How I Took the “School” Out of Harvard Law

BY ELENA KAGAN

“See you inside the Beltway, suckers!”

It worked.

I can’t believe it actually worked.

I mean, when all the gossip rags started crowing about the HLS faculty lounge moving to the Potomac, they had no idea how right they really were. But now I’ve got Cass, Jody, and Barron all down here successfully, and the Senate has made me the Crimson-haired lioness in Holder’s legal lair (it’s a pity you couldn’t have taken your rightful position, ‘Tree, but, you must be aware by now, ‘Bam had debts to settle at Columbia, too). As for the rest of you on my list – Evacuation Day will go ahead as planned. I hope you’ve packed your offices.

What am I talking about? Well, like any good villain, I suppose I’ve got to give up the plot, now that it’s five minutes to zero hour. As I’m sure you all realized after the first time its subway stopped running, Boston is puny, provincial, and cold. HLS, the finest law school in the country, might as well have been north of the Arctic Circle. I mean, do you think the reason we couldn’t get Nussbaum was all that drama with Sunny Boy? That was so over before you people even knew about it. No, it was about eighteen degrees too frigid for Martha, and she’s from the Windy City.

So, around the time I had exhausted the possibilities of this environment – you have to admit, the ice rink was a stretch – I began to grow restless. Don’t you remember the days when I would not shut up about this place being “the New York City of law schools”? I know, it sounded desperate. I was having trouble justifying it, even to myself. New York during the boom: the center of the world, seat of the masters of the universe! And we were far, so far away. That’s when the scheming began.

And then came Obama. That mellifluous voice, that executive privilege of appointment! Even before he was elected, the press was crowing about my imminent appointment to the Court. Could you imagine? Spring comes two weeks earlier to D.C. than New York. The entire Stanford faculty could be mine!

It was then that it hit me. Washington was certain to call – not just I, but many others on the faculty (and New York is, like, so over now anyway. I can’t imagine the looks on the faces of the firms at OCI when you kiddies said you wanted to work in “capital markets”!) And yet, there would be those I had left behind. Pauvre Lessig, your scholarly shift came way too late – you should have just run for Congress like Palfrey asked you to. How I would hate to miss your chair lecture! There had to be a better way.

I would take the glorious faculty I had built – all of them. We would keep Harvard Law School together – minus that whole pesky “school” part. After all, students had never really been the concern of anyone I brought to Cambridge. I mean, how many of you actually got to take a class with Cass again? Right. It wasn’t even in his job description; I really only wooed him so the third of the faculty not basking in the iridescent brilliance of Goldsmith or Tribe would have someone to worship.

Anyway, we transplanted faculty would be Barry’s Boys (and, yes, PC police, girls) first, scholars second. There would be no time to teach – although turning on the waterworks with an unsuspected cold-call on the mousey girls who hung out in the back of Admin was the undisputed highlight of my week.

I wonder what it would take to make Holder cry. He did call us a “nation of cowards,” but he sounds like he can dish it out waaay more than he can take it. Maybe I’ll sneak into the men’s bathroom with some markers and cover the mirror with the name “Marc Rich”.

Ahem.

Anyway, good luck to the rest of you, particularly anyone hoping to concentrate in environmental law. Howell you deal with that conundrum, acting dean? I crack myself up sometimes. Seriously, HJ, looking for replacements is hopeless. They’re all down here saving the real environment, not the casebook one. Don’t be cross. There’s a place for you at the new faculty lounge – 666 K St. – as soon as they find someone with my fundraising acumen to be the next dean. Oh, right – you’re stuck there, forever.

In the meantime, we’re taking the Free Coffee Strategic Reserve with us, and we’re re-employing that cheap labor from Sodexho. Oh, children. You’ll understand as soon as they take away your toys; I hear that awful newspaper that was such a thorn in my side over the last year will be the first to lose its office space under the big restructuring. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen the polls, but I’ve heard ‘Bam is doing a bang-up job with that whole banking crisis. I’ve got to run for my lunch date with Paul Krugman, but I can’t imagine a better time to tell him how much of those policies were my idea.

Toodles, suckers.

Elena Kagan ’86 is Solicitor General of the United States

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