Campus Connects Alumni to HLS Experience

I sense a certain inevitability about the Allston move, persuasively supported by individuals I respect. Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding sentimental, I believe we must ask ourselves what Harvard Law School means to each of us. Is it a name only or the sum total of our years in a particular setting? What is it we will visit when nothing remains in the place we labored, matured, and shared unique experiences?

I attended SUNY Buffalo, and an entirely new campus was built about 10 miles from where I attended school. This severed any meaningful identification with the institution where we spent our memorable years. One should not discount the deep connection with the physical setting of our Harvard Law experience. I would be saddened visiting the shell of those experiences only to be guided across the river to “state-of-the-art” structures with which I could not identify.

I owe a great deal to Harvard Law School and ultimately will support it in whatever incarnation it may assume. I’m just wondering how many others share my preference (and if it matters).

Should HLS Stay or Should It Go to Allston?

Three words: Go. Go. Go.

HLS Should Seek Academic Connections from Current Location

Allston has no connection with where the law school is presently. As important, except for the business school, it has no connection with where the rest of the university is presently. Metaphorically, it’s on Mars. It’s a trek. It’s detached. It’s remote.

The university’s purchase of Allston acreage was in fact very wise and necessary. It is a reserve for future growth and farsighted. But it was not acquired for a specific purpose. At this point, it is land in search of an immediate purpose.

It would make sense to start new academic enterprises there and also advanced scientific research. Museums can be relocated there, as well as a student center for the whole university fed by bus services, administrative offices, athletic facilities, and little-used library holdings.

Harvard Law School is not broke at its present location: Severing both its continuity and its contiguity in one fell stroke will diminish its attractiveness. Indeed, Harvard Law School needs to be two things at once: a professional school teaching law itself, and a graduate school interwoven with the university to continue the broader education that a four-year college only begins and relate it to legal contexts. Few things are less inspiring than a narrow, highly focused technical mind uninformed by the broader currents of our culture and the culture of the world.

It is time to reexamine growth for the sake of growth, facilities for the sake of facilities, technology for the sake of technology, and the doing of something because something is possible. Many things are possible. They are not all desirable. The vision of Allston’s possibilities needs to be far more specifically developed than I have seen to make the risk of a wholesale move a prudent one.

Close ties with the many cognate graduate fields, and some undergraduate ones too, need to be developed by the law school in a more formal and structured way than has been the case. This is best done from where the law school presently is, close to the other parts of the university. Think hard on this relocation issue. The example of Brasilia comes forebodingly to mind.

Let’s Hope These Are Not Ordinary People

When I attended HLS, I didn’t necessarily think that every Harvard Law School student was a “shining star,” but I certainly did not have the impression that my fellow classmates were criminals. Thus, I was dismayed to see the Bulletin‘s Lewis Rice miss what I found to be the most disturbing aspect of Brush with the Law [Ordinary People], the recently published book coauthored by Robert Byrnes (a Stanford Law graduate) and Jaime Marquart, HLS ’98. Throughout their book, the two authors recount not only their views on the elite schools they attended but also a sordid tale of three years or more of ongoing irresponsible and often criminal behavior.

Doing crack cocaine is illegal everywhere in the United States. Gambling away the proceeds of your financial aid is also illegal. The other irresponsible behavior the men recount, while perhaps not rising to the level of being criminal, certainly doesn’t bode well for their future ability to handle their clients’ trust accounts.

What a sorry state our profession is in when graduates of elite law schools can publish books flaunting ongoing illegal behavior, while those in society who are less privileged do hard time or get deported for the same deeds. And even our alumni magazine apparently respects this behavior, casting Byrnes and Marquart’s story merely as one of elite schools versus not-so-elite schools.

That these two individuals were admitted to any law school, graduated from law school, and continue to practice law is disturbing not because they are intellectually ordinary, but rather because they are so unashamed to join the profession of law when they apparently enjoy breaking the law. If these two men represent the “ordinary graduate” of elite law schools, the admissions offices, law school faculty, bar associations, and law firms are doing a very poor job of screening our future “officers of the law.” Neither of these men should be working as lawyers–they should be doing time in jail.

A Refreshing Turn to Journalism

I want to congratulate you on the Summer 2002 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin. You have transformed the Bulletin into a genuine journalistic endeavor. The issue was refreshingly balanced in two critical respects. First, you were careful to include articles describing the activities of students from whom we rarely hear: those who are ideologically conservative (e.g., “At Home on the Range”). Second, you were careful to include dissenting viewpoints in the articles describing new developments at the law school (e.g., “School to Institute Pro Bono Requirement”). Indeed, one article conveys in its entirety viewpoints that are rather critical of the law school (“Ordinary People”). At most institutions of higher learning, the alumni publication is little more than a press release for the institution and usually a waste of time to read. I applaud the law school for taking a different approach. Doing so reveals that the law school has a great deal of confidence in itself, which gives me a great deal of confidence in it.

Brown Knew Whereof He Spoke

Mr. Daniel A. Rezneck’s affecting and fitting tribute to Professor Ernest Brown ’31 should not go unsupplemented by, surely, one of the most pithy and devastating critiques of a Supreme Court opinion imaginable. When discussing one of the New Deal cases, UNUH, as we, aficionados of his somewhat drawled analytical brilliance, liked to refer to him, remarked: “The Court says that the draftsman could not possibly have intended . . . But that’s not right. You see, I was the draftsman.”

He was, in contemporary parlance, an impact teacher.

Covey Was a Joy to Behold

Joy Covey wouldn’t know me from the proverbial hole-in-the-wall (“Closing,” Summer 2002), but one or two brief meetings with Ms. Covey during our mutual time at HLS have remained in my memory. There was some kind of J.D./M.B.A. function in ’88 or ’89 where students in the dual program talked about why they had made the choice to do both degrees. She and Pam Thomas were two of the most remarkable women in the program. Pam (as related in the Spring 2002 Bulletin) is now Pamela Thomas-Graham, president and CEO of CNBC. One vivid remembrance is onomatopoeia: Joy telling how she had dropped the Law Review tryout package into the garbage, clunk. (Joy couldn’t avoid Law Review that easily. She was one of two students “grading on” the next year.)

That ’89 tag after Joy’s name should really read ’89 (’90), because the double degree caused her to graduate one year after her section, along with everyone else in my year (1990). Her comment “It wasn’t until we got our first-semester grades back that I started to realize that everything was going to be OK” is pretty amusing for its modesty. Joy was one of the top HLS/HBS graduates in 1990, finishing business school “with highest honors” and law school magna cum laude, an incredibly impressive performance.

Again, Joy Covey won’t remember me one iota, but she was one of the most unforgettable women at HLS in those years, and I’m not surprised to read about her later success.