Last year, in advance of the bicentennial, we invited students, staff and faculty to reflect on who we are and what we believe in as a school community. With a focus on vocation-building, we asked three questions: (1) As we look to the past, who should we admire? (2) As we look to the future, what challenges are important? (3) As we look at the present, what are we being called to do?
We received dozens of submissions of: first, Harvard Law alumni, living and historic, with important legal vocations; second, important public challenges that merit the attention of our generation of lawyers; and third, exciting vocational goals of current Harvard Law students. To spur our collective reflection on who we are and where we want to go as a vocational community, below are submissions in response to the first question, “Which alumni had inspiring careers?”:
Inspiring Career #1: Cornelius Hedges (Class of 1856) became the intellectual father of Yellowstone National Park
(submitted by Shaun Goho, Clinical Instructor, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic)
Hedges, a 1856 graduate of HLS, moved to the then-territory of Montana in 1864, where he would live until his death more than 40 years later. There, he held a variety of public offices, including U.S. District Attorney for Montana Territory; territorial superintendent of public schools; member of the 1884 Constitutional Convention; and State Senator from 1889-1893.
In 1870, Hedges was part of the Washburn Expedition that explored the Yellowstone region. Near the end of the journey, the participants sat around the campfire and discussed Yellowstone’s future. Many of them said that they planned to file land claims, intending to profit from the anticipated influx of tourists eager to see the region’s natural wonders. Hedges, however, suggested that Yellowstone “ought to be set apart as a great National Park.” In the following years, he actively campaigned for the creation of the park. In 1872, Congress enacted and President Grant signed into law the statute establishing Yellowstone National Park—the first of its kind in the world.
“Thoughtful, kind, charitable, ever ready to heed the call of the unfortunate, without selfishness or guile, no better man has ever lived in Montana, nor to any is there a higher mead of praise for what he did and gave to Montana.”
Inspiring Career #2: Lam Nguyen Ho (Class of 2008) is setting a standard for community activism lawyering in Chicago.
(Submitted by Tess Heligren ’18)
After graduating from HLS in 2008, Ho moved to Chicago where he set up free community-based legal clinics. In 2014, with support from HLS’s Public Service Venture Fund, Ho founded the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA).Under Ho’s leadership, CALA sets an innovative example of community activism lawyering by working with local activists to help advance social justice for undocumented immigrants, sex workers, day laborers, and other underserved populations.
Under Ho’s leadership, CALA sets an innovative example of community activism lawyering by working with local activists to help advance social justice for undocumented immigrants, sex workers, day laborers, and other underserved populations.
“My background (immigrant, poverty, domestic violence, queerness) exposed me to the dehumanizing consequences when our justice system fails. It instilled a sense of responsibility to help others struggle against similar, and harder, challenges.”
Inspiring Career #3: Gina Clayton (Class of 2010) works to create communities that unite, train, and empower women with incarcerated loved ones to advocate against mass incarceration.
(Submitted by Ginger Jackson-Gleich ’18)
After graduating from HLS in 2010, Clayton worked to establish the Essie Justice Group in the San Francisco Bay Area. EJG then piloted a training program for women focusing on trauma healing, managing money through crisis, and advocacy. Now the organization partners with over 20 Bay Area non-profits to identify and serve women in need.
EJG focuses on building a loving and powerful network in order to equip women with the tools to heal families and communities and the resources to make social change. Using a curriculum designed by and for women, EJG seeds groups for women to give and receive support in order to help them access their collective power as leaders and advocates.
Inspiring Career #4: Julie Su (Class of 1994) has dedicated her career to advancing justice on behalf of poor and disenfranchised communities
(Submitted by Yih-hsien Shen, Assistant Director, Director for J.D. Advising, Office of Career Services)
A 1994 graduate of Harvard Law, Su brought dozens of landmark lawsuits during her years as a civil rights lawyer and as California’s Labor Commissioner, securing millions of dollars and policy changes benefiting low wage workers, immigrants, and victims of crime and human tracking.
Her dedication to civil rights has been longstanding. In her prior role as the Litigation Director at Asian Pacic American Legal Center in Los Angeles, Su initiated grassroots campaigns against sweatshop abuses and received the MacArthur Genius Grant. While attending HLS she was one of the “Griswold 9” that used civil disobedience to focus attention on the lack of female and minority professors.
“My primary focus [is] to make the promise of a just day’s pay for a hard day’s work a reality.”
Inspiring Career #5: Luke Cole (Class of 1989) was an innovator in environmental justice lawyering
(Submitted by Olivia Bensinger ’17)
Upon graduating from HLS in 1989, Cole moved to California and co-founded the Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment. He represented low-income communities and workers facing environmental hazards, always centering the community and their needs.
Cole practiced and produced scholarly work advocating for an “on tap, not on top” approach to lawyering. He advocated alongside migrant farmworker communities in Kern County, California and fought for damages from climate change for the Native Village of Kivalina, Alaska.
“Before a community group embarks on a legal course, however, a threshold question must be answered: Will a lawsuit help or hurt the community’s struggle?”
Inspiring Career #6: Margaret Montoya (Class of 1978) is injecting critical dialogue on racial justice and diversity into legal discourse
(Submitted by Mario Nguyen ’17)
Margaret was the first Latina woman to ever be admitted to HLS in 1975. Upon graduation in 1978, she won the Harvard University Sheldon Traveling Fellowship to study affirmative action internationally. In 2003, she supervised a group of students to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Grutter v. Bollinger.
Margaret is currently a Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico where she has been published throughout legal academia and served as the lead scholar for 2010 Diversity in the Legal Profession Report for ABA.
Inspiring Career #7: Henry Reuss (Class of 1936) “was a lawyer, a legislator, an environmentalist, urbanist, economist, statesman, a visionary, and a guerrilla.”
(Submitted by Shaun Goho, Senior Clinical Instructor, Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic)
Henry Reuss graduated from Harvard Law School in 1936. He served in the Army during the Second World War, receiving the Bronze Star. After the war, he was the deputy general counsel of the Marshall Plan.
Reuss represented Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District in Congress from 1955 to 1983. In 1959, he was the original proponent in Congress of what would become the Peace Corps. As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Natural Resources, he held hearings that led to the end of the Department of Agriculture’s stream channelization program. He was Chairman of the House Banking Committee from 1975 to 1981.
An advocate of what he called “statutory archeology,” in 1970 Reuss discovered a largely-forgotten provision of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 that made it illegal to discharge “any refuse matter” into rivers, lakes, or streams. His subcommittee staff issued a report on the possibility of citizen lawsuits under this provision and Reuss himself used the law to bring suit against dozens of polluters in Wisconsin. Lawsuits under what came to be known as the Refuse Act played a major part in reducing industry opposition to the legislation that would become the Clean Water Act.
As his longtime friend John Kenneth Galbraith wrote of him after his death, Reuss “was interested in everything, deeply informed, active on all fronts, from the structure of the International Monetary Fund to the 1899 Refuse Act to endless proposals to save and rebuild our cities and our transportation systems. He understood just how complicated, just how expert, just how motivated and just how engaged government had to be….”
Inspiring Career #8: Khalil Shariff (Class of 2002) is a civic champion of developing communities throughout the world.
(Submitted by Malik Ladhani ’18)
After graduating from HLS in 2002, Khalil Shariff returned to Canada, where he worked with the Toronto office of McKinsey & Company. Since 2005, Khalil has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). AKFC is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of development agencies that address social, economic and cultural dimensions of development. Active in 30 countries, these agencies share a mission to improve living conditions and opportunities for the poor, without regard to their faith, origin or gender. AKFC’s programs demonstrate that success is possible when poverty is tackled on multiple fronts, over the long-term, and with communities in charge.
Khalil has also been centrally involved in the start-up of a new institution, the Global Centre for Pluralism, dedicated to advancing the value and practices of respecting diversity, and now serves on its Board.
Inspiring Career #9: Lara Quint (Class of 2002) is a public servant who enriches every institution and person she interacts with.
(Submitted by Maseeh Moradi ’18)
Following her HLS graduation in 2002, Lara Quint spent a decade at the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Washington, D.C., where she represented indigent defendants at all stages of the criminal justice process. For the past 3 years, Lara has worked in the office of U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, now serving as Chief Counsel there. Among the many legislative initiatives she has spearheaded, Lara helped lead the effort on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.
HLS students who have spent summers on Capitol Hill report being inspired by Lara’s intelligence, energy, and bigheartedness. She is generous in offering to assist and mentor students, often going the extra mile to help (and will have frozen yogurt with students in the Senate basement cafe whenever they ask!). She has a deep-seated passion for social justice and lives a life marked by activism and kindness. For these reasons and more, she is a role model to us all.
Inspiring Career #10: The contributions of Mitt Romney (Class of 1975) to the world as a business leader, civil servant, philanthropist, and family man have been far-reaching.
(Submitted by Alex Knight ’18)
Mitt Romney is well known for his impressive list of accomplishments in both the private and public sectors. He served as the CEO of Bain & Company, and later founded and developed Bain Capital into one of the largest private equity firms in the country. Mitt also served as the President of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, where he is credited for saving the city from significant financial peril, and as Governor of Massachusetts, where, among other things, he helped spearhead Healthcare reform legislation—the first of its kind in America.
Perhaps more impressive than his career as a businessman and government leader, Governor Romney is also known for his devotion to his family and to philanthropy. Both within his faith (The LDS Church) and outside of it, Mitt has given, and continues to give, countless time and resources to others. More than anything else, this devotion to his family, and the world around him is the reason why Governor Romney embodies the noblest ideals of Harvard Law School.
As President Barack Obama put it, “I admire [Governor Romney] very much as a family man and a loving father, and those are two titles that will always matter more than any political ones.”
Inspiring Career #11: Robert Taft (Class of 1913) championed conservatism in the Senate.
(Submitted by Samuel Settle ’19)
After graduating from HLS in 1913, Taft worked as a private attorney in Cincinnati. He entered Ohio politics, becoming an outspoken opponent of the Ku Klux Klan.
Later, Taft was elected to the US Senate, where he helped create the conservative coalition–a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats who fought the expansion of the New Deal.
Taft was famous as a serious, principled statesman. His willingness to take unpopular stands led John F. Kennedy to include him in Profiles in Courage.
Inspiring Career #12: Mark Martins (Class of 1990) is establishing and upholding the rule of law at home and overseas.
(Submitted by George Hageman ’17)
Brigadier General Mark Martins has taken on some of the most challenging assignments in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. As the commander of the Rule of Law Field Force—Afghanistan, Martins reformed detention operations and fought corruption. Now, as the Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions, he leads the cases against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the USS Cole bomber.
A Rhodes Scholar and West Point valedictorian, Martins leads by example. He works tirelessly to see the case through, building up the legitimacy and fairness of the institution in the face of immense public pressure. As Dean Minow said when awarding him the HLS Medal of Freedom in 2011, “how lucky this nation is that Mark Martins has given these enormous talents and gifts.”
Inspiring Career #13: Navi Pillay (S.J.D. Class of 1988) has advanced human rights at the forefront
(Submitted by Ha Ryong Jung (Michael), ’18)
As the first South African to receive a doctorate in law at HLS, Navi Pillay served as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and respectably asserted that her role was to be “the voice of the victim everywhere.” As a vocal advocate for women and minority groups, she was an active non-white lawyer under the Apartheid regime and a judge at the ICTR and ICC for a significant period of time, ruling that rape and sexual assault could constitute acts of genocide.
She has been influential through difficult times in history, believing that human rights are central to preventing conflict. She values the power of collaboration in protecting and promoting the rights of individuals around the world. She is a courageous role model.
Inspiring Career #14: Abram Chayes (Class of 1949) “[held] the United States to its own best standards and principles.”
(Submitted by Katrina Braun, ’17)
Abram Chayes graduated from HLS in 1949. He held a number of positions in government, including being the legal adviser to the State Department in the Kennedy administration, during which time he helped devise the strategy for dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also became a highly respected author on international law topics.
In the 1980s, he successfully represented Nicaragua in an international lawsuit against the U.S., charging that his country had illegally mined Nicaraguan ports and sought to overthrow its government. Many in the U.S. saw Chayes’s choice to represent Nicaragua as a betrayal of his homeland. Chayes, however, told an interviewer at the time that “[t]here’s nothing wrong with a lawyer holding the United States to its own best standards and principles.”
Chayes went on to litigate more cases in the international arena, and taught for many years at HLS. There is now a scholarship in his name supporting law students doing summer work in international public service.