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March 13, 2007

Following Another's Definition of Success Leads To.....

Luz Herrera, a 1999 graduate of Harvard Law School, writes an An Open Letter to HLS Students in The Record, dated March 8, 2007:

"I applied to Harvard Law School because it was supposed to prepare me to be a great advocate for people in my community. Instead, I found it difficult to speak up in classroom discussions that discouraged the acknowledgment that class, race, gender and political ideology were intrinsically tied to the creation and execution of the laws we studied.

Further, the career options presented by OPIA [Office of Public Interest Advising] and OCS [Office of Career Services] did not fit my vision of the lawyer I imagined I would be. At some point I hung up my idealism and agreed to take the easier path. When I graduated from HLS in 1999, I left to be a corporate attorney. That diploma and that starting salary meant that by all standards I had made it! The problem was that I was a success in everyone's eyes except my own."

Imagine a law school where upon acceptance you are asked, "what do you envision doing with your legal degree?" From that point on you are given guidance as to the educational path you should take through law school that makes the most sense for you so you can realize your vision, achieve your defintion of success.  It allows for you to change your mind, of course, but it doesn't just shove you, like every other calf, into the same cattle car on the train to the same dairy farm to be mindlessly milked.  This herd mentality is destructive and degrading.

But the pressure is so great on students to act as if they want what everyone thinks they should want, to bend to peer pressure as well as the law school's definition of success it's hard to stand your ground without seeming disgruntled, the outsider, the ingrate, the fool.  The curriculum and designated career path(s) is for the general herd and there is seldom room for individuality or unique ambitions.  And that is a travesty. 

I give tremendous credit to Attorney Herrera for having the courage and conviction she does and committing them to a public writing for the Harvard Law School community to read....and hopefully absorb in a meaningful way.


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