An Open Letter on the Clerkship Hiring Pilot, Signed by 38 Student Groups

February 4, 2019

We, a collection of student-led organizations at Harvard Law School, are writing to affirm our strong support for Harvard’s participation in the Clerkship Hiring Pilot that will span the next two years. We also write to reinforce our commitment to encourage our respective memberships to adhere to the requirements put forward in the plan.

The clerkship hiring process is chaotic and fraught. Moreover, the process has long worked to the detriment of minority students, first-generation law students, and women, who have lacked access to information and resources available through traditional legal networks. As clerkship application timelines have become front-loaded, students who would benefit from additional time to adjust to law school, or who may lack an insider’s understanding of the competitive process, have been left at a significant, strategic disadvantage. It is no surprise that since 2005, 85% of Supreme Court clerks have been non-Hispanic white—the population which has historically enjoyed the most access to these insider networks—and only a third have been women.

In the interest of creating a more diverse class of clerks, it is imperative that the two-year Pilot is successful. The success and expansion of the Plan are the necessary first steps in addressing systemic inequities in access to clerkship opportunities. Cooperation by students—in refraining from actively seeking positions and preparing applications before the end of 2L year is critical. Of equal importance is cooperation by professors—in refraining from writing letters of recommendation on behalf of students, speaking with judges on behalf of students, or consenting to being listed as a reference before the end of 2L year. Unfortunately, there have already been accounts of 2L students at HLS securing clerkships, which necessarily required working with professors willing to serve as references or recommenders ahead of the Plan’s timeline.

Student organizations at HLS play a crucial role in the success of the Clerkship Hiring Pilot. They foster and maintain vital networks that help connect their members with professional opportunities. But those networks cannot and should not be exploited to undermine the spirit of the Pilot. Accordingly, our groups—which represent an array of affinities and a significant portion of the HLS community—have committed to work within the framework set out by the Clerkship Hiring Pilot. We will not circumvent the Plan by sharing privileged information from alumni or by working to assist individual students in obtaining clerkships before the end of their 2L year. Harvard Law School led the way in pushing for this important reform when the clerkship application process last devolved into a race to the bottom. Now, the entire Law School community must pledge its support for this policy if it is to avoid the same fate.

We urge every student organization at Harvard Law School, across the ideological spectrum, to  join our peers in committing to fairness in the same way. Further, we urge all members of the HLS community—faculty and students—to adhere to the Plan’s guidelines to ensure equality of opportunity for all students. Finally, we ask the Administration to take active steps to ensure that both students and professors are operating in the spirit of this critical program. To that end, we request a meeting with Deans Manning, Sells, and Weberas well as the advisory staff in the Office of Career Servicesat their earliest convenience, to discuss the concrete steps HLS administrators are taking to protect and preserve the integrity of the Clerkship Hiring Pilot.

The Members of:

Harvard Law School American Constitution Society
Advocates for Education
Advocates for Human Rights
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Campaign for Political Equality
Environmental Law Society
Financial Justice Coalition
Food Law Society
Harvard African Law Association
Harvard Animal Law Society
Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review
Harvard Health Law Society
Harvard Human Rights Journal
Harvard Journal of Law & Gender
Harvard Journal on Legislation
Harvard Latinx Law Review
Harvard Law School Immigration Project
Harvard Law & Policy Review
Harvard Law Students Alliance for Reproductive Justice
Harvard Law Students Democrats
Harvard Mediation Program
Harvard Negotiation Law Review
JD/MPP Joint Degree Cohort
Jewish Law Students Association
Korean Association of Harvard Law School
La Alianza
Labor and Employment Action Project
Mississippi Delta Project
National Lawyers Guild – Harvard Law School Chapter
Pipeline Parity Project
Prison Legal Assistance Project
Progressive Jewish Alliance
South Asian Law Students Association
Tenant Advocacy Project
Turkish Law Students Association
West Coast Club Board

Radhe Patel, Vail Kohnert-Yount & Hannah Klain

Radhe Patel and Vail Kohnert-Yount are 2Ls, and Hannah Klain is a 3L. Radhe is the Vice President, Vail is the Activism Chair, and Hannah is the President of the Harvard Law Chapter of the American Constitution Society.

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