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Greetings from Cambridge!

I write with New Year’s regards and news from Harvard Law School as 2015 gets under way. I am proud to report that our students and faculty are involved in a wide array of endeavors — through innovative scholarship, lawyering, and civic engagement — to promote justice locally, nationally, and globally.

Important Clinical Achievements

The Law School’s 26 clinics are providing critically needed legal representation and advancing the rights of underserved populations locally and around the globe — while offering students extraordinary opportunities to develop practical legal skills. Highlights this year include:

  • The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic won a landmark asylum case in the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals involving persecution in Guatemala, in which the court found that members of the Mayan community were targeted by government forces and others because of their Mayan identity.
  • Students in our Education Law Clinic successfully lobbied the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a law that fosters safe and supportive environments for all students, including those who have endured traumatic experiences — so all can learn and succeed. This important work has been led by Clinical Director Susan Cole and also the terrific Mike Gregory ’04, who has just been promoted from assistant clinical professor to clinical professor of law.
  • The Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic, along with other veterans’ advocacy programs at HLS, expanded its reach with the help of a $1 million grant from the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust. The grant supports the clinic’s work in a number of practice areas. In just two years, more than 30 HLS students have enrolled in the clinic and represented more than 100 clients in the areas of federal and state veterans’ benefits, discharge upgrades, and estate-planning matters. Our students, under the leadership of Clinical Professor Dan Nagin, have secured numerous victories for military veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and in veteran-related federal and state agencies, and assisted many more vets in companion programs at the Legal Services Center in such areas as combating predatory student lending, foreclosure defense, family law, and tax.
  • A four-year investigation by the International Human Rights Clinic found that the Myanmar military committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005-2006. The clinic garnered international attention with its detailed report that the perpetrators were still serving at the highest levels of the country’s government.

Convening Leaders to Define the Future

As in years past, this year we have taken advantage of the Law School’s extraordinary convening power to bring leaders together to explore issues of law and justice, and to lead the search for solutions to a broad variety of complex problems. Notable highlights include:

  • We enlarged our world-class Program on the Legal Profession — now renamed the Center on the Legal Profession. The CLP has launched The Practice, a digital magazine highlighting the most critical topics and issues facing the global legal profession. As the leading think tank conducting empirical research on the global profession, the Center is currently studying global pro bono, changes in the legal profession in India, Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and new models for delivering legal services to low-income individuals.
  • We marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with a vigorous panel discussion featuring Professors Randall Kennedy, Kenneth Mack ’91, Joseph Singer ’81, and Mark Tushnet, who explored historical struggles and ongoing legal and societal issues of discrimination and enforcement challenges.
  • The Human Rights Program celebrated its 30th anniversary with a conference anchored by a dynamic address from former Legal Adviser of the State Department and former Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh ’80.
  • HLS launched a new collaboration with UCLA School of Law with the inaugural UCLA-Harvard Food Law and Policy Conference. The schools hosted the fall 2014 conference in Los Angeles, and are planning this year’s conference in Cambridge. Annual conferences will address access, safety, health, and security of food supplies, affected by trade, health and safety regulations, and other legal resources.

Food law and policy are the focus of the Food Law Lab here and also the Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Harvard Food Law Society, and the Harvard Law School Mississippi Delta Project. These initiatives engage students in efforts to promote access to healthy produce, opportunities for small farmers, improved food safety, and analysis of laws relevant to the surge in and treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Inspired by these efforts, I issued a “Deans’ Food System Challenge” to students across the entire University to spur development of fresh ideas for solving complex problems facing our food system. I am delighted to be joined by Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the University’s Innovation Lab, on whose board I sit. The challenge invites student across the University to form interdisciplinary teams and develop projects that address one of four topics: food production, distribution and markets, improving diet, and reducing food waste. With mentors and a distinguished panel of judges helping the students, finalists will be announced in April, and we eagerly anticipate terrific and imaginative work.

Dozens of intriguing and memorable speakers have participated in exciting and informative HLS events in recent months. We were especially honored to welcome U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ’60 to campus for the Inaugural Justice Antonin Scalia Lecture, given in the fall by Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer ’64 and Elena Kagan ’86; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; music industry executive Clive Davis ’56; Charles Munger ’48, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and chairman of Daily Journal Corporation; U.S. Senators John Tester of Montana and Jack Reed ’82 of Rhode Island; former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine; former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman ’69 of California; marriage equality advocate Mary Bonauto; Professor Anita Hill; the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama; U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald; former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly ’65; and Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, who was interviewed via Google Chat by Professor Larry Lessig.

These visitors have engaged our community on topics such as governing in a polarized America, the changing entertainment marketplace, expanding public health in Africa, learning from diplomatic shuttle diplomacy, improving services at the Veterans Administration, balancing privacy and security, and addressing continuing civil rights challenges in the United States. And a standing-room-only crowd attended the talk by the incomparable and indefatigable Benjamin B. Ferencz ’43, who reflected on his role as prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials and his work promoting the creation of an International Criminal Court. What an honor it was to present Ben with Harvard Law School’s Medal of Freedom this past fall!

Spring events will focus on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, international law practice, gun policy, law and business in Asia, restorative justice, expanding access to higher education, consumer protection, race and justice, law and entrepreneurship, women and the law, and other important subjects. And in April, an international conference will celebrate Professor Duncan Kennedy’s career and creative scholarly contributions and devoted mentoring of students.

Addressing Persistent Harms of Racial Injustice

In the wake of the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, our students, faculty, and staff took the initiative to launch new efforts to address vexing issues of race and injustice in the criminal justice system. Law students took the lead in organizing vigils and demonstrations, and the Law School has supported a series of continuing events to draw upon the special expertise of lawyers in reducing risk of erroneous harms and building trust between law enforcement personnel and members of communities most affected. The persistence of harms and mistrust 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prompts many here to expand and deepen research and teaching exploring criminal justice and race relations, and to focus on patterns of unconscious bias throughout society, including at the Law School.

2017: “Save the Year!”

You have heard of “save the date”; I invite you to “save the year” as we begin to prepare for the 200th anniversary of Harvard Law School. Plans for our bicentennial are already taking shape, and I look forward to inviting you to join us for activities during 2017, when we will celebrate two remarkable centuries of leadership and innovation in the advancement of justice. We will look back with pride at our accomplishments and service, but we will also reflect on missed opportunities and focus on how to learn and lead — and innovate — in our third century. I hope you will take part in those important conversations, and I invite you to stay tuned for further announcements over the coming year.

Today, HLS is bursting with collaboration and innovation as students and faculty draw upon economics, psychology, statistics, and other disciplines to expand knowledge and understanding and approaches to justice. Law is a team pursuit; in our clinics, student organizations, research centers, and cross-University classes, we equip new lawyers to solve problems in teams far more than during Harvard Law School’s earlier years. As we prepare to mark those first two centuries and define new directions for our third, I hope you will share your ideas and insights with us from across all generations. Please join us in Cambridge in 2017 — and join the energy and excitement sparked when networks of HLS teammates come together!

With best wishes for a year of innovation, ideas, and teamwork!

Warm regards,

Martha Minow signature



Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor