Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

“Town Meeting, A Summary"

I went to Dean-designate (I’m borrowing that term from the law school newspaper I’m thinking there’s probably something less clumsy, but for now, I’m cool with it) Kagan’s town meeting this past Thursday, and was surprised at how few people were there. Maybe 40. I thought it’d be packed. It makes me wonder how few people go to all of the events I’m not even a little bit interested in attending. Lectures by marginally-famous alums, career services’ “introduction to cufflinks” workshops, Bar-Bri propaganda festivals, free salad from the animal rights folks... is it different people who go to each of these events, who fall in the narrow band of people actually interested, or is there a core group of two dozen or so – the Committee on Just Showing Up – that just attend everything? Truth is I only went because I thought it would give me some material for this week’s column. Not because I had any questions I was dying to ask about the curriculum, the possible move to Allston, the JAG recruiting policy, or the maltreatment of LL.M.s and S.J.D.s. Microsoft Word’s spell check wants me to replace “LL.M.s” with “llamas.” That may not be such a bad idea. I like llamas. They’re friendly. And don’t raise their hands nearly as much in class as LL.M.s.

The town meeting was interesting. Kagan’s pretty quick. Not afraid to give direct and reasonable answers even to indirect and unreasonable questions. It seemed like most people there had some sort of very narrow agenda they were hoping to promote. “With the growing number of students at the law school who are pregnant with Siamese twins,” one girl didn’t ask, but might have, “are there any plans to include Siamese twin separation in the student health care plan, or build new seats in the classrooms to accommodate Siamese twins who come with their mothers to class and both want to plug into the Internet at the same time, but surf different sites?”

One student asked why we don’t ban law firms from recruiting on campus, since it disrupts the 2L fall semester pretty severely. Kagan responded that it might create some competitive disadvantage if firms could recruit elsewhere but not here, and that students actually do in some cases want these law firm jobs, and for valid reasons. Her answer was interrupted by a small skywriting airplane flying through Austin East classroom, writing “Dean Kagan’s Town Meeting, sponsored by your friends at Skadden” in chalk, and dropping those funky three-sided highlighters on the crowd. If I was the one responding to that question, I might have answered that we don’t ban classes, even though they disrupt the semester pretty severely. And we don’t ban exams, even though they totally mess up the holidays.

Another student asked if Kagan had any ideas for increasing school spirit, like giving away free t-shirts to 1Ls. I like that idea. Who wouldn’t like a free t-shirt? It wouldn’t even have to cost Harvard anything. It could be the 1L Harvard t-shirt, courtesy of Lexis, Westlaw, Fleet Bank, and Bar-Bri, covered with lots of fun logos and a coupon for $10 off the HLS yearbook if you act now, and $20 off your bar review class if you acted ten minutes ago.

Kagan had a great response to a couple of questions that I want to steal for my own use in class. “I’m not entirely familiar with that issue,” she would say, “but it sounds like you are, and if you write up a memo for me, I’d love to take a look.” I’m going to say that next time I get asked a question in Property. “I’m not entirely familiar with regulatory takings, Professor, but it sounds like you are....” And, since grading’s blind, what can they do?

One student asked why some professors seem to have lots of money to take students to lunch, and others never seem to have any. At first puzzled by the question, Kagan revealed that professors have fairly flexible accounts – they can take money from their “books” or “research assistants” fund and move it to their “student entertainment” fund, or vice versa, so professors really can choose how to prioritize, and whether or not we’re worth free meals or not. So, basically, whenever you hear that one of your classmates is doing work for your professor, it means he’s basically stealing food right out of your mouth. Damn law students.

One person wanted to know why we don’t have a campus-wide bonfire and burn down the Gropius dormitory complex. Or something like that. Kagan said we can’t because it’s an architectural landmark. That’s the problem with hiring famous architects and getting them really drunk. But she said we could perhaps gut the buildings, turn them into office space, and build some fancy dorms across the river. How low on the totem pole would you have to be to get an office in Gropius? “I’m sorry, I can’t meet with both of you at once. All three of us can’t fit in my office.” “Hand that to my secretary on the way out. She’s in the room at the end of the hall, the second stall from the left. Just knock if the latch is closed.”

900 words later, I’m glad I went to the town meeting. I got to participate in Kagan’s “thumbs up / thumbs down” vote on the FYL program, got to hear what’s on the minds of some fellow students, and got the opportunity to see who I should avoid if I ever have anything nice to say about the curriculum, JAG recruiting, the move to Allston, Gropius, stingy professors, and on-campus recruiting. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a memo to write in favor of creating a casebook-free campus. Dean Kagan’s not entirely familiar with the issue, but would love to hear my thoughts.