haiti are eating cookies made out of dirt because global food prices are even higher than usual and they can’t afford to eat. I don’t know if they need lawyers, but they need someone.

My husband had a college professor who, upon meeting a stranger, would say, “What’s your cause?” I feel lucky to have found mine in a classroom in Houston before law school: immigrants and families and people who are trying to make it and hitting a wall (or a fence.) I hope you have too, whether it’s good corporate governance or the poorest of the poor in Haiti. And if you haven’t, keep looking. Or email me, I have ideas!

The point is, people need us. Not just your family and your (future) spouse and kids, although of course they come first. People need us and our skills and voices and outrage. So be mad with me, please.

So farewell and thanks for all the brownies, Harvard. They’re as moist and delicious as the day I came for admitted students weekend. I’m ready to leave school behind, but you did right by me.

I look forward to coming back at a reunion and complaining about how bad this paper is. It’ll be out of nothing but love.

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