OPIA’s Advice on Choosing Jobs


Every year we write a piece for The Record on job/career exploration. This past year was unprecedented because of the many changes to the legal market and to the Harvard Law School job search process. To be honest, it was stressful for those of us in career services because we were facing uncharted territory, even for those of us who have been doing career advising for 17 years. But we learned some lessons from last year and the best one of all is about the resilience of the HLS degree. The percentage of HLS grads that were employed at or soon after graduation was virtually unchanged from the year before. And every person pursuing a public interest job or fellowship was able to land one, and one very close to their “dream” job.

While a few 3Ls and 2Ls, landed jobs through some form of on-campus interviewing, most had to put more effort into landing the right job. In fact, many of the 3Ls and clerks searching for postgraduate public service work had to put a lot of time and sweat equity into getting the “right” public sector job. We realize the irony that it takes more work to obtain a lower-paying job – but we believe that the extra effort is worth it to discover and land something that will be satisfying to you. And if anyone can do it, it’s students with all the access and resources that HLS has to offer.

We are sometimes stumped by the fact that students work really hard to do well in college and law school but sometimes don’t work as hard to figure out and land the job that will make them happy. After all, a large part of the goal of schooling – especially a “professional” degree – should be paving the way for a rewarding career. We encourage you to take the time and effort to find a good match, not just for your interests but also for the way you like to work. Below we offer some factors to contemplate when thinking about what you want to do with your summers and beyond.

I. How Do You Want to Use Your Law Degree?

At OPIA, we believe that practicing law is about more than making a living or representing clients competently and ethically. We believe that what makes law a profession, rather than simply an occupation, is a personal commitment to equity, fairness and the common good. We also believe that different jobs satisfy different people depending on their unique values, personalities and work styles. We have found that no matter what your ideals are, if you are not in the right job, you will not be happy.

These beliefs imbue our work at OPIA with a deep sense of mission. They make it extremely gratifying to work with those of you who will be the public interest leaders of your generation, as well as those of you who will apply your public service ethos to making a difference by doing pro bono work in the private sector, by serving on boards and through philanthropy. We strive to help you articulate and pursue a professional sense of self that will enable you to achieve a confluence, not a contradiction, between your work and personal lives. Most importantly, we hope that we can help you find the kind of work you will find both enjoyable and fulfilling.

We know that some of you have come to Harvard with a good idea of what you want to do with your law degree. But, after thousands of conversations with HLS students, we have realized that many of you may have ended up in law school because you do not yet have a strong sense of what you want to do for a living. Having left college without specific training, and knowing that further education is highly valued, you find comfort in a place that will not only give you more time to prepare for the “real world” but will also give you skills that can be applied in numerous settings.

Yet, despite the diverse doors that a law degree from HLS is supposed to open, many students start to see only one option: going into large law firms. There are some reasons that many of you start to narrow your vision of what you can do with a law degree:

  • huge debt loads which make you wonder if you can afford to live on anything less than what the big firms pay;

  • the more challenging, less-defined nature of pursuing other paths, including but not limited to the public service market;

  • the notion that you have to work at a firm for the “training”;

  • the pressure of watching your classmates gravitate to big firms;

  • the added pressure of family or the expectations of others; and

  • the perceived prestige of large law firms.

All of these factors can create a sense of conflict about the type of work you want to pursue with your law degree. Caught up in the pressures at HLS (pressures prevalent at all top tier schools), some of you do not manage to find the time to reflect about whether you should go to a small firm, a business, a plaintiff’s firm, a government agency or a nonprofit organization or, if you choose a large law firm, to evaluate their pro bono practices.

For those of you who genuinely think you may want to work in a private firm at graduation, we think it is a very good idea to try a firm out for the summer. However, if you are quite sure that you do not want to work at a firm at graduation, we urge you to be thoughtful about whether it is the right choice for your second summer. Nonprofit jobs, fellowships and government positions have all become more competitive as interest in them has been rising, and therefore there may be important trade-offs in spending your summer at a law firm. While working at a law firm will not preclude you from pursuing public interest work at graduation, it may put you at a competitive disadvantage for some public interest employers or fellowships. In addition, if you are not sure what you want to do at graduation and are skeptical that you want to work at a large law firm, a 2L law firm summer will involve the lost opportunity cost of another public interest summer to figure out the right fit.

So we urge you to think about your aspirations carefully and find a job you love.

II. Clarify a Vision Behind Your Work

Take time to reflect thoughtfully on what you want to a
chieve professionally. One alum shared this advice: “Think first about what you like to do – not just what you’re good at, what you think you should do, or what’s the path of least resistance.” Most people who love their work have found jobs involving issues about which they feel passionate, as opposed to work at which they may excel but dislike. In discovering what it is that you really want to do, recognize that your interests do not always coincide with your talents. To find work that suits you uniquely, you need to confront questions regarding what you love to do and what really matters to you in your work. Below we share some of the issues you might want to think about while deciding what you want to do this summer and with your law degree when you graduate.

A. Decide: Whose Life is This Anyway?

As you begin to think about what direction you want your career to take, be sure to make your own values and passions your touchstones. This can be especially hard for those who go to top tier law schools because often we have grown accustomed to judging our achievements in terms of traditional measures of success such as high grades, big salaries and public praise. Until you are able to figure out what suits you, your efforts at finding meaningful work will most likely be thwarted.

  • Avoid being swayed by other people’s expectations of you. This can mean your parents and even your classmates (maybe especially your classmates).

  • Focus on what you want and what you truly consider important.

B. Evaluate Your Ambitions and Values

You alone can decide what will make you happy. Figure out what you find important and satisfying:

  • What have you liked and disliked from your prior life experiences?

  • What issues do you like to read about?

  • What volunteer work do you gravitate towards?

  • What academic subjects excite you?

Sort out what motivates you and stimulates you. Be careful to distinguish between what you truly care about and what you believe is marketable; they may not overlap. Allowing yourself to be swayed by the latter without considering the former may result in making an expedient, but unsatisfying, career decision.

C. Evaluate the Nature of the Work and Work Environment That Fits You

Happy lawyers tell us that in addition to working on issues that engage them, the

nature of the work and the workplace setting may be critical to finding the right fit. Drawing upon your prior work, volunteer and academic experiences, think about some of the following questions:

  • Do you love to research and write?

  • Do you enjoy frequent contact with people? Must it be with clients or are colleagues enough?

  • Are you happier juggling multiple short-term projects or spending large quantities of time digging into a few long-term assignments?

  • Do you embrace responsibility and autonomy or do you prefer close oversight and a gradual increase in responsibility?

  • Do you need to see the immediate results of your work, or are you satisfied with the potential for eventual large impact?

  • Do you seek formal training, or will on-the-job training combined with some supervision and/or mentoring satisfy you?

  • Do you want a formal organized atmosphere, or are you happier with a casual, non-hierarchical setting?

  • How important is it for the office you work in to have a great deal of resources at its disposal?

  • Do you have strong needs for political/ideological compatibility?

  • Do you need to have some political activism in your job?

This kind of self-assessment is a critical part of ending up a happy graduate and should start now, if you haven’t already been wrestling with these issues. Both OPIA and OCS have self-assessment materials on our respective websites and can help you, through individual advising appointments, think through the many factors that lead to job compatibility.

D. Figure out what kind of “training” you want during your summers and when you graduate

Many people say that they “must” go to a law firm in order to be well-trained even for public sector work. While there are some public sector employers who do believe that private sector work provides good training for public interest work, there are many who believe that the skills are not easily transferable. While law firms may offer good supervision of research and writing, document review and contract analysis, they typically do not offer much exposure to, for example, handling responsibility, making decisions, taking depositions or trial work.

Moreover, it is never a good idea to pick a job just because it is a stepping stone. (If you will inherently like it, that is a whole different story.) Spending 40-plus hours per week doing something that you do not enjoy will be emotionally taxing, even for a few years, and you may ultimately find that you cannot quickly reach the next step you were shooting for.

We do urge you, however, to pick public sector employers – both during the summer and at graduation – who will give you the level of mentoring and supervision that you need. Some organizations do offer formal training programs, usually trial training, either in-house or with an external provider. Yet much of your training in the public sector will come from having good mentors and supervisors who will teach you the ropes and provide you with consistent feedback. Some employers take a more hands-on approach; others may “throw you into the deep end of the pool.” It is important to figure out which style of supervision you need.

E. Learn About What Lawyers Do

Law school provides you with an unparalleled opportunity to explore different options within (and even outside) the legal profession. If you are interested in pursuing any type of public interest work, you can take the following steps.

  • Start by reviewing the overviews of practice options on OPIA’s website.

  • Brainstorm with our attorney advisors and our Visiting Wasserstein Fellows. Our attorney advisors are career counselors with backgrounds in a variety of public service legal careers. Our Visiting Wasserstein Fellows can share insights about the public interest positions they have held.

  • Read about specific fields by picking up one of our specialty guides or printing it from our website.

  • Attend panels like the Legal Practice Settings series and hear from public interest lawyers about what their work entails, what they like and dislike about their jobs, and how you can pursue similar work if you are interested.

  • Contact the hundreds of alumni/ae doing public service work who have agreed to serve as mentors to students and who will often be delighted to talk to you about their work.

  • Talk to the faculty listed on our website who have agreed to advise students in their area of expertise.

F. Sample What Interests You

Try out the kind of work that seems appealing to you. You will never again have such a great opportunity to experiment, so seize it! Naturally, the summers offer the biggest chunk of time for sampling different jobs. But do not underestimate the value of work done through a student group, a pro bono placement, or, especially, a clinical placement, to help you discover what you enjoy in the practice of law. Working for a professor on issues that interest you can help you learn more about those issues. And if you already have a very good sense of what you want to do when you graduate, law school affords you the chance to confirm or reevaluate your expectations, to build a track record that will make you an attractive candidate for the jobs you choose to pursue, and to make contacts in your chosen field.

G. Figure Out What Money Means to Your Job Choice

Determine how much money you need to afford the quality of life that makes you happy. Different people need different kinds of amenities in order to be satisfied. Most public interest lawyers aren’t “poor.” Starting salaries range from mid-thirties to $70,000, and, of course, there are salary increases as the years progress. While this is obviously strikingly less than what large law firms pay, it is not poverty wages. Early in our careers, public interest lawyers manage to pay the rent, afford a suitable wardrobe, and have money left over for dinner and a movie. Later in life, most of us manage mortgages on nice homes and can afford new cars. We can provide a high quality of life for our children, give them ballet and karate lessons, and take them on the occasional exotic vacation. Almost every public interest lawyer will tell you that any financial trade-off they made was well worth it. Whether you will be one of the people who can be a public interest lawyer (or even a lawyer at a small private law firm that does not pay as much as the big firms) and live well depends on your own financial situation and lifestyle needs. Decide whether you will be happy with the lifestyle you will have on a public interest salary or whether you need more.

Of course, the majority of HLS students graduate with at least some debt, which must figure into your thinking. Fortunately, HLS’ loan repayment program, the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), enables almost all Harvard law students, even those with very high debt, the ability to “afford” to take a relatively lower-paying public service job. And those of you who are 2Ls and 3Ls will have all of your 3L tuition waived in exchange for a 5-year commitment to public service work at graduation or after a clerkship. Those of you who are 1Ls will have the chance to tap into the $1 million dollar per year Public Service Venture Fund.

When students say they cannot “afford” to do public service work because of debt, it is usually because they do not know enough about LIPP or because they really want the lifestyle associated with a higher disposable income. If you are not sure whether you can do public service work with debt, go to the Student Financial Services Office and find out how LIPP and the PSI will work for you. They will provide you with an individualized assessment of what your monthly loan payments and tax liability will be and how much money you will have to spend after fixed expenditures. Then decide whether you’ll be happy living on that amount.

H. Consider Your Lifestyle Needs Beyond Money

Money is but one factor in how a career will affect the kind of lifestyle you will have. Other major lifestyle drivers include location, time demands, ability to control your own schedule and your employer’s attitude about having a life outside of work. For example, while public service employers do often offer better work-life balance and control over your schedule than most large law firms
, that is not always the case. Public interest litigators, for example, sometimes find that there is a huge boom and bust phenomena and that when they are in trial mode, their life is not their own. Location can also affect many parts of your career – for example, if you choose a “smaller” market, you may find you have more room to earn a “lower” salary, may have a shorter commute, and can be a bigger fish.

I. Take Some Risks

HLS students and graduates have all the advantages in the world: a degree that opens doors, great financial support (like guaranteed summer funding and LIPP), an unparalleled network and, if we do say so ourselves, an abundance of career resources. If you can’t do what you want to do, who can? So take some chances – explore things that sound exciting to you even if they don’t seem like the “norm.” One great example is our President who bucked what was expected of him as the president of the Harvard Law Review to go back to Chicago and work for a small civil rights firm.

J. Consider How You Define Success

Ultimately we all need to take a long hard look at how each of us defines success and happiness. Rather than thinking of power in terms of paycheck or employer name recognition, many of us will choose to conceive of it as the ability to effect social change, to help individual clients protect their rights and dignity, or some other way to act for the public good. We pick our jobs because we know that we will look forward to going to work. By shifting our focus away from the perceived expectations of others, we become free to pursue our own values, personalities and passions. For many of us, this proves a difficult thing to do. But try it: take a look at what it is that you truly want out of a career. By doing so, you can redefine success in terms of finding a career that will be personally fulfilling.

III. Your Career Will Evolve

While we very much hope that you will pick your first job out of law school wisely, as life is too short to spend time doing things you do not like, realize that your first job out of law school will not define your career. We have seen hundreds of alums switch from the private sector to public service and many others have gone the reverse course. We have seen countless alums end up in jobs they hadn’t anticipated they would want, or even knew existed, later in their careers. For example, a public defender moved into an advocacy position with a human rights nonprofit and then was hired into a prominent position at the Department of Justice. An HLS degree really does “keep your options open,” especially if you build useful skills and connections while here and when you graduate. So keep reevaluating your interests and needs and make sure that you pursue new opportunities that fit those interests and needs. You can end up with a terrific, rewarding career if you stay on top of your evolving needs and pursue new opportunities, even if they involve a bit of risk.

Hopefully, you will join the many alums who call and write to us at OPIA, marveling at the joy they find in their work. No matter where you land, we hope that you will be happy with your work and find a way to “give back.”

Not up for debate: Rwanda cannot excuse Peter Erlinder’s genocide denial



On June 20, 1994, the BBC’s Marc Doyle sent a stern memo to his London-based editors. Writing from the streets of Rwanda, where defenseless men, women, and children were being slaughtered at the rate of 10,000 a day; the journalist cautioned that “It is a very serious misrepresentation of the situation in Rwanda to describe the killings simply as ‘the slaughter of civilians’ or ‘the mass killings,’ without explaining who is killing whom […T]he government militia and the government armed forces are responsible for the bodies being found in mass graves in Rwanda and floating in rivers.”

Doyle, who spent more time on the ground throughout the genocide than any other foreign reporter, recalls the frequent calls from London requesting that he submit “balanced reports”. “[Show] the other side!” he was told. The BBC editors maintained that whatever crimes the Hutu Interahamwe militia and the government army were committing were almost certainly replicated by their opponents, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF). The BBC were not the only ones uncomfortable with the idea that Rwanda’s tragedy could possibly be as unbalanced as was being reported. Other western media outlets took the same approach.

After all, this was Africa! The events in Rwanda could not be anything else than yet another eruption of irrational tribal or inter-ethnic violence. It had to be about “tribesmen killing each other for obscure reasons”, “inter-ethnic carnage”, “indiscriminate mass killings”, “various clans murdering others”, “the explosion of some ancient tribal hatred”, “gangs of youth settling tribal scores”, “incomprehensible savagery”, etc. Doyle recalls that every instance of exaction by individual RPF soldiers was reported and magnified with “undisguised glee” to demonstrate that the “other side” was just as evil.

The media attempts to establish a moral equivalency “between the two sides” was playing right in the hands of the genocidaires. From the beginning, the extremists had capitalized on an orchestrated confusion between two distinct wars, distinguished by Marc Doyle as the “shooting war” (easy to describe with two armies fiercely fighting each other in the North of the country), and the “genocide war” (in which a government was involved in the systematic annihilation of part of its own population).

16 years later, the “moral equivalency” fight is still on. It is tougher than ever. The crusaders’ ranks have swollen. Knowingly or not; human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, etc. are now working hands in hands with genocide suspects and nostalgics of the “Hutu Power” era based in the West. Their agenda has expanded; it now appears to include outright genocide denial.

The strange case of Peter Erlinder

“Can the tragedy that engulfed Rwanda properly be called ‘a genocide’ at all? Or, was it closer to a case of civilians being caught up in war-time violence, like the Eastern Front in WWII, rather than the planned behind-the-lines killings in Nazi death camps? The ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda] judgment found the former.” – Peter Erlinder

One of the crusaders’ champions, Peter Erlinder, is finding out, at his own expense, that Rwandans have learned from their painful past. They will no longer cross their arms while their history is being distorted and their hardly-earned stability is jeopardized by unscrupulous individuals, however powerful. They know, from experience, that none of those individuals will stand by them when it’s time to reap the seeds of lies and division. They have not forgotten the sight of departing evacuation vehicles in which there was no space for Rwandans (only expatriates, their pets, and their belongings), the convoys that drove inexorably to safer havens amidst screams of agony and gunshots.

Erlinder, an American law professor at the William Mitchell College of Law who acted as a defense lawyer in the ICTR, is now being prosecuted for his controversial suggestion that the killings in Rwanda in 1994 not be termed a genocide at all. Under Rwanda’s anti-genocide law, individuals condemned for denying or grossly minimizing genocide, attempting to justify or approve genocide, or who destroy  evidence related to it are liable to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 in prison.

If the professor’s objective in repeatedly uttering his genocide-negating statement was to achieve fame, he was certainly successful. The reaction in academic and legal circles in the U.S. was immediate. Lawyers, professors, human rights activists throughout the U.S. have made their views clear. Peter Erlinder’s prosecution by that “petty dictatorship”, as they call Rwanda, has nothing to do with the country’s laws, they said. It is pure political vendetta directed against an ICTR defense lawyer in the exercise of his functions. On this, they appear to be in notable disagreement with, of all people, Peter Erlinder, who wrote in one of his more inflammatory essays: “I have to disclose my own bias because, under the laws of Rwanda, I too am a criminal”.

The outraged intellectuals – who seem to suggest that the right to defend alleged genocide perpetrators entails the right to contend it never happened, and to propagate such views in Rwanda – are also in disagreement with Peter Erlinder’s employer. The ICTR, whose relationship with the Rwandan government has not been exactly smooth over the past decade, is, nonetheless, clear in this case: Peter Erlinder’s immunity as a defense lawyer at the international court does not apply to the accusations formulated against him in this case.

Peter Robinson, another American defense lawyer who has appeared before the ICTR, is currently paying the price for trying to force the tribunal’s hand into a blind endorsement of Erlinder’s cause. Judge Dennis Byron, the ICTR’s president, has ruled that Robinson and his colleague, Belgian/Congolese lawyer Nimy Mayidika Ngimbi, shall appear in court on June 21st for contempt of court under the Tribunal’s Rule 77. The defense lawyer, who refused to continue with an ongoing case unless “the UN court condemns and acts on the prosecution by Rwanda of their colleague” Erlinder, was also reported to his Bar Association in the U.S. for obstructing the ICTR’s proceedings.

Despite the risk of his arrest and prosecution, Erlinder, for whom the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was nothing more than a “Clinton and Bush cover-up,” decided to go to Rwanda and defy the country’s justice system. The day before his arrival in Kigali, Erlinder was a panelist at a conference that gathered the who’s who of an increasingly visible international network of genocide deniers as well as known genocide suspects. He bid farewell to his audience and requested their support as he traveled to Rwanda to “show them” (meaning the Rwandan legal system). Shortly after the conference, one of his co-panelists, Eugene Rwamucyo, was arrested by the French police for his alleged participation in the planning and execution of the 1994 genocide. Clearly, Erlinder was not unaware of his potential criminal status under Rwandan law. His decision to travel to Rwanda was apparently based on the assumption that the small sub-Saharan country would never dare prosecuting a U.S. citizen, a prominent law professor, and a defense lawyer at the ICTR.

He was wrong. He failed to take into consideration the numerous instances when Rwanda’s leadership made it clear that, when it comes to its painful memories and hardly-earned stability, a clear line has been drawn. He failed to learn from other individuals and organizations that tried to cross that line before him. From the FLDR, a military organization comprising many Hutu leaders of the genocide based in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, to French Judge Jean-Louis Brugiere and his spurious accusations against the RPF leadership, whom he accused of inciting a genocide against its own people so that he could ultimately take power, all are invariably confronted with the resolve of the Rwan
dan people, who have learned from their country’s painful history.

Whether the speech-related provisions of Rwanda’s anti-genocide laws are technically sound or not; whether they are intrinsically different from holocaust denial laws in Israel, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, etc. is an open and highly subjective question. But one thing is certain: Rwanda is not ready to tolerate blatant genocide denial. As the government’s spokesperson stated, “if critics disagree with the Rwandan laws against the denial or defence of Genocide, we invite and welcome that debate […] but this needs to be understood; flagrant and orchestrated breaches of our genocide ideology laws will be met with the full force of the law.”

Looking to the future, remembering the past

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable. But for Rwandans – schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace – Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.” – Louise Mushikiwabo, Spokesperson of the Government of Rwanda

Many have tried and failed to accurately predict Rwanda’s post-genocide prospects. I could be mistaken too, but let me take a quick shot at reading into the country’s future in light of current events. There will be more Erlinders on Rwanda’s path to stability and prosperity, other “inspired” left-wingers using Rwanda in a bid to attack their own country will come up with some new conspiracy theories over the country’s troubled history. There will be further attempts by the FDLR and its sympathizers to weaken Rwanda’s still-fragile harmony. More “experts” and powerful organizations will find it shocking that their views and priorities are not adopted as the law of the land in such an unimportant country. These attention-seekers and would-be heroes will make news; they might also generate occasional doubt and confusion.

That is all they will achieve. They will not manage to derail a country that in less than two decades has moved from the verge of disintegration to becoming a regional model in areas as critical and wide-ranging as healthcare, anti-corruption, environmental policies, business climate, contribution to peacekeeping, women empowerment, access to education, etc. All they will achieve is to make Rwandans – and, indeed, all Africans – stronger, wiser, and more assertive in their claim for fairness and respect.

In fact, cases such as Rwanda’s could eventually be a blessing in disguise for the Western world, which Chatham House, a leading think-thank, recently called “out of touch” when it comes to Africa’s current realities. Hopefully, more “experts” and policy-makers may appreciate – and it’s about time they do – that even poor sub-Saharan countries should be approached with deliberation and respect. Just like citizens of wealthier countries, the people of such nations expect and deserve to be treated as equal partners rather than humanitarian cases.

Rwanda’s most significant achievement over the last 16 years may not be its spectacular socio-economic recovery. The country’s true success may be a less tangible one. Careful – and reasonably humble – observers have seen, in recent years, a resilient people regaining nothing less than its soul. Day after day, they have watched Rwandans moving, through trial and error, from a state of despair to a “Yes We Can!” mind-set. Rwandans deserve support; they need genuine advice and criticism. However, as it should be clear by now, they will resist those who insist on dragging them back to what they see as “their rightful position”.

Patrick Karuretwa is a Rwandan lawyer studying at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy as its first ever LL.M./M.A.L.D. joint degree candidate.

Facts and the politics of naming: Rethinking the Armenian Genocide


Part I – Political v. Personal Discussions

The Armenian Genocide took place in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. It was an attempt by the Turkish government to eliminate the Armenians from present-day Turkey. From 1915 to 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more were deported on death marches in to the Syrian Desert. Since then, Turkey has denied this history and strongly opposed recognition of these events as genocide.

Popular discussions of the Armenian Genocide increasingly focus on the politics of recognition and the rhetoric of denial and overlook the substance of these tragic events and their legacy.

My great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Growing up in an Armenian community in California, most of my friends’ grandparents were also survivors. The genocide was an inevitable topic of discussion. It came up whenever people discussed their families, histories, or the origins of their names. Many Armenians have surnames denoting their grandparents’ hometown or occupation in Turkey prior to the Genocide. Even today, our names remind us of the past and a way of life that no longer exists.

As a child, I spent a great deal of time listening to my grandmother and her friends talking about the past. They discussed their lives in Lebanon, where many Armenians ended up as refugees, and the way their families had struggled to regroup and regain a sense of normalcy in the decades following the Genocide. Even if it weren’t explicitly discussed, the legacy of the Genocide was omnipresent.

One day I asked my grandmother why one of her elderly friends had writing on her face. She explained that her friend had lost her entire family during the Genocide, and that during the deportations, she was taken by a Turkish family to be a domestic worker.

They had tattooed Quranic verses on her face, a practice they perceived as a means of beautification. She later escaped to a home for Armenian orphans, where she met and married a young man who was the only other surviving member from her village.

I also learned about the ways in which people dealt with loss. My great-grandmother’s mother, for instance, went into shock after she lost three of her children in one week during the Genocide. Afterwards, she made an oath that she would never utter any sound outside of prayer. Turning to religion, she spent the rest of her days in silence.

Another friend would never drink any water except rainwater. She had lost her children to thirst during death marches into the Syrian Desert. She pledged to use only rainwater from then on, denying herself the comforts that would have saved her children.

Though an avid story-teller, my great-grandfather never spoke of his experience during the Genocide. It was not until after he died that I found taped interviews with him in a historical archive. In the interviews, he recounted his experiences after marching for months in caravans into the Syrian Desert with his mother and sisters. He recalled how during death marches armed gangs regularly attacked the Armenian convoys, killing indiscriminately and raping women and girls. My great-grandfather must have been about ten at the time. In the interviews, he recalls hearing the sounds of girls being raped and the agony of knowing no one could save them. Once a girl was taken, she was never seen again.

Eventually he and his family made it to the outskirts of Aleppo but were prohibited from entering. Aleppine officials adopted a policy of refusing entry to all Armenians. During the initial stages of the Genocide, the city had been overrun by an influx of emaciated and disease-ridden Armenians, causing a public health crisis. Martin Niepage, a schoolteacher, documented the impact of the arrival of the first Armenian survivors in The Horrors of Aleppo Seen by a German Eyewitness, in which he beseeched the German government to put an end to the persecution. Through deceit and out of desperation, my great-grandfather, his mother, and sisters eventually managed to make it inside the walls of the city. Disguising themselves as workers, they were smuggled into the city by laborers.

Part II – The Politics of Naming / Recognition

There are countless other stories that I’ve read and heard, but I suppose debates about the impact of recognition on U.S. foreign policy and discussions about the niceties of terms like “civil war,” “deportation,” and “genocide” are easier to ponder. The language used to describe the Genocide in American discourse can strike one as absurd.
While Obama was still a senator, he had no hesitation labeling these events as genocide. On April 15, 2009, President Obama, like many presidents before him, opted instead for a euphemism out of fear of offending Turkey. Perhaps in a show of solidarity, he used the Armenian epithet, the term Medz Yeghern, or “great calamity.”

Like many Armenian terms, it’s rich with consonant digraphs, yet easier to pronounce than the term we use much more frequently, Dzeghaspanutiun, or genocide.

Ironically, Raphael Lemkin, the jurist responsible for creating the term “genocide,” first developed the concept with the Armenian Genocide in mind. Winston Churchill referred to these events as a “holocaust” in his history of the First World War. In 2000, Robert Fisk expanded on the politics of naming by writing about his struggle with his editors at The Independent who insisted on using a lower case “h” for “Armenian holocaust.”

They said common usage dictated that the capital “h” be reserved for the Jewish Holocaust. When pressed further, they said the Jewish Holocaust warranted capitalization because it was Europe’s genocide, and therefore, had a particular place in their culture and language.

In recent years, an increasingly absurd rhetorical game has overshadowed meaningful discussions of the Genocide. One can easily find reports insisting on the impracticability of official congresional recognition of the Genocide and criticizing House discussions of recognition for their “interference” in the precarious reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia. In October 2009, Turkey and Armenia signed a protocol, under the close watch of Hillary Clinton, agreeing to begin the process of reestablishing diplomatic ties. The agreement reached an impasse after the Armenian Constitutional Court held that the agreement could not prevent the Armenian state from seeking international recognition of the Genocide. Neither state’s parliament has ratified the agreement.

Although federal recognition has been controversial, forty-four U.S. states have officially recognized the Genocide. So have a number of countries, including Canada, France, and Russia. These are examples of how Turkey’s relationship with its allies has survived and even been strengthened despite recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

During the drafting of the current protocols, Turkey insisted that the issue of the Armenian Genocide be resolved at a later date by a team of historians. Though such solutions seem reasonable, they overlooks the fact that the question of whether the events constitute genocide is beyond debate. Historians have reached a consensus in favor of the label of genocide. In fact, many Turkish academics and intellectuals, such as historian Taner Akcam and publisher Ragip Zarakolu have called on Turkey (and the U.S.) to recognize the Genocide, at great cost to their own liberty and safety. Both the International Association of Genocide Scholars and the International Center for Transitional Justice have officially recognized the events as genocide.

Ultimately, we must not allow Turkish denial to shift the conversation from the legacy of this Genocide and its impact on history to the banalities of naming.

Naira der Kiureghian is a 2L.

What’s in the Harvard name?


I almost didn’t apply to Harvard. To me it was a name and a place far away and full of vague notions of elitism, and in some sense I saw my own life as a less ambitious affair. I wanted to go to law school partly to learn a profession, but I also had a desire to get beyond the external manifestations of power and come to know the system from the inside. And so I applied, knowing that Harvard’s name, network, and faculty could equip me for these goals better than others.

When I came here three years ago, I felt like I had snuck in the side door by figuring out the secret handshake, and now that I had gotten inside I would start to learn other secrets and crack even more devious ciphers. By the end of 1L year, I was fairly well disillusioned. My classmates no longer seemed so different from me. My professors were starting to seem less lofty and inscrutable. And the contours of the law were already forming a sort of a superstructure that would later be reinforced and walled in to form a solid body of knowledge.

Soon enough, the Harvard name too had also lost its luster, already looking more bizarre from the inside. I realized at some point that it was just another brand name, this one with an “established” date earlier than others and with a longer list of successful graduates, but essentially just a label on a product and an institution. I also realized that I too could use this brand name like a badge, a shield against doubt and scrutiny. Whether it was a resume or this newspaper, prominently placing the Harvard name next to my own became second nature before long.

But Harvard is more than a name. It is a global symbol of academic success, but it also serves as a nexus for a massive self-selection process, and those who are drawn by its name and reputation soon become the corpus of the institution and a part of its history. By the time we have crossed the last threshold and stand in the halls of Langdell and Austin, we have by and large identified ourselves as holding particular values and goals and have ascribed to particular means of achieving our objectives.

Thus, whether we know it or not, the common bonds of achievement and aspiration that draw us together also drive our assimilation into the culture of the place and its people, where we are saturated with the Harvardness of where we are and who we are becoming.

Walking back out of the gates I entered three years ago, I can also feel the inertia that Harvard has lent the course of my life. I have a path in front of me now, a yellow brick road, that makes the unpredictability of life seem less daunting. We will all land on our feet, that mantra inculcated by our mentors, seems true enough now, despite some bumps and delays for all of us. But the road ahead is not really so simple, and the destination is not some magical crystal city where all our problems will be solved. Life remains complicated and full of change.

Writing for this newspaper has given me the chance to speak to the world as a member of the Harvard community and define the reality of this place for outsiders. Now, I too will become an outsider to the place and its institutional forces. Leaving here I will lose that uniquely local attitude to Harvard as a place that comes with being a student, but I will retain a share of the name, a right to stand in as an ambassador to the world and part of the extended Harvard family. So in a certain sense, as an alumnus I will no longer be a part of the institution, but I will shape the perception of it by the outside world by wielding its brand name.

Thankfully, this does not mean that I will be required to proselytize a set of orthodox views, nor will I be penalized if I decide to file away my degree and keep my education a secret. I can choose on my own whether or not to be associated with the Harvard name and community, but the legacy of my time here will shine through in ways I will probably not even recognize. The tools I have acquired, the attitudes I have accepted, and the friends I have grown close to during my time here will stay with me after I have left here and influence the course of the rest of my life.

I am thankful that I could study at such an interesting and challenging school, and indeed I am proud of having “attended Harvard.” Nonetheless, I remain suspicious of those who would make too liberal use of the Harvard name. I do not believe in treating Harvard like a label that certifies quality or an icon of an exclusive club. Harvard is a place to which we chose to come to be amongst like-minded individuals and an institution that has gathered exceptional people who have now passed on to us some of their collected wisdom. Now we each must make the choice of how to direct our efforts in the world, and it is the fruit of those efforts that will some day serve as the scale by which the world measures Harvard.

Matthew W. Hutchins is a graduating 3L and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Record

Meet the man who revolutionized venture capital through blogging


David Hornick

After graduating from Harvard Law School, David Hornik ’94 went on to work at Cravath, Swaine & Moore before clerking for Judge Altimori at the Second Circuit. He returned to Cravath before eventually leaving in 1997 to join Venture Law Group, a start-up boutique in Silicon Valley. From there he helped start Perkins Coie’s Bay Area practice and, a decade ago, Hornik joined August Capital to himself become a venture capitalist, financing start-ups as an investor. Hornik returned to HLS this spring to teach a course in Entrepreneurship and Company Creation, and he sat down with the Harvard Law Record to speak about his career and the tech industry.

What took you to Venture Law Group after having worked at Cravath, and how did the experience working with start-ups get you excited about venture capital?

Cravath is in many ways the epitome of the establishment, a firm that represents some of the biggest and most well established corporations in the world. It’s reflected in the attire: you wear — your dark suit, every day, even if it’s just to hang up your coat on the back of the door.

I went to Venture Law Group in 1997 when the internet was exploding. There was a huge amount of energy and activity in the start-up world, and Venture Law Group was only representing start-ups.

One of the reasons I left Cravath and went to VLG was that friends of mine from Stanford undergrad were the guys who started Yahoo!, and they were being represented by the lawyers at VLG. It seemed to me that what they were doing was incredibly interesting and that the opportunity to work with Yahoo as their counsel was also incredibly interesting. In retrospect, maybe the thing I should have done was go and work with them, but it worked out fine. I became corporate counsel to a number of really interesting start-ups, all in the Internet space, and that really got me addicted to this idea that company building and start-ups are fascinating and really fun.

What I discovered was that working with startups was exhilarating. I loved representing them and talking to them about their business and the ways I could be helpful to them — not just as a counselor and in their legal issues, but ways in which I could be helpful in company building. I had the opportunity to ask, “have you thought about these things?” and “maybe you should do this?” We would engage in this back and forth about how they were thinking about building their business.

Some of the fun was in answering questions about how do you structure a company if you are engaging in a certain relationship. I remember very clearly once when a client and I were negotiating with a guy who was essentially Steve Jobs’ right hand man at Apple. The conversation was fascinating, because when it came time to discuss what the “look and feel” of this particular joint venture was going to be, we were told that Apple would get final say, period. I argued that we had never agree with that and so on, but the answer came back that, “No, no, Steve gets final say on how these things look. Period.” That was an incredibly interesting moment. It was like, do you want to push this, or do you want to get a business relationship done. So we agreed to it. In our minds, it was the Steve Jobs clause.

What were your goals when you created Venture Blog?

When I started Venture Blog there were no other venture capital blogs. Now there are literally hundreds of VC’s who are blogging. You look at it now and you say, “I get it. There is this opportunity to discuss things that are interesting and hopefully engage in a conversation with other people who find these things interesting.” But when I started blogging there were no investors talking about the venture capital process, so it was an interesting challenge. To a certain extent, the venture business was seen as this black box, and you weren’t supposed to talk about the things that you did as a VC. You weren’t supposed to talk about your thought process, because it was viewed as this tightly kept secret.

As I sat there as a VC it struck me that none of what we were doing was particularly secretive. This wasn’t the recipe for Coke. It was, “I want to hear from really smart entrepreneurs about what they are working on, and if it is sufficiently compelling, then I want to give them money.” It struck me that there was no good reason why I wouldn’t start this discussion. There are certainly some things that I don’t discuss, things about the companies I have invested in and conversations with my partners that I would be silly to talk about. But that is only because those particular things are private; their value is in the fact that they aren’t shared.

I wrote about “what is it that Venture capitalists expect in a presentation?” It doesn’t seem like that should be a puzzle. I want to actually find out about your company, and so I should tell you the things that are important and interesting to me, so that when you present your company, you tell me about the things that matter.

Cambridge, USA: Beginnings and ends, starts and finishes


Of all the starts and finishes we’ve gone through and are about to go through in our lives, the difference between the beginning of the JD and the end of the JD is particularly, spectacularly, pronounced. Think back to the first few days of 1L, when you met your section mates, the people you would see day in and day out for years. You sat through the mock class and had dinner with the Dean in the “Trophy Room” at the library; you posed for your section photo and it was still sunny and warm and fall hadn’t technically begun yet. Or go back even further—think back to admitted students day and the way you felt walking through the buildings for the first time as someone invited to be there—someone who was supposed to be there. I’m guessing that those on the eve of graduating with a JD are feeling very far removed from those early days.

The transformation that takes place at both the individual and the group level over the course of the JD is rapid and dramatic. The beginning and the end point of your Harvard JD are profoundly distinct. And like any change, it is unsettling. As we prepare to graduate, it is worth nothing that the disruption in front of us is not just a change in location or community or title or income. It is also a change in identity and self, and it has been occurring throughout the course of the JD.

Whether you suffered through 1L, deeming it the worst year of your life, or whether you loved it, it was likely a sea change moment. 1L begins with little context. Nothing you’ve ever done before could likely prepare you sufficiently for law school. You have no idea what to expect, and depending on your personality, this is either terrifying, or exhilarating, or some mix of the two. Like anything unknown, 1L produces fear in those living through it. When you don’t know where you’re going—you have the address in your hand but you’ve never been before—the walk or the ride feels longer and harder and more uncertain. You’ve never read anything like this, you’ve never been asked questions like this, you’ve never engaged in a process of reasoning like this.

Add the competition inherent in both a curved grading system and at an environment like Harvard Law School and you have compounded the fear. The perceived sense of competition couples with the fear of looking like an idiot in front of 80 other people that you’re decently certain are pretty smart and 100% certain that you are seeing again. Everyone is so darn motivated—does that make you lazy? If you thought of yourself as a hard worker before but you chafe at the amount of work you are assigned, while others seem to get down to it without hesitation, what does that say about you and how you had previously perceived yourself? If you’re struggling to stand out in a sea of overachievers, you are likely incapable of doing so without a hefty dose of stress.

It doesn’t help that the adversarial system of American legal reasoning pits us against each other: we are taught to tear each other’s arguments apart and pick out all of the flaws. The classroom divides as people take sides. The feeling is that it is personal: you made a mistake; you’re on the wrong side.

Throughout it all, you are being forced into a specific mold. You are instructed to read in a specific way; to repeat and analyze what you’re read in a certain way; and to write and argue in a specific way. You are being shaped and remade, and maybe you don’t like what you’re being turned into. Maybe the reshaping cuts off pieces of your former self that you didn’t want to let go.

The intense growth experience of 1L is mixed in terms of the feelings it produces: 1L might have been the most intellectually stimulating year of your life to date, but likely the pressures and processes involved in pushing you to new heights and new understandings was also significantly uncomfortable. You may have had to work harder in your life than ever before, and this challenge may have been exciting, but it is also fatiguing. This process, too, cuts you off from your former self. 1L is a year when people lose time; their days are swallowed up with law school. You may have talked to your family more prior to law school, you may have had more time for hobbies that addressed the non-legal, non-rational parts of you. Students can wind up with an extremely heavy load of classes even in the very beginning—17 credits in one semester? It happens. In addition to the volume, there is the lack of experience holding you back: you will never read legal material more slowly than you read it 1L fall. As a result, in 1L we are often forced to give up many of the things that had made us happy prior to entering law school.

For many people, 1L is the first time they have felt a sense of purpose and that what they do or say matters. Finally, what you’re studying will have some practical consequence for your life and your career, and your career is going to have consequences for other people. You can “do” something now. You can win a case; you can change a law; you can produce real outcomes that could affect dozens, thousands of other people. That is meaningful, but it is intimidating. Now you have to take your work more seriously. Now a mistake is more grave, a failure more significant.

Fast forward to the eve of graduation and those early moments of the beginning year seem a million miles away. The change we’re about to experience in leaving Harvard Law School cannot be understated. For several years we’ve been ensconced in this community, and we’ve been enriched by it, and we’ve been protected by it. On the one hand, we’re lucky simply to have communities. Americans live increasingly atomized lives, and are less and less likely as the decades progress to be a “member” of anything. Not only are we members of the law school, we’re members of the Harvard community generally, and we then join all sorts of sub-communities within the schools, based on religious or political or other affiliations, or focused on specific projects or activities. There is always something to join or do here, and even if you didn’t take any action to join or participate in anything, your default community is large, diverse, and positive. Few people if any would think that membership in the Harvard Law community is other than an exceedingly good thing. You don’t lose this membership by graduating, but you lose the almost daily interaction that it provides. We’re being scattered around the world—how will we find each other again? What will our days and weeks be like without the support we feel here?

Graduating in 2010 presents an added wrinkle: this is not the world we expected we’d be graduating into. Part of what makes Harvard great and what makes it tough to bear is the loftiness of the expectations all of us bring to the table. Clearly, we can be the next president of the United States! Obviously, we can be the next Supreme Court Justice!

When you’re here, there is no ceiling to your aspirations. But, the world is being remade in front of us. Most HLS graduates target jobs at large, famous law firms in big cities for their first post-graduation job. Those types of firms are still reeling under the presure of the economic downturn that has afflicted the entire world, and as a result, they’re not hiring nearly as much as they were when this graduating class entered law school.
Still, I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb if I said that I believe that everyone in this graduating class is going to find a job. But a big difference between 1L expectations and end results now, though, might be the job you end up finding. In the years we’ve taken to complete our JD, our opportunities have changed. Our expectations and wishes might not have. Now, they might not match. This is unsettling, and disturbing, and definitely not what we signed up for.

I’m willing to bet, though, that whatever we’re feeling in the weeks leading up to graduation, and however we view our 1L experience or our JD experience generally, that we wouldn’t t
rade it for the world. I think that even the most miserable graduate would answer that they would do it all over again, and have a host of reasons for professing this. Something with that powerful of a draw, and that huge of an impact on our lives, is very hard to leave.

Jessica Corsi is a graduating 3L and Opinion Editor of the Harvard Law Record. This is the last of her two year long series of columns for this paper.

Ralph Nader: More law professors should be like Elizabeth Warren


Dear Editor:

The wide acclaim given to the standup reformist advocacy and wise interrogations by Professor Elizabeth Warren during this period of chronic abuses by many in the financial industry is a refreshing wind coming from the Harvard Law School to Washington, D.C.

Professor Warren combines rigorous scholarship with a superb sense of needed change and clear ways to communicate those needs to families and individuals around the country. Let’s say that in consumer circles, the chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel is a superstar!

Her example, along with those of a few other HLS professors, such as Lawrence Lessig’s launch of Fix Congress First! should stimulate a broader discussion among students about what conditions produce activist professors and how to motivate more of them who are already on the faculty.

Students of Elizabeth Warren are directly being enriched by her teaching and advocacy. There is a moral imperative to connecting knowledge with action.

I propose there be an open forum some day next fall so that students and faculty discuss concrete ways to activate more of the latent talent among the faculty for long overdue changes in our corporatized and bureaucratized legal systems writ large and small. Any interested readers may wish to contact me at info [at] csrl.org.

The 600 year old Chinese saying that “to know and not to do is not to know” may not apply to the Harvard Law faculty, but it does send a provocative message in this age of gigantic manipulation of the law to serve the interests of raw power.


Ralph Nader ’58

Negotiating law school was fun, fulfilling


Recently, I was present at a meeting between clinical students for the Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and a client representing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  The representative assumed that we had plenty of opportunity to work in teams at the law school, since that’s what most of us will have to do after we graduate. The law students and faculty in the room chuckled at how far off her assumption was from reality. 

What are the skills we need after we leave law school? Surely, a nuanced understanding of constitutional law isn’t all there is to legal practice. Perhaps this is my own bias stemming from how I’ve spent my time here, but I would add team work, project development, project management and client development to that non-exhaustive list. And in Harvard Negotiators, I found all that. 

Harvard Negotiators (HN) is the student oganization here at the law school focused on negotiation and dispute resolution.  Through HN, I was able to take negotiation theory from the classroom into the real world.  HN members and I have created value for clients by providing them substantive work in negotiation and dispute resolution.  And as students, we have benefitted from the opportunity to engage the real world, develop actual work experience in a low-risk setting, engage our passions and bring ideas to reality.

To give you an idea of what all that means, in the past year HN has…


·       Developed negotiation curriculum for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Houston-based non-profit that provides educational and mentorship programs for enterprising incarcerees.

·       Developed difficult conversations curriculum for at-risk youths affiliated with FAIR Fund, an international NGO working in anti-human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

·       Created best practices manual for renegotiating child support agreements for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

·       Trained outside organizations in negotiation skills, including Firemen and the Town Administrator of Nantucket, elected officials of the Mississippi NAACP, and graduate students at the Harvard School of Public Health.

·       Put our skills to test at the American Bar Association Negotiation Competition, St. John’s Dispute Resolution Triathlon, and the International Negotiation Challenge in Leipzig, Germany.

·       Simulated multi-party bankruptcy negotiation with other law students in light of the economic crisis

Our work last fall helped incarcerated individuals in the Houston prison system learn how to better navigate their business and personal lives after leaving custody, we helped youths in the DC Metro area learn how to have difficult life-altering conversations, and hopefully helped a few of the many children in the middle of the country who are currently experiencing hardship due to the economic downturn.  Firemen and other union workers in Nantucket will hopefully be able to secure better contracts, and at a minimum, the animosity in their relationship with the Town has decreased. And the list goes on.

It’s not to say that our organization has all the answers or are experts at all of this, but in the process of finding projects to work on, managing our work load, and delivering concrete results, I know that I’ve developed some expertise – and just learned a ton.  

I love the fact that HN is organic and interest-driven. If you have an idea or an interest, the mentality is – let’s try to make something happen. Given that negotiation touches every aspect of our lives and is implicated in almost any field, it seems like everybody has an interest that overlaps with what we do. But HN is not about riding on someone else’s coattails or waiting for someone else to act.  It is all about figuring out what you want to do and how to do it.  My experience has taught me that if you have an idea, ask questions, and ask for help, you can actually make things happe

With the countdown to the end of law school being only weeks now instead of months, I confess that I am extremely jealous of those who get to continue on here. There are incredible resources here at the HLS, and it’s been an incredibly luxury to develop myself professionally while impacting the world positively.

My fellow classmates and I all come from such different backgrounds and bring an amazing variety of experiences and passions to law school.  And as far as I can tell, the point of law school wasn’t to take those differences and stuff them into nice little conformist boxes, but to bring those differences to the table to enhance the experience – yours, those around you, and the community beyond.

If I could say anything to those not yet staring the cap & gown in the face – and maybe because I’m a graduating 3L you might afford me the opportunity – it would be to take the opportunity while here to learn, not just from books and cases, but about life and the world. I know I just said it several sentences ago, but there are incredible resources here. Being a student at HLS and taking part in an organization gives you the platform from which to launch new ideas. Find your own analogue to the Negotiators, or feel free to join ours. It has certainly made my experience here at the law school all the more worthwhile.

Harvard Law students raising own fund to support public interest careers


The following letter appeared in the Harvard Law Record exhorting Harvard Law School students to contribute to a grassroots initiative to fund a graduate of the school interested in public interest work. It is reprinted here in a slightly modified form to inform a general audience about the student effort.

$1 per day for 1 month from each student at the law school would fund a fellow classmate to work in the public interest for a year following graduation.

The Post-Graduate Student Funded Fellowship is the result of students realizing there is much we can do to help one another and others in a time of economic and social distress.

The immediate goal is to support one of our peers, someone whom we have shared classes with, been inspired by, and who is eager to tackle the problems of the world. The effects of the fellowship, however, will surely extend beyond the HLS community. By funding a year of public interest work, we are  confident that we are also funding positive change for the individuals and communities with whom the fellow works.

Even beyond that, we believe that this Fellowship has the power to positively influence the school’s culture, building greater community on campus. This is why it is important that this fellowship be grassroots, led and supported by students.

The economic downturn has made clear that nothing can be taken for granted, including the availability of a job for someone both qualified and deserving. Discussions about post-graduation plans have turned into comparisons of starting dates, deferral periods, and the latest frustrations of trying to crack into the public sector. Some of us find ourselves relatively well positioned; others are still busy networking, mass e-mailing, and polishing up fellowship proposals.

And so this time presents a unique opportunity to step back and think about what
each one of us can do to help our fellow classmates in addition to those less fortunate
outside of the HLS community.

We have worked to make it as easy as possible for students to donate. Everyone is encouraged to visit our website at www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/fellowship, and donate through the online form (by writing in Post-Grad Student Funded Fellowship in the Additional Comments section). As you may have noticed, we are holding weekly bake sales until the end of the school year, and we’d love for you to stop by, chat, get more information, buy a treat and give back. Third year students have the chance to direct their class gift to the fellowship, among the other options. 2Ls will have the opportunity to donate “One Day’s Work” this summer to the fellowship.

This is hopefully just the beginning.

We have selected students with the drive and ideas to lead this initiative next year. Our goal is to make the fellowship a permanent part of the HLS community.

Thank you.

Your Post-Grad Student Funded Fellowship Chairs,

Sheila Lopez, Julie Ruderman, Alison Welcher, and Maura Whelan

Comcast decision threatens net neutrality, fairness to consumers


Two weeks ago, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC does not have authority to regulate broadband Internet service providers, granting Comcast the ability to shape its consumers’ use of certain web applications.

This is the most recent development in a string of court battles that stems from Comcast’s practice of delaying or blocking certain types of Internet traffic without disclosing the details to its customers. While other companies may also engage in the same practices, Comcast, as one of the biggest and most powerful ISPs, sets the standard for the industry.

The saga began in 2007, when one Comcast customer who had extensive network experience figured out that certain applications were being blocked. He realized that his Internet connection shut down when he tried to share his favorite music, public domain barbershop quartet recordings, via peer-to-peer applications. Because Comcast does not disclose what information they block and when they do it, less sophisticated users may not know that problems with their Internet connections are intentionally inflicted
by their ISPs.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Associated Press investigated, and discovered that Comcast purposely slowed or blocked peer-to-peer file sharing applications such as BitTorrent. Subsequently, special interest group Free Press filed a complaint against Comcast with the FCC in 2007 based on this practice. Free Press asserted that Comcast’s secrecy constituted a deceptive practice that should be regulated.

Comcast explained that this was merely a “network management practice,” to ensure that no one consumer took too large a share of its bandwidth away from other customers. However, it failed to regulate some other applications that used more, and restricted other applications that used less bandwidth.

In 2008, as the result of agency adjudication, the FCC ordered Comcast to disclose full details of its network management practices and create publicly available plans for new and nondiscriminatory practices. Comcast appealed this finding on the grounds that the FCC did not have authority to regulate under its “ancillary” authority. Comcast also claimed that the FCC could not make this decision through adjudication instead of conducting a formal rulemaking proceeding.

In the April 6 decision, the D.C. Circuit found that the FCC misused its authority in regulating Comcast’s network management practices, effectively allowing Comcast to inhibit transmission of whatever content it deems troublesome to its networks. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski ’91 said that even despite this decision, his agency would look for other means to protect consumer interests in broadband.

As the appeal was pending, several bills introduced in Congress sought to remedy this issue from a consumer protection standpoint. The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, a bill introduced on July 31 of last year, includes enforcement provisions for noncompliant ISPs and creates law directly rather than delegating to the FCC for rulemaking. This bill is currently in committee but will probably be replaced by the more recent National Broadband Policy. The Broadband Consumer Protection Bill, introduced on March 15, aims to promote disclosure to consumers of the actual transmission speeds their ISPs achieve. The act would spur an FCC rulemaking to ensure that broadband marketing includes clear information to consumers about what speeds they can realistically expect, and to regulate ISPs’ marketing and service procedures.

The FCC released details of its National Broadband Plan, a priority of the Obama  administration, on March 16, stating multiple goals of increasing the number of Americans with broadband connections, improving computer and Internet literacy, and making access more affordable. It remains to be seen how the National Broadband Plan will comport with the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Unfortunately, the recent Comcast decision means that the FCC may not have authority to regulate.

This decision left the FCC with lesser regulatory power over broadband, and consumers with fewer rights against the industry. In order to ensure that consumers receive fair terms and competitive prices, either Congress or the courts need to reverse this trend and place broadband squarely under the FCC’s authority to regulate.

Stephanie Young is a 2L.

Letter: Did April Fools article prompt Stevens retirement?


Dear Editor,

I can’t help notice that only one week after “General Kagan” demanded a Supreme Court vacancy open up in the April Fools’ Day issue of the Harvard Law Record, Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement. I can only conclude that Stevens and the White House thought that the column was written by the real Elena Kagan, and jumped to oblige her. (This wouldn’t be a first, as the Record April Fools’ Day issue has been tricking inattentive media and academic types since the 1970s.) The Record board should feel justified in claiming complete credit for Stevens’ retirement.

Anyway, count me among the thousands of HLS students and alums who will be unapologetic homers for our former dean if she is nominated. I hope this is her time. But I have to say that there is a major downside if Kagan ascends to the Court: she will have to wear a dowdy black robe all the time instead of her famous rainbow of solid-color blazers. (A Google image search provides all the examples you need.) I always wanted to put Elena Kagan Paper Dolls in the Record, where the basic doll was wearing a black top, black pants, and sensible shoes, and then you could dress her up in a red blazer, a green blazer, or for a formal night out, a black blazer.

Lest you think Kagan left this fashion statement behind at Harvard Law School, I asked a friend who works in the Solicitor General’s office, and he assured me that Kagan has kept the blazer collection even at her lofty post in DOJ. That made me feel good, like Kagan wasn’t going all “D.C.” on us. Alas, robe beats blazer every time. Best of luck to her or whatever other HLS grad is nominated for the spot (since that seems to describe almost everyone being short-listed). 

Andrea Saenz ’08

Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Law Record, 2007-08

Give money to Harvard? Nope means NOPE


In 1987, our last year as students at Harvard Law School, we formed a group called NOPE. No matter how rich we became, even if we could credit Harvard for our careers, we vowed to never contribute anything of financial value to its endowment: Not One Penny Ever. NOPE. We took our share of responsibility for three bitter years, but we also blamed the faculty for their indifference to higher values and to students.

More than a hundred of our classmates signed the NOPE pledge and the story hit the AP wires. Rereading the old newspaper articles about our little revolt, we see that our gripes were imperfectly articulated to say the least. (See, for example, http://articles.latimes.com/1987-02-22/news/mn-5117_1.) Now we would say that, despite the Latin phrase in the university’s seal, the Harvard Law School rarely stands for truth or other high values. It does not prepare students for success; it brands them for success. At best, the law school distracts students from more important things for three years. At worst, the Harvard Law experience is morally corrosive, because some students look to the institution for truth and wisdom, but it delivers neglect and cynical politics.

Now we are taking a break to write a book called Boiling Over at Harvard Law. We describe—as part memoir and part investigative report—the dark side of the Harvard experience. We show the alcohol abuse and recreational excursions into marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, the sexual perversions, and, worse, the long stretches of ennui at a time when students should instead be thrilled to pursue wisdom. We tell the tale of one student who hid in his apartment in 1600 Massachusetts Avenue, painting abstracts instead of attending class during the second and third years. We hope our readers will use these details to embark on a broader critique of a self-absorbed institution that has churned out generations of America’s political elite.

Maybe it shouldn’t, but all of this matters, because the Harvard brand is so strong; the scarlet letter H goes a long way. That stamp was on display on January 20, 2009, when a Chief Justice who got his degree from Harvard Law swore in a President who received his J.D. from the same institution – and who stood near a First Lady who had done the same. Not since HLS alumnus Rutherford B. Hayes (Class of 1845) was president were things so sweet for the HLS community.

Harvard’s myth-makers would have you believe that Barack Obama’s character was shaped for the better during his three years in Cambridge. We are convinced that it was not. In rounding up 500 ambitious, intelligent students every year a random distribution of fortunes combined with Harvard brand equity will take some law graduates into greatness—and some into the pit. The myth may propel some to high positions. The substance of the institution does not.

Our description of the law school, unlike past critiques, touches the institution’s core. We believe the center there is hollowed out and rotten with a toxic faculty that poisons those around it. Some graduates do not show obvious signs of damage. Perhaps they were not as sensitive as we were to the toxins.

Harvard’s apologists might try to limit our observations to an odd period in the law school’s history. The late 1980s were indeed an ugly time when the battles between the Critical Legal Studies crowd and the more conventional scholars left scars. That was then, this is now, the apologists might say. Even so, our history covers two years in Michelle Obama’s education, not to mention the period right before Barack became the first African-American editor-in-chief of the law review. This was an important time at Harvard, if for no other reason than because it formed part of the untold biography of the world’s most powerful couple. And despite former Dean – and now Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan’s efforts to make Harvard a better place since we graduated, we believe a real remedy for Harvard’s problems would come from something more than free coffee and cookies, from change more substantial than smaller first-year sections and more international courses. The law school’s flaws, we claim, are more fundamental.

Generation after generation, Harvard Law has been home to arrogant teachers who reinforce the arrogance of students already impressed by their own college grades, LSAT scores, and other accomplishments. That arrogance prevents bonds of humanity from developing into community. That arrogance extinguishes the curiosity and the humility necessary to understand the world. The HLS faculty is full of geeks who did extremely well on law school exams but never developed the whimsy or the poetry or the jazz to make them truly great people. For the most part, they are neither outstanding philosophers nor accomplished practitioners. Clever but not wise, they sneer at the commoners (their own graduates) who draft contracts, litigate cases, and serve on lower courts.

True, Harvard is a training ground for the country’s elite. But who is really happy with the results? If the law school can’t pursue its mission with character, integrity, and humility, it should forfeit its special place in our national life.

Look to Barack’s hero, Abraham Lincoln, for a telling contrast. Lincoln, mocked by the East Coast elite, was a hard-working and gangly man from the frontier. Too poor to attend an Ivy League school, he learned the law through his own studies and apprenticeships. Lincoln did not lord it over other people; he acknowledged a Lord above his own head. (We’ll stop here, since we had better not talk too much about the Almighty if we want Harvard to pay any attention. Even at the Divinity School He has nearly disappeared from view.)

After the Civil War, Lincoln reminded the nation of the abyss, in order to inspire us to reach for the stars. Lincoln’s address at the Second Inaugural, no doubt, was about truth. Tested by death in the White House and by losses across the country, Lincoln schooled the nation on its pain and its healing. “With malice toward none,” he said, “with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” We are willing to bet that Harvard Law professors don’t talk like that.

Michael Christian ’87 is retired in San Diego. Prof. Afsheen Radsan ’87 teaches at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Congratulations, law school Class of 2010. Your survivors’ guilt begins now.


On behalf of the fellow members of your employer, our most prestigious law firm, we wanted to offer a heartfelt congratulations to you, incoming associates of the Class of 2010! You’re now only a month or two away from the end of your academic lives. Take a breather, enjoy your victory lap, and blow your savings on that extravagant bar trip to the new Club Med in Goa; when you check your account balance after that, you will only relish discovering the date that you will be beginning of your bondage to Me, LLP. And I may or may not mean literal bondage, but I don’t think it would be a good career move for you to ask.

Trust me, we have work waiting for you. It may not be substantive. It may not be billable. We may use these facts to later turn you out on the street, with insufficient experience to make a lateral move, and literally no other recourse in this economy but your state’s rapidly dwindling unemployment funds. After all, did you think we were going to keep you around, hiking your pay when there’s always a fresh new crop of 3Ls being grown somewhere in this great country? As long as America continues opening more law schools, your stock will keep going south. Sorry.

But take heart. You’re among the lucky ones. We know all about your friends – deferred ad infinitum, no-offered entirely, forced to beg for jobs at Human Rights First or some other vanity project that’s been pretty happy to pay J.D.s in “experience”. Take a moment to think about whether you’d toss some pennies to your failed classmate when he’s lying face-down in the gutter and reeking of the stench of cheap whiskey. Of course you wouldn’t. I mean, you did choose to take a firm job. That’s just not the kind of person you are.

Oh, but the guilt – the guilt will be bad. You’ll shed some tears over the lost comrade from study group whose promising gunning seemed destined to land him a seat on an Appellate Court, at least. You’ll wonder why the girl who won the Sears Prize that one year now shows up to reunions with an 87 year old scion of the Astor family and lists her profession as “homemaker”. You may think you recognize that Starbucks barista, mall janitor, or “sanitation engineer”. But then you’ll shake your head and say “nah”. Harvard Law grads sunk so low? Impossible. I mean, you definitely weren’t informed about it by the alumni magazine.

But you won’t think about these things for very long. In the old days, we were flush enough to bring in consultants to help bright young things deal with the fact that the telos of their high octane, extra extracurricular-fueled adrenaline rush through adolescence and early adulthood was a cell-like office with no view, shared with another dejected victim of diminished expectations. They talked about family and how it could help balance an unsatisfying work life (not that we’d ever think it was acceptable to ignore your vibrating BlackBerry when baby was in distress), or played up the different “lifestyle choices” of mergers and acquisitions versus capital markets practice as if there were a real distinction.

My favorite was the paralegal who came to us from i-banking and decided to leave the Financial Times‘ “How to Spend It” magazine around the office, allowing associates to daydream about what they would be doing with all the free time we never allowed them to have. We even had a billing code for it. Pacing the office at night, I’d come across a second-year associate, eyes practically raccoon-like from lack of sleep, hands jittery from all the caffeine consumed to maintain the momentum of doc review.

He’d be gazing wistfully, with what little energy he had left, at the glossy pages of “How to Spend It,” imagining he’d partied away his graduate education in business school and was actually able to bail from the office at 6:30, like some kind of sales-rep troglodyte. “Oh, you want a boat?” I’d ask, and the beleaguered plebe would look up, encouraged by my effort to engage him in human conversation, a slight smile beginning to emerge from his weary façade. “Well,” I’d then deadpan, “maybe it’d get you to the deposition you’re supposed to do in Hong Kong. In 12 hours.” Then I’d hand him the ticket and remind him how unfortunate it would be if he didn’t make like that famous Cravath associate and take advantage of the International Date Line to bill more than 24 hours that day. I’d remind him that the Cravath associate in question had managed to ascend to the heights of senior associate on that whim alone. Those were the times that stirred men’s souls! Now I’d just remind my hapless charges that said associate still has a job – though just barely. As a contract attorney. In a basement. In Fargo.

Sorry, Class of 2010. We can’t afford those sort of sundry amusements anymore. Ditto the ordered-in meals and cab rides home. But there’s a Subway around the corner, and a subway beneath your feet! Funny how one word, capitalized differently, can take care of so many of your needs. Speaking of which, you had better not fail to capitalize the right words on the first memo you prepare for one of our clients. After all, you all said on your resumes that you were “senior editors” of your respective journals, and if you haven’t memorized the Bluebook as well as a Christian fundamentalist militiaman has memorized the Bible, well, you’re dead weight, son. And I do mean son: the clients are no longer paying for the ink it takes to make all our inter-office communications gender neutral anymore.

Not every quality of life provision is so costly, you say? Wrong. Casual Fridays? Over. We’re not chasing pots of gold at the end of magic rainbows; we’re lawyers, and we need to look professional. Buy a suit or two. Italian only. I’m talking to you, kid from out of his league who wore a Jos. A. Bank outfit to his exit interview.

Don’t like it? There’s a homeless shelter down the street, and I’m definitely not telling you that because you’re allowed to use your pro bono hours volunteering there. And don’t forget that, should you complain, there’s a pretty angry crowd of pitchfork-wielding crazies willing to knife you for daring to compare long hours spent in our marble hallways to your own private Gulag Archipelago. Yes, you’re between a rock and a hard place. But you do get $160k for the privilege. And with that, I’ll turn it over to your financial services representatives, who I understand are very interested in talking to you about that outstanding debt on your student loans.

Ekstreem Azwhol is managing partner of his eponymous firm and an esteemed alumnus of Harvard Law School, where he won the Sears Prize, the Fay Diploma, served as President of the Law Review, Grand Wizard of the Federalist Society, and was deemed “the crown prince of egomaniacal chauvinism” by the editrix-in-chief of the Journal of Law & Gender. He clerked for Justice Scalia and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush for his service to American ideals.

Kagan: I’m just one overdue, unfortunate accident away from greatness


The following article was originally published in the Harvard Law Record’s 2010 April Fool’s Day edition and was intended as satire. It does not and was not intended to reflect the opinion of Solicitor General Kagan.

Nine of them. Nine Justices. And now all that remains for all my plans to be fulfilled is for any one of those nine to have some unfortunate, random thing happen, for some minor illness to worsen inexplicably, and I will take my place among the eight that remain.

All it would take is the flutter of a pulmonary valve, the clogging of an artery, or the rupture of tiny blood vessel, causing a debilitating stroke. Any of these must be routine medical events, seen in any hospital every day of the week. And how many fatty meals does it take, how many salty french fries, how many tainted glasses of water before each of these events becomes a statistical inevitability? What sort of medical miracle are these people?

But the absurdity only ripens the longer one considers the situation, for any slip, any crash would be enough to take one of these illuminati from their post and into the halls of history. A dropped bar of soap, picked up in haste, leaves a spot of residue that causes a foot to slip, but there’s no handrail to save you, Clarence! A stale sacramental wafer, hastily dipped into the holy wine by the priest in communion, is swallowed a little too quickly, lodging at the epiglottis. Say your prayers, Samuel! Driving to a great-grand-child’s first communion, a nail in the road punctures a tire, and the car spins to the right and is crushed by a tractor trailer. Addio, Antonin!

And yet day in and day out they hum along in their steady routine, avoiding accidents, eschewing risk factors, and imbibing their miracle drugs to stave off that final sickness. But I can see it in their faces. Another wrinkle under the eye. A new liver spot. An enlarged goiter. An unusually pallid complexion. All these signs reveal the inexorable creep of age, the sure exhaustion of youth and vitality.

And ever since Souter left for a simple life in the hills of New Hampshire, there has been an obvious discomfort among those remaining, those who realize that they are letting their last days be sapped by an oversized vanity that can do no more than extend the tenure, carve another notch in the post of history, and sign off on another opinion, another page in the Reporter.

Why do they persist? What is the irrational impulse that keeps these jurists going? I can understand Roberts and Alito, and I envy Sotomayor. I might not shed a tear if it were one of them who was laid low first, but I would certainly understand their resoluteness, their tenacity. Even Thomas, appointed so young, has barely just hit his stride. He won’t be as old as Stevens is now until 2038. But how can these aging relics continue to trudge along so stubbornly against the winds of fate? John Paul, Ruth, Antonin, Anthony, and even dear Stephen are all already in excess of the average life expectancy. Don’t they know that they are tempting fate with each piercing interrogatory and each impassioned dissent?

I can only suppose that they, like myself, were one day counting the days from the other side of the line, biding their time until some other old fart would kick the bucket. And I suppose that I too will some day be in those robes, looking out at a rising pretender to my seat and despising each concerned look, every quickening of the pulse at a fit of coughing. From those lofty heights, with no more climbing the ladder of overachievement and an army of envious idolaters hemming you in, the next step can only take you downward. And like Wood, Garland, Sullivan and the rest, I will be right here, waiting for that moment.

Elena Kagan is former Dean of Harvard Law School and currently serves as Solicitor General of the United States.