You’ve surely noticed by now that your first year of law school is divided into discrete subjects — civil procedure, criminal law, property, torts, contracts, and legislation and regulation. This is a necessary, but artificial creation. Most lawyers will go their entire careers without having a client walk into their office and proclaim, “I have this really tricky personal jurisdiction problem.” (A civil procedure professor can dream, right?) Instead, clients tell you their convoluted stories and it’s up to you to identify the relevant substantive and procedural aspects of their dispute, hence the “issue spotting” aspect of law school.
Elizabeth Chamblee Burch is a Chair of Law at the University of
Georgia School of Law. She is visiting Harvard Law School for the fall
semester, when she will teach Civil Procedure to Section 5 and a class on mass torts.
Disclaimer: I cannot claim credit for this clever footnote advice, as I shamelessly appropriated it from Professor John Goldberg’s advice for last year’s 1Ls.
We have been conditioned, by years of wanton Internet use, either to ignore fine print and boilerplate language or to attempt a reading, only to find that our mind has long since wandered by the time we hit “I accept.” When it comes to legal materials, important information is often buried, not obvious, and difficult to detect, whether by the authors’ accident or design. Read it all, and then sort it out.
Aya Gruber '97 is a Professor of Law at the University of Colorado School of Law. She is visiting Harvard Law School for the fall semester, when she will teach Criminal Law to Section 4 and a course on feminism and crime control.
My 1L professors consisted of a person who could hold a handstand longer than most of the United States Olympic Gymnastics Team, a cat enthusiast (three cats for one person is just too many), Pooh Bear, and the most endearing, sweater-vest-wearing, criminal prosecutor you’ve ever seen. And I haven’t even mentioned the students yet.
Needless to say, people at HLS can be pretty eccentric. But that is the whole point. You are here because beyond killer LSAT scores, great academics and exceptional recommendations, you are unique and probably a little eccentric. I am here to tell you to embrace it and then learn how to make your eccentricities mesh with others.
Last year, I wrote a Very Serious Piece for 1Ls with advice on how to succeed at law school. However, given the events of the past year and the current state of the world, I thought I’d write something more lighthearted.
But then Charlottesville happened.
According to the President, there were “very fine people on both sides” in the streets of Charlottesville. According to the President, there were “very fine people” chanting “Jews will not replace us.” According to the President, there were “very fine people” waving swastikas and torches.
Welcome to Harvard Law School! The two of us are still finding our ways through the journey that is law school, but we’d each like to offer you a couple personal pieces of advice to help you along the way:
Liz: Find a community
Law school can be an alienating place, from the big focus on firm recruitment to the mere fact that Cambridge is not, well, home (wherever that may be for you). Having gone to undergrad at a place where professors and students were on a first-name basis, suddenly being called “Ms. Gyori” was weird for me, to say the least. Finding that my school and social life were inextricably linked with 80 strangers brought up horrible kindergarten flashbacks (you know, the ones in which you are asking why someone didn’t want to share their toy with you during free play).
Ariel: I still remember sitting in class while my section discussed the place of environmental deprivation in criminal law. Of course we should consider this, I thought. As my brain scanned every example that popped up in my mind, I started doubting the relevance of my lived experiences. They didn’t carry the same cold, neutral tone of our cases and readings, and I started to wonder if the discomfort in my voice when discussing these issues would expose my working-class background. Before I could even resolve this tension, my professor interrupted my train of thought and asked, “Ms. Stone, what do you think?”
Kamala: I spent hours upon hours of my 1L year learning how to cook Filipino food. I bought my own wok and claimed way too much space in my dorm’s communal kitchen for ingredients from the local Asian grocery store. I wrapped dozens of lumpia when I should have been working, and experimented with four different types of pancit noodles. I even called my friends over in the middle of one night to try pan de sal fresh out of the oven. I’ve always loved Filipino food, but I never had any interest in cooking it myself. Before law school, I had always been around other Filipino people. At HLS, I was the only Filipino person I knew.
I remember the first time that I walked the vaunted halls of HLS. After years of dedication, I felt blessed and privileged to be an incoming Harvard Law student.
And yet, despite Dean Minnow’s reassurance that the admissions committee had not made a mistake, that in fact they had searched the world for us, I shared the nerves and insecurities of my peers.
Worried about showing up late to my first class? Check. Worried about not getting my books on time? Check. Worried about embarrassing myself beyond repair during my first cold call? Double and triple check.
Oh, goodness. Another year, another round of people asking me what professors can do for Harvard Law School incoming 1Ls. As if I have a clue!
I mean, all the school asks of you 1Ls is that you take 18 credit hours in the first semester, 5 more than you’ll typically take in your 2L and 3L semesters. All we ask of you is that you memorize the names of 79 other people in your 1L section, learn your way around a new campus, learn to think in a wholly new way, etc. And it’s not like we’re in a hurry. We give you 13 whole weeks to do it.
In 1967, at the 150th anniversary of Harvard Law School, Dean Erwin Griswold reflected:
“For some years now I have been concerned about the effect of our legal education on the idealism of our students. I have great faith in our students… they bring to the school a large measure of idealism. Do they leave with less? And if they do, is that something we can view with indifference?”
In the half century since then, Griswold’s concern has, with the exception of a few tireless reformers, been “viewed with indifference” by our community. The result is disturbing: for every Harvard Law graduate who enters into employment with organizations designed to advance the legal interests of the poor or public at large, four Harvard Law graduates enter into employment with organizations designed to advance the legal interests of the most wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals. If a significant change is not made in the coming years, this means that you can expect 64 of your 79 sectionmates to pursue corporate interest employment following their graduation and judicial clerkships.
This does not mean that new students do not arrive at Harvard Law with, as Griswold observed, a large measure of idealism. But the late Dean’s hunch was correct: students’ civic mindedness fades with each passing year of school. A 1992 study by Robert Granfield found that, among newly admitted students, 70% expressed a commitment to public interest careers and 55% wanted to work in something other than corporate interest law firms. However, by graduation, 71% of men and 65% of women in the Class of 1995 went on to work in corporate interest firms or business, meaning that 20-40% of students had shifted their preferences during their years in law school. Continue reading “Resist the Cult of Smart, Embrace the Call of Citizenship”→
On July 1, Professor John Manning ‘85 was appointed the 13th Dean of Harvard Law School. The Record sat down with him for a conversation over the summer. Read on for his thoughts.
This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
The Record: I want to start out with the hard-hitting, big picture questions. What will be the effect on your teaching load this year?
Dean Manning: I plan on continuing teaching the Public Law Workshop with Professor Daphna Renan. We’ve got a great lineup of speakers. For my spring Legislation and Regulation class, Professor Jacob Gersen has kindly agreed to step in and teach that. In the first year on a new job, I want to focus on learning how to do the best job I can do. We’ll go from there and we’ll see what kind of teaching I can do in the years out.
The annual Shatter Awards will take place on April 19th at 7 P.M. in Hark South, with a reception to follow. Everyone is welcome to attend.
The Shatter the Ceiling Committee hopes to recognize inclusive dialogue in the classroom, lectures that address social justice issues, providing mentorship to students from all walks of life, and accessibility through presenting these awards to professors who have demonstrated these qualities to many students, who subsequently voted for them.
Oh hi! I didn’t see you come in. I was just sitting on my couch thinking about what I’m doing with my life and how to maintain a sense of purpose in these final months of my education (…just kidding, I was watching Hawaii 5-0 on Netflix). But now that you’re here, I can get down to the important and meaningful work of writing about The Bachelor. Where did we leave off last week?
That’s right! Raven just told the world she’d never had an orgasm (with her ex-boyfriend, or, alternately, ever?), then toddled into the Fantasy Suite to share a night of passion with Nick. (Gross.)