Post Date: April 25, 2006
The following article was published in the April issue of Harvard Law Today.
Harvard blogged at www.law.harvard.edu/admissions/jd/blog
The HLS prom, a chili cook-off, Larry Tribe reflecting on Barack Obama, a parody of “I Will Survive” and one student’s account of winter term doing Hurricane Katrina relief. It doesn’t sound like your typical J.D. admissions brochure, but these are some recent highlights from a project to tell prospective students about Harvard Law: the J.D. admissions blog.
Toby Stock ’01 started the blog when he became assistant dean for admissions last year. Stock wanted to direct applicants’ attention to campus events that offered some of the most interesting—and revealing—insights into the school. “It helped me to personalize the process a bit and counter misconceptions about the school,” he said. The blog, a Web page that Stock updates several times a week, offers snapshots of different sides of HLS. Some postings explain steps of the admissions process, like the meaning of a “hold” designation. Others offer podcasts—audio clips in which Stock interviews students, faculty, alumni and administrators. Other postings give his impressions of campus events, classes or conversations with students.
With its casual tone, the blog shows prospective students a more realistic view of the school, but Stock isn’t concerned about showing applicants too much under the hood.
“I think the last thing Harvard Law School needs to worry about is appearing too casual,” he said. “HLS [is often miscast as] stodgy, conservative and corporate. A blog is the opposite of that.”
Highlights from the J.D. admissions podcasts
Professor Alan Dershowitz on mixing careers as an academic and a practicing attorney:
“My first few years [of teaching], I just wrote law review articles with long, long footnotes. And then somebody I grew up with in Brooklyn got indicted for murder and was facing the death penalty. And he couldn’t afford a real lawyer, so he went with a professor. And I went into court, and I won the case. And once I tasted it, I couldn’t get enough.”
Mitch Webber ’06 on being a research assistant for Professor Dershowitz:
“I can’t imagine a better job. ... He works us very hard. He’s extremely demanding—he doesn’t know he’s demanding, but he doesn’t sleep, so he assumes we shouldn’t either. He’s always calling with new ideas, but he’s extremely generous. ... It’s been a lot of fun.”
Jessica Budnitz ’01, administrative director of HLS’s Child Advocacy Program, on students’ activities:
“We have a student who is working at the district attorney’s office in the child abuse and family unit. ... We’re placing [students] with state legislators. ... We’re placing students in the Department of Social Services. ... The idea of the program is that you’ll work on a great, interesting project with a partner organization, but you’ll also come back to the classroom and share and learn from the other students.”
Professor Einer Elhauge ’86 on the benefits for the new Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics of being at Harvard University:
“It’s one undeniable advantage we have at Harvard. There’s an embarrassment of riches [at the University]—three or four health policy institutes and programs [and] a number of different programs on ethics about the profession and about health law, with the top people in the nation. … I think there’s going to be a huge synergy from that kind of cross-fertilization.”Miriam Seifter ‘07, president of the Environmental Law Society and HLS’s first Environmental Law Fellow on her organization’s work:
“[The Environmental Law Society brings] together environmentally interested students. We take trips, we go on hikes, we go apple picking. Actually, last night we had a student-to-student career advising night where we just got everyone together and had food and drinks and talked about where people had worked in previous summers.”
Topics on the J.D. admissions blog draw from across the campus
Applicants are often curious about how to get clerkships after graduation. In a series of Web posts, Stock spoke with alumni and HLS advisers about the process. George Hicks ’05, a clerk on the D.C. Circuit Court, said: “The people at the HLS career services office have the otherwise-madcap clerkship application process down to an exact science. All you have to do is abide by their timetable and send them your application materials and your list of judges, and they will take care of it from there.” The blog also includes Stock’s interview with Kirsten Solberg from the Office of Career Services about logistics, the role of politics and the value of the experience.
Project on Wrongful Convictions
Now in its second year, HLS’s Project on Wrongful Convictions is a student organization that focuses on initiatives like using DNA evidence to evaluate innocence claims of prisoners. Stock got an inside look at the program by interviewing several of its student leaders, who discussed the founding of the project, various problems with the criminal justice system and examples of cases.
Assistant Professor Adriaan Lanni, Professor Charles Nesson ’63 and more than 100 students and other members of the HLS community devoted an evening in March to an unconventional public service activity—playing poker. The annual charity tournament raised money for the Summer Public Interest Funding program. Stock participated, though only briefly, and posted an account on the blog: “I think of myself as a pretty good amateur poker player. … Unfortunately, last night I managed to hold on only through approximately 25 minutes of play. ... But I had this consolation: It was for a good cause!”