Randall Kennedy When entering a new environment, we always face the question of how willing we should be to allow our beliefs and ideals to change. To help us answer just that, we asked Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, to share his views on just how law school can — or should — change you. Interview conducted and condensed by Robert Mahari.
Q. How have you seen students change during their time at HLS?
A. Education is change. On day one, students might view a particular legal problem with no real knowledge as to how it might be solved. Over three years they learn how a problem might be solved through application of doctrines, legislation and so on. Apart from gaining substantive knowledge, students develop certain habits, such as the sober second look, and the idea of looking at things from another person’s point of view — an adversary’s point of view.
Q. How do you explain the observation that many incoming students’ stated ambition is to drive positive change, yet most students leave HLS to practice at large firms?
A. Over the years I have heard a recurrent complaint: Students come to law school wanting to engage in social change, and the law school then undermines these ambitions. Basically, the complaint is that law school has a corrosive effect; people come in wanting to be Ralph Nader yet leave as complacent tools for whoever is willing to pay them the most. I’m skeptical of that complaint.
I question the depth of the commitment of complainants who renounce their aspirations while pointing an accusing finger at their surroundings. I’ve known many people who entered law school with idealistic intentions and finished law school with those idealistic intentions still very much in place, in fact, reinforced. One of the great things about HLS is that it is a big place that can help people realize their ambitions with the understanding that those ambitions do vary dramatically.
I know that going to a firm is often portrayed as some sort of capitulation, as if people who […]