Dean Elena Kagan

From the Dean

A Call to Public Service

One of my highest priorities as dean is to instill in all Harvard Law students a genuine enthusiasm for public service. Public service should not be a specialized career track. As so many Harvard Law alumni know, it should be an integral and vital part of every lawyer's life.

Law is inextricably connected with how society functions. Lawyers hold a sacred public trust, and all of us have an obligation to society, whether we work for major Wall Street law firms or small nonprofit clinics. Surely, those of us fortunate enough to have received a Harvard legal education have a responsibility to give back to our communities in some way.

Robert Kennedy once said that even the smallest acts of public service represent a "tiny ripple of hope," and that those ripples can eventually "build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." I want today's law students--whether liberal or conservative or anything else under the sun--to understand and believe that message. I want them to realize that they can use the law to advance justice and improve lives.

A commitment to public service lies at the core of Harvard Law School's mission and at the center of its invitation to each generation of students to make a mark on the world. In this issue of the Bulletin, you will read about what the school is doing to strengthen this commitment, as well as about how some graduates of the school are demonstrating this commitment in their daily lives.

Our Pro Bono Program is now in its third year, which means that the class of students graduating this spring will be the first to perform pro bono service as a requirement for graduation. We have merged this program with our outstanding Office of Public Interest Advising in order to offer students "one-stop shopping" as they consider public service opportunities.

You also will read about students making a difference around the world, from Rwanda to Haiti, through the school's extraordinary Human Rights Program. Thanks in large part to student initiative, the program has greatly expanded its clinical offerings.

Politics and government are perhaps the most direct ways to serve society on a large scale, and in this issue we feature one of the law school's more prominent alumni of late: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer '84. His influential work to regulate financial markets is a classic example of using law as a tool of institutional reform.

Finally, at a time when so many Americans are selflessly risking everything to serve their country, it is important to recognize the Harvard lawyers who are making contributions in the military services. This group is represented here in an essay dispatched from Iraq by Nick Brown '02, who is on a tour of duty as a member of the Army JAG Corps.

While one issue of the Bulletin cannot give more than a few examples of public service, I hope you find this mix of stories informative and engaging. I believe the people featured here--our students, faculty and alumni--capture the ethos of public service at Harvard Law School today.

Dean Elena Kagan '86


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