Harvard Law School’s Glass Ceilings

I. Introduction

This May marks the 65th anniversary of the first class of women to graduate from Harvard Law School. In 1953, 12 women walked with their class; next month, 280 women will cross the stage and enter the ranks of HLS alumni. In the intervening years, this law school has seen changes of which we should be proud. We now have more than one bathroom for women to use, for starters. Women are no longer just a fraction of the student body: this year’s graduating class is 47.5 percent female, and next year we will have the first majority-female graduation ceremony. Women are on the faculty and in the administration, and feature prominently in accounts of the school’s most illustrious alumni. The Women’s Law Association (WLA) is the largest organization on campus, and female students hold 52 percent of the leadership roles in student organizations.

Continue reading “Harvard Law School’s Glass Ceilings”

Is law (still) an honorable profession?

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a lawyer. Each year, when the Torah portion pertaining to Jethro is read at Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, a person is asked to give a talk relating to the law at a dinner following Friday night services. On 13 February 2009, New York University School of Law professor of ethics Stephen Gillers gave the Jethro talk. With minor changes, it is reprinted below:

When Ron Tabak e-mailed me about giving the Jethro talk this year, I was in Cambodia speaking about the American legal system to graduate law students at the Royal University of Law and Economics. That experience offered one further example of the intense interest globally in the rule of law in the United States. To my mind, the rule of law is America’s best export. If, in other nations, we can instill our respect for the rule of law, an independent bar and an independent judiciary, we will go a long way toward the creation of democratic institutions worldwide.

But our achievements in establishing a nation based on the rule of law should not be allowed to obscure problems with the work of lawyers here at home. When Ron and I agreed on the title of the talk, I was not yet clear on what I would say about honour and the legal profession although I had some vague ideas. Events this autumn, however, have clarified what needs to be said. When talking of honour, one could hardly begin in a better place than the events surrounding the fall of Bernard Madoff. I will then move to the question posed in my title and conclude with references to the Bible.

What I find most remarkable about the Bernard Madoff story so far is that his sons turned him in. Bernard Madoff confessed to his sons and on the advice of counsel, they turned him in.1 And the whole business came crashing down. Continue reading “Is law (still) an honorable profession?”

Open Letter From Alumni to Dean Manning: Respond to Our Bicentennial Crisis

On April 23, 2018, seven prominent alumni sent an open letter to Dean Manning requesting a public response to and public hearing on Our Bicentennial Crisis, the Record report on Harvard Law’s public interest mission. The letter is copied below:

Dear Dean Manning,

Last October, during the two hundredth anniversary of Harvard Law School, Pete Davis (3L) and his colleagues issued a report titled, Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission. Its contents were of considerable interest to more than a few students, faculty, and deans from other law schools. As you know, on February 7, 2018, four faculty members met with a sizable number of students for an evening discussion. In addition, The Harvard Law Record has devoted considerable space to the report and the reactions to its recommendations and analyses. Continue reading “Open Letter From Alumni to Dean Manning: Respond to Our Bicentennial Crisis”

Poll Results: Do Harvard Law 3Ls Want Jeff Flake to Speak?

Editor’s note: We used a Google Form to conduct this poll, and as such, it was impossible to prevent 1Ls and 2Ls from voting without identifying all voters. The voters in this data set should not be treated as a sample size representative of the Class of 2018. It is possible that this poll was circulated in some social circles and not others, and we did not share it anywhere except on our website and on our Facebook page.

Continue reading “Poll Results: Do Harvard Law 3Ls Want Jeff Flake to Speak?”

Voting #UnionYes Because #TimesUp

In February, we were dismayed but unsurprised to learn that Harvard allowed a professor in its government department to sexually harass over a dozen of his female graduate students and colleagues, for over thirty years. The university’s own investigation found that Dominguez had committed “serious misconduct” as early as 1983 — but they kept him on staff, leaving students at risk, until intense media pressure forced him to resign.

The Dominguez reports prove that students can’t just rely on Harvard to follow Title IX and fight sexual harassment on campus (in case the three separate federal Title IX investigations faced by the University aren’t proof enough). Instead, graduate workers need the power of a union that can push Harvard to adopt best practices and end pervasive gender discrimination in academia.

Continue reading “Voting #UnionYes Because #TimesUp”

Jeff Flake’s shameful record on civil legal aid for the poor

Civil legal aid is in crisis. Stanford Law School professor Deborah L. Rhode estimates that about four-fifths of the civil legal needs of the poor, and about half of the civil legal needs of the middle class, remain unmet. The Legal Services Corporation’s estimate is even more dire: by their count this year, “86 percent of the civil legal problems faced by low-income Americans in a given year receive inadequate or no legal help.” Less than $1 out of every $100 spent on lawyers is spent helping advance the personal legal interests of poor Americans. Since only 1 percent of American lawyers are in legal aid practice, the nation with one of the highest concentration of lawyers provides less than one legal aid lawyer for every 10,000 low-income Americans living in poverty.

When the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked high-income nations by terms of the accessibility of their civil justice systems, the United States ranked 20th of 23. On their ranking of nations in terms of the ability of people to obtain legal counsel, the United States ranked 50th of 66. As Jim Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, the federal program established to distribute civil legal aid grants, told National Public Radio for their 2012 report “Legal Help for the Poor In ‘State of Crisis’”: “We have a great legal system in the United States, but it’s built on the premise that you have a lawyer… and if you don’t have a lawyer, the system often doesn’t work for you.” Continue reading “Jeff Flake’s shameful record on civil legal aid for the poor”

The Ref Has Been Worked: Harvard Law’s Flake-Out

There is an idea in sports called “working the ref.” You accuse the ref of being biased toward your opponent, and the ref starts being biased toward you to make up for it. It’s a clever tactic for bending an easily-rattled referee to your will.

In institutional politics, the right-wing establishment has honed working the ref into an art form. It’s a two-part dance. First, they take institutions that see themselves as “neutral referees” and accuse them of having a “left-wing bias.”  Then, they repeat themselves over and over and over again — no matter what the truth of the matter is — until the institution is so rattled by being called biased that it, in an attempt to affirm its neutrality, starts doing whatever the right-wing wants.

Dozens of institutions that see themselves as referees have been worked. PBS has long been accused of being left-wing, so it finally gave in this year and launched its own conservative talk show. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic editorial boards got accused of being left-wing so much that they just went on a hiring spree for conservative columnists. The Obama administration so internalized the accusation of being left-wing that  it started implementing conservative agenda items, like cutting entitlements and deporting thousands of American families, to prove its neutral bona fides. Continue reading “The Ref Has Been Worked: Harvard Law’s Flake-Out

For HLS Student Workers, #UNIONYES is the Right Choice

On April 18th and 19th, student workers from across Harvard will head to the polls and decide whether we should have a voice in our community, by voting for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers.

Harvard has fought the graduate student union every step of the way, from illegally excluding over 500 graduate student workers from voting in our first union election, to using our tuition money to hire expensive union-busting law firms, to filling our mailboxes with deceptive anti-union emails and mailers.

We’re concerned about the lengths to which Harvard has gone to actively mislead its students about the potential impact of unionization. As HLS students and graduate workers ourselves, we’re here to correct the record and demonstrate why #UnionYes is the right choice for HLS.

Continue reading “For HLS Student Workers, #UNIONYES is the Right Choice”

Review: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift released Reputation in November of 2017. Having listened to the album in its entirety over 250 times since then, I feel qualified to share my detailed thoughts with the general public. I also recently found out we’ve got the same Enneagram type, which is probably irrelevant but still kind of cool.

“But Megan, Taylor is problematic/a snake/playing the victim/failing to use her platform as a role model for young women to promote social and political issues that matter to herself and her fans!” I know. She knows. Nearly all the promotional materials for this album – not to mention the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video – explicitly address the fact that she has heard all of these criticisms. And she doesn’t really care. Or maybe she does, but wants you to think she doesn’t? Unclear.

The bulk of this review – like the best parts of Reputation – isn’t about the (valid) criticisms of Swift as a person. Instead, it is an in-depth, track-by-track analysis of the album, focusing on the music and, to the extent possible, looking past the baggage that inherently comes with Taylor Swift.

Continue reading “Review: Reputation by Taylor Swift”

Dispatch from Attica Correctional Facility — “…And justice for all”?: Indigent Defendants and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In my time as an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility working in the law library, I’ve learned some startling facts about what indigent defendants can face. Indigent defendants—more than 80 percent of total defendants—often receive substandard counsel. A defendant may be innocent but still be convicted or urged to plead out by an attorney for a variety of reasons: The attorney is unwilling to argue a case before a jury due of a lack of confidence, a lack of skill or experience, or a lack of resources to bring a solid case. (I’ve also been repeatedly astonished by the errors I’ve encountered in legal briefs filed by degreed attorneys, but that’s another story.) Worse, when defendants are counseled to plead in order to avoid a jury trial, their attorneys may neglect to mention two important rights as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel and the Fourteenth’s right to due process.

Who’s to blame for this egregious failure to protect the rights of our nation’s underserved? We could blame state and local legislatures—and the federal government—for choosing to fund prison expansion rather than legal aid societies. We could blame those judges who merely rubber stamp cases in which prosecutors have done the hard work of interpretation and adjudication. We could also point a finger at the Supreme Court which has decided many cases on the subject of ineffective assistance of counsel—Strickland v. Washington, Padilla v. Kentucky, just to name two—decisions that have reduced a defendant’s claim to being unwinnable and meaningless. What’s happened here is a transformation of the American criminal justice system, from one where adversaries meet on neutral ground to seek justice to a de facto administrative regime committed to processing as many people as possible. Continue reading “Dispatch from Attica Correctional Facility — “…And justice for all”?: Indigent Defendants and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel”

Making Public Service a Choice, Not a Privilege

One year ago, I sat alongside hundreds of my future Harvard Law School classmates at Admitted Students Weekend. I was excited to come to law school and to learn how to further social justice in the law; but the economic reality of law school did not seem compatible with that goal— at least for someone like me. Without generations of wealth as a safety net, I would have to take out nearly $150,000 in “base loan[s]” to even have access to grant aid. Such an obligation made it seem unrealistic, to say the least, for me to use my legal education to fight for access to justice or against racial discrimination.

Continue reading “Making Public Service a Choice, Not a Privilege”

Meet the Candidates for Student Government, 2018-2019

We conducted interviews with candidates who will be up for positions in Student Government. Voting will take place on April 4 and 5. For every vote counted in the election, Leilani Doktor and Jonathan Herzog have committed one minute of their time to volunteering at polling locations during the 2018 midterm elections.

Here is where to find these interviews:

Leilani Doktor and Jonathan Herzog: Candidates for Co-Presidents
Princess Daisy Akita: Candidate for Director of Student Organizations
Hannah Dawson, Daniel Egel-Weiss, and Radhe Patel: Candidates for 2L Representative
Pamela Gaulin and Jared Lax: Candidates for 3L Representative