Welcome to Harvard Law! I know you’re all coming in with different backgrounds, expectations, and experiences, and that’s part of what makes HLS such a unique learning environment. I’m also aware that I wrote a similar piece last year, but I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and I certainly hope the same is true of all 2Ls and 3Ls who feel they have room for personal growth. That said, my advice this year will be less conventional than it was last year. What can I say? I’m a 3L now. This issue is full of great advice, and I’m just trying to fill in the gaps for you.
Treat every exam like a closed book exam
Look, the reality is you need to know the material if you want to do well. Just because a lot of your exams are open book/outline exams, doesn’t mean you should be using them every five seconds during the test. Oh, and the people who tell you grades don’t matter are lying. They do. Worse, in most cases, grades serve to close doors when they are inadequate rather than open them because they are exceptional, unless you are very charming. Don’t let that scare you; if you’re resourceful enough to be here, you’re resourceful enough to build a future worth celebrating, and what’s more, some people do still recognize the value of a Harvard Law degree. If nothing else, you can never practice too much at interviewing.
Work harder at being kind
Not sure if you were aware, but this school is full of smart people. Smart people are wonderful. They change the world, do their best to educate others, and help people solve their problems. It’s why so many of them want to be lawyers. But the best smart people are smart people who also have good character. If you’re here, you’re probably self-disciplined and hardworking, which are both incredibly important to being a virtuous person.
But law school, despite the administration’s largely successful efforts to make it less so, can be a competitive and difficult environment. Everyone is under a lot of stress, and differing expectations and priorities can collide. Moreover, political issues and the law go hand in hand, and as the editor-in-chief of this publication, I have to say I think it’s important to confront those with whom you disagree, especially when the disagreement goes to the core of your beliefs.
However, I’ve never been kept sleepless by being kind and respectful to people with differing views. I’ve only ever regretted being mean. To be sure, I’ve done and said mean things in my life, knowing it would make me feel bad, and I’m confident many of you have as well. But every day is a new day, and regret is our better angels’ way of telling us to learn from our mistakes. If you’re not the type to feel regret, there are other incentives: no one will remember if you got an H in Property. They’ll remember if you made them feel stupid on purpose, were inconsiderate, used people, or were hard to get along with in other ways.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially petty mistakes. People sometimes say the wrong thing, and maybe we don’t need to ruin their lives over it if they demonstrate a capacity to change their minds and be better. But character is a skill that you can develop over time, and the more energy you put into developing it, the more people will respect your diploma from Harvard Law School, especially when you leave Cambridge and you need to work closely with people who didn’t go here.
Contact your Senators and stop Judge Kavanaugh from being put on the Supreme Court
This advice, of course, only applies up to the point where he is probably confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. I took a course with him last Winter Term, and it was a good course. I have no personal animosity against Brett Kavanaugh, the guy. He was a fair professor who taught us a lot not only about the Supreme Court, but about how to carry ourselves as professionals. One of the things he told us was that loyalty is important, but to be careful of, according to my notes, “loyalty over the ethical cliff.” I don’t doubt that a lot of people who took that course alongside me felt a sense of loyalty to him, and as such, have only spoken privately. Letters went around the student body, both supporting and opposing his confirmation.
I signed the letter opposing it, because I believe that despite my respect for his differing views and successful legal career in the public service, to support his confirmation on the basis of having taken a class and had a few beers with him would constitute “loyalty over the ethical cliff” in this situation. I think President Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh knowing that he believes Morrison v. Olson, a case you will read about in Legislation and Regulation, should be overturned, which would mean President Trump could not be indicted for his crimes, despite the fact that we now know that Michael Cohen has implicated him in a criminal conspiracy. I don’t believe that being a nice person who generally deserves a good future is a sufficient condition for being put on the highest court in the US. Further, believing that the President should be immune from checks on illegal behavior outside of the political process ought to be disqualifying, especially if you’ve been nominated by a President who participated in a known criminal conspiracy.
I realize this advice is general rather than 1L specific, and I must clarify that I only speak on the behalf of myself – not the staff of The Record, and certainly not all of our wonderful contributors. But if he is confirmed, it will have consequences for the rest of your legal careers. I believe that to be silent when as of this writing, his confirmation hearings start the day this issue is released – or to just give you general advice like “continue to pay attention to what’s going on outside” – when I have this platform is more dangerous than saying something that may upset people I know and even people I care about who happen to disagree with me. Which is why you should…
Join our staff
Seriously, I can’t do this job forever. Someone needs to replace me, and if you’re still reading this, it could definitely be you. I want to work with people who are dependable, easygoing, quick-thinking, practiced in writing, and passionate about current affairs with a desire to be part of the most important conversations on campus, even in the face of disagreement. If that sounds like you, please reach out. I’d be happy to speak with you.
Enjoy 1L as much as you possibly can
The real world awaits, and there are not, in fact, constant parties and social events where you will see all of your friends (unless you end up in New York after graduation). Joking aside, regardless of where you end up, you’ll eventually have to grow up and build an adult life. That’s why your parents wanted you to go here, isn’t it? You have the rest of your life to do that, so 1L is not the time. Have some fun, get to know people who aren’t necessarily like you, and don’t be the one who gets in their own way of that. Easy enough, right?
Take care, and I hope to hear from you soon. These issues don’t write themselves, you know.
The opinions expressed herein are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Record.