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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

$400 Million for Law

September-October 2003

It rained on the Harvard Law School (HLS) rainmakers gathered in Langdell Hall for dinner on Friday, June 13, and in a heated tent on Holmes Field the next day. But no matter: the school's $400-million "Setting the Standard" capital campaign launched its five-year public phase robustly. At the Saturday luncheon, chairman Finn M.W. Caspersen, LL.B. '66, announced gifts and pledges in hand totaling $170.1 million, nearly 43 percent of the sum sought—a goal he promptly urged the donors and volunteers on hand to exceed.

Several themes sounded during the kickoff weekend. Where the previous campaign, begun exactly a dozen years earlier, sought $150 million, and raised $183 million, to "rebuild some of the foundations of the school—the refurbishing of the library, the building of Hauser Hall, additional faculty chairs...and so on," according to John F. Cogan Jr. '49, J.D. '52, this effort is forward-looking (see the chart below for specific goals). In an interview published in the campaign newsletter, he cited the HLS strategic plan (see "The Law School Looks Ahead," September-October 2001, page 64), with its emphasis on faculty-research support, extensive new facilities, and internationalization. Indeed, Cogan embodies part of the school's new ambitions: he co-chairs the campaign's international committee, soliciting 4,000-plus alumni situated outside the United States. Underscoring the school's global scope, the impatiens plants set on each table Saturday were festooned with little flags representing the 11 different nationalities of the 300 or so participants in the kickoff events.

Another theme was the beginning of a new campus era, as Robert C. Clark's 14-year deanship was nearing its end June 30 and his successor, Elena Kagan, prepared to assume leadership of both the school and the campaign (see "Legacy at Law," March-April, page 62, and "At the HLS Helm," July-August, page 66). In his dinner remarks, beyond thanking Clark, President Lawrence H. Summers made a point of reflecting on both the school—"I applaud its ambitions for the future," given the role of law as a source of reason, order, fairness, opportunity, and freedom in the world—and on his appointee. Kagan, J.D. '86, is "a revered and popular teacher," he said, and "a truly important legal scholar."

Chart by Steve Anderson

For her part, the new dean confessed that "pretty much from the first day" of her legal studies 20 years ago this fall, "I fell in love with this place" for the "mind-bending" interaction of its faculty and students. Today's students, she said, "are getting an education as rigorous as it is engaging, as intellectually stimulating as it is professionally grounded."

At the luncheon, Clark did the heavy lifting in spelling out the campaign goals—appropriately so, since he shepherded the strategic plan that undergirds them. During the planning and "quiet" phase of solicitation, Clark had spoken repeatedly of legal scholarship—the academic priorities—and of education for the lawyering profession. The strategic plan emphasizes interaction between students and professors; interdisciplinary research; and internationalization of the student body, of scholarship, and of faculty expertise and experience. Very similar themes have been sounded University-wide since Summers took office in mid 2001.

Clark rephrased those priorities in the terms now used in the campaign case statement, unfolding what he called "megathemes—to improve the student experience at Harvard Law School so we can continue to get the best and brightest from around the world, and to enhance the academic programs" to sustain excellence and keep up with the needs of a changing world.

Under the "student experience" priorities, Clark listed "feedback, facilities, and financial aid." The first relates to the school's new, smaller, first-year sections (80 students each, down from 140) and further efforts to enrich the learning of each of these cohorts, plus evaluation of written work during the year (instead of sole reliance on exams), and other measures—all supported by 15 new endowed faculty positions. Facilities priorities include what Clark called "terrible" dorms and "awful" meeting space for student organizations. And the financial-aid want list extends to better grants for J.D. students (average law-school debt exceeded $74,000 among the three-quarters of 2001 graduates with loans); endowment funding for the low-income protection plan (for graduates who pursue legal-services or public employment); and funding for LL.M. and S.J.D. graduate students (most of whom live abroad and are ineligible for federally subsidized loans).

The academic priorities Clark summarized as "internationalization, interdisciplinary studies, connections to practice, and better study and use of information technology." That means funding for scholarship by faculty members and nearly 20 school-affiliated research centers; connections to other Harvard schools (including joint degree programs); further focus on understanding the profession and on recruiting visiting and junior faculty members from practice; and exploring technology as a way to extend education to lawyers and scholars worldwide.

 

Kagan energetically embraced all elements of the plan and campaign, and emphasized that HLS is "a tremendously strong institution...on every metric"—faculty, students, facilities, and finances—as a result of Clark's service. In a freewheeling breakfast discussion with the kickoff crowd, she also stressed that "The law school market, if you will, is growing stronger and more competitive," leaving no room for complacency, given the institutional mission "to promote justice, to promote the rule of law, and thereby to promote human welfare."

Accordingly, she served notice that she intends to expand the school's already ambitious agenda. One priority is rethinking "the actual curriculum and pedagogy of the law school." Kagan envisions determining whether required first-year courses, which she said had remained unchanged from 1870, are still appropriate, and exploring whether an optional course in analytical methods (economics, statistic, and so on) might properly be required. She also labeled "a travesty" the fact that 70 percent of law students graduate without coursework or experience in international or comparative material. And in response to a question, she acknowledged large gaps in faculty expertise in such important areas as environmental and health law—immediate priorities for recruiting, along with continuing efforts to bring in international-law specialists.

A second goal is to "bind this community closer together." In the 1980s, she said, "The law school was really engaged in civil war of a kind" over ideological questions. Thereafter, she said, faculty members calmed the waters by retreating to their offices and closing their doors. Now, she hoped, it was time for faculty, students, staff, and alumni to "emerge" and function collaboratively.

How and where HLS might do so will be critical issues shaping its future. The $100 million the campaign seeks for infrastructure represents a large down payment on a long-term master plan calling for both renovation and 260,000 square feet of new offices, residential space, and other facilities—30 percent growth from the current campus of 864,000 square feet. Much needs to be done to secure regulatory permission to proceed, so HLS is pursuing discussions with Cambridge neighbors concerning its intended use of the northwestern corner of campus along Massachusetts Avenue and Everett Street (see "North Precinct Plans," March-April, page 64, where a site map appears).

In the more distant future looms the Allston question—a fundraising issue henceforth for all Harvard schools based in Cambridge. The campaign literature finesses the issue ("Whether or not the Law School ultimately moves across the Charles River...funds will be needed to improve the current HLS campus"). One can expect other University development officers to attend closely to prospective donors' queries about the matter and reactions to Harvard's unfolding plans.

The campaign also implicitly addresses the rationale for seeking twice the largest sum ever raised by a law school. Like Harvard Business School, which prepared a sort of financial statement for its own $500-million fundraising (see "Capitalism Campaign," November-December 2002, page 55), an appendix to the "Setting the Standard" case statement makes a limited bow toward disclosure of HLS's finances. Prospective donors can review the size of the endowment ($840 million in mid 2002); the school's dependence on tuition and fees (in part because it lacks operations like the business school's publishing and executive-education arms); and its relatively paltry grant aid to scholarship students (an average of $13,213 per recipient in the past academic year).

 

In a confessedly "wistful" mood, Clark told the dinner guests that cleaning out his office had reminded him of the scholarly accomplishments of his faculty colleagues in fields from public administration and tort reform to overhauling corporate governance ("operationalizing ethics, if you will")—work that, he said, "generations from now, serious scholars will still be studying." He was further reminded of HLS graduates' leadership in government and public life (five of nine Supreme Court justices, 10 Senators, 12 U.S. Representatives, governors, President Bush's top lawyer, and the head of the American Civil Liberties Union—see page 94), in corporate management, in preeminent law firms, in academia, and in the profession "from Brussels to Beijing."

Given students and scholars with such diverse interests and beliefs, it should not come as a surprise that the law school is "about people who have ideas that bite, and pinch, and conflict, and bump into each other," as Gottlieb professor of law Elizabeth Warren puts it in the campaign case statement. "Harvard is noisy, and of course, that's how it should be."

Some of that noise was on display in the substantive panels that drew on alumni and faculty expertise Saturday morning and afternoon. A plenary session on "Freedom v. Security: Striking the Right Balance," moderated by Bromley professor of law Arthur R. Miller, found wide agreement that the USA PATRIOT Act, adopted in the aftermath of September 11, had been poorly drafted and there should be serious concerns over what panelists called "suppression of discussion" and "enforced orthodoxy" spreading outward from the law to zealous extension of executive power and judicial consent to such actions. Shervin Majlessi, LL.M. '03, from Tehran, quieted the room by explaining that despite his own moderate beliefs, given his home in an "axis of evil" nation, "I didn't allow myself to enter some discussions here" over policy matters. "That is something everyone should worry about."

No one was silent in the heated discussion of "The U.S. Corporate Governance Crisis and Legal Reform: Too Little, Too Much, or Both?" moderated by professor of law John C. Coates IV. New York attorney general Eliot L. Spitzer, J.D. '84, who has led prosecution of Wall Street conflicts of interest over investment advice and investment banking business, clashed sharply with private corporate attorney Toby S. Myerson, J.D. '75, and Lena G. Goldberg, J.D. '78, general counsel of Fidelity Investments. While the latter panelists worried about the multibillion-dollar costs of complying with new regulations and the chilling effects on company directors and management (what Myerson called "a climate of overreaction"), Spitzer compared those costs to the trillions lost in the stock-market bubble and its collapse, and excoriated directors and managers for faulty oversight and fraud. But echoing the earlier discussion of national security and civil liberties, the panelists found problems in the hasty and inexpert drafting and implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation that established the new ground rules for corporate governance.

In that sense, the day's substantive discussions seemed to reflect well the law school's daily processes and product. "All over the globe, our graduates are making laws, interpreting laws, and shaping them," Clark had told the dinner guests in his concluding remarks. "By doing so, they contribute to freedom and democracy, they contribute to both economic growth and social justice...and these consequences are profoundly good for the larger society in which we live." To that end, he hoped, support would be forthcoming from the assembled graduates for HLS's education and research, the impact of which "is great and is basically good."