A story that wasn’t told

Well, I have to hand it to the Harvard Law Bulletin. Here I was, an honors graduate, with a state supreme court clerkship under my belt, as well as 21 years of practice in criminal appellate defense work, thinking that I had pulled off something remarkable in being able to raise three strong, healthy daughters while being happily married to a fellow HLS grad who routinely bills 2,400 hours a year.

Thanks for setting me straight. I now know that because I haven’t become the managing partner of a major U.S. law firm, I have not reached “the highest levels of the legal profession,” and have somehow let down both my alma mater and my sisters in the practice of law. And thanks for noting, in an entire paragraph of a three-page article [“Traffic on the off-ramp,” Fall 2006], that women such as myself, who have toiled in the fields of nonprofit and government service, actually exist.

Success comes in many forms, and many of us have put our skills in analysis, ingenuity and perseverance to work in the service of our own lives and the lives of our clients. The fact that many of us don’t stick around to run law firms may speak to the differing calculus of men and women. For those of us who are living the demands of child rearing and our own human limitations, the rewards of the former just don’t add up.

By devoting only that single paragraph to nonprofit work, you have discounted the achievements of many of us who consider our legal work not just a career, but a calling. It has been my privilege to represent my indigent clients, and it has been my honor to be a part of the foremost system of indigent criminal appellate defense work in this nation. It is no accident that at least half of my colleagues are women and mothers, and probably no accident that achievements like ours don’t appear to count for much in your review of the state of women in the legal profession.

Editor’s note: In the fall issue, an article called “The Coming Wave” focused on the experiences of women and men in public interest law.

Community lawyering (and doctoring)

The last Harvard Law Bulletin includes a mention of legal practice in underserved communities [“The Coming Wave”]. In fact, many communities in America suffer from a lack of doctors as well. Many alumni can remember when doctors and lawyers lived locally. Their presence made for a sense of community, now missing in America, and they helped to solve problems at a community level. One present solution is to grant tax incentives, both through property and state tax abatements, for doctors and lawyers living and practicing out of their homes in the community.

Letter from Cantley

The invasion and destruction of Iraq will live on among the greatest shames in American history. How sad to see Harvard Law graduates involved [“Letter from Baghdad” by Col. Mark Martins ’90, Fall 2006]. It lies ill in the mouth of those who have denied habeas corpus and spirited detainees into illegal detention, without charge or genuine fair trial, to invoke the “rule of law” as the key to stability.

Idealism and Bravery

I am a former Navy JAG U.S. Marine Corps officer. “Letter from Baghdad” was a welcome recognition of an outstanding lawyer and JAG officer graduate of the Harvard Law School. Specifically, it demonstrates the enormous contributions Harvard’s JAG officers are making in a very chaotic and lethal situation, both to the civilian government and to the combat forces. Col. Martins and his JAG officers are crucial to the war effort to bring about a representative government, an independent judiciary and an effective private bar.

Col. Martins is “humbled by the idealism and bravery” he sees in the servicemen, and I share his admiration. In a recent letter to the Marine Corps’ Leatherneck, someone said the elite expect others to do their fighting. It appears that Col. Mark Martins ’90 and Capts. Earl Matthews ’98 and Robert Caridad ’03 are proving the exception.