Dance: Where to get your groove on

BY

For some reason, when people start talking about clubbing, they get a bizarre urge to state the obvious. In honor of those people (and to save a few frustrating conversations, I’ll do it for you: Boston is not New York City. Shocked? Didn’t think so. This city is smaller, it has a very college-skewed population, and as such, its options, dance-wise, are different than some other metro areas. But that doesn’t make it all bad.

It’s also no secret that the dominant factor in a positive club experience is the music. So (and this is especially for all you techno-haters out there) here is a smattering of some of the better and lesser-known venues, broken down (predominantly) with music, mood and attitude in mind.

Hip-Hop

Finding a good hip-hop club in Boston isn’t quite as hard as, say, finding a liquor store open on Sunday, but it does take some looking. The most likely sources of hip-hop are the college clubs, which tend to heavily favor the less-innovative fare popular on MTV.

But if you want a hip-hop night somewhere other than Nellyville, you can always spend your Tuesdays and Thursdays at Aria, a swank Tremont Street lounge whose tiny dance floor packs quickly when its top-notch sound system starts booming. The $15 cover is a bit steep for Boston, but the plush layout, top quality DJ talent, and champagne-sipping, flossed-out fellow clubgoers make it worth the investment.

If you’re planning a trip to Vertigo, a small club a stone’s throw from Faneuil Hall, you might want to pack the black pants, but you can check your pretension at the door. The well-dressed, friendly crowd frequents this no-frills club for one thing and one thing only: dancing. If you plan to sit in the corner and sulk, slink away to the pub around the corner instead.

Karma lets in the 18-year-olds on Thursday nights, which can be a little frustrating. The good news is that the dance floor is big enough that you can avoid them, and the panoply of other clubs on the Lansdowne strip offer a lifeline for when the teenybopper set gets too ridiculous.

On Thursday and Friday nights, The Exchange is usually a safe bet. Not quite as hot right now as Aria and Vertigo, this club draws a crowd worth looking at with music good enough to keep you on the dance floor.

The Emily’s/SW1 complex tries to bridge the gap between a college club and a more upscale joint. Its DJs cater heavily to the masses, its crowds tend heavily toward starched-shirt former fratboys and the women who love them, and its dance floor isn’t the most roomy. Still, the cover is cheap (women often get in free), the drinks are strong, and novices won’t feel like their dance skills can’t compete.

College Clubs

For obvious reasons, various sorts of Irish bars fronting as nightclubs tend to be a predominant mode of entertainment for Boston’s college crowd, and that makes going to them fairly unavoidable. Allston’s The Kells has some things going for it — it’s big, its crowd is cute enough, and it’s a cheap cab ride away from HLS. Plus, with two floors, at least one usually has something pleasantly unoffensive playing,

The same is true of An Tua Nua, a slightly more upscale bar competing for the Kells’ business.

Less can be said of Faneuil Hall’s Coogan’s, a sticky, sweaty overcrowded mess on any weekend night, and Jose McIntyre’s, where the bored (or maybe ambitious) can dance, get roaring drunk and watch sports on giant screen TVs all on the same dance floor. The perfect place for dropping the H-bomb, and one of few where that pathetic tactic might work.

Over here in Cambridge, Phoenix Landing actually offers a little of both. This Central Square hangout draws heavily on the college set, and its interior is nothing to write home about. However, it’s known to draw some top-notch drum and bass DJs, and better yet, it’s only a long stumble or short cab ride back to Harvard Square.

And of course, if your only goal is getting sloshed and scheming on Harvard affiliates of one stripe or another, you can’t ignore the upstairs of the Hong Kong, where fairly consistent, if predictable, mainstream hip-hop can be heard throughout the weekend. Just don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning next to someone you know.

To expand your horizons outside of HLS, but not too far from the gutter, there’s always the extremely festive Big Easy/Sugar Shack complex in the alley on Boylston street. Again, expect mainstream hip-hop and Top-40, oversized Bud Lights, and boozed-up college kids. It may not be glossy, but it nonetheless can be a good time if you’re in the mood for it.

Glitz, Glamour and Techno

If you’re a 1L with a pulse, HL Central or someone similar has probably already wooed you to Pravda, whose glossy look, impressive liquor selection and decked-out international crowd can’t compensate for generally abysmal house DJs.

Electronica fans would be better served by Avalon, Boston’s largest and probably best nightclub, where big-name stars like Paul Van Dyk and others are known to tear it up at the popular Avaland party. Roxy and Venu, two of the other biggest clubs in the area, also draw the beautiful people with regularity, with top-notch DJs to boot.

Cambridge itself has one of the area’s best clubs in Manray, an upscale club for people tired of the same old thing. Friday fetish nights are the most impressive — wear all black or something outrageous or expect not to get in the door — and Thursday’s gay-friendly Campus party is one of the area’s hottest college scenes.

Across the street from the Sugar Shack and Big Easy in the Boylston alley is La Boom, whose opulent interior (and equally pretty crowd) suffers from abysmally inconsistent music. The dance floor is large, and bars are easily accessible, but if you’re looking to dance, it doesn’t cut it.

Legal Aid moves out of Gannett House

BY LEA SEVCIK

The Legal Aid Bureau will no longer be sharing the cramped confines of Gannett House with the Law Review.

On August 16, the Bureau moved into new offices at Baker House, located between Pound and the Hark. It was a bittersweet move for the Bureau after 77 years of residence in Gannett House, the oldest surviving Harvard Law School building. Nonetheless, the Bureau badly needed the change.

Three-L Dan Gluck, current Chair of the Bureau, said that the main reason for the move was the need for more space. “Gannett House was our home for a long time and we loved it there, but considering that we have clients coming in all the time, we needed a space that was a little more professional, that looked more like a law office, and where we could talk with our clients in confidence,” he said.

Baker House, the former home of the Alumni Office, provides the Bureau with 40 percent more space than their old offices. Gluck said that Gannett House had only five doors that would close, and required the Bureau to share two offices with the Review. The Baker House location provides 12 offices, nearly doubling the Bureau’s capacity for meetings and private discussions with clients. The layout and renovations, including new carpeting, give the offices a clean, bright and spacious look much lacking from the old location.

Although the Bureau now has the space to expand its staff of 47 students, 5 half-time clinical instructors and one full-time managing attorney, Gluck said no expansion is planned in the near future. Any expansion that did take place would begin with the addition of supervising attorneys, who are already overworked, rather than with student staff.

Gluck said that although their new offices are “fabulous,” Bureau members will look fondly on their Gannett House experience. “It was a home away from home for Bureau members,” he said. “We enjoyed hanging out with the Law Review people — they were kind enough to share their bagels with us.”

Taking the Bureau’s place is the much-touted new Pro Bono office, headed up by former LIPP administrator Lisa Dealy. And for its part, the Law Review is likely to stay put.

Looking for Italian food?

BY JEFF LEVEN

Just as a study of Boston’s history would be incomplete without a visit to the narrow, winding streets of the North End, so too would an understanding of the city’s dining landscape. Mere steps from the sites of the Boston Massacre and Old North Church reside the best Italian restaurants in the city, and arguably the country. Whether you seek a dimly lit romantic table or the frenzied atmosphere of a crowded bar, the North End will happily oblige.

Many dining treks to the North End begin and end on Hanover or Salem Streets. These easily accessible parallel streets contain a dense cluster of excellent “default” dining options. However, the North End also includes many less familiar destinations, and the following overview of the neighborhood’s standout restaurants begins with several restaurants off these beaten paths.

Perched on a small hill with striking views of the Boston skyline, Mamma Maria draws its inspiration from the Italian countryside. Situated in a brick townhouse, the restaurant has several distinct areas, ranging from a one-table enclave to a large dining room. More upscale and formal than many of its North End counterparts, Mamma Maria’s menu offers treats across the food spectrum. Highlights include seared dayboat scallops with a Venetian vegetable ragu, homemade squid ink pasta, and possibly the best osso bucco (veal shank) in the city.

A few blocks from North Square, the Mendoza family opened Monica’s as a legacy to their Italian-Argentian heritage. While the menu often offers slightly different interpretations of North End classics, the results are generally excellent. The “free form” lasagna (ground meat and ricotta cheese envelope wide homemade pasta noodles) and mushroom ravioli are excellent, as are the seafood specials.

Sage on Prince Street is one of the North End’s gems. Diners jostle each other in the small, narrow dining room for some of Boston’s most creative Italian food. Chef Anthony Susi changes the menu weekly, and lately has been drawing on Asian influences. Consistently excellent offerings include the feathery, soft gnocchi that pairs particularly well with a sage and brown butter sauce. Susi’s foie gras, topped with a fried quail egg, is magnificent as are his risottos.

Piccolo Nido is another North End hole-in-the-wall, and its owner, Pino Irano is one of the neighborhood’s most gracious hosts in this small, romantic setting. The house specialty appetizer is calamari alla griglia, featuring tender pieces of grilled squid over mixed greens. The shrimp and asparagus risotto offers a mix of textures and flavors that serve as perfect complements to each other. The veal entrees, such as one topped with prosciutto and fontina, are also wonderful.

Chef Anthony Caturano named Prezza after his grandmother’s hometown in the Abruzzi region of Italy, but the menu’s creativity reveals as much about his experiences working for Todd English at Olives and Figs than his traditional Italian roots. Appetizers include baked stuffed oysters with radicchio, scallions, and mascarpone, and black mission figs wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with gorgonzola. Entrees range from a roasted striped bass with steamed clams to a 40 oz. porterhouse steak.

Trattoria Il Panino has become a Boston restaurant mini-chain. However, the difference between the original Palmenter Street location and its replicas is dramatic. During peak times, the wait is approximately an hour — and worth it. The menu is simple, reasonably priced and extremely well-executed. Excellent appetizers to share include the antipasto, fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, or thinly sliced house smoked salmon. While very rich, both the lobster and mushroom raviolis are marvelous as are the traditional meat entrees, such as veal saltimbocca. The house wine is surprisingly drinkable for under $20.

Although the above restaurants prove that a bit of exploration down North End side streets can unearth memorable meals, it is important not to overlook the many wonderful dining destinations located on the familiar stretch of Hanover Street. For calamari lovers, The Daily Catch is worth seeking out. The five-table restaurant serves up no-frills seafood dishes (pasta arrives on the skillet it was cooked on), and the calamari — prepared in every way imaginable — may be the best in town. On a recent visit, the fried calamari was greaseless and crisp, and the al dente squid ink pasta with calamari rings was excellent. Though a bit bland, the texture and uniqueness of the calamari meatballs makes them worth trying. One caveat: If you do not like calamari, skip this restaurant — the other dishes are less interesting and somewhat overpriced.

The waits can be long at Pomodoro, a cozy 24-seat restaurant. Once seated, however, you will dine on some of the best Italian food in Boston. Whether the impeccable marinara sauce is ladled onto a fried calamari appetizer or a piece of cod, it is divine. Classic dishes, such as linguini with fresh littleneck clams, ripe tomatoes, capers, parsley and garlic, are also excellent.

Taranta draws its name from a most unusual source: the tarantism epidemic that swept Italy between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries causing people to have an uncontrollable urge to dance. Even if you’re not a dancing fool, you will like this restaurant. The menu has many unconventional offerings, such as spaghetti topped with sea urchin and free form lasagna with sea scallops, peas and mint. The dessert menu includes a goat cheese cheesecake topped with Amarena cherries.

“Restaurant Row” on Salem Street also features many excellent options. Three standouts are Marcuccio, Rabia and Al Dente. While some complain that Marcuccio is too expensive when compared to the surrounding restaurants, few criticize the quality of the food. The restaurant is still working through the transition after the departure of Charles Draghi, the star chef who left to run the kitchens of Limbo and Noi. However Chef Roberto Dias continues many of Draghi’s traditions (including flicking wood chips into the wood-smoke oven to provide a smoky finish to meat entrees), and attempts to create some of his own. The kitchen’s sea bass and risotto di mare are consistent winners, and specials tend to be on the mark.

The faux grape vines on Rabia’s ceiling create an atmosphere that is simultaneously romantic and unpretentious, and the seafood entrees are marvelous (the seafood extravaganza special is delicious, but can be quite expensive). Call ahead to request the window table overlooking Salem Street before dining on dishes such as linguini with lobster tail, shrimp and scallops, or sautéed crispy soft shell crabs.

Owned by Joe Bono, the former sausage cart king, Al Dente has a diverse menu. Diners can stick to traditional Italian specialties: tomato and basil bruschetta, a caprese (fresh mozzarella and tomato) salad, and chicken marsala. But Al Dente also offers the ability to explore with items such as ricotta-stuffed eggplant rolls and prosciutto-stuffed paneed veal served with a red pepper risotto.

While many of these restaurants offer excellent desserts, skip them and conclude your North End experience with a stroll down Hanover Street. Mike’s Pastry offers a wide assortment of treats — try the massive chocolate dipped Florentine cookies. Better yet, wander two blocks past Mike’s to the often overlooked gem, Modern Pastry. This small shop offers the best cannoli in Boston with a succulent ricotta filling. Either way, Café Vittoria offers a charming setting to finish your evening while sipping on a perfect cappuccino or grappa.


Al Dente, 109 Sa
lem St.; 11-10 (M-Th), 11-11 (F, Sa); (617) 523-0990

Bricco, 241 Hanover St.; 5-12 (Su-Th), 5-1 (F, Sa); (617) 248-6800

Café Vittoria, 296 Hanover St.; Open until 1 (M-Su); (617) 227-7606

The Daily Catch, 323 Hanover St.; 5-11 (Su-Th), 5-11:30 (F, Sa); (617) 523-8567

Mamma Maria, 3 North Square; 5-10 (Su-Th), 5-11 (F, Sa); (617) 523-0077

Marcuccio’s, 125 Salem St.; 5-10 (Su-Th), 5-11 (F, Sa); (617) 723-1807

Mike’s Pastry, 300 Hanover St., (617) 742-3050

Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St., (617) 523-3783

Monica’s, 143 Richmond St.; 5:30-10 (Su-Th); 5:30-10:30 (F, Sa); (617) 227-0311

Pomodoro, 319 Hanover St.; 5-11 (M-Su); (617) 367-4348

Piccolo Nido, 257 North St.; 4-10 (M-Th), 4-11 (F, Sa); (617) 742-4272

Prezza, 24 Fleet St.; 5:30-10 (M-Th), 5-10:30 (F, Sa); (617) 227-1577

Rabia, 73 Salem St.; 5-10 (Su-Th), 5-11 (F, Sa); (617) 227-6637

Sage, 69 Prince St.; 5:30-10 (M-Th), 5:30-11 (F, Sa); (617) 248-8814

Taranta, 210 Hanover St.; 5:30-10 (M-Sa); (617) 720-0052

Trattoria Il Panino, 11 Parmenter St.; 5-10 (Su-W); 5-11 (Th-Sa); (617) 720-1336

Listen: Local talent and local venues

BY JEFF LEVEN

Who to see. . . .

Simply put, once you look past Aerosmith (and, I guess, Boston the band), Boston’s musical output is sly, subtle and cutting edge. Perhaps it is fitting that the same city that hosted the Tea Party and was a hotbed of radical activity in the Revolutionary era has also played host to some of alternative and indie rock’s smarter musical guerrillas. In the early ‘60s, Boston was home to one of the era’s most visionary psychedelic garage bands, the Remains (ironically, though, their contemporaries the Standells, who penned the city’s would-be theme song “Dirty Water,” were from Los Angeles). In the ‘70s, this musical mantle was passed to the Lyres, a band combining the trash rock of the psychedelic era with organ-based bluesy grooves. Later on, Boston became home to the Pixies and the vastly underrated Mission of Burma, two of the true prime exponents of the type of alternative rock excellence that could be found in the forgotten corners of 80s college radio. Further out in left field, Boston was also the home of G.G. Allin, punk rock’s most notorious gross-out act (one of the few concerts where most bystanders were at serious risk of getting a staph infection). Meanwhile, local bands like the Cars, the Smithereens, the Lemonheads and the J. Geils Band crept into the limelight in more conventional ways, but without losing a certain local charm. Perhaps this is all par for the world’s biggest college town, but even bookish Harvard has spawned a mix of pop (Weezer), hard rock (Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Bullet LaVolta), and acoustica (most famously, Paul Simon). Today the scene is little different — a mix of quiet geniuses, resolute punks and promising pop bands with a certain edge that makes them distinctly Boston. Here, then, is a quick overview of some of Boston’s current bands of note:

The Sheila Divine — Perhaps Boston’s most promising emerging talent, the Sheila Divine gesture towards U2 and Radiohead while maintaining a certain Afghan Whigs-esque darkness. With one full-length album under their belt, Aaron Perrino and company sit just on the verge of breaking into the big-time (if their major-label packed performance at Brownies in New York this summer was any indication). Those interested in getting in on the ground floor should consider catching them at the Avalon on September 21.

Guster — If you went to college on the East Coast, chances are you already have hazy memories of these bongo-toting acoustic pranksters crashing through some boozy frat-house show with all the requisite Lionel Richie covers. While their Steve Lillywhite-produced major label debut didn’t rattle the charts quite as much as fellow college stand-bye Vertical Horizon’s last disc, their current tour with John Mayer promises to increase their profile.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — BMRC is Boston’s entry in the current “retro” craze, taking their place alongside the likes of the Vines, the Hives, the White Stripes and the Strokes. Thankfully, BMRC has more than just fashion on their side and is, in fact, perhaps one of the best Britpop bands America has produced in quite some time.

Consonant — Lead by Mission of Burma alum Clint Conley and also featuring one of Boston’s most versatile and prolific musical talents Chris Brokaw (who has played with Come and Codeine, among others), Consonant stands with Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth as some of the best “smart noise” available. Dense, mature arch-pop for dank clubs everywhere.

Jonathan Richman — While his work with the Modern Lovers has already secured Jonathan Richman a place in the pantheon of cult legends, Richman’s reinvigorated solo career continues to demonstrate his capacity for songwriting that is both sincere and moving without being campy. Except, of course, when he wants to — it is a little-known fact that it was none other than Jonathan Richman who wrote the theme music in There’s Something About Mary. And, yes, it turns out that he was the guy in the tree!

The Push Stars — Also featured by the Farrelly Brothers on the Something About Mary soundtrack, the Push Stars released their first major label album on Capitol Records in 2001. Poppy, fun, and propulsive, they have continued to grow musically with each release.

The Kickovers — Featuring Nate Albert (from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones) and Mikey Welsh (from Weezer), the Kickovers are driving rock with a pop-punk edge. Good, fun, and loud, their first release, Osaka, came out last year.

The Pernice Brothers — A favorite among rock critics everywhere, the Pernice Brothers sound like what would happen if the Byrds had a moody, brooding sense of humor and a darker guitar aesthetic. Simultaneously intense and buoyant, they remain more a treat for the musical cognoscenti than fodder for the radio-loving masses.

Juliana Hatfield — Back on the road touring on the strength of a career retrospective, Boston’s enigmatic siren remains, like her frequent musical collaborator Evan Dando, one of modern music’s underrated and at times reluctant talents. Regardless, one suspects that time and critical distance will make her catalogue all the more noteworthy.

Dropkick Murphys — Named for the denizens of a Southie rehab clinic, the Dropkicks are a hard-drinking maelstrom of blue collar Boston Irish solidarity. Shout choruses, bagpipes and a fiercely loyal local ethic make them a distinctive phenomenon even amongst supposedly community-focused punk rockers.

While there are many other Boston groups worthy of mention (Dispatch, Piebald, Gravel Pit, and Mary Lou Lord come to mind immediately), the bands above at least demonstrate the breadth and variety of acts that make this city their stomping grounds. So, next time you’re in Newbury Comics or up for a show, consider sampling some of the local flavor and giving one of these groups an audition.

. . . . and Where

One-Ls looking for the Boston “scene” might find themselves at a momentary loss. Unlike so many other towns that boast about half as many colleges, Boston hides its hotspots in unassuming corners — there is no East Village or Sunset Strip. While there is admittedly a total dearth of hip hop and a relatively thin calling for electronica, Boston’s music scene has a distinctive character that many will find appealing.

Like so many other things in Boston, there is a refreshing if initially off-putting “localness” to many of Boston’s best rock clubs. Tap a longtime Bostonian for stories and she’ll reel out story after story of transcendent performances playe\d for the knowing few: a Modern Lovers gig at the Middle East, Mission of Burma at the Orpheum, or the first time the Dropkick Murphys incited a riot on Landsdowne Street. Part of this, of course, is simply a product of Boston’s fiercely loyal indie rock scene, a quirky calling card for a city just outside the flight pattern of the MTV mainstream. But beyond that, Boston has always had a special relationship with the wealth of musical talent lying just across the Pond- for instance, it was Boston radio that first played U2. The
Police played one of their first revelatory American shows at the Orpheum, and many relatively unknown Irish and Welsh bands such as JJ72 and the Saw Doctors continue to have their strongest American followings right here in Boston. So, anyway, get out and explore it if you can- it’s a close-knit and galvanizing corner of the American musical landscape. Here are a few places to get you started:

The Middle East (280 Massachusetts Ave.) — Not one but two indie rock clubs, the Middle East in Central Square is one of Boston’s oldest and most-revered music spots. Originally a Middle Eastern restaurant, over time the owners began to experiment with hosting live music. Before they knew it, they were a hotspot. “Downstairs” at the Middle East is one of the city’s larger spaces — a loud concrete box of a room where a variety of mid-sized bands make their appearances. “Upstairs” you’ll find a smaller stage, walls painted with murals from a twisted kindergarden classroom, and a variety of local bands and smaller regional touring acts. To round out the package, the restaurant itself sometimes has live music on a small stage in the main dining room.

T.T. the Bear’s (10 Brookline Street) — Next door to the Middle East is T.T. the Bear’s, one of the oddest names and true gems in the Boston music scene. Featuring a tiny stage (which has the misfortune of being located directly on top of the Middle East downstairs — expect the floors to rumble), T.T.’s has a habit of booking excellent bands that are way too big to belong there, like the recently renamed Trail of Dead. Moreover, T.T.’s has a delicious habit of bringing in indie legends to play intimate solo shows — Evan Dando, Bob Mould, Grant Hart and J. Mascis come to mind, for example. Plan on showing up somewhere in the middle of the program — while the opener that immediately precedes the headliner is usually great, sometimes the local groups earlier on the bill tend to attract audiences that are largely comprised of parents and friends — and for good reason.

The Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Ave.) — The Paradise’s strange, wide shape and generous balcony mean that almost every spot in the house provides great stage views, and their aggressive bookings mean that the calendar is always stocked with treasures ranging like Jack Johnson, the Super Furry Animals and Cornershop. Located on the slow part of the Green Line, the Paradise does require some extra effort to get to, but after one show you’ll realize it’s well worth your while.

The Avalon Ballroom (15 Landsdowne Street) — Located just across from the entrance to the bleachers at Fenway, the Avalon is one of Boston’s big showcase clubs with a size and repertoire comparable to New York’s Irving Plaza or the 9:30 Club in DC. Once owned by Aerosmith (when it was called the Mama Kin Music Hall), the Avalon is a bit schizophrenic, scheduling shows early so it can host a black-pants and barely-out-of-high-school coed house music scene after hours.

The Orpheum (1 Hamilton Place) — Located near the Suffolk Law building, the Orpheum is Boston’s other big showcase club and has a rich and noteworthy history (it once served as the home for the New England Conservatory). Chosen by the Stones for their Boston club date, the Orpheum is one of those places that commands a certain nostalgia among not only Boston music buffs, but rock historians nationwide.

Johnny D’s (17 Holland Street) — Tucked unassumingly in Davis Square, Johnny D’s is a great spot to catch a variety of rockabilly, alt.country and roots acts that manage to make it this far north. Set up like a supper club, Johnny D’s can be a mixed blessing logistically — those wishing to take in a show will find that they get the best seats if they make a dinner reservation on top of paying the cover. The good news is that their stylized Southern cooking is quite good (easily on par with the House of Blues), and the whole excursion can make for a great night out.

Harper’s Ferry (158 Brighton Ave.) — Smack in the middle of Allston’s thriving BU party axis, Harper’s Ferry is the place to catch a variety of funk, R&B, and blues acts. Greats like Maceo Parker, Taj Mahal and others of like mind make this their Boston home, and it also serves as a natural outlet for Boston’s vibrant jamband scene.

Axis (13 Landsdowne Street) — Next door to the Avalon, the Axis is the Avalon’s surly little brother, hosting a more stripped down after-hours dance scene and an unabashedly punk concert calendar. Although it only hosts a handful of shows a year, preferring instead to delve into hip-hop and house club nights most of the time, the Axis is tight, sweaty and loud — all you’d ever want in a nouveau punk hangout.

House of Blues (96 Winthrop Street) — Those coming from New Orleans, Vegas or L.A. will be disappointed to find that Harvard Square’s House of Blues location is their smallest in the country and perhaps more suited for law firm receptions than concerts. That being said, they make up for their limited facilities with the occasional truly smart concert booking in the deep blues genre. Past catches have included Corey Harris and Peter Green.

Huge shows tend to usually come to the Fleet Center, Gillette Field and occasionally places like the Tweeter Center in Mansfield. Those seeking acoustic music and open mic nights should check out Club Passim in Harvard Square, the Lizard Lounge (under Cambridge Common), the Cantab Lounge near MIT or the Burren in Davis Square. Also in Cambridge, Toad’s is a delightfully tiny rock club, while the Hong Kong has on occasion been known to host dreadful punk cover bands (I refer, of course, to my own humble outfit, Dr. Teeth). Keep checking back for more concert calendars!

The legendary Boston band Mission of Burma. Hey, some of us age more gracefully than others.

Eat: From pub grub to international delights

BY MANDANA BLANK

Price Guide
$ – entrees $10 or less
$$ – entrees $10 – 15
$$$ – entrees $15 – 20
$$$$ – entrees $20+

Porter Square/Near HLS

Christopher’s ($$)
1920 Mass. Ave., (617) 876-9180
This is the type of pub food the average Cambridge hippie can appreciate — lots of organic ingredients, vegetarian options, and attention to fat content. Rarely greasy, almost always flavorful, the array of Tex-Mex offerings (try the fajitas), pastas, fishes and sandwiches makes choosing a meal almost impossible. The beer selection is also considerable, with over 20 always on tap.

Seoul Food($)
1759 Mass. Ave. (617) 864-6299
The décor is simple and the hospitality genuine at this small, cheap, homestyle Korean restaurant within walking distance of campus. Try the bi bim bap (rice with assorted vegetables and sometimes meat — a rough Korean equivalent of fried rice). They also have homemade pickles, kimchee, and other Korean staples to go.

Metro ($$$)
1815 Mass. Ave. (617) 354-3727
A French “bistrot” in Porter Square, Metro opened last year to great expectations – the chef, Amanda Lydon, was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2000, and her food lives up to the promise. Come here if you crave simple French food: steak tartare, soufflé, paté, or perhaps a frog leg or two. Don’t come here if you’re on a tight budget. The room is decorated as one might imagine a French bistro to be, yet the ambiance and scene are still not quite “authentique.” A recent change in management may mean better service (keep your fingers crossed). Metro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and brunch on weekends.

West Side Lounge ($$$)
1680 Mass. Ave., (617) 441-5566
Owned by one of the three groups in Cambridge who seem to own all of the scarce liquor licenses that come up for grabs, West Side Lounge is a great place to upscale it when you’re sick of Cambridge Common. New American cuisine, precious at times, but a reliably mellow atmosphere and reasonably priced menu make this a good option for a decent bite to eat close to campus.

Forest Café ($$)
1682 Mass. Ave. (617) 661-7810
This divey Mexican spot, nestled between Temple Bar and West Side Lounge, won’t score many points for décor, but its bar won’t bust the bank like its more upscale brethren. Go there for overloaded nachos, flavorful-enough burritos, its Wednesday night pub quiz, or to drown a bad day of interviews with some crisp shots of tequila and a top-notch margarita.

Anna’s Taqueria and Boca Grande ($)
No one ever recommended Cambridge, MA as a destination for exceptional Mexican food, but with several branches apiece, these two restaurants have become Boston area institutions for students seeking cheap, filling eats. Boca has a menu with a few more authentic options, while Anna’s sticks mostly to burritos, tacos and quesadillas. If you’re hungry, short on cash, and the Hark is closed for the weekend, there are plenty of reasons to make regular stops at either of these.

Changsho ($$)
1712 Mass. Ave. (617) 547-6565
Arguably the best Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Changsho offers a gut-busting daily buffet lunch ($8.95), a more extensive Sunday buffet ($17.95), and a full menu dinner. The buffet lunches offer delicacies like fried wonton skins and a few pieces of dim sum as well as popular dishes like General Tso’s chicken, chow mien, noodles with shellfish, potstickers and spring rolls. In the evenings, Peking duck (slices of tender roasted duck wrapped in a sweet bun with plum sauce), twice cooked pork (a Shanghainese delicacy), and string bean dishes are winners. Word to the wise: While dining at Changsho, watch what you say — it’s just as likely that the guy sitting behind you is that Civ Pro professor you love to hate.

Tamarind House ($)
1790 Mass. Ave. (617) 491-9940
This Thai restaurant near Porter Square does not feature the most accommodating staff, but it does have some fine food. Tamarind duck and crispy pad thai are winners. The appetizers are creative and well worth a try, especially chicken wings stuffed with shrimps and vegetable. Feel free to order a Thai iced coffee or tea to help you relax and enjoy your meal. It may not be the most exciting Thai restaurant in the Harvard/Porter Square area, but Tamarind House is consistent enough to be worth the quick hoof from the HLS dorms.

Temple Bar ($$)
1688 Mass. Ave. (617) 547-5055
Go there to get drinks in a nice place within 5 minutes of campus. Don’t go there to eat–pastas are bland, meats are often incorrectly cooked, service is molasses-slow even during the uncrowded lunch hour, and the prices are several dollars above neighboring Cambridge Common.

Cambridge Common ($)
1667 Mass. Ave. (617) 547-1228
This local pub doesn’t get enough credit from the HLS crew, seeing as how it’s only a 5-minute walk from Gropius. But our Hark away from the Hark happens to be consistently voted one of the best bargains in Cambridge, and its fare is both varied and consistent. For a real treat, snag a basket of the sweet potato fries and one of the 20-plus beers on tap. The supersized vodka tonics — served in the same glasses as the beer — are also a good way to loosen up after a tough day of Contracts.

The Elephant Walk ($$$)
2046 Mass. Ave. (617) 492-6900
A slightly more upscale restaurant with one branch located just past Porter Square and another in the trendy Back Bay area, the Elephant Walk has been a local favorite for quite a few years. The menu is half French and half Cambodian. Both sides of the menu are strong, but the Cambodian is the better half with dishes like curry de crevettes (seafood curry) and various satays. Cambodian cooking has a slight French influence, so it does have some distinguishing characteristics from Thai food even though there are many overlaps in dishes. End your meal with one of many French delicate pastries. Make reservations or be prepared for a very, very long wait.

Harvard Square

Grafton Street ($$)
1230 Mass. Ave. (617) 497-0400
Newly-reopened, this Harvard graduate school standby has taken over the former Bow & Arrow Pub (best known as the bar in Good Will Hunting), and morphed it into yet another lavish pseudo-Irish pub. The owners of Temple Bar and Daedalus stick to the same formula that has brought them success in the past (for something ever so slightly different, check out their Red Line). Food-wise, comfort food, sandwiches and pub grub brush up alongside decent nouveau cuisine. Grafton won’t surprise you, but it’s a good place to see and be seen — maybe even by some b-school hotties.

Penang ($$)
57 JFK St. (617) 234-3988
This installation of the New York City chain serves reasonably priced and good Malaysian food nestled in a quasi-post-modern setting. Conveniently located in the Galleria in Harvard Square (not to be confused with the Cambridgeside Galleria in East Cambridge or the Garage in Harvard Square), this spot serves up great rote canai (an Indian-style pancake with curry dipping sauce) and yam pots (stir-fried vegetables and your choice of meat served in a basket made of deep fried taro root).

Iruña ($$$)
56 JFK St. (617) 354-8576
Tucked behind shops on JFK street, Iruña is a little known Spanish joint that has nice, quiet outdoor seating, in which you may enjoy good simple Spanish food and sangria. Check out their lunch specials, too.

John Harvard’s ($$)
33 Dunster St. (617) 868-3585
If and when you tire of Cambridge’s overabundance of ethnic foods, this brewpub standby won’t let you go hungry. Check out cla
ssic American grub like buffalo wings, hamburgers, creamy pastas, and steaks, along with a few more creative salads. The rotating cast of beers rarely disappoints, and a warm, enormous apple crisp is a great way to finish you off. There’s usually a crowd on weekends, but if high-quality, high-quantity, not terribly challenging American food is what you’re after, it’s worth the wait.

Daedalus ($$$)
45 Mount Auburn St. (617) 349-0071
Unlike its sister Temple Bar, Daedalus could likely stand on cuisine alone. The upscale selection of pastas, steaks, risottos and fish dishes makes for good date food at a price point a bit below places with comparably plush atmospheres.

Casa Mexico ($$)
75 Winthrop St. (617) 491-4552
Arguably the best Mexican food in Harvard Square, the food at this dimly lit, tightly packed restaurant is more authentic, better tasting, and slightly more complex than your average taco joint. Entrees range from $10 to $15 and feature dishes such as chicken in mole sauce and different types of tamales and enchiladas. Dishes are accompanied with rice and beans and are usually teeming with flavor. Health nuts be warned: Casa Mexico, like many Mexican restaurants, doesn’t go easy on the butter and oil. Complement your meal with a Mexican beer, sangria, or margarita. End your feast with a traditional flan or a sweet empanada. Be prepared for long waits on Friday and Saturday nights at this local favorite underground establishment embellished with tile and ceramic décor.

Bombay Club ($$)
57 JFK St. (617) 661-8100
Part of the strong contingent of Indian restaurants in the Square, this favorite has all you can eat lunches ($6.95 weekdays, $8.95 weekends) and a la carte dinners. A wide variety of tasty lamb, beef, chicken, and vegetarian dishes all have wonderfully spiced sauces that are heavenly when matched with one of several different kinds of naan (Indian bread) or rice. A mango-yogurt lassi is a cool way to cleanse the palate between bites.

Café of India ($$)
52A Brattle St. (617) 661-0683
Yet another good Indian restaurant in the Square, it features many traditional Indian dishes such as chicken tikka masala. You must start off the meal with a samosa or two. For the ones with large appetites, the special dinner for one ($19.95; special dinner for two also available at a higher price) features a sampling from several different appetizers and meat dishes that is guaranteed to fill you and leave you satisfied. Café of India is particularly attractive during warm weather since the front of the restaurant opens up nicely right onto the sidewalk, giving it a chic restaurant/sidewalk café feel. Even during the winter, the decor is better than average.

Greenhouse Coffee Shop ($)
3 Brattle St. (617) 354-3184
Get to The Greenhouse before 1 pm on Saturday or Sunday to enjoy one of the most popular breakfasts in Cambridge — and one of the few offering quality traditional fare like French toast, pancakes and omelettes. Each breakfast comes with home fries, toast, milk or coffee and a shot of juice (orange, apple, or grape). At any time, you can enjoy large meals of pepper fried steak sandwiches, hamburgers, and meat loaf. Enjoy a frappe or a piece of German chocolate three-layer cake to finish off your meal.

Bangkok House ($$)
50 JFK St. (617) 547-6666
A popular dining spot for the K-School set, Bangkok House has great box lunch specials that include an entrée, a side salad, rice, and a few token pieces of sushi. They offer the usual variety of curries — green, red, yellow, and mussaman — along with various types of meat or seafood. The dishes from this underground establishment tend to be a little watery and pricey compared to the multitude of other Thai restaurants in Harvard Square and on Mass. Ave. But most items are quite spicy, so if you’re looking for the extra kick in your Thai food, this might be your place.

Spice ($)
24 Holyoke St. (617) 868-9560
A colorfully decorated restaurant in the heart of Harvard Square, Spice offers exactly what its name spells — spicy and flavorful Thai dishes. Weekly specials (usually fool-proof) complement a sizable selection of curries and other thai favorites. For an appetizer, try the various satays for a tasteful treat. A wonderful selection of ice creams — ginger, coconut, or green tea — offer the perfect ending to your meal. One thing Spice doesn’t offer, though, is alcohol, so don’t plan on washing any of the spicy stuff back with an ice-cold brew or a mai tai.

Border Café ($)
32 Church St. (617) 864-6100
Surprise, Southwesterners — Cambridge is a long, long way from Texas. Thus, the closest we get to Tex-Mex is this bizarre Cajun/Tex-Mex hybrid. The beanless burritos (“burros”) are horrible here, and the enchiladas are nothing special, but if you don’t mind the grease, there’s plenty to enjoy, even if you won’t write home to El Paso about it. Still light years better than the neighboring Chili’s chain, if you’re hankering for a margarita and something made with a tortilla, this Border is the closest thing you can make a run for.

Bartley’s Burger Cottage ($)
1246 Mass. Ave. (617) 354-6559
Viewed by most as the best burger joint in Cambridge, this little hole in the hall squeezes its customers together while serving them the freshest and tastiest beef smothered with your choice of accompaniment. All the burgers are named after famous figures like Al Bore, George Bush, Bill Clinton, etc. Bartley’s is slightly higher priced than your usual burger joint, so share a basket of fries or onion rings to help save money–you won’t need a full portion to yourself anyway. But if you can stand a couple hundred more calories, Bartley’s frappes and milkshakes are amazing. Be sure to check the chalkboards around the restaurant to make sure you’re not missing out on any specials that might not be on the menu.

Shilla ($$)
57 JFK St. (617) 547-7971
One of several decent sushi spots in the area (there are tons of extremely informal options in the Porter Square Mall), Shilla offers a strong compromise in location, price and quality. Not quite the quality and selection of Roka, but a nonetheless consistent and strikingly fresh sushi selection that goes well with the tolerable Japanese and Korean food and bento box specials.

Roka ($$$)
1001 Mass. Ave. (617) 661-0344
The sushi champ in terms of variety and atmosphere, Roka keeps things interesting with a wide variety of fish, plus a strong selection of sakes and Japanese beers. But if you want your sushi to come cheap, and don’t care if it’s served in a diner-style atmosphere, try Café Sushi a few doors down instead.

Charlie’s Kitchen
10 Eliot St. (617) 442-9646
Charlie’s draws one of Harvard Square’s scruffier crowds — indie rockers, townies and beer drinkers will feel more at home than the utterly faux set throwing them down at Redline around the corner. Charlie’s also makes a mean — if rather smallish — burger. The double- and triple-decker options are best bets, coupled with thin, perfectly crispy fries. The rest of the pub grub rarely falters, and the searing wings are some of the best in the area. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth the trip simply to knock back a Pilsner Urquell while listening to the well-stocked jukebox, likely the magnet for the black-rimmed glasses set inside.

Fire and Ice
50 Church St. (617) 547-9007
This Mongolian barbecue joint boasts boatloads of potential food combinations. You pick the ingredients, F&E employees grill them up, and you can repeat the performance as many times as you want. Unfortunately, all those raw meats and vegetables available usually look better than they taste — somehow, everything at Fire and Ice ends up
turning out bland. Still, the all-you-can eat option makes it a winner for the quantity-over-quality crowd.

Rock Bottom Brewery ($$)
33 Church St.
Part of a well-known national chain, there would be no point in mentioning this if it were not for the fact that it’s food, service and décor are so hideous that any untutored individual should avoid the place like the plague. Put your name on the waiting list at John Harvard’s instead — if you’ve gotten desperate enough to go here, you know your dining options have hit rock bottom.

Inman Square & Somerville

Punjabi Dhaba ($)
225 Hampshire St. (617) 547-8272
Want good, cheap, fast Indian food? Don’t care if you have to take out? Go to Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square. Plus, they’re open until midnight.

Diesel Café ($$)
257 Elm St., Somerville (617) 629-8717
Owned by three Harvard grads, Diesel Café is a unique participant in the Davis Square coffee shop wars. With a rotating exhibit of local art, two pool tables in the back (rentable by the hour), veggie-friendly eats, excellent coffee and Toscanini’s ice cream, Diesel has built itself a loyal clientele over the past few years, and is a great place to go if you need to “escape” HLS for a few hours. Do not leave the premises without trying a Rusty Slide.

Zoe’s Chinese Restaurant ($)
289 Beacon St. (near Star Market), Somerville (617) 864-6265
Advertised as having a nationally-acclaimed chef from China working in the kitchen, Zoe’s offers a variety of Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Szechuan dishes. On weekends, you can try Chinese home breakfasts consisting of sweet soymilk, Chinese doughnuts (unsweetened), scallion pancakes, pastries with beef, or even more exotic fare like steamed chicken with tsao hsing beer. On regular nights, Zoe’s offers American favorites like General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour chicken, but also has Chinese favorites like Shanghai-style pan fried shrimp and fried rice noodle with beef. They also offer evening delivery with a minimum purchase of $20.

Evoo ($$$$)
118 Beacon St., Somerville (617) 661-3866
The name stands for “extra virgin olive oil,” but it doesn’t begin to describe the range and excellence of evoo’s innovative New American cuisine. Offerings like the southern-influenced cornmeal-fried oysters and rich, intricately arranged duck are dazzling; the minimalist, uninspiring décor is not. But the food, not the setting, is the star here.

Greek Corner ($$)
2366 Mass. Ave. (617) 661-5655
Though just about the only option for Greek food in Cambridge, Greek Corner serves up inexpensive Greek-American staples: various kebabs, moussaka, grape leaves, baklava and the like. It is a casual spot, often popular with families (read: many small children). Try the saganaki, even if just to be able to say you’ve eaten flaming cheese.

Dali ($$$)
415 Washington St., Somerville (617) 661-3254
This lushly decorated tapas spot is always crowded–and for good reason. One of the best restaurants across the river, Dali has everything you could want for a date or a group — or a vegetarian. A variety of tapas based around the rich seafood of New England (crabs, lobsters), exotic game items like rabbit, and fresh vegetables like asparagus and bell peppers all work to tempt your appetite. More expensive and less creative entrees based around meats and rice are also available, and the paella is top notch. Two caveats: Watch what you order, as the bill for those little bites tends to add up in a hurry, and be ready to wait — Dali doesn’t take reservations for anything but large groups.

B-Side Lounge ($$)
92 Hampshire St. (617) 354-0766
Cambridge locals chill with dot-commers at this Kendall Square retro bar/eatery. The food is good, moderately-priced standard American with the occasional pan-Asian flare; the drinks are great. Come for a late supper, linger afterwards to check out the bar scene. If you’re really into food, also check out their monthly special themed prix-fixe dinners, usually cooked up by some of Boston’s finest.

Magnolia’s
1193 Cambridge St. (617) 576-1971
Take Southern food north of the Mason-Dixon, and it can seem downright exotic. So it goes with Magnolia’s slightly upscale take on various dishes of the region, from New Orleans faves like jambalaya and hush puppies to pork loin with mashed sweet potatoes. True Southerners say the cuisine isn’t dazzling, but it’s about the only way to go for this style of food.

Central Square

Centro ($$$)
720 Mass. Ave. (617) 868-2405
Fancy Italian food (oxymoron though that may be). Still, if you want nouveau Italian food in Cambridge, this is a good choice (for simple, authentic Italian food, go to the North End). It’s also next door to the Good Life in Central Square, which makes drinks after dinner a no-brainer. Impress your friends and empty your bank account — all in one fell swoop.

Elsewhere

Jasper White’s Summer Shack ($$)
149 Alewife Brook Parkway
Jasper White has been an influential figure on the Boston restaurant scene since the eighties, when his restaurant, Jasper’s, redefined New England cuisine. His latest restaurant, Summer Shack, is a massive attempt to recreate the feel of a New England clambake, albeit in a former Polynesian restaurant (witness the cement Buddha outside), and is a nice alternative to the overpriced and overrated Legal Sea Foods when you’re in the mood for fish. Easily accessible by T (right across the street from the Alewife stop on the Red Line), Summer Shack has good food with a casual atmosphere, but they don’t take reservations (except maybe for large groups) — so show early or be prepared to hang out with a beeper and wait. Good for a large group, even if the local surroundings are a little dim.

Helmand ($$$)
143 First St., Cambridge (617) 492-4646
Afghani cuisine is the culinary realization of geographical realities: balanced somewhere between Persian and Indian food (think lots of lamb, delicately flavored rice, and hearty sauces) — and this Afghan restaurant near the Cambridgeside Galleria delivers exceptional food and ambiance at very reasonable prices. Try the kaddo (sugar pumpkin with yogurt sauce) or chowpan (grilled rack of lamb). Owned by a relative of Afghanistan’s embattled prime minister Hamid Karzai, this restaurant is very popular: You will need a reservation to come here on any weekend night. It might not be a bad idea to snag reservations on some of the busier weekdays, either.

Drink: A quick overview

BY JONAS BLANK

If you thought you left your drinking days behind in college, Harvard Law School will make you rethink your plans. Whether it’s winding down after that killer Civ Pro exam, drowning the misery of a botched print run of the ILJ, or the beginnings of a measly attempt to score for the first time in six months, chances are you’ll find yourself needing a cold one more than a few times a semester. As far as Cambridge is concerned, bars break down into a few well-defined options: pubs (Irish-style or otherwise) dives or the chi-chi foiursome of Redline, Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Daedalus, which gets more than its fair share of HLS business. You’ll do plenty of exploring on your own, but this primer will at least get you started.

HLS Standbys

If the idea of making a drunken ass of yourself doesn’t sound appealing, avoid Harvard Square’s Hong Kong like the class loudmouth. Beginner’s advice: Do too many rounds of the Kong’s patented “Scorpion Bowls” — a noxious red mix of booze, OJ and fruit punch served communal-style — and you might make like a Quinn associate and find yourself face-first on the floor of the ladies’ room.

HLS denizens are also known quantities at, of course, Cambridge Common, which actually has a better beer selection than it gets credit for. Those who like organized activity should check out Forest Cafe’s Wednesday night pub quiz; the bar is often overlooked by 1Ls because of its shabby decor.

Upscale/Trendy

Little needs to be said about Grafton/Temple/Daedalus/Redline. Expect about the most black pants you can find this side of the Charles, plus bartenders who won’t give you a smirk when you order a martini. Trip-hop music and overcrowding are also almost always in the mix. You can also make nice with trendy types at Metro, which boasts a fairly long martini list. Try the chartreuse, if you dare.

If you really want to do it up, sidle up to the bar at Casablanca (where meeting a 30-year old is a fairly safe bet) or check out the piano bar at the Charles Hotel.

Dives

In Cambridge, the line between dive and pub can often be thin. Still, unabashedly vying for the title is Cantab Lounge, which gives you the odd sense of having suddenly stepped into rural Georgia. Rarely a sweater set or cardigan is to be found in sight at this Central Square haunt, which features live music most nights of the week. Check out the R&B band fronted by the potty-mouthed “little person” on Thursdays. It’s a riot.

If you’re closer to Davis Square, one of the area’s best dives is Sligo Pub. Small, sinfully cheap beer more than makes up for the fact that there’s enough smoke in there to take a year off your life.

Pubs

Probably the largest segment of Cambridge bars, the pubs in the area vary rather widely. The Thirsty Scholar, on Beacon Street, could almost pass for Britain, and its comfortable atmosphere makes for an easy weeknight drink. Ditto for nearby Sullivan’s, a cozy Irish pub with good food and good service. Not so for Davis Square’s The Burren, which usually features some form of mediocre live music and scads of Tufts hotties. It’s at least better than the poor laid out Joshua Tree across the street.

Harvard Square has lost much of its quaintness and flair, but it hasn’t lost Grendel’s Den, cause of a celebrated court case and home of half-priced food during early dinner hours. Also lovely is Shay’s, with its tiny outdoor seating area.

And finally, you can’t hang with Harvard commies if you haven’t been to People’s Republik, whose kitschy, Soviet-style exterior belies a solid pub within.

In the Navy

BY KRIS DELLAPINA

People in the Navy JAG corps like to describe it as a world-wide law firm. The Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps is comprised of approximately 750 attorneys who serve as commissioned officers in pay grades ranging from lieutenant junior grade through rear admiral. They are stationed throughout the continental U.S., overseas and aboard ships.

As a JAG officer, you build attorney skills, exercise leadership and serve your country. You experience many areas of legal practice, form professional relationships with mentors and enjoy new friendships with colleagues.

Navy Judge Advocates have the unique opportunity to serve our country as naval officers while practicing the legal profession. After formal training and with appropriate supervision, new judge advocates are given the opportunity to perform as attorneys representing their own clients. Most of our new judge advocates begin their practice of law in a Naval Legal Service Office or Trial Service Office for a three-year tour.

Approximately 12 to 18 months of the new judge advocate’s first three years with the Navy JAG Corps will be spent working in criminal matters. This normally entails trying courts-martial as prosecutors or defense counsel. As a newly commissioned JAG Corps officer, you are responsible for the preparation and presentation of your own cases, thus experiencing the challenge of trial advocacy is yours from the outset.

The experience Navy judge advocates gain in this challenging environment includes presenting evidence, examining witnesses, delivering oral arguments, and preparing trial and appellate briefs. This hands-on experience and responsibility, generally acquired in your first tour of duty, will hone your advocacy skills and provide a strong background that will be drawn on for the remainder of your legal career. Judge advocates also gain experience as general practitioners by providing free legal assistance to military personnel and their families. Finally, new judge advocates have the opportunity, while administering tort-claims regulations, to negotiate and deal directly with civilian attorneys who represent individual clients and insurance companies.

At the end of four years as a naval officer, you will have enhanced your own advocacy style and discovered many things about yourself, such as what you really want to do as a practicing attorney. That could mean continuing your military career as an active duty or reserve naval officer, or it may mean reverting to civilian life, well pleased with your personal growth and professional achievements.

Applying for a commission as a Navy JAG Corps officer while you are a law student is the first step in this path of professional development and personal satisfaction.

[For more information or for applications, please log on to www.jag.navy.mil. For additional questions or to schedule an interview, please contact LCDR Kris Dellapina at 401-841-4378, ext. 136.]

Beantown Buzz

BY KRISTY KIRKPATRICK

People have many reasons for wanting to interview in Boston. For some, it’s because they grew up here. For others, it is the fact that Boston has a vibrant legal community in an exciting, yet manageable, urban area. And for some, it is simply that Boston is not New York.

For a Harvard Law student who is considering interviewing in Boston for a summer associate position, the initial advantages are obvious: Rather than dealing with the hassle of moving yourself to a new city for three months, you get to stay in your cozy little nest. All the headaches that accompany subletting? Not your problem. You stay in a city that you have become more or less familiar with over the past year (on the rare occasions you’ve managed to leave campus, that is).

But if this is your only motivation for interviewing in Boston, you should probably think twice. Boston firms are very sensitive about the prospect of hiring summer associates who have no intention of staying in New England for the long haul. Before interviewing with Boston firms, my best advice is to think long and hard about your reasons for wanting to stay in Boston, and be prepared to address them in every single interview. Now this may not be as true for the folks who have substantial ties to New England, especially ties that are prominently displayed on their resumes (i.e., grew up in Worcester, went to school at Dartmouth, etc.). But for those other hapless interviewees (i.e., me) who have never lived in New England before law school but have since decided that this is their spiritual home, the process is a bit trickier. I hedged my bets by bidding on virtually all of the Boston firms who came to campus, hoping that I could convince at least a few that I was sincere in my desire to stay in Boston. Most of my interviewers questioned me at length about my choice of location. I explained to them that I feel more at home in Boston than I have in any other city I’ve lived in, and I am committed to staying here after graduation. One thing that helped my cause was the fact that I was only looking at Boston firms. At the end of the day, some interviewers seemed persuaded by my reasons, some did not.

Luckily for me, I had no such problems in my interviews with my top-choice firm, Hale and Dorr. They seemed to be more interested in me as a person than in my geographic affiliations. During my summer at Hale and Dorr, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the attorneys there were also New England transplants. Like me, they had lived in many other cities before deciding that Boston was the right fit for them. And after my summer there, I am convinced that I made the right choice. The firm, like many others in Boston, has an exciting, diverse practice and does an extensive amount of pro bono work. Attorneys working in Boston benefit from being part of a smaller, more congenial legal community, while enjoying the same starting salaries are their colleagues in New York. Perhaps most telling is this: Of all my 3L friends who worked in Boston last summer, none of them are re-interviewing in other cities this year.

The clerkship crunch

BY KIRSTEN SOLBERG

Introduction

A judicial clerkship is an excellent foundation for any type of legal career. A clerkship provides the unique opportunity to work as basically an assistant judge (although purely behind-the-scenes), typically at the beginning of a legal career. Clerks generally serve for a one-year fixed term, although some judges hire clerks for two-year terms.

Students choose to clerk for various reasons, usually relating to both the experience itself and the value of clerkship credentials. The experience itself enables one at least to (1) refine and improve analytical, research, writing, communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills; (2) gain exposure to a breadth of substantive and procedural law; (3) engage in a strong, supportive, mentoring relationship with a judge; (4) gain a unique perspective into how judges think and how chambers and courtrooms operate; (5) review attorneys’ written work-product and learn from both good and bad examples; (6) observe attorneys’ in-court performances and hear the judge’s evaluation of their performance; (7) become a member of an active network of former law clerks; and (8) spend a year or two after law school exploring career options.

Because of the experience, training and connections clerks gain, a clerkship is a credential valued highly by law firms, public interest organizations, law school faculty recruitment committees, government agencies, corporations, and other types of employers.

The duties of a judicial clerk vary somewhat depending on the judge and the type of court. However, typical duties include reviewing pleadings and briefs, conducting legal research, writing memoranda and draft opinions, editing, proofreading, providing oral briefings, and observing court proceedings. The position also may include administrative duties such as maintaining the chambers’ library and assembling documents, as well as assisting with trials, oral arguments and other court proceedings.

Timing

In the last decade or so, most judges conducted their hiring for clerkships approximately two school years in advance. Thus, most law students applied sometime in their second year of law school for clerkships that would begin immediately after they graduated. Each year, the process crept earlier and earlier into students’ 2L year as judges competed with each other for the best students. In the fall of 2001, some judges started reviewing applications in August for clerkships that would not begin until 2003. This schedule was bad for everyone. Two-Ls interviewed with judges at the same time they interviewed with other employers for summer jobs. Judges had little information to consider beyond grades from students’ 1L year.

Several judges recently took the initiative to shift the hiring cycle significantly – to start it only one year in advance of the actual clerkships instead of two years in advance. Thus, most law students would apply in the fall of their third year of law school for clerkships that would begin immediately after they graduated. This plan has caught on within the judiciary and within law school so that, at least for 2004, clerkship hiring will start only one year in advance – thus, in the fall of 2003 for 2004 clerkships.

Not all clerkships are filled through the regular hiring cycle, however. Some judges prefer to hire less far in advance so that applicants have more developed records. Some judges develop openings unexpectedly when, for example, a person previously hired becomes ill or has an extreme change in personal circumstances. Additionally, new judges are appointed to the bench periodically and need clerks without much lead time for hiring. The challenge in applying for clerkships outside of the regular hiring cycle is simply identifying openings.

Grades

Many clerkship applicants ask about their chances based on their grades. This type of inquiry is understandable. Unfortunately, there just is no comprehensive information to provide to clerkship applicants about grades. Observations based on anecdotal information are as follows.

Although some judges screen applications initially by grades alone, they usually will not publicize the fact that they do so, let alone provide an objective cutoff that applies year to year without regard to the particular applicant pool. That said, the more applications a judges receives, the more likely he or she is to screen using some objective factor such as grades. (Consider how you would handle hundreds of applications if you were a judge!) Judges in popular locations receive the most applications and therefore are the most likely to screen based on grades.

Other judges look at grades as only one component of an application. If all other parts of two applications were the same, better grades would of course lead to better chances in the clerkship lottery. The problem is that no two applications are otherwise the same. Sometimes part of an application will appeal to a judge in a way even the applicant cannot predict. For example, one HLS clerk bonded with her judge over their mutual interest in quilting, a hobby she had listed on her resume but not one she had seen associated with the judge in the research she had done.

You therefore should consider grades as only one way to distinguish yourself among other clerkship applicants. If you have all As, for example, your application may get attention based on grades alone. But if you have more average grades, your application may get attention based on the Harvard name, strong recommendations, and/or (for at least one judge) an interest in quilting. If you are interested in clerking, pursue that interest, choose courts and judges carefully based on your best guesses about your chances, and see what happens. Also feel free to consult with the clerkship advisor in OCS for individual advice.

Application Process

A typical application package consists of a cover letter, resume, law school (and sometimes undergraduate) transcript, writing sample and letters of recommendation. The cover letter and letters of recommendation involve some complicated logistics because they should be addressed individually to each judge. The most efficient way to produce this result is to create a data file of judges’ contact information and then to use the mail merge function to input this data into form letters. Detailed instructions about this process are provided on the website.

An interview is of utmost importance in the clerkship selection process. Scheduling clerkship interviews can be particularly tricky because many judges hire clerks on a rolling basis, and applicants are expected to pay their own travel expenses. Once applicants send their materials, they should be ready to interview at the convenience of the judge, with potentially as little as 24 hours’ notice.

The rules governing offers for judicial clerkships differ dramatically from those for other types of legal jobs. The main difference is that judges are not as patient as other employers. Judges are accustomed to deference and assume that one would not have applied for a clerkship in their chambers without being preparing to accept an offer on the spot. Some judges actually will expect a response on the spot. Others may give a successful applicant more time – but often no more than 24 hours – in which to consider an offer and make a decision.

U.S. Supreme Court Clerkships

Practically speaking, a clerkship at another court – almost always a federal circuit court of appeals, but very occasionally a federal district court or state supreme court – is a prerequisite for a clerkship at the Supreme Court. Generally, the justices hire students in their third year of law school (or during their clerkships, depending on the individual justice’s timing guidelines) to begin clerking at the Supreme Court following the completion of their lower court clerkships. However, the justices increasingly are considering applicants who have a year or two of pra
ctical work experience either before or after their initial clerkships.

Clerkship Advising

The Office of Career Services has one staff member – Kirsten Solberg – who served as a clerk herself and handles advising about clerkships. Watch for a variety of formal and informal programs throughout the year covering topics such as the clerkship experience itself, the application process, interviews, clerkships at specific courts and how to succeed in a clerkship once you have one. Try to get in the habit of checking regularly the “Time-Sensitive Announcements” within the clerkships section of the OCS web site.

[Extensive information about judicial clerkships is on the Office of Career Services’ website at http://internal.law.harvard.edu/ocs/jdstudents/Judicial_Clerkships/index.htm. Excerpts from the website are provided here, but please refer to the website for more details about each point.]

Being a business man

BY BILLY GONZALEZ

Rather than take a law job, this summer I accepted a position in the mergers and acquisitions group at Merrill Lynch’s Investment Banking Division. I share below a few brief thoughts on the summer for those who may be entertaining the idea of a summer at an I-Bank:

1. The work is interesting and varied. As a summer associate, you are called on to do everything from financial modeling to document production to client services. At its best, the work is dynamic and exciting. In M&A, you are very often working with the highest tier of management on a day to day basis, dealing with information that has yet to be disclosed to the public that you will eventually read about on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. You are learning how companies can create value for shareholders in a variety of industries through acquisitions or divestitures, and you are learning the role that creative financing plays in companies’ strategies and in our economy.

At its worst, you are a powerpoint monkey, making sure that margins are correct, that there are no extra spaces anywhere in a document, and that all of the footnotes and numbers are formatted correctly. Reality is somewhere in the middle. I did my share of powerpoint iteration, but at the same time I gained a number of important skills, learned a variety of ways to look at a company to determine its value and fair market price and was privy to fascinating private discussions which went to the heart of the strategy of some of corporate America’s largest players.

2. The hours are hell. Even though this was the worst summer for M&A dealflow in over a decade, this did not translate into less work. Unlike on the legal side, where a firm only becomes involved when a deal goes live or is in later stages, bankers are busy pitching companies a barrage of new ideas in an effort to drum up work during “slow” times. This “pitch-work,” although creative, is often fruitless, and can demand as much time as a deal would – sometimes more.

My day started, on average, at about 9:30 a.m. when I would arrive at the office, and ended at around 1:00 a.m. when I would fall asleep in the company car provided for me on the way back to my apartment. I pulled four all-nighters, and only had a day off two times during my 10 weeks (one was a Saturday, the other was a Sunday). One upside to working long hours is that I spent very little on meals over the summer, since most of them were eaten in the office and paid for by the firm.

3. Making plans will frustrate you. Probably the most frustrating thing about banking is the complete inability to plan in advance, whether it be to meet friends or get a haircut. It was the norm that mornings would be relatively slow, with my superiors reviewing what I had prepared the evening before. As the day progressed, things would get busier, and just when I thought you had the day’s workload under control, a mountain of work would get piled on my desk at 6:30 p.m. The expectation was that it would be ready for review the next morning – there went my evening. A variation on that theme was often played by the staffing coordinator, who would wait until 6:00 p.m. on Friday to staff me on a few new assignments – there went my weekend.

Overall, I am happy with my summer experience. I feel like I received two summers’ worth of learning in one internship and gained valuable skills that will serve me well. For those interested in working at a bank over the summer, it is important to realize that you are not signing up to be wined and dined, but to get a fairly accurate picture of what it is like to work there full time – a good thing for people considering this demanding but rewarding career track.

California love?

BY RANDY BECKWITH

Law firm hiring, like the economy, is cyclical. We have seen ups and downs over the past 20 years. Following the explosive growth in the late 1990s, we are once again in a downswing.

Dramatic law firm growth began in the exuberant 1980s, with the expansion in the size and number of offices of California-based firms. Moreover, many national firms from New York City, Washington, D.C. and the Midwest opened California branch offices – a large number in Los Angeles – to share in the state’s economic boom. Law firms hired both new and lateral associates, as well as partners, at previously unheard of levels.

This seemingly unending upward trajectory came to an abrupt halt in the early ’90s, when the economy went into a very severe slump – a slump that was longer and deeper in Southern California than elsewhere. There was a concomitant decline in law firm hiring, considerable “downsizing” within the associate ranks and “rightsizing” at the partnership levels. Some mid-sized and smaller firms completely dissolved and unprofitable branch offices closed.

The economy began to slide downward in the fall of 2000, and over the last two years there has been a marked slowdown in the hiring of transactional lawyers at all levels of seniority. In addition, sizeable layoffs and downsizing continue to occur. Northern California is the hardest hit because it expanded most dramatically over the past few years. The expansion, primarily in the Silicon Valley, was fueled as firms rushed to represent emerging-growth companies and serve clients in the venture capital, high technology and biotech communities. Because Southern California has a more diversified economy, the downturn has been less severe, but still law firm hiring practices are considerably more modest than in the boom years of the late Ô90s. Nonetheless, the news is not all gloom and doom, as law firms continue to hire for their summer associate programs, make permanent job offers to the summer associates of 2002 and, for the most part, welcome the new graduates with an eye towards improving economic conditions.

The sheer size of California’s legal market is enormous. There are over 140,000 active members of the California Bar; the State Bar’s recent demographic study shows that 45 percent of them practice in the Los Angeles area and 30 percent in the Bay Area. The state’s five largest legal markets, in descending order, are as follows: Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay Area (including Silicon Valley), Orange County, San Diego and Sacramento.

Over the past 20 years, the law-firm model evolved from a professional collegial club to a business entity; the emphasis now is definitely on the bottom line. Whereas “gentlemen” lawyers of old did not disclose revenues, profits or compensation, today that information is regularly disbursed in legal publications, daily newspapers, and via numerous Internet web sites. Through associate chat rooms, law students and associates have immediate access to changes in compensation, hours, bonuses and other pertinent information. Indeed, almost immediately after a decision is made by a firm to have another round of layoffs, the news is transmitted nationwide.

Another major change is the increase in lawyer – most notably partner – mobility. Attorneys no longer spend an entire career in one firm. When offered higher compensation, more managerial responsibility or a chance to head up a practice area, many partners have shifted firms. Furthermore, merger and acquisition activity remains strong. Over the past years, a number of out-of-state firms have come into California, each by acquiring several local partners with very profitable practices, or entire smaller to mid-sized firms. A number of law firms, national, regional and local, either are actively considering or have been involved in merger discussions with other firms. This summer, Clifford Chance became the first British firm to come to California. They did so by acquiring a number of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison partners with substantial business and opening four California offices. The trend seems to indicate that many of even the most highly regarded small to medium firms are having difficulty competing with the large firms on associate compensation and in providing clients with a full array of legal services. Just last month, the well-regarded IP boutique Lyon & Lyon, with offices in both Northern and Southern California, closed its doors. Many of the firm’s partners have joined large national full service firms and other intellectual property lawyers have or considered the same type of move. The consequence of this consolidation is that students have more limited choices when they are considering law firm practice.

Many times, associates follow partners to their new firms. However, the majority of associates move on their own for varying reasons. It is increasingly rare that an attorney’s first job is his/her only job. Thus, in considering your first job the question is less “Is this the right job?” and more “Will this firm give me the training and experience to enhance my marketability for my next position?”

Another reality is that, after the tremendous increases in associate salaries and bonuses over the past two years, compensation is flat. Many firms have notified their associates that there will not be bonuses this year and that base salaries are frozen. In addition, some firms are employing other cost-cutting measures such as asking new associates to defer their start dates until early next year, paying new attorneys a stipend to work in the public or not for profit arena, and offering unpaid leaves of absence. There is an effort to avoid rescissions of offers to entry-level associates and to date, the only salary reductions have been in those few firms that upped the $125,000 starting salary to $135,000 and now have reverted to the original figure.

The “hot” practice areas continue to be those that dominated last year’s findings. Litigation heads the list with the most opportunities. Intellectual property remains very strong from patent prosecution to “soft IP” areas such as copyright, trademark, licensing, Internet, piracy and privacy. Next on the list are real estate and land use, followed by bankruptcy. The labor and employment practice remains strong. “Lukewarm” practice areas include international, environmental, tax, trusts and estates. “Cool” areas are healthcare, banking, and government contracts. And for those of you with stars in your eyes: Although Los Angeles is the entertainment capital, it is virtually impossible for a new graduate to break into that industry unless you know someone.

In this tight legal market, firms are placing more emphasis on law school grades, business or legal experience gained by working in the field prior to law school or during a summer, and performance evaluations. Law firm hiring programs are currently tailored to reflect a more conservative and long-term approach; therefore, you need to distinguish yourself from other students as you interview. Being knowledgeable and truly interested in a firm and then conveying that to the interviewer will help you stand out.

RANDY BECKWITH is a partner with Seltzer Fontaine Beckwith, Legal Search Consultants in Los Angeles. He can be reached at rbeckwith@sfbsearch.com.

Out of HLS, into Africa

BY CRISARLA HOUSTON

This summer was probably one of the most edifying, enlightening and enjoyable employment experiences of my entire life.

What can be so exciting about punching the clock, meeting deadlines and reporting to supervisors, you ask? Your perspective on work changes when you’re traveling to Accra, Ghana to join the team of lawyers and interns who commit themselves to ensuring human rights for the entire nation.

This is the mission of the Legal Resources Centre of Ghana (LRC), a human rights non-governmental organization that provides various legal services to indigent clients in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. Several of these services include parliamentary advocacy, community education and mobilization and research and advocacy.

Harvard Law School students, under the tutelage of Prof. Lucie White, have undertaken an ongoing health care and sanitation reform project with the ultimate goal of securing equal access to medical treatment and public sanitation services for all – not just those who can afford to pay. I was encouraged to look into working with this project by someone who worked with Prof. White’s Community Activism seminar during the Winter term, who knew I was seeking public interest jobs that would be personally gratifying and non-traditional.

I got my wish and more. Although I did not contribute to the healthcare campaign, I was able to learn about the ins and outs of the LRC as co-author of the organization’s strategic plan. This gave me valuable insight into the operation and maintenance of a non-governmental organization from a financial, managerial and legal perspective.

I also worked with a team of interns and interpreters to collect personal data from married and divorced Muslim citizens, which will later assist in the drafting of a proposed Muslim Marriage Ordinance that will be submitted to Parliament as an alternative to the current inequitable law that treats Christian and traditional marriages more favorably than Islamic marriages. This work, done through the aid of translators (which was itself a fascinating learning process) allowed me to observe facets of Ghanaian law, life and culture far beyond the view of tourists or televised media.

As part of LRC’s parliamentary advocacy role, I attended parliamentary meetings on a Second Hand Vehicles bill which was proposed to ban the importation of used cars over ten years old and which would effectually render cars unaffordable to a vast portion of the working class. As defenders of the rights of the underprivileged, the LRC is trying to prevent the passage of the bill.

These tasks, among others, highlight the depth and breadth of my internship experience at the LRC. My foray into the realm of human rights law and advocacy proved to be intellectually, spiritually and culturally enlightening. I bargained for a unique, unforgettable work opportunity, and I received much more.

As far as my living arrangements were concerned, I lived with a college friend’s family, so I experienced daily life as a Ghanaian. This was an an invaluable experience for me as an African-American whose genealogical roots are virtually untraceable but are likely to have originated in or near Ghana. I was able to tour the Ashanti King’s palace in Kumasi, to visit the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles in Cape Coast, and to photograph friends sitting on the backs of huge crocodiles in Paga (something I chose only to watch!)

Thanks to my summer experience at the LRC, I am now more aware of the tremendous need for lawyers and advocates of various human rights causes around the world. Although I am uncertain about my future legal career, I am now sure that I must enter a field that seeks to meaningfully impact the lives of others.

Staring down death

BY KRISTEN NELSON

Living for five weeks in a hotel room in Alabama working 12 hours a day and most weekends wasn’t exactly what I expected to do this summer. Heading to Atlanta to do post-conviction capital defense work for the Southern Center for Human Rights, I anticipated a time to relax after a difficult 1L year. On my agenda were things like finally completing half-finished summer novels, renting lots of movies, taking weekend trips and going rock climbing.

As it turned out, my summer reading list collected a substantial amount of dust, and I never did make it to the rock climbing gym. Due to what can best be described as an extreme and unexpected crisis in Alabama – a state whose grossly inadequate indigent defense system is perpetually crisis-ridden – the Southern Center accepted five new clients on Alabama’s death row on an emergency basis shortly before the summer interns arrived. Typical preparation for a post-conviction case takes a year or more. We needed to do the same for these new clients within about two months. With the clients’ state habeas deadlines looming at the end of the summer, the Center equipped five of us with several days of training, a hefty investigation manual and sent us off to unearth potentially life-saving information about our clients.

I got to know my client well during my three lengthy visits to death row. An African-American man of marginal intelligence and with no prior criminal record, he was eighteen at the time he was sentenced to death by an all-white jury for participating in the armed robbery of a pawnshop, during which his co-defendant shot and killed the shop’s two employees. His trial attorneys, one of whom was later suspended from the practice of law for failing to adhere to minimal standards of professionalism, completely neglected to present a meaningful mitigation case to the jury during the penalty phase of his trial.

I spent the majority of my time in the Birmingham area developing my client’s mitigation case, gathering an extensive array of school, medical and various other records, and getting to know his family on a deeply personal level. I ate meals with them, went to family birthday parties, hung out for hours at my client’s uncle’s automotive shop, and had many of them over to my hotel for a pool party. During all of this, I learned their life stories and that of my client – stories that were full of rich and powerful mitigating evidence my client’s jury never heard.

In addition, I met with his trial attorneys and questioned state witnesses. On the weekends, my colleagues and I organized into teams and interviewed the jurors from our cases, searching for areas of potential juror misconduct. At the end of the summer, I helped write a substantial portion of my client’s state habeas petition.

Death penalty work is exhausting and can, of course, be extremely disheartening. The salaries are exceptionally low, even by public interest standards. The pace of the work varies dramatically – a case can literally sit for years at various stages of the appeals process (as the one I worked on likely will), but can require a marathon of sleepless nights in a flurry of last-minute attempts to stay an execution. The losses are devastating, but the victories result in unparalleled exhilaration.

That said, this mentally draining, emotionally wearying summer was easily one of the best experiences of my life. Though I was often overwhelmed and frustrated by the sheer enormity of my task, I found it immensely fulfilling. The attorneys (and summer interns) I worked with are bright, extraordinarily dedicated, interesting, funny and compassionate. To them, their work is more than just “work.” It is – rightfully – an all-consuming lifestyle. For me, their enthusiasm was nothing short of infectious.

Boston: Still the place to be

BY BRION BICKERTON

You’ve been reading about the bad economy and the aftermath of the excesses of the high tech boom. How hard have those factors hit the Boston market, and are there good reasons to put your stake in the ground in the Boston area? Why stay in Boston?

During the tech and Internet boom period, Boston was the hottest business market in the country after Silicon Valley. Boston rose with the bubble and undeniably has landed hard with the fall in the high tech markets. While Silicon Valley is more of a one horse town, there is still strong merit to Boston’s claim as a much more diversified market, with strengths in software, Internet, telecommunications, biotechnology, biomedical, venture capital, investment management, mutual fund, health care, defense and the education industries.

While many dot-com startups have shut down, the overall balance in the Boston market has helped the city avoid a bankruptcy meltdown. By some measures, Boston has the largest biotech, life science market in the country. This industry has been the rare tech sector which has continued to attract venture capital investment. This dynamic has helped Boston maintain some stability in the wake of other gloomy economic indicators.

The weakness of the economy has had some obvious impact on the legal market. Over the past several years, firms have been laying off associates – principally undertilized corporate associates first. Few firms have remained unscathed, though those firms vested most in the technology and venture capital markets have felt the greatest impact. One firm which had a larger concentration in the telecommunications and Internet industries has suffered through four or five rounds of layoffs. Firms have responded to the sporadic activity in their corporate transactional practices in different ways. Some have significantly decreased entry -level classes (thereby, decreasing summer programs). Others have reacted more aggressively, delaying start dates for entry-level hires and, in a few draconian instances, turning away entry level hires.

Salaries have also taken a hit. Some major firms that had starting salaries of $135,000 have scaled those back to $115-125,000. Many firms have reduced or failed to pay bonuses during this period. Prior to this scaleback, many of the major Boston firms had narrowed their compensation gap with New York. Profitability at some firms has suffered, but many have offset leaner corporate practices with stronger litigation and IP business. Partner compensation at the top firms continues to rank within the top 40 of all U.S. law firms in profitability.

Corporate transactional practices continue to be lackluster and sporadic. Some time next year is the more realistic hope for an upturn. By then, the dynamics should be established for a robust recovery. In addition, the departure of laid off associates into other parts of the country and into different professional endeavors should provide for a strong hiring market in the Boston firms.

The new economy presented some more interesting opportunities for Boston lawyers. With the proliferation of emerging companies in hot technology areas, an unprecedented need developed for attorneys at ever earlier stages in their careers to assume general counsel and business development roles. A decade ago, most lawyers would have found themselves working slowly up the institutional ladders at corporations, only attaining general counsel roles over a longer period of time. Because of the dearth of high-tech start-ups and the improbability of going public in the current economic climate, there are many fewer opportunities for entry-level associates to make the same kind of leap common just a few years ago. However, particularly within the biotech industry – where there is an enhanced need for biotechs to rapidly develop business relationships and strategic partnerships – lawyers continue to be asked to undertake business development roles in addition to their lawyering roles. But for those lawyers seeking to move into the business side of a corporation, the picture has presented many fewer opportunties.

Boston has strengths in many practice areas. However, attorneys looking to launch a career in areas such as entertainment, admiralty, capital markets (commodities, derivatives) and international law will find many fewer opportunities. Certain other areas of practice, like environmental, have stagnated for several years and do not show signs of rejuvenation.

Law firm options in Boston have been multiplying. With the long-term promise of its economy, Boston has drawn a lot of attention from out-of-state firms looking to secure a foothold. Florida-based Holland & Knight and Greenberg Traurig, which developed branch offices a couple of years ago, have continued to grow. Weil Gotshal just opened a branch office this fall, taking over a corporate group from an existing Boston firm that is dissolving. Existing branch offices of Pittsburgh-based Kirkpatrick & Lockhart expanded by merging with a mid-sized Boston firm, and Chicago powerhouse McDermott Will & Emery made some key partner hires, increasing its size to almost 100 lawyers. Defying the trend to go big, other partners from established firms have opened up new law firms with the expectation of developing niche practices.

Boston remains one of the most attractive cities to call home. Extensive new construction projects along the waterfront call for such diverse developments as a new arts center and a European-style housing community. The “Big Dig” project, which will put underground the current elevated autoway, is within sight of its 2004 completion date. By then, Boston’s infrastructure will have been upgraded to keep pace with the rest of the economy.

Brion A. Bickerton is the founding partner of Bickerton & Gordon LLC, which specializes in the placement of lawyers in Boston and New England. He formerly practiced in the London and Boston offices of a major Boston law firm and can be reached at 617-371-2929 or bbickerton@bickertongordon.com. Bickerton & Gordon hosts a web site which provides updates about the Boston legal market and its opportunities (see BickertonGordon.com).

The road less traveled

BY ALEXA SHABECOFF

At the Office of Public Interest Advising, 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 fundamental commitment to an equitable and fair legal system. A just system should be made accessible to both rich and poor, to those holding political power and to those profoundly marginalized; it should consider both those issues embraced and those rejected by the majority. 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. These ideals 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. We strive to help you articulate and pursue a professional sense of self that will enable you to achieve a confluence between your professional 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 here 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 lack 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 many doors that a law degree from HLS is supposed to open, many 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 somewhat more challenging nature of pursuing other paths, including but not limited to the public market;

* the pressure of watching your classmates gravitate to big firms; and,

* the added pressure of family or the expectations of others.

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 “fall insanity” at HLS, 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, government work or the nonprofit sector. We urge you to think about your aspirations more carefully and find a job you love.

Clarify a Vision Behind Your Work

Take time to reflect thoughtfully on what you want to achieve 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.

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. Avoid being swayed by other people’s expectations of you. For example, if your family expects you to save the world through large law reform cases – as mine did way back when I was in law school – but you’d rather work with one client at a time, follow your own preferences. 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 salary and public praise. Until you are able to focus on what you want and what you truly consider important, your efforts at finding meaningful work will most likely be thwarted.

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.

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 you be satisfied by on-the-job training combined with some supervision and/or mentoring?

* 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?

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 or government work, you can start by picking up a copy of our Public Interest Job Search Guide and brainstorming with our attorney advisers and our visiting Wasserstein Fellows. Our attorney advisers 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. To get a flavor of practice settings without even leaving your dorm room or apartment, you can read narratives we have collected from alumni/ae in our Public Interest Job Search Guide, in both editions of Alumni/ae in Action and in Outstanding Lawyers in Action, a compilation of narratives written by our Wasserstein Fellows.

You can read about specific fields by picking up one of our specialty guides or printing it from our website: www.law.harvard.edu/Students/opia. You can attend panels like the World of Law series and hear from public interest lawyers about what their work entails, what they like and dislike about their jobs, and how you c
an pursue similar work if you are interested. You can talk to 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. You can also talk to the faculty in our Faculty Public Interest Directory who have agreed to advise students in their area of expertise.

Create a Game Plan

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 volunteer job off-campus, 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.

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.” Early in our careers, we 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, giving them ballet and karate lessons, and taking 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. Fortunately, as many of you know, HLS’s loan forgiveness program, the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), was dramatically improved and now is better able to provide those with high debt the opportunity to take a relatively lower-paying public service job.

If you have high educational debt, don’t just assume that you cannot afford to make choices about the jobs you pursue upon graduation. Come to the panel that OPIA co-sponsors with the Financial Aid Office on LIPP and HLS postgraduate public service fellowships. Go to the Financial Aid Office and find out how LIPP will work for you. Find out how much your monthly loan payments will be if you work in a particular field, and figure out whether you can live, according to your own needs, with what is leftover. If you don’t have debt, decide whether you will be happy with the lifestyle you will have on a public interest salary or whether you need more.

Consider How you Define Success and Happiness

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 or to help individual clients protect their rights and dignity. 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 to do. By doing so, you can redefine success in terms of finding a career that will be fulfilling. Hopefully, you will join the many alums who call and write to us at OPIA, marveling at the joy they find in their work.

[Alexa Shabecoff is the Director of the Office of Public Interest Advising.]