An Open Letter to the Harvard Law Review: Break Open HLS’ Inner Ring

Dear Editors of the Harvard Law Review,

In 1944 at the University of London, C.S. Lewis gave a speech entitled “The Inner Ring,” in which he warned the audience about a perennial human failing that would not be unfamiliar to Harvard Law School students a half a century later. In the speech, he described how inside any community — in “whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business or college you arrive” — you will find Inner Rings: exclusive internal communities on which you find yourself on the outside.  If you break into any of the Inner Rings, Lewis explains, you will find “that within the ring there [is] a Ring yet more inner.”  To Lewis, the desire to enter the next Inner Ring — and the terror of being left outside — is one of the dominant forces in our lives. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Harvard Law Review: Break Open HLS’ Inner Ring”

“All Rise!”, Episode 3: Jonathan Zittrain

The Harvard Law Record’s first podcast — All Rise! has just launched its third episode: an interview with Harvard Law professor, Library director and internet law scholar Jonathan Zittrain. All Rise! is a longform interview podcast in which Harvard Law 1Ls Brady Bender and Pete Davis interview members of the Harvard community. You can subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here and listen to this week’s episode below:

“All Rise!”, Episode 2: Jeannie Suk

The Harvard Law Record’s first podcast — All Rise! — has just launched its second episode: an interview with Harvard Law professor, New Yorker writer and feminist legal scholar Jeannie Suk.  All Rise! is a longform interview podcast in which Harvard Law 1Ls Brady Bender and Pete Davis interview members of the Harvard community. You can subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here and listen to this week’s episode below:

“All Rise!” – The Harvard Law Record’s first podcast – has launched!

The Harvard Law Record is proud to announce the launch of its first podcast: All Rise!  It’s a longform interview podcast in which Harvard Law 1Ls Brady Bender and Pete Davis interview members of the Harvard community. This week’s inaugural episode features Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law professor and author of multiple books on race and the law.

You can subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here and listen to the first episode below:

The Moral Community in the Wake of Postergate

The first editorial published in the Harvard Law Record this year was entitled “We Owe Each Other a Moral Community.”  This project — of doing the hard work of turning spaces into places, strangers into neighbors, and a professional training ground into a moral community — has seen better weeks than this one.  It is strange to see warring groups of our neighbors communicate via the symbolic tit-for-tat of postering, ripping, and re-postering.  It is disturbing to see one of our neighbors videotaping another one so as to provide clickbait for his political tribe’s media outlets. The events of the last two days may have created new heroes and villains, may have scored a few points for a few folks within their respective filter bubbles, and may have made most of us — and the distant readers reading about us — angry.  But what these events did not do was build understanding.  This is a shame, because if we are to build a moral community together, we must work to understand each other.

The Catholic heroine Dorothy Day — herself a masterful moral community builder — once said that compassion arises out of curiosity. To show compassion to our neighbors, we must be curious about their actions, feelings and plights. Failures to care are often failures of wonder: failures to ask “I wonder what it’s like to live like that” or “I wonder what they are trying to say” or “I wonder what made someone make that choice.”  If we are to be a community, we must work to tame our impulse to respond to surprising arguments and actions with dismissive judgment, rather than compassionate curiosity. Continue reading “The Moral Community in the Wake of Postergate”

“You are on a list of students…”: The Office of Career Services Tracks and Nudges Public Interest Students

Harvard Law School’s official mission statement is: “To educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.”

Last November, in a letter to Dean Martha Minow, I attempted to account for why it is the case that for every Harvard Law School graduate in 2014 who pursued work designed – as our mission statement impels – to advance justice and societal well-being, five graduates joined corporate interest law firms. I argued that the school does not explicitly tell students to pursue corporate interest legal work, but rather nudges students into such work by making it appear that the “default option” for students is to go into such work.  Examples of such nudges include the fact that: the hypotheticals in courses often presume you are working for a corporate client; the only required field trip for 1Ls is to a corporate interest law firm (at the end of the winter Problem Solving Workshop); the office primarily tasked with encouraging corporate interest careers is given a generic name (The Office of Career Services) while the office tasked with encouraging public interest careers is given a specific name (The Office of Public Interest Advising); and the structure of student loan forgiveness results in those pursuing corporate interest careers having not just an easier, but a simpler, time paying back their loans than those pursuing public interest careers.

Today, we can add “tracking and pursuing students not interested in corporate interest work” to the list of ways Harvard Law School nudges students into corporate interest work. This morning, every 1L who has not expressed interest in participating in the Early Interview Program — HLS’ program designed to lubricate the process of entering corporate interest work — received the following email from the Assistant Dean of the Office of Career Services: Continue reading ““You are on a list of students…”: The Office of Career Services Tracks and Nudges Public Interest Students”

Follow Professor King’s Lead: Without Experience with Legal Realities, 1Ls Left Unprepared to “Think Like A Lawyer”

It is often said that the purpose of Harvard Law School’s 1L curriculum is to prepare each student to “think like a lawyer.”  It would be much more accurate to say that the present curriculum aims to prepare each student to think like an attorney. The distinction is rarely articulated to students: an attorney is a legal representative to a specific client, while a lawyer is a member and caretaker of the legal profession, tasked with serving the justice system and advancing its public interest mission. Solely understanding important cases involving the major areas of law (Contracts, Torts, etc.) may be sufficient to “think like an attorney,” but if Harvard Law is interested in also helping each student to “think like a lawyer,” we must expand our 1L curriculum beyond solely case studies to include direct experience with the realities of the justice system. Continue reading “Follow Professor King’s Lead: Without Experience with Legal Realities, 1Ls Left Unprepared to “Think Like A Lawyer””

End OCS’ Complicity in D.C.’s Revolving Door Corruption

In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama (JD ‘91) reminded each American that “our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen.” It echoes Harvard Law School’s mission statement, which is to “educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well-being of society.” Unfortunately, a page on the Office of Career Services’ website strongly encourages Harvard Law students to participate in Washington’s regulatory revolving door, a corrupt practice that runs counter to the President’s message and our school’s stated mission.

Recently, students received a ‘Hire Ground’ email with a link regarding “Law Firm Reception Etiquette Questions.” When a student clicks on that link, they are taken to a page that encourages students to browse OCS’ “Researching Employers” page. If one declares their interest in the “Washington, D.C. Legal Market,” they are invited to browse a document and podcast transcript produced in partnership between the Office of Career Services and the legal recruiting firm Garrison & Sisson about the D.C. legal market.  

In the documents, a Garrison & Sisson representative directly recommends, in explicit terms, that students participate in the revolving door between corporate interest advocacy and government regulation. In Point 14 of the tip sheet, under a header with a literal pictogram of revolving door corruption (“Government ←→ Law Firm”), the OCS-endorsed document recommends that students should: (1) work first for a corporate interest law firm, then (2) work for a government agency or department “that governs the activities of private sector clients facing specific regulatory issues” (which, the document reminds us, “provides contexts and skills to re-apply to the private sector”) and then (3) return to a corporate interest law firm as a senior associate. Continue reading “End OCS’ Complicity in D.C.’s Revolving Door Corruption”

A Mission in Winter

Dear Harvard Law School Class of 2018,

Harvard Law School’s stated mission is “to educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and well being of society.” Every January, when the sun sets early and corporate interest law firms flock to campus to wine and dine us, that mission can fade to the background.  It is important that we do not let the hustle and bustle of Big Law receptions crowd out the reason we are here: to launch not prestigious careers, but rather transformative vocations that serve to advance justice and societal well-being.

There exist great civic challenges of our time. One in four American children grow up in poverty. Our nation’s Congress has been corrupted by money. A warming globe threatens humanity’s most vulnerable.  One in three of our black male neighbors will be locked in prison at some point in their life. These challenges need all hands on deck. These challenges need the Harvard Law School Class of 2018. Continue reading “A Mission in Winter”

An Open Letter to Dean Minow: Change HLS’ Default Option to Civic-Minded Career Building

Dear Dean Minow,

When Professor Cass Sunstein returned to campus after his tenure in the Obama administration, you called him one of the top legal minds at work today, explaining to The Crimson that our Law School community was fortunate to welcome back a scholar with a “passion for figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and why.” If you believe what you said then, it is time to apply Sunstein’s theories of choice architecture and default options to our own institution and its project of launching civic-minded careers. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Dean Minow: Change HLS’ Default Option to Civic-Minded Career Building”

Beyond Josh Lyman Politics: How The West Wing Miseducated My Political Generation

A few years ago, Josh Lyman spoke at Harvard to a packed room of starstruck student politicos. It wasn’t the real Josh Lyman, of course, because he isn’t real: he was the fictional Deputy Chief of Staff played by Bradley Whitford on the Aaron Sorkin television drama, The West Wing. It wasn’t Bradley Whitford either, though his visit to Harvard’s Institute of Politics a few years later would also pack the house. Rather, the speaker was Jim Messina, who was at the time the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Obama administration’s real West Wing. It didn’t make much difference which one of the three – Lyman, Whitford or Messina – was in front of us in the room that day, because, to many of my fellow young liberals, dreams of being in The West Wing and in the West Wing have blended together. Continue reading “Beyond Josh Lyman Politics: How The West Wing Miseducated My Political Generation”