By David Walsh
Deepak Gupta, a Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School and founding principal of Gupta Wessler PLLC, is a modern-day David. His Goliath? The corporate appellate bar. HPLA and the Harvard People’s Parity Project joined Gupta for lunch last week, where we talked about equity of representation at the appellate level.
The corporate appellate bar, comprised of former Solicitors General, Supreme Court clerks, and graduates of elite law schools, is an unprecedented accumulation of legal talent. Corporations facing antitrust, mass tort, and securities suits have appellate SEAL teams ready to mobilize before trial verdicts are even announced. On the plaintiffs’ side, appellate representation doesn’t match up. For those concerned with civil justice and corporate accountability, this imbalance is a serious problem. Read more
Before coming to law school, I was only vaguely aware of what lawyers did other than become politicians. One tangible example in my mind was private injury law. I had seen billboards for attorneys looking for clients who had gotten into car accidents: “Hit by a big rig? Call me” types of ads. I wasn’t particularly drawn to these sorts of ads, but I knew about them.
In the broader sense, I was also aware of plenty of large-scale litigation in the country. Lawsuits against big pharma, RoundUp, etc. Torts. And never, prior to law school, did I think that I would want to defend the companies who were being sued in these types of litigation. Yet this is exactly the path that is presented and slowly normalized to entering law school students. Read more
By Steven Becker
It wasn’t until I started at HLS that I realized plaintiffs’ law was kind of an unusual path. Granted, I came into law school with a pretty underdeveloped conception of the different legal careers that people pursued—partly because I already knew about the path I wanted to go down, and that was enough for me. But from my near-layperson perspective, it seemed logical to assume that at least, I don’t know, maybe a quarter of students would pursue careers in plaintiff-side civil litigation (“After all,” I thought innocently, “law is, of course, one half criminal and one half civil, of which half is plaintiff and half is defense, right? So, naturally, 50% * 50% = 25%”). It didn’t take long for me to realize how wrong that was. It’s taken longer to accept the bitter reality that, no, not only is plaintiff’s law not a commonly pursued career path, but it’s not even a commonly known career path at a place like HLS.
On this day 10 years ago, lawyers Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. and Joseph M. Sellers each stood behind the lectern to argue the case Wal-Mart v. Dukes before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Betty Dukes brought a class action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that Wal-Mart had given its local managers excessive discretion over pay and promotions, which had been exercised disproportionately in favor of men. A federal district court certified Dukes’s class, which included approximately 1.5 million women, including all those who presently worked or had previously worked at a Wal-Mart store since 1998. Read more
By Fred Messner
We all know the numbers. For decades, survey after survey has shown that while large majorities of incoming law students express interest in public-interest careers, only tiny cohorts of graduating JDs actually follow through on those salutary aspirations. As the narrative goes, students enter as fresh-faced idealists and leave as hired guns. The dropoff is particularly stark at Harvard Law School. In perhaps the most famous account of “public interest drift,” an early 1990s study recorded 70% of incoming HLS students as reporting a preference to work for the common good. By their third year, a scant 2% still planned to take a public-interest job.