Nader Criticizes Harvard Dean

Ralph Nader was one of seven signees to an open letter asking Harvard Law Dean John Manning whether he intends to respond to a critical report. Caleb D. Schwartz photo

A group of prominent Harvard Law School alumni wrote an open letter Monday (April 23) to Law School Dean John F. Manning, asking whether Manning will respond to a recent student-published report criticizing the school’s commitment to public interest and its corporate focus, according to a report in The Harvard Crimson.

The four-part report on Harvard Law’s commitment to providing legal services to the public, Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission, was authored by third-year law student Pete Davis and others and published six months ago. It argues that Harvard Law must offer more guidance to students interested in public interest law rather than corporate practice.

Davis published his report in book form and hosted an event with faculty and students in February to discuss public interest at Harvard Law. Manning has been publicly silent on the report, and Monday’s open letter criticized him for it. It accused Manning of not offering “a considered written response to (the report’s) cogent points” and not having “a general meeting with the students for a public discussion.”

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Ralph Nader, a Harvard Law graduate and five-time presidential candidate, signed the letter along with six other alumni. In an interview with The Crimson on Tuesday (April 24), Nader praised Davis’s report. “It’s one of the few, rare critical reports of Harvard Law School — there have been about three in the past 30, 35 years — and it has well-documented criticisms,” Nader told the publication, “principally that Harvard Law School is an incubator for lawyers to go to work for corporate power, either directly or through corporate law firms.”

At an event in November, Nader urged Harvard Law students to protest what he called the school’s “corporate” focus. Speaking to The Crimson, he added that the school is failing in its mission to prepare leaders who improve society and further justice.

“To put it simply, the mission statement of Harvard Law School is in the preface to (Davis’s) book and it’s ‘to educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society,’’” Nader said. “And with a few luminous exceptions … they’re really educating leaders who contribute to the advancement of corporate power, its concentration, and its obstruction of justice against the American people and it’s not contributing leaders to the advancement of justice and well-being of society.”

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