Category Archives: Opinion

Commentary by members of the Harvard Law community.

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 19, 2014  / 

From Law School to State Politics

Some days the best I could do was rush. Interstate 40, the highway that runs east to west through North Carolina, became a second home during the afternoons that I left Civil Procedure and made my way to the state capital for Democratic Party meetings. Balancing the workload of a law student with the demands of public service is not an easy task; it is, however, one that far too few attempt. Deciding to go to law school was a step in a journey that began years before. During college I directed Heller Service Corps, one of the nation’s largest collegiate service organizations. While working with local service partners, I saw the great impact made by attorneys in shaping civic culture. Later, when working for Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC), himself an attorney, I saw firsthand the value of legally trained elected officials. Just this week, I found myself as one … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 19, 2014  / 

Want to Save the World? Do BigLaw!

For people systematically chosen for being able to root out and analyze the rationality of arguments, lawyers are pitifully bad at being reasonable. Let us look, for instance, at the current theories about what to do with your law degree. (1) Become a Corporate Lawyer at a Law Firm. By far the most popular choice, but which no one wants to talk about when inspiring you about to change the world. Most people take this, make a lot of money, and spend it on themselves buying big cars, big apartments, big diamonds, and a host of other things that will never make you happy in life. (2) Become a Public Interest Lawyer. Not nearly as common, yet popular culture has induced the notion that this is nobler than being a corporate sell out by going the law firm route. (3) Become a Government Lawyer. A nice balance between the two, … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 19, 2014  / 

In Response to “Want to Save the World? Do BigLaw!”

Tonight, I open my inbox to an email from another Record Editor. In it, he says – “Sima, you may be interested in responding to this article that we’ll be printing.” I hear many baseless, racist, and completely oblivious arguments throughout my day, and try to limit the time I spend feeling angry about them. But this article is so problematic that I think it would be irresponsible of a law school newspaper to publish it on its own. So here is my response. I am not responding to this article because I think the arguments merit the time and energy I will spend writing this up. I am writing because I want students, but most especially ILs, to know that there are incredibly critical, thoughtful, committed, intelligent people at Harvard Law School who have made the choice not to go into corporate law for very important reasons. Yes, it … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 19, 2014  / 

Fellow Law Students, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was thinking of death and old age when he wrote his famous refrain: “Do not go gentle into that good night … Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Yet this line is applicable to many twenty-something students here at Harvard Law School. Because, quite frankly, a lot of us are, well, dying. Hear me out. We HLS students all quite good at narrowing our focus—at being funneled. We are funneled into the same narrow slate of extracurriculars during high school. We are funneled into a major or two in college. And finally, we are funneled into law school. This funneling process only narrows as time goes on. Our goals become more uniform—some students convince themselves that they crave a prestigious clerkship purely because everyone else wants that prestigious clerkship; others fall prey to the false notion, popular on this campus, that if they want … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 19, 2014  / 

Behind Bars, Law Students Find Their First Clients

I didn’t think my first cross examination would happen before my 1L Fall exams. On a brisk December morning, I and my 3L supervisor drove the almost 40 miles to the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center to defend our client, an inmate, at his disciplinary hearing on behalf of Harvard’s Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP). We practiced for much of the car ride, going over the Department of Correction’s evidence and our possible lines of argument. We edited and tinkered with my closing argument so much that by the time we arrived, the paper it was written on was a maze of cross-outs, scribbles, and underlines. And then, six weeks before I first stepped foot in Criminal Law class, I walked into prison. There are few things as humbling as having your client sit in shackles beside you even as you argue his case. At Souza-Baranowski, prisoners have even their … Continue reading

From the Editor / From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 5, 2014  / 

Welcome to The Record

One year ago, we were like you—uncertain 1Ls who didn’t have all the answers and knew it. Part of our anxiety came from the supposition that everyone else had the answers, but that we didn’t. If you are feeling that way, take solace: You aren’t that special. Everyone else is just as ignorant and confused as you are, even if they don’t know it yet. The thing about law school is that, here at least, not having all the answers is a good thing. That idea probably seems confusing right now, because most educational programs stress answers over questions. Law school is different. The Socratic Method is proof of that: Thousands of years ago, when the Oracle of Delphi told Socrates he was the wisest man in Athens, he protested, “But I know nothing!” But that was exactly why he was the wisest—because unlike everyone else, he knew that he … Continue reading

From the Editor / From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 5, 2014  / 

Confronting Our Assumptions about the Law as a Neutral Apolitical Institution

As one of the two editors of the Record this year, I would like to start by welcoming you all to another exciting year of school. The Record is a wonderful place to share thoughts and ideas on the law, law school, and current events and I am looking forward to working and sharing this with all of you this year. I wanted to start the year’s Editorials Section off with some thoughts about the way we think about “the law”. More specifically – I want to counter the assumption that legal and political institutions are separate from each other and articulate an alternative: I see the law and politics as one and the same. I believe that the law and the legal structure, are simply reflections of current political forces. For some, this may seem like an obvious statement. But I entered law school with great respect for the … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 5, 2014  / 

SELA Welcome Message

Imagine a profitable business that hires only former inmates. Imagine an enterprise that is devoted to curing childhood malnutrition but never takes a dime in grants. Imagine a financial instrument that uses private dollars for upfront costs like preventive care or early childhood, letting governments pay only when cost savings are realized. Imagine a stock exchange that measures both financial value and social impact. The Social Enterprise Law Association goes beyond imagining to explore impact models just like these. We investigate and promote a wide range of entities that combine market principles and social impact. These innovations range from B corporations, private companies that write a social mission into their charter, to enterprising nonprofits. They include “classic” social enterprises that are autonomous and sustainable like regular companies, but whose purpose is to facilitate a social good, alongside major corporations that simply desire enhanced impact. In addition, we analyze legal and … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  September 5, 2014  / 

HLS Democrats Welcome Message

President Obama (‘91), Wendy Davis (‘93), and Frank Underwood (year not yet revealed) are a few of the uncountable Harvard Law School alumni who have gone off to public service through elected office and Democratic politics. Yet while we have OPIA to extol the virtues of public service generally, few organizations at the law school focus on development of leadership skills for elections or politics. That’s where the HLS Dems come in. We are building a community of students who care about effecting progressive social change, and who want to learn how to expand their capabilities beyond those necessary to practice the law. We want to be able to conceive of, advocate for, write and execute the laws. A major focus for the HLS Democrats this year is going to be leadership development and skills training. We will be bringing to campus some of the country’s leading experts on a … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  April 18, 2014  / 

End the Prison-Industrial Complex

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to send someone to prison— deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and so on—but profit is not among them. Unfortunately, it is an obscenely large reason that American prisons today house more inmates than any other country on this planet. If that fact doesn’t trouble you, it should. A nation that prides itself on freedom is, paradoxically, the world’s largest jailer. By some measures, the American incarceration rate is a whopping 743 per 100,000, well above the second biggest jailer’s (Russia, at 577). Twenty-five percent of the world’s inmates are American. There are perhaps more prisoners in America than in all of Europe—a continent with twice our population. While there are numerous culprits behind our burgeoning prison population, especially draconian sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, the most troubling by far is an increasingly privatized prison system that makes money off rampant criminalization and the hiking up of … Continue reading