Harvard Law School scavenger hunt for public interest

 

 

Her black armband protesting the Vietnam War led to a landmark free speech case. [Art: Mary Beth Tinker, Langdell Classroom]

That was among the questions and clues in what proved to be one of the biggest events of the year: the first ever Harvard Law School Public Interest Scavenger Hunt.

More than 350 students raced through the snow and the halls of Harvard Law School on the last day of March, solving clues, answering trivia questions, and taking selfies with professors. The chance to attend a movie night with the dean or go boating in Maine with a professor were among the prizes for which they competed, as the law school community came together to show support for students working in public interest law. Each team helped to raise money for that cause from the event’s sponsors–Fried Frank, Paul Weiss, Kirkland & Ellis, and BarBri–all of whom made donations pegged to the number of student teams that registered for the hunt.

“What could be better than finding ways to both support students’ summer public interest work and to build community here at Harvard Law School?,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “Building on the wonderful spirit and tradition of our annual public interest auctions for many years, this year, we decided to try something new, with both fun and opportunities to learn about public interest connections at HLS. Professor Crespo, Micah Nemiroff, and a group of student organizers brought vision, creativity, and energy to design an innovative and dynamic event, and it was fantastic to see the birth of a new and vibrant way to strengthen knowledge of and support for public interest law.”

Ninety-five teams–ranging from one to four students each–registered for the event. Armed with 80 clues focused on the law school’s rich tradition of public service, students raced to answer the most clues correctly in the shortest amount of time.

For each clue, the team had to photograph itself with the person or item referenced, and then upload those pictures to the scavenger hunt’s website via Canvas, the school’s course website platform. More than a dozen clue checkers settled into Wasserstein Hall to grade each team’s answers as they streamed in.

Assistant Professor Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08 came up with the idea for the new event and its PokémonGo-inspired theme earlier in the school year, and served as the lead faculty organizer for the event. An expert in criminal law and criminal justice, Crespo’s public service credentials include serving as a staff attorney in the Trial Division of the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., prior to joining the law faculty.

“In my former life as a public defender, each new class of lawyers would end their weeks of training with a scavenger hunt that sent teams of lawyers all across the city, looking for answers to clues related to our work,” Crespo said. “That was a great community building activity that taught us something about where we lived and worked, and was a lot fun at the same time. My hope was to bring some of that same spirit to the hunt. And thanks to the great team of students and OPIA staff who helped pull this all off, I couldn’t be happier with how it all came together.”

Picking up on the event’s Pokémon theme, the winning team nicknamed themselves the Winnipeg’s Wartortles and was composed of team captain Spencer Smith ’19, Jonathan Eubank ’19, Sarah Grant ’19, and James Pollack ’19. The team, whose members represent the Class of 2019, Section 6, and the American Constitution Society, correctly answered 51 clues in one hour and forty-five minutes, besting the second place team by five points.

Olivia Warren ’17 said: “I am someone who hates scavenger hunts almost as much as I love public interest, but I loved this particular scavenger hunt! It was a creative way to engage with so much of the hidden history we walk by every day, and a thoughtful way to distribute access to prizes. The event’s structure beautifully modeled the community and curiosity we prize here.”

The top thirteen teams qualified for prizes, which included a clothes shopping trip with the sartorially distinguished Professor Glenn Cohen ’03, a boating, barbeque and cocktail-outing with Professor Noah Feldman, and a karaoke night with Professor Jim Greiner.

Harvard Law School Visiting Professor Khiara Bridges, a legal anthropologist and expert in race, constitutional law, and reproductive justice, donated a narrated film screening of the ballet documentary “First Position.” A classically trained ballet dancer herself, Bridges continues to perform professionally in New York City, and promised to “talk through the whole movie” so that the students who won her prize would be sure to know “just how hard it is” to do all the featured moves.

Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for public service at the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School, said: “I’m so grateful to Andrew Crespo for coming up with the idea for a Scavenger Hunt to replace the Public Interest Auction, and for all the hard work that he put into it along with Micah Nemiroff in OPIA and the wonderful student organizers: Charlotte Robinson, Emily Villa, Joseph Gallardo and Pamela Gaulin. I followed one of the teams around and could see how much fun and camaraderie the teams had while also learning about public interest connections at HLS.  In fact, even though I’ve been here for over 22 years, I learned a lot through the hunt!”

Since 1994, the law school has hosted public service events to help support the Summer Public Interest Funding program (SPIF) at Harvard Law School, providing opportunities for students to begin their careers working in public interest law. The SPIF program awards Federal Work Study (FWS) funding and/or stipends to students. These stipends are funded by HLS resources including annual support approved by the Dean, gifts from donors, and money raised by the Public Interest fundraising event.