Faculty have the ‘last’ word

A look back at Harvard Law's annual Last Lecture series

Sponsored annually by the 3L and LL.M. Class Marshals, the Last Lecture Series is a Harvard Law School tradition. Selected faculty members impart insight, advice, and final words of wisdom to the graduating class. This spring, Jody Freeman, Alex Whiting, Carol Steiker and Paul Butler each shared personal stories and experiences with a group of soon-to-be graduates poised to enter the new phase of Life After HLS.


Carol Steiker: ‘Choosing wisely is more important — and less important — than you might think it is’

Carol Steiker ’86 began her Last Lecture to the class of 2018 with the questions she is frequently asked by students, ranging from which electives and classes to take to which summer jobs they should seek. “My advice is that it doesn’t matter that much.” The choices confronting them now, however, will be more consequential. “I want to talk to you today about choices. Not how to make them, but rather what’s at stake for you in making those choices,” said Steiker. Read more

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Alex Whiting on lessons from an unexpected relationship

Professor of Practice Alex Whiting chose a personal story for his Last Lecture, one about the development of, and lessons learned from, an unexpected relationship with Milan Babić, war crimes indictee turned cooperating witness against Slobodan Milošević. Read more

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Paul Butler urges HLS students to use their privilege to resist — and call out — injustice

Visiting Professor Paul Butler ’86 began his Last Lecture with a story about confronting a Chicago cop at the age of 12, when he biked “just over the line” into a predominantly white neighborhood. “Does that bike belong to you?” asked the cop, rolling down his car window. “Yes,” replied Butler, “does that car belong to you?” When he returned home, swaggering, he received a swift spanking. His mother cried harder than he did, Butler recalls, telling him “don’t you know what happens to black boys who talk back to cops?” Read more

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Jody Freeman assures graduating students: ‘You have the tools you need to become successful’

In her Last Lecture, Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’95 encouraged the class of 2018 to think broadly about what success means, in their careers and also in life. “This is a very important moment for you; I think it deserves serious reflection,” said Freeman, urging students to unplug and find the space to think about where they have been and where they are going. “You’re about to launch yourselves into the rest of your life,” she said, “I do think it’s as dramatic as it sounds.” Read more