The Record recently published a thoughtful piece arguing that the Public Interest Pledge is “no more than a symbolic gesture of penance for Harvard students who feel guilty about not doing enough.” Although we disagree with this characterization of the Pledge, we take the author’s moral licensing argument seriously, which is why we write here to defend the Pledge both as an end in itself and as a catalyst for increased and more effective charitable giving at HLS.
At the height of the Catholic Church’s power in the late Middle Ages, parishioners could pay the church fees to reduce the amount of time their souls would suffer in Purgatory before entering Heaven. This practice of paying “indulgences,” as such fees were called, was one of the principal targets of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, and the practice has been a symbol of the medieval Catholic Church’s corruption ever since.
With EIP around the corner, and with 80 percent of Harvard Law students likely to participate in its orgy of cocktail mixers and free lunches, it’s a good time to reflect on HLS’s preferred means of moral salvation for those of us who feel guilty about settling for BigLaw: the Public Interest Pledge.
In the spring semester, 1L students are invited to apply for the three two-year student organizations on campus. Membership to the Harvard Law Review, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and the Board of Student Advisers is highly selective and the organizations are frequently viewed as “honor societies” within the HLS community, making them one approximate measure of normative law school success. The Shatter the Ceiling Committee of the Women’s Law Association conducted its annual analysis of gender representation in each of these organizations to see if male and female students are gaining membership to these organizations at equal rates.
Of the three groups examined, only the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) had statistically significant deviations from the expected gender breakdown, based on the total number of male and female students in the classes of 2017 and 2018. Like last year, HLAB continues to have statistically significantly more female members compared to the overall demographics of the classes of 2017 and 2018 (c2 = 6.352, P = 0.012). There was no statistically significant difference in the gender makeup of the Board of Student Advisers (c2 = 0.483, P = 0.487) or Harvard Law Review (HLR) (c2 = 2.343, P = 0.126).
By the time the Republican-dominated Congress and executive branch had begun preparations to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in January 2017, the stage had already been set for this watershed moment of backlash in American political life.
The cradle-to-grave medical safety net that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy had called “the cause of my life,” known as Obamacare, signified more than the expansion of accessible healthcare for millions. The legislation, in force for several years and perhaps more consequential on individual livelihoods than any other public policy since Social Security, had embodied a primary objective of American liberalism since the nascent days of the modern Democratic party unfolded under the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
As Harvard Law School gears up to welcome a new class of students to campus this fall, we urge the administration to evaluate and disclose how it deals with the admission of students investigated or found responsible for, sexual misconduct at their previous college or university. We seek transparency on this issue so the university can engage in productive dialogue with students and administrators on how best to protect its students from sexual assault and discrimination. This information is particularly critical in light of the 2015 campus climate survey, which found that 7.6% of female graduate students experience sexual assault while attending Harvard University.
Students in the Harvard Law Gender Violence Legal Policy Workshop submitted a questionnaire to the Admissions Office seeking answers to questions of critical importance to the student community. As of the publication of this piece, we have not yet received a response. Transparency surrounding this information is important to current students’ safety and to prospective or admitted students considering attending Harvard Law School. Campus climate is a serious consideration in weighing whether or not to attend, or apply to, Harvard Law.
Having seen five elections since March 2014, voters in Turkey know the drill: if he wins, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a “balcony speech” gloating his success. If he loses, like he did on June 7, 2015, he goes into hiding (to be honest, it was a blissful five days).
However, after the referendum on Sunday, during which citizens of Turkey voted whether to legitimize President Erdogan’s de facto dictatorship, an unusual scene was taking place: Although the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (whose position will be abolished with this constitutional amendment) was (ironically) delivering a victory speech, President Erdogan was photographed looking remarkably worried.
Erdogan’s expression said a lot: the ‘yes’ vote was reported to win with a 51.4% margin, but he didn’t feel like he succeeded. Erdogan had lost Istanbul and Ankara (which he had never lost until now), and the opposition was stronger than ever.
Dear President Faust,
Thank you for including student input in your search for the next Dean of Harvard Law School. We write you as student leaders from the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), Harvard Black Law Students Association (HBLSA), Harvard African Law Association (HALA), Lambda, La Alianza, Middle East Law Students Association (MELSA), Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC), South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA), and Women’s Law Association (WLA). It is difficult to calculate the number of unique individuals we represent due to the intersecting identities of some of our members, but our combined membership totals at least 700 students, which is about 40% of the J.D. student body.
Collectively, we wholeheartedly offer our endorsement of Professor David Wilkins, a scholar, a researcher, an innovator, and a member of the Harvard Law School faculty. While we do not know the list of candidates under your consideration, we sincerely believe that Professor Wilkins has demonstrated a strong commitment to innovative legal thought, a deep understanding of the legal profession and legal education, and an unwavering commitment to equality and justice in the rule of law. His lived experience and nuanced understanding of the power of discourse puts him in a unique position to lead Harvard Law School into arguably one of the most crucial chapters in our school’s two-hundred-year history.
The Seventh Amendment is fast becoming a dead letter. Although the protection remains, there simply aren’t many trials happening. Indeed, federal juries decided 5.5% of civil cases in 1962, but a paltry 0.76% in 2015. A similar trend is apparent in every state court. This is a problem. Without jury trials, the American system of civil justice—as well as our democracy in general—degenerates and loses legitimacy. Indeed, as William Blackstone recognized over two centuries ago, “Every new tribunal erected for the decision of facts, without the intervention of a jury . . . is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute government.” The loss of civil jury trials demands, if not action, at least scrutiny.
The Civil Jury Project at New York University School of Law seeks to do both. Launched by trial attorney Stephen D. Susman in 2015, the Project aims to understand the causes and consequences of the civil jury’s dramatic decline, as well as determine what steps might be taken to preserve and revitalize the institution. It has commenced empirical assessments of the current role of the jury, created education programs and publicity outlets for studies and policy proposals, and reevaluated ways in which juries are constituted and jury trials conducted. Its efforts have earned it astounding support across the country, with a list of accomplished judicial, academic, and practitioner advisors that total well into the hundreds. Today, it remains the nation’s only non-profit academic institution dedicated to studying, preserving, and advancing the cause of the Seventh Amendment. Continue reading “Where have all the [Civil Juries] Gone?”
We all want the HLS community to have a big impact on the world.
This is an uncontroversial view as far as it goes, but—as you’ve probably already thought to yourself—that statement doesn’t go very far in the way of defining “big,” “impact,” or “world.” Our community is rife with disagreement as to the meaning of these terms. This is healthy. Conceptions of justice are inherently controversial.
Here’s something uncontroversial: students going into BigLaw will immediately join the top 0.1% of the global income distribution, earning 131 times the global median. That means 1% of your income will be more than the average human makes in a year. Those of us pursuing public interest work won’t do too badly either, falling just outside the global 1% and earning 36 times the global median. Continue reading “A Healing Approach to the Public Interest Pledge”
Dear Dean Minow,
We support the immediate and annual implementation of optional anonymous mental health surveys at Harvard Law School.
We have no recent data on the student body at Harvard Law, but we do know that scheduling counseling appointments can take weeks. To help our community, we must first know where we stand. In addition, to evaluate the effects of policy changes, we need surveys each year.
A 2014 study at Yale Law School found that 70% of students reported experiencing mental health challenges and Harvard Law school needs the same data on our own community. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Dean Minow on Mental Health: HLS Needs Survey Data”
I recently discovered, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, the way someone who definitely does not obsess over rankings would discover, that Harvard Law School is ranked number 3 behind Yale and Stanford. Completely independently of that, I think it is time that we discuss the problems inherent in the current ranking system.
First of all, the current system places heavy weight on incoming class GPA and LSAT. This means schools are pressured into taking a specific subset of students, specifically those that are actually good. Schools are forced to take a decline in the rankings in order to select the students they truly want, like legacy students from wealthy families who will not enroll in LIPP when they graduate. When so much of the admissions process is reduced to two numbers, we lose sight of what really matters in determining the value of an applicant: their personal statement.
The historic graduate student union election at Harvard in November was the first graduate student union election since the National Labor Relations Board’s August 2016 decision in Columbia University[i] restored the right to bargain collectively to student workers. Since then, graduate students have voted to unionize at Columbia[ii] and Yale[iii] Universities, a graduate student union has been certified at Loyola University of Chicago[iv], the votes in a graduate student union election are being counted at Cornell University[v], and graduate students at Boston College[vi] have filed a petition for an election. As graduate students sense their employment becoming more precarious under the Trump administration, we should expect this trend to continue.
During judicial confirmation hearings on Tuesday, the Senators’ questions about Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy centered on whether he is an “originalist.” This comes as no surprise, since, thanks to Justice Thomas and the late Justice Scalia, originalism is now the litmus test for conservative judges. Voters and pundits on the Right now ask judges whether they are activist or originalist, whether they legislate from the bench or interpret the law as its writers meant.
When Trump won the election, I spun out a little. To avoid months of anxiety before Election Day, I had refused to believe he could win even though a pit in my stomach told me otherwise.
But he won. I took a couple hours to grieve, and then I started asking myself (and, honestly, anyone who would listen): “What do we do?!”
The best answer has been to prepare ourselves. We need to get out of our feelings, focus, and plan, especially as lawyers-in-training who are in close proximity to the institutions that sanctioned this mess. The weeks and months ahead will be filled with bias and bigotry. We need to get comfortable now with constant activism and dissent. We need to be empathetic, to keep having difficult conversations with family and friends, and to organize.
Dear President Faust,
Thank you for the invitation to provide input regarding the search for the next Dean of Harvard Law School. I am writing on behalf of the Harvard Law School Women’s Alliance (“HLSWA”). Founded in 2010, the HLSWA represents over 13,000 women who have graduated from Harvard Law School — 32% of the HLS alumni. One of the primary goals of the HLSWA is to increase the presence of HLS alumnae in positions of power and leadership.
As the largest and most active HLS alumni and special interest group, we write to encourage the Search Committee to include in the evaluation of candidates for the position of Dean of HLS evidence of his or her commitment to promoting advancement of women and gender equality.