David Macauley ‘21 spent his 3L year at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, receiving both a Harvard J.D. and a Cambridge LL.M. through the Harvard Law School and University of Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program. We spoke with David to ask him a few questions about his experience there, and the role it has played in his career path and aspirations.
Tell us a little bit about yourself — your background and interest in the field of law.
I’m originally from Canada, and completed my undergrad at the University of Victoria. As a history and political science student, the law cropped up in really interesting ways: the use of Indigenous oral history in establishing legal claims, or the ways in which political processes have shaped and been shaped by different understandings of constitutionalism, as examples.
My interest in law was further piqued when I interned at the legislature in my home province, and eventually worked for a short time in government as a policy analyst. The lawyers I worked alongside took a shared set of skills and applied them to innumerable sets of problems. A career in law seemed like a way to keep learning, and that was exciting.
Why did you decide to go to Cambridge for the joint J.D./LL.M.?
I was already interested in the joint degree program at the time I applied to HLS — I even asked about it in my interview. I had the idea of possibly going into academia in the future, in which case a Cambridge LL.M. would be useful by giving me broader exposure to the parliamentary system and to EU law. But I also thought it would be a fun experience: getting to study law in another country, with another faculty, and with opportunities to travel. Of course, Cambridge itself was the greatest attraction: I was very excited to study at a place with such profound influence on the academic and non-academic world, and to take part in its many traditions. Although there is certainly a tradeoff — in not sharing the 3L year with my HLS cohort and graduating slightly later — I thought the benefits were well worth it.
Tell us about the academics at Cambridge—how were they different from HLS?
The courses were quite a bit more self-directed than those at Harvard. Students select four courses or “papers” for the year, which meet for two hours each week during the first two terms (plus some workshops and discussion), while the third term is primarily for studying and writing exams. As a result, there’s less class time, and more time for reading and reflection.
Each paper has a very long reading list, which would be nearly impossible to read in its entirety. However, students can pick particular areas of interest and focus their reading and preparation; and the exams provide for a lot of latitude to focus on those interests. The readings tended to draw more heavily on secondary literature rather than case law, and in that way resembled my undergraduate studies in history and political science. There was greater focus on historical development, theory, and policy, rather than legal doctrine. For me, this was a good counterpoint to my studies at HLS.
Some of my papers were lecture-based (for instance, Competition Law, and Economics of Law and Regulation) while others were more like an HLS seminar and focused on discussion (Comparative Family Law and Policy, and Legislation). The diversity of the LL.M. students produced rich discussion and comparisons of different legal systems. Many of my peers entered the LL.M. from practice or clerkships, or were top law students in their home countries, which was immensely humbling and educational.
What about the social and residential aspects of being at Cambridge?
A great feature of Cambridge’s college system is that LL.M. students have a community both in the Faculty of Law and in their respective college.
In the Faculty, one of the best aspects of the LL.M. program is the other students. We would regularly go for lunch after class at one of the nearby colleges’ dining halls, and swap perspectives on the day’s materials. In addition, there were many guest speakers and events at the Faculty itself, and students would often invite other LL.M.s for formal dinners at their college. Formal dinners make for a particularly fun evening: you typically wear your academic robes, and feast on several courses of food and wine in candlelight.
I was a member of Wolfson College, which is primarily composed of post-graduate students. Because each college is made up of students in different programs, it made for great conversation in the dining hall — for instance, I had a particularly memorable discussion with a Dead Sea Scrolls expert visiting from Israel. I also joined the rowing club at my college, which was a great way to exercise and ensured I always had company for visits to the pub.
Students in this program return to this Cambridge for a final semester at HLS. What has that been like?
I had been excited to return to Cambridge, MA for my final semester, but after the shift to remote learning due to the pandemic, it made more sense for me to attend from my hometown in Canada. Although it has been a strange semester, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been fun to tap into some of the theoretical and comparative perspectives I developed at Cambridge, while applying them to the facts of individual cases and reengaging with the Socratic method.
What’s next for you?
I will be in Canada, clerking at the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. Before I can write a Canadian bar exam, I will have to write a number of exams in Canadian law. Graduating off-cycle has the side benefit of allowing me to prepare for those exams before I begin my clerkship.
How has your time at Cambridge been influential?
The LL.M. nicely tied together my experience at HLS with my undergraduate studies and pre-law school work experience. While the substance of the classes drew on legal principles analogous to those in the US, it was also situated in a Westminster parliamentary system, which I had studied and worked in before law school. In addition, several of my Cambridge professors were involved in law reform and policymaking, and another was a former Member of Parliament (with many stories that led to uproarious laughter). Altogether, it reignited my interest in public law and policy, and made me far more likely to look to how other jurisdictions have confronted shared challenges, many of which are endemic to democratic government and the rule of law. In addition, I feel very lucky to have met the people I did during the LL.M., and hope to continue learning from them in the future.