From the Dean:

Imagining the future together

Each moment bridges past and future; moments at HLS invite reflections on the past and renewed focus for the future. In September, more than 800 African-American alumni and guests returned to campus for the fourth Celebration of Black Alumni at Harvard Law School. Few moments at HLS have been as powerfully moving or meaningful as CBA IV. Reflecting on times great and difficult, participants honored the extraordinary leadership of our African-American graduates in the worlds of law practice, the judiciary, business, entertainment, politics, religion, the arts and education. Those gathered also brought imagination and energy to the crucial unfinished business of racial justice. Sharing insights with current students, reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones, returning alumni demonstrated how the extraordinary network of the hugely talented and accomplished black graduates of HLS can help build a more inclusive and just future. This issue offers reflections by CBA attendees, and there is more coverage in Harvard Law Today in the article CBA 2016: Turning Vision into Action.

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On the brink of 2017, we stand at a crossroads in the nation and in the world.


The past work of Todd Stern ’77 offers a key to all of our futures, for he is a leading architect of the watershed achievement in the global effort to fight climate change. His decades of work came to fruition last December, when, as the State Department’s chief climate change negotiator, he helped secure the landmark Paris agreement by 195 countries pledging to curb greenhouse gas emissions and create a sustainable future.

Last spring, HLS hosted more than 175 officials, scholars, and lawyers from across the world to address the past and future of the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body. This issue offers the insights of alumni experts about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. After years of global negotiations, TPP, if approved by Congress, would become the largest regional trade accord in history. It has also become a flash point and symbol of sharply contrasting visions of the future. We offer a variety of views along with a preview of the next generation of trade lawyers, currently students at HLS, where they learn from Assistant Professor Mark Wu and the tremendous opportunities he has created here.

The past and future of currency and finance—and their supporting legal frameworks—come into sharp relief through investigations at HLS of blockchain technology, best known through its connection to bitcoin. Providing new, online methods for streamlining and recording transactions, blockchain technology presents unprecedented legal and practical challenges to long-standing regulatory frameworks. Innovative work on this technology engages faculty, students, and researchers at our Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Note it now bears the name of Michael R. Klein LL.M. ’67, whose transformative gift will ensure the center’s leadership in research, scholarship and policy related to the digital universe.

The past and future of criminal punishment have long occupied scholars and students at HLS; this moment marks a critical juncture. An important new book predicts that the death penalty is now “in a terminal decline.” HLS Professor Carol Steiker ’86 and her brother, Jordan Steiker ’88, law professor at the University of Texas, have each devoted their careers to death penalty research and advocacy. They offer striking findings and pathbreaking arguments here in an interview.

As HLS remembers Professor Emeritus Victor Brudney, who passed away in April, we salute this towering and inspiring teacher and scholar with a panel discussion at the school on the future, inspired by his searching inquiry into fundamental issues of fairness, equality, and freedom in the worlds of corporate law and finance.

We stand at a crossroads in the nation and in the world. And we stand on the brink of 2017, when we will mark the 200th anniversary of our school’s founding. In the upcoming bicentennial year, look for lively programs on campus, online, and at alumni gatherings around the world—opportunities for alumni, faculty, students, and staff to engage with critical challenges for legal education, for the profession, and for justice worldwide and to envision the next century of legal initiative and leadership. As Albert Einstein once said, imagination is “the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Let’s imagine the future together!