In Support of Military Service

I just received my copy of the Harvard Law Bulletin. Having been a student at HLS after serving in the military during a politically divisive war, I wish to thank you heartily for publishing Capt. Nick Brown’s Letter from Baghdad as part of your public service edition. Whatever one may think about war in general or the advisability or implementation of a particular war, it seems that the institution of war is likely to continue as an instrument of general political policy far into the future. Soldiers, sailors and marines such as Capt. Brown are sometimes in the position of having to implement national policy through their service in hostile foreign lands. Unfortunately, that service is dangerous and often tedious and isolating, punctuated only by intermittent military attacks. In this particular case, their service has been subjected to an unprecedented level of often hostile public scrutiny from our national press.

Undoubtedly, service life under such conditions must often be difficult for Capt. Brown and his compatriots. Certainly, their service is far different from arguing a legal point before the United States District Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals in the relative safety of a courtroom of a relatively well-ordered constitutional republic. Even so, Capt. Brown sounds as though he’s handling his situation well and is quite proud of his service. I commend him for it. I commend the Bulletin for sharing his experience with us.

A Welcome Change

Spr05-coverI was thrilled to see the cover of the most recent edition of the Bulletin, proclaiming HLS’s commitment to public service and pro bono. When I was at HLS (’79-’82), it was almost impossible to chart a career course with public interest goals in mind. Those of us who chose to flout the big corporate law firm interview mill were looked upon with skepticism and disdain. Although there was the Legal Services Institute and the Low-Interest Loan Repayment Plan, both laudable efforts, the career services office had nothing to provide by way of supporting those of us who wanted both summer jobs and postgraduate positions in anything other than big corporate law firms.

Retirees and Public Service

The Harvard Law Bulletin of Spring of 2005 notes the importance of supplying pro bono work and of all lawyers getting involved in public service. Then it fails to explain what role the retired Harvard lawyer can play nationwide.

In reviewing the Class Notes of the Harvard Law Bulletin, I see our graduates of the postretirement era do not mention involvement in public service work at a time in their lives when such work would still be intellectually rewarding. They could be helpful as role models for a generation of lawyers interested in public service.

Government Service? Seriously!

When I first read the dean’s “Call to Public Service” (Spring 2005 Bulletin), I thought seriously she was advocating government as a career. But that can’t be right because most Law School alumni I’ve met equate success almost exclusively with the accumulation of wealth in private practice. And the dean certainly wouldn’t suggest graduates be less than fully successful.

No doubt it’s OK for recent graduates to spend a year or two in a government job, but only as a stepping stone to something more lucrative in the private sector. And, of course, it’s helpful and improves one’s image (and ego) to do pro bono work on occasion or at the end of a financially successful private practice. All this [is fine], as long as it doesn’t interfere with objective number one … raking in the big bucks.

So, recent graduates, don’t get any funny ideas about public service if you care about your reputation among most [HLS] alumni. Do just enough so you can mention it in your CV. But never, ever think of being a career bureaucrat unless you honestly don’t care what most Harvard lawyers think! (Exclude those who go into teaching or the judiciary. They do public service without too much damage to their reputations. It’s a minor exception to the established sentiment.)

The Other Side Uncovered

I am somewhat upset about the back cover of the Spring 2005 issue of the Harvard Law Bulletin, with the full-page photo of Suma Nair and the quote, “I’m glad there is a pro bono requirement. It brought me back to why I came here in the first place.”

It misrepresents the views of most law students who very much resent the law school telling us that we must work a certain number of hours pro bono. Pro bono is supposed to be something that a lawyer wants to do, not something that is imposed on us as a prerequisite to graduation. While I doubt, for political reasons, that you’re going to put a full-page picture of me on the back of the Bulletin saying, “I truly resent the pro bono requirement,” I would appreciate if you make some sort of apology or emphasize that Ms. Nair’s views are atypical. Or at the very least, please present views on the other side of the issue.

A Soldier and a Terrorist

Harvard Law Bulletin Fall 2004 coverI was delighted to see Harvard taking on the issue of terrorism (Fall 2004), this extremely important, complex and difficult subject. After 65 years I still feel humility entering a discussion with so many great professors. But I believe I can add a dimension to the subject from a different point of view. I was a terrorist and an active participant in some of the deadliest terrorist acts in the history of warfare.

Sixty years ago I was a U.S. Army Air Forces navigator, one of 10 members of a B-29 crew, bombing Japan from Saipan in the Mariana Islands. I flew 24 bombing missions over 19 Japanese cities. Seventeen were fire raids. On March 9, 1945, a few days before I arrived on Saipan, the 20th Air Force conducted the first great fire raid on the city of Tokyo. In two and a half hours 700,000 bombs fell in the target area, and approximately 200,000 women, children and old men were dead or dying. More than 1 million people became homeless. I was not on that raid but on three later and larger and similar ones over Tokyo.

Of my 24 bombing missions, I can only remember four in which the briefing officer described the target as a factory or military installation, and none of the targets if destroyed would have had any material effect on the outcome of the war.

Were we any different in motive or conduct than the modern terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan or Israel? We were better equipped and killed more people. But we never talked of persons we were killing or the horrible manner of their deaths. Like today’s terrorists, we were indifferent to the dead. We only wanted to create terror.

Clearer than a Bell

Kudos to Malcolm Bell (Letters, Spring 2005) for his succinct summary of all that is wrong with the so-called “war on terror.” Poet Adrienne Rich was quoted recently with an even more pithy summation: “It has been used to crack down on dissent, on immigrants and foreigners and activists, on libraries and school textbooks–to diffuse a climate … of ignorance and fear. To make war, not social good, the national goal.”

Evidence of Gender Disparities

In his letter in your spring issue, Mr. [Arthur] Schneider ’64 relies on his personal experience to question whether his female and male classmates were treated any differently. He acknowledges that his conclusions are limited by his own perceptions. Mr. Schneider is correct that we have to rely on personal experience in investigating sex discrimination for the Class of 1964. However, substantial data is now available on gender issues for recent years of law students.

A group of law students conducted a two-year study examining the experiences of female and male [HLS] students. The group conducted student surveys, monitored comments in 190 class meetings, analyzed 1L course grade data from the registrar’s office and collected data on extracurricular involvement, among other efforts. The final report of the study (available at www.law.harvard.edu/students/experiences) showed that there are systematic differences between the experiences of women and men at HLS. For instance, a male student was 50 percent more likely to speak voluntarily at least once during a class meeting than was a female student. Ten percent of students accounted for almost 45 percent of all volunteered comments spoken in 1L classes during a two-week period, and women constituted only 20 percent of this top group of volunteers. Women also pursued public interest activities and employment at higher rates than men. Additionally, over the past five years, male graduates were 70 percent more likely than female graduates to receive magna cum laude honors.

We now have an opportunity to base our discussion of gender issues at HLS on more than individual anecdotes. The HLS community’s attention to these issues is critical not only for female students. In the end, addressing gender disparities may help make the HLS experience less “disagreeable to all,” in Mr. Schneider’s words.