Category Archives: Opinion

Commentary by members of the Harvard Law community.

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

The Strip Mining of Legal Rights

The fine print in standard form contracts is undermining tort law, and it is not limited to mandatory arbitration. Corporations use it to insulate themselves and take away consumers’ tort law rights in other ways, including unfair choice of law provisions and waivers of liability for negligence. A 78-year-old woman in the Alzheimer’s wing of a Colorado nursing home leaves her apartment wearing a bathing suit and carrying a towel. She arrives at the pool about 10 minutes before the instructor for a scheduled swim class. She wears no safety device to trigger a wandering alarm, and there is no lifeguard on duty at the pool. The woman—a wife, mother, grandmother, and former high school teacher—drowns. The families of patients harmed in nursing homes may seek to bring lawsuits to hold wrongdoers accountable for negligence, personal injury, or wrongful death. In many cases this will not be possible, because residents … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

What Harvard Law Students Need to Know About Law School Transparency

In March 2012, I participated on a panel at Harvard Law School’s Global Legal Education Forum. We were asked to unpack the crisis in legal education. As co-founder of Law School Transparency (LST), I discussed the importance of eliminating deceptive law school marketing and increasing the availability of high-quality consumer information. One of our core goals is to empower prospective law students to make smart decisions about whether and where to attend law school. Information, and the narrative surrounding the pursuit of transparency, is paramount to that goal. Prior to the panel, a well-meaning event organizer approached me. He accurately predicted that my opening remarks would stress how reliable consumer information stimulates competition. The S.J.D. student then suggested that I eliminate the word “consumer” from LST’s advocacy efforts. While he agreed that transparency was critical, he reasoned that pursuing a legal education is not merely or even predominately transactional. We … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

Je Suis Nigeria

The most horrific terror attacks in recent memory marked the beginning of the New Year. If you think I’m referencing the Charlie Hebdo incident, you’re wrong. I’m talking about the slaughter of up to 2,000 Nigerians by radical Islamist group Boko Haram. The differential media coverage of the Nigerian massacre and events in Paris is, to say the least, confounding. According to numerous reports, hundreds upon hundreds of bodies still litter the fields in Baga, Nigeria–mostly the aged, the frail, children, and others too slow to outrun the hate-filled Boko Haram fighters who besieged the town. The Baga massacre is likely the bloodiest in Boko Haram’s disgusting history. And the violence continued soon after as Boko Haram fighters persuaded or forced a 10-year-old girl to blow herself up, murdering herself in order to murder others. Why, when I turn on CNN, do I see hours and hours of coverage of … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

Healthy Speech Is Better Than Free Speech

In the wake of the January 7th terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly magazine, we’ve heard both arguments for and against free speech. On one hand, many have argued that free speech is the mere exercise of one’s right under the 19th amendment in the Declaration of Human Rights—some often going as far as mocking religious zealots and racist bigots. On the other hand, people around the world have lost their lives at the hands of ruling tyrants. In the Renaissance Era, Giordano Bruno was burned alive for his views on the innumerable worlds above and the movement of the Earth. In modern day, the FBI unsuccessfully tried to silence Martin Luther King Jr. during the Second Reconstruction and civil rights revolution. For many people, the unqualified right to free speech has promoted world-wide ridicule and public embarrassment. Free speech is not only the reason behind why … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

Letter of Support to Ferguson Protesters

Below is a letter signed by 322 members of the faculty and staff of Harvard Law School. An Open Letter to the Harvard Law School Community, We, as faculty and staff of Harvard Law School, have been profoundly affected by the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island, and the wave of protests that have followed. We know from our daily work the many ways that the legal system can be used to create positive change. We also know that the legal system does not protect and bind us all equally and in important ways needs to be fixed. Recognizing the long history of discrimination and violence against black people and other people of color and acknowledging the racial injustices within our legal system are necessary first steps to changing that system. The killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have brought these issues into stark relief once … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  January 30, 2015  / 

Some Things That Harvard Law Students Might Need to Know

Lawyers play many roles, discharge many functions – but we are also social architects [1], creating the systems and institutions and defining the rules by which they operate. [2] As our communities, our nation, and the world undergo vast changes –ecological, demographic, economic, fiscal and technological –we must ask ourselves what do we as lawyers need to know – and what do we need to know that we do not know so that, as true professionals, we know when to ask for help! Some things that Harvard law students need to know: 1. Legal rules are not self-implementing. Victory on paper does not automatically translate into changed behavior by officials. Until we look at the systems that are responsible for implementation, until we learn how to get systems to do what they are charged with doing, our victories can be meaningless. None of the Harvard law students with whom I … Continue reading

Opinion  /  January 2, 2015  / 

Harvard Law School’s Endowment as Catalyst for Change: 3 Bold Proposals

Harvard Law School is perhaps the most prestigious law school in the nation with countless (in)famous names attached to its faculty and alumni, an influence unmatched in the Obama regime, and a symbiotic relationship with the commanding heights of the corporate world. Harvard Law’s embrace of the growing business presence in higher education [1] parallels the emphasis the school places on corporate law and major firm recruiting; its current role is to produce the premiere legal guardians of international corporate control and state power. With an endowment of $1.7 billion, Harvard Law has been compensated handsomely for its role defending corporate capitalism; indeed considered as part of Harvard University’s sprawling $36.4 billion endowment empire [2] it might be seen more as a giant hedge fudge masquerading as a teaching institution rather than the reverse. The institution socializes its student body to choose big law over the public interest through crushing … Continue reading

Opinion  /  January 2, 2015  / 

In Response to “Dogmatic Shortcomings”

We recognize that there’s some irony in writing a piece titled “In Response to…” since responses are the very type of submission we most often choose not to publish as moderators of Socratic Shortcomings. To those who have sent in submissions that did not go up, we hope that this response in the Record will shed light on our process. Moderating a tumblr like Socratic Shortcomings is not easy. We created the tumblr in order to provide (1) a platform of solidarity for voices that have been traditionally marginalized in higher education and the legal field and (2) a place to exhibit many thoughts and lived experiences at Harvard Law School. While we have received dozens of valuable submissions from students writing about their own experiences, many students have been more eager to respond to someone else’s experience in order to “clarify” a situation, tell a student that he or … Continue reading

Opinion  /  January 2, 2015  / 

Dogmatic Shortcomings

If you’re a student at HLS, you’ve probably become aware in recent weeks of a new elephant entering the room. Its name is “Socratic Shortcomings,” and it’s a Tumblr board dedicated to “shared stories about identity and diversity at HLS.” Moderated by new student group Harvard Students for Inclusion, the board promises a safe space for “students of all identities and backgrounds, named or anonymously.” I first learned about the board through a friend, who was upset because she had taken the time to compose a thoughtful submission, only to have it blocked by the moderators. Later, I had a sincere and considered submission of my own blocked, and I have since heard of similar experiences from multiple other friends. As I can report firsthand, if your submission is rejected, you won’t learn why. Your contribution will vanish without a trace, and you’ll learn of its rejection only by seeing … Continue reading

Opinion  /  December 18, 2014  / 

Discuss Pakistani Lives

I sit here, an hour before my Evidence final and in light of the recent massacre of schoolchildren in Pakistan, unable to concentrate. Why should I study law if law can’t protect children? Why should I study law if I can’t protect my children (for, yes, they are my children, too, although they are Pakistani and lived across the globe)? They are my children for the perhaps illogical reason that they are all our children. Here at Harvard Law School, there has been a strong recent movement against police racial profiling, against police violence and against systematic racism. The movement has made numerous requests to the Dean to recognize societal injustices. It has staged numerous “Die-Ins” outside of Faculty Meetings. Many of their slogans include “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” referring to Eric Garner’s last words as he was choked to death by New York police. Pakistani lives … Continue reading