An Open Letter on the Public Interest Scavenger Hunt

Dear Harvard Law School Community,

With the new semester underway, we are excited to announce the return of a great Harvard Law School tradition: The Public Interest Scavenger Hunt is back, and will be taking place on Friday, March 8th, 2019!

As the 3L class knows, this tradition was born with us, when we were 1Ls. And as the Hunt’s inaugural class prepares to graduate, we are redoubling the event’s commitment and connection to its core mission: promoting and supporting the Public Interest Community here at HLS. Toward that end, we are excited to announce that this year we are uniting the Hunt with another great Harvard Law School tradition: The One Day’s Work Pledge.

Here’s the basic idea. This year’s Hunt will have all of the things that you 2Ls and 3Ls have come to love—and that you 1Ls and LLMs will soon get to experience for the first time: Hundreds of your fellow classmates dressing up in crazy costumes, darting across campus in search of answers to trivia clues about our school and our community, snapping selfies with professors and staff members, and competing for the highest scores—and the great faculty prizes and bragging rights that go to the winning teams. (Glenn Cohen shopping spree, anyone?) This year, though, we are asking something from you in return for this fun-filled and empowering afternoon: that you pledge One Day’s Work to help support public interest here in our own community.

So, what is “one day’s work?” In concrete terms, we’re hoping that you will pledge either the equivalent of one day’s salary at your upcoming post-graduation or summer job—which will go toward funding a brand new public-interest fellowship for one of our own graduating students—or that you will join fellow classmates in a day of community service on April 20th. You can choose either option. We just ask that you choose one.

As we mentioned, this isn’t exactly a new idea. Harvard Law students have been supporting each other with One Day’s Work pledge drives for decades, with the most recent one conducted by the Class of 2015 (right before we 3Ls got to campus).  Other law schools, including Northwestern and Michigan, have similar student-funded fellowships, which are a great way for us as a student body to show that—in addition to the support that the school gives to fund dozens of Public Service Venture Fund fellows each year—we students can also come together as a community to do our part.  In short, by uniting the One Day’s Work pledge with the Public Interest Scavenger Hunt, we hope to channel all the great energy and community-building spirit of the Hunt towards making One Day’s Work a consistent part of the Law School’s culture of student-led service and philanthropy.

Okay. We can hear you thinking it: “Isn’t one day’s work, well, a lot of money… for an event that used to be free?” And our answer, at least to the first part of your question is, yes, one day’s salary for someone who is about to begin working at a typical corporate law firm is a lot of money. In fact, in just twelve weeks at a summer law firm job we will earn almost $15,000 more than what half of the people working in America earn in an entire year. And our salaries are often four, five, or even six times more than our classmates going into public interest—year after year.

We don’t say this to guilt you. We understand that the vast majority of our classmates (including many of us!) will start our careers in corporate law firms, either because the work is interesting to us or because it makes the most sense given our personal financial situation. Rather, we underscore that one day’s salary is, for many of us, a lot of money for two reasons: First, we think it’s good to be honest about the real, concrete, and financial privilege that being an HLS grad will afford many of us for the rest of our lives. And second, we want to underscore that this is an opportunity to do real and substantial good, not only for our own public-interest bound classmates but for all of the many clients and causes they will serve. Our goal is to raise enough money to fund one of our graduating classmates for an entire year, at a time when the need for legal services has never been higher and when legal aid organizations are under constant threat of increasingly severe funding cuts. In short, One Day’s Work is a lot of money—and it can do a lot of good.

That said, we also understand that one day’s full salary may simply be too much for many of you, even if you are going to work at a large firm (and perhaps even more so if you aren’t). But even if that’s the case, we’d just ask you to consider: How much will you make in a morning? In an hour? How much might your employer spend on just one of your lunches?  If One Day’s Work is too much, we hope you’ll consider donating one of these other amounts instead—because every little bit helps. And of course, if a financial donation is simply too much or not how you want to participate, we welcome you to join us for a day of community service after the Hunt.

The main point, though, is that we hope you’ll come out and be part of this incredible and empowering HLS tradition—an afternoon when we come together as a community to have a lot of fun, to renew our commitment to student-led philanthropy, and to do some real and meaningful good, for each other and for those whom we aim to serve.

The PISH Team
Jeff Adler
Laura Lee Barry
Michael Donohue
Medha Gargeya
Kaitlyn Gerber
Kim Grano
Andrew Haag
Peter Lu
Samantha Miller
Julius Mitchell
Fabiola Perez Castro
Rebecca Rechtszaid
Michael Roig
Ryan Rossner
Kelly Tripathi

The Public Interest Scavenger Hunt Committee

Jeff Adler, Laura Lee Barry, Michael Donohue, Medha Gargeya, Kaitlyn Gerber, Kim Grano, Andrew Haag, Peter Lu, Samantha Miller, Julius Mitchell, Fabiola Perez Castro, Rebecca Rechtszaid, Michael Roig, Ryan Rossner, and Kelly Tripathi are 3Ls.

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