Remember Who You Are… and Where You Are

One of the most frequent (and important) pieces of advice you’ll get as a 1L is to remember who you are. Law school will inevitably change you – even after one year, you’ll learn a new vernacular (thanks Civ Pro), write differently (thanks CRUPAC), and even view everyday situations differently (thanks, Torts). So, this advice is key – as you immerse yourself in legal doctrine and general hecticness that is 1L, you shouldn’t forget the values and aspirations that brought you to this place. But one thing I would add to this refrain is that the communities you’re a part of are equally important to maintaining your sense of self.

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The Quest for Worldliness

Always treacherous to start out on an uncool note, but here goes:  I had a blast in my 1L year at law school.  To be more precise, I had a blast in my 1L year at the Harvard Law School.  And what I aimed to get out of it at the cusp of the new school year, in those muggy early September summer days, was something beyond a terrific exposure to the fundamentals of law and legal reasoning (check!).  It was an improvement in my worldliness.  I was craving greater worldliness, believing then, correctly in retrospect, that one of the great assets of coming to the extraordinary educational bazaar that is HLS is widening in spectacular (and often unexpected) ways one’s view of the world.

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Grab the Opportunity to Build a Better HLS

Walking into the hallowed halls of Harvard Law School, past the pillars of Langdell Hall, and under countless portraits of Supreme Court Justices can be a hefty experience for anyone and is especially weighty for new students. This establishment brings with it years of history, institutions, and tradition. But the secret of this place is that despite all the pomp, privilege, and circumstance—the thing HLS needs the most to continue being HLS is you.

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Now That I’ve Got Your Attention, Here’s a Listicle!

Dear 1Ls,

Welcome to Harvard Law! I know you’re all coming in with different backgrounds, expectations, and experiences, and that’s part of what makes HLS such a unique learning environment. I’m also aware that I wrote a similar piece last year, but I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and I certainly hope the same is true of all 2Ls and 3Ls who feel they have room for personal growth. That said, my advice this year will be less conventional than it was last year. What can I say? I’m a 3L now. This issue is full of great advice, and I’m just trying to fill in the gaps for you.

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Seek Affinity and Challenge Community

1L is as emotionally and spiritually challenging as it is academically rigorous. For many, the experience is marked by anxiety about cold calls and reading assignments. You’re also asked to make decisions about summer internships, activities, and classes well before you have a strong grasp of the law and legal profession. All of this pressure can strain your sense of identity, alienating you from who you are and where you’ve come from.

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Being Queer at HLS Means Standing Up

It is impossible to pin down what being queer at Harvard Law entails. The nature of intersectional identities means that every LGBTQ student’s experience is necessarily different. Our many identities—race, gender, class, and otherwise—have been, and continue to be, scrutinized by the law in very different ways. Our members fill all four corners of campus extracurricular life; you can find Lambda members in every affinity group, student practice organization, and journal. You will discover queer individuals engaged in very different work in in all pockets of our school. Our strengths as a community lie in the granularity of our differences. But we have done our best to condense three takeaways about what it means to be a queer 1L at Harvard Law.

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An Interview with I. Glenn Cohen ’03

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

The Record: What is the first thing you would want an incoming 1L to know before they start?

I. Glenn Cohen: You belong. There is a huge tendency to self-discount and to feel ill at ease. You come from probably being the most successful person in the milieau in which you grew up or in which you went to college, to suddenly being surrounded by a huge number of other high achievers, and for me, I feel this pretty acutely. I’m a first-gen student myself. Neither of my parents finished high school. I remember feeling hugely intimidated when I walked through the doors of this place. The fact of the matter is our admissions office is amazing. They truly do pick amazing people with something to contribute, and there are a million different ways to contribute. People tend to be at their worst when they are feeling the anxiety of not belonging or measuring up, and at their best when they feel there is a vibrant community to support them.

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Take Advantage of Opportunities to Learn at HLS

The world you have entered as 1Ls is both daunting and exhilarating. Daunting mostly because ours is a time of broken politics, and – as most of you no doubt already know – the legal and political systems are densely interwoven. Exhilarating because you’re embarking on an adventure of learning about the most challenging puzzles of the legal process and the most innovative ways of tackling them, the areas in which human rights and needs are most neglected or overridden and the most effective ways to contribute to solving the problems underlying such conditions. As you’ll soon discover, those puzzles mix questions about history with moral and ethical challenges; questions about economics and behavioral science with inquiries into the limits of precision, modeling, and quantification; questions about geopolitics with matters of justice both domestically and internationally.

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An Open Letter to the Class of 2021: On Mental Health

Welcome and congratulations, incoming 1Ls! We upperclassmen are excited to have you join us and begin contributing to the vibrant HLS community. As a rising 2L, I have 1L year fresh in my mind, and write on behalf of the Student Mental Health Association (SMHA) with five pieces of advice for you all at this commencement of your law school experience:

    1. If you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. A 2016 study by the American Bar Association found that 17% of law students experience depression and 37% experience anxiety.  It is unfortunately common to feel overwhelmed at points during law school. You have to adjust to a new way of thinking and a new style of instruction. Many incoming students have been out of a classroom for years when they enter HLS. Some come with families, and all with relationships and obligations pulling in different directions. Whichever particular stressors affect you, remember that they are a product of your environment. Feeling stressed, sad, or confused is not an indication that you don’t belong here. It’s normal to have these feelings, and we hope to help students understand the ways that they can mitigate and manage them.
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The Women’s White Collar Defense Association — Women Making a Difference in the White Collar Defense Bar

In 1999, both of the co-founders of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association (“WWCDA”), Karen Popp and Beth Wilkinson, had recently left government service. Popp had been Associate White House Counsel to President Clinton and before that she was in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and also had served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Wilkinson had been an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, and later was one of the lead prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing cases.  Upon leaving government, the two joined their respective law firms as partners, wanting to be White Collar defense attorneys for corporate America. Popp went to Sidley Austin LLP and Wilkinson went to Latham & Watkins.

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Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

Editor’s note: Jeanne-Rose Arn wrote this paper while she was an LL.M. student at HLS for a course called “The Fiction and Biography of Philip Roth: A Meditation on American Identity.” We present it here.

Goodbye, Columbus is a story about assimilation and about social ascension. But perhaps more importantly it is an initiation novella, in which, of course, Neil’s initiation relates to his assimilation and to his ascension. The story draws a circle, in a short period of time, from the moment he starts trying to be more assimilated, willing to defy his Jewish identity, to the moment he returns to his identity: “what was it inside me that had turned pursuit and clutching into love, and then turned it inside out again? What was it that had turned winning into losing, and losing – who knows – into winning?” (p. 135) The novella takes place during one summer; Neil is 23, he meets his first love, and he is confronted – maybe for the first time – to the real struggling life. It is a transitory summer of questioning, of experiences – an accelerated process of assimilation, during which everything happens “very fast” (p. 17) until he closes the circle.

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