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In the Driver’s Seat: The changing role of the general counsel

At the airport in New York one day last year, Alex Dimitrief ’85 was on a call regarding a problem that his company, faced in China. When his plane landed in London, he took a call on a different matter in Vietnam. And late that night, when he arrived in Lagos, he fielded yet another call, dealing with an issue back in the U.S. “It was an incredibly complicated day,” recalls Dimitrief, vice president and general counsel of GE Energy. And it illustrates the emerging role of today’s global general counsel.

Closing the Deal: Grads and the Mortgage Settlement

On Feb. 9, following 17 months of intense negotiations, numerous late-night conference calls and not a few fractious meetings where all seemed hopeless, five of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders agreed to a historic $25 billion settlement that will provide financial relief to more than a million homeowners who were victims of improper foreclosures or other mortgage servicing abuses.

The Way We Live Now: A day in the life

Since January, when the Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing Building opened its doors, it’s become Harvard Law School’s hub. Its state-of-the-art learning and living spaces range from the lofty to the intimate. This photo essay captures a glimpse of the activity, the quiet, the light—from dawn to dusk.

Elected vs. Appointed?

Today, about 90 percent of state judges must run for office, and the elections have become increasingly expensive and nasty. Assistant Professor Jed Handelsman Shugerman provides historical perspective on judicial elections and other methods of judicial selection in his new book, “The People’s Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America” (Harvard, 2012).

The Balancing Act

In 1932, in a Philadelphia courtroom, a defense attorney representing a man accused of murder cross-examined a police officer. There was nothing unusual about this scene, except that the defense attorney, Raymond Pace Alexander ’23, was black, and the officer he was aggressively questioning was white. This scene is one of many dramatic moments in the new book by HLS Professor Kenneth Mack ’91, “Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer.”

‘A Harmonious System of Mutual Frustration’

As Barack Obama ’91 was making criticism of Bush administration policies on terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency in 2008, Jack Goldsmith offered a prediction: The next president, even if it were Obama, would not undo those policies. One of the key and underappreciated reasons, he wrote in a spring 2008 magazine article, was that “many controversial Bush administration policies have already been revised to satisfy congressional and judicial critics.”
Wasserstein Hall at Harvard Law School

Students Navigating the Worlds of Law and Business

For students interested in the confluence of business and law, there is one group on campus that has taken the lead in connecting them with business figures for career advice. The Harvard Association for Law and Business has grown from an organization of 50 to one of more than 700 members—drawn by a robust weekly speaker series as well as other events that promote networking and mentoring, among other benefits.

Inside HLS

  • photo of Elizabeth Grosso ’13, Ryan Blodgett ’12 and Jeff Monhait ’12

    An Appealing Design

    Last year, after Rory Van Loo ’07 left the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau implementation team to become assistant director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program, he asked his former colleagues how HLS students might assist the new agency. It had been created by Congress in 2010 largely thanks to the vision of HLS Professor Elizabeth Warren, and its mission included examining certain consumer financial services companies and large banks and credit unions. But the legislation creating it did not establish an appeals process for examining findings.

  • Josh Stein, David Barron and Archon Fung speaking with students

    Page Turners: Reading Groups Cover New Ground

    Last summer, Professor Robert Mnookin ’68, found himself wanting to know more about U.S.-Cuba relations. “I had an idea that there was a very interesting set of questions related to when, how and whether the two countries would ever negotiate a reconciliation,” he says. He decided to investigate by teaching a reading group—a small, 1-credit class, where 2Ls and 3Ls are able to dig deeply into a given topic in a way that provokes extended discussion among the group. “I am not an expert on Cuba; I’m an expert on negotiation, and what a reading group allowed me to do is learn with the students about an area I didn’t know much about,” he says.

  • Faculty Viewpoints: After Citizens United

    The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed unlimited political expenditures by corporations and unions, which have been used to help fund campaign commercials that have flooded the airwaves during this election season. In recent writings, several Harvard Law faculty members have explored how Citizens United affects a spectrum of stakeholders, including shareholders, corporations, unions and voters.

  • A Career of ‘Reflective Equilibrium’: Celebrating Frank Michelman

    In the mid-1990s, Dennis Davis, then a judge of the High Court of Cape Town, sought out HLS Professor Frank Michelman ’60 to advise South African officials on constitutional interpretation. “From that moment on, he became a resource person for us. We regard him as one of ours,” said Davis. “It’s a very, very deep relationship.”

Alumni News and Notemakers

  • After Death Camps, a Force for Life

    Human rights lawyer Thomas Buergenthal LL.M. ’61 S.J.D. ’68, author of “A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy,” wrote that his experience as a Holocaust survivor made him a better judge. "I understood, not only intellectually but emotionally, what it is like to be victim of human rights violations. I could, after all, feel it in my bones."

  • Pay it forward

    As an HLS student in the early 1980s, James O’Neal dreamed of combining his passions for law and education to help at-risk kids in New York City. But times were grim for lawyers interested in public interest work. The Legal Services Corporation, the primary provider of legal aid to low-income people in the United States, was in dire straits after losing much of its federal funding, and there were few other opportunities—and little support—for public service jobs. For O’Neal and others like him, the prospects were dim.

  • Atticus Finch with a Laptop

    Robert McDuff ’80 remembers clearly what first got him thinking about civil rights and the profession of law. In 1968, when he was 12, he read a newspaper account of a murder trial in his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. The victim was an African-American shopkeeper and civil rights leader killed by the Klan after he let other other African-Americans use his store as a place to pay their poll taxes.