How Harvard Currently Soaks the Rich…Such as NYC Public Schoolteachers

This last Saturday night I took a red-eye flight to Boston accompanied by an all-important carry-on bag, containing some thirty pounds of signed nomination petitions for our Free Harvard/Fair Harvard campaign for the Harvard Board of Overseers.

With potentially major changes in the structure of American higher education hanging in the balance, I could not possibly trust Fedex or any other service for the safe Monday arrival of our petitions at the 17 Quincy Street Harvard offices, and hand-delivery seemed the only secure option. I’d originally planned my trip when huge winter storms had led to thousands of flight cancellations along the East Coast, so I separately booked both Saturday night and Sunday morning flights, with an eye towards possibly buying a last-minute third ticket to some other city along the Eastern Seaboard just in case snow blocked all incoming flights to Boston’s Logan Airport. Continue reading

The Majesty of the Law Needs Magisterial Lawyers

Below are remarks by Ralph Nader to the Connecticut Bar Association in 2013, republished by the Record this week:

Today, we gather as both attorneys and lawyers to contemplate our privileged profession. The many specialized workshops today are largely designed to better our role as “attorneys” – as attorning for our clients. Permit some words on our role as “lawyers” urged by our ethical canons and codes to strive for justice, to enlarge the peoples’ access to justice and to improve the administration of justice. Of the nearly one million licensed members of the bar nationwide, the bulk of our time obviously is devoted to being “attorneys” as compared with our time spent exercising wider duties as “lawyers.” Continue reading

Thinking Out Loud: An Idiosyncratic Yet Typical Experience at HLS

A disclaimer: I’m fully aware that some, particularly my South Asian peers who have had experiences similar to mine, may disagree with some points I may make, and perhaps rightfully so. I write not to offend but to share honestly my experiences and my subsequent reflections. While this disclaimer may seem superfluous, I believe that discussions on race always warrant a framework.

I think I can safely say that on a superficial level, in America and at Harvard Law, racial issues are often seen dichotomously.  There are white people and black people. Then there are a lot of groups who have various experiences based on whether they’re considered the “model minority” like South/East Asians or have their abilities constantly questioned, as do many Latinos, or of a background with an even more convoluted experience.

Continue reading

Prisons as Private Businesses – Where do the Candidates Stand?

All across the country, businesspeople are acquiring prisons and running them as private money-making ventures.  Funds that governments used to spend constructing and managing prisons are now being funneled to these “investors”, and shares in for-profit prisons are now being traded on America’s stock exchanges.  The more people get sent to prison and the longer they stay, the more money these “business people” make.  And so, more and more people are now serving time for minor infractions – like the inability to pay traffic and other fines, for example.    

What an indictment of 21st century America. Continue reading

Why the Ocean could use a Good Lawyer

The Law of the Seas isn’t law enough.  Oh sure, the long established United Nations treaty is used to regulate oceanic commerce, scientific exploration and maritime territorial claims.  And while it’s not broad enough to address the most critical issues confronting our seas it’s enough to inspire anti-UN conspiracy buffs in the U.S. Senate who have blocked its ratification for over 30 years now.  But to date the Law of the Seas and other treaties and multilateral agreements on the dumping of waste to the catching of tuna have not done enough to deal with the cascading disasters that threaten the survival of the ecosystems that make up a living ocean. Continue reading

New Seal, New Century

In 2017 Harvard Law School will enter its third century as an elite institution that educates the leaders of American law and policy. As always, this period of transition offers a risk and an opportunity. Will the law school continue to perpetuate systemic racism and inequality? Or will it choose to fulfill its mission to “educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice”?

Recent events suggest that there may be reason to be hopeful. The law school has convened a committee to decide whether to recommend that the crest of the law school be changed. Dean Minow has announced that a climate survey will investigate some matters of inclusion in the Spring. Yet these small concessions represent only very minor victories and are certainly incommensurate with the herculean efforts of students on campus who have demanded major systemic changes to the law school. Continue reading

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

From Trump Rallies to College Campuses, Outrage Culture Is Killing Productive Discourse

President Obama took a lot of heat recently for criticizing college leftists who are offended by dissenting opinions. But he’s absolutely right: Productive discourse is dying, trampled over by closed minds who value comfortable opinion-holding over uncomfortable soul-searching. As dialogue lies flailing and gasping, outrage culture’s pulse is stronger than ever. We see the degraded consequence everywhere.

We see it in Donald Trump’s xenophobia. We see it in the smug rise of a regressive, illiberal “liberalism” on college campuses that interprets (and misinterprets) the other side’s words in the most negative possible lighteven trifling dissent is labeled a product of white male privilege or (when the opponent is neither white nor male) simple ignorance. We see it in any online comments sectioncesspools of racism, sexism, xenophobia, naked hatred. At its most extreme, we see it in tribalistic mass murderers, from Dylann Storm Roof to the San Bernardino shooters.

Continue reading

A Right of Conscience for Government Employees

The refusal of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples sparked a major controversy. Conservatives hailed Davis’s principled refusal to violate her conscience and her understanding of the Constitution, whereas liberals insisted that anarchy will result if government officials fail to carry out laws they dislike.

But, as so often happens, the debate rested on a false choice. After unnecessary litigation leading to Davis’s incarceration, eventually a win-win solution emerged which protected Davis’s right to conscience without violating the rights of same-sex couples. The solution was breathtakingly simple: Other officials in the clerk’s office, who do not share Davis’s scruples, issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Continue reading

What Every Harvard Law School Student Should Know About Deciding What Kind of Law to Practice

A bright law student whom I mentor recently asked for advice in determining which field of law she should practice.  She articulated the stress that she experienced in struggling to narrow her focus in the legal sector with little actual experience or exposure to different aspects of law.  This situation is one that law students routinely face, and below are some suggestions to help you in your journey.  

You are not alone.  If I had a dollar for every law student (and lawyer) with looming uncertainties regarding what area of law to practice, I could probably afford to retire right now (not that I would, because I actually found a job that was the right fit and honestly love practicing law, and if you follow this advice, you hopefully will as well). Continue reading