Harvard Law School: 200 Years, Countless Stories

Harvard Law School: 200 Years, Countless Stories
Video Transcript

Video Transcript:

DEAN JOHN MANNING, VOICEOVER: Harvard Law School has always been a radical experiment. Instead of apprenticing with practitioners, new lawyers would be trained in a school of Law, a school that would be national and even global, where every student would have a chance to demonstrate merit, to challenge and be challenged, to learn, to think, and to lead. For 200 years, Harvard Law School has shaped the way people think about law and has led nearly every advancement in how law is taught: the case method; the first year curriculum; the first student practice organization to provide free legal aid, which became the blueprint for clinical education.

Our alumni have served throughout government, the judiciary, and national and international law firms. They’ve led businesses, NGOs, and academia. They’ve pioneered public interest law and created international frameworks for engagement among nations. 200 years, countless stories. Here are just a few.


Christopher Columbus Langdell 1854
Rutherford B Hayes 1845
George Lewis Ruffin 1865
Eldon Revare James S.J.D. 1912
LL.M. Class, 1926
First class of women, 1953
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1866
Louis D. Brandeis 1877
Felix Frankfurter 1906
Henry Hart Jr. LL.M. ’30 S.J.D. ’31
Lani Guinier
Gary Bellow ’60
Martha Minow and Todd Rakoff ’75 teaching
Bob Clark ’72 teaching
Duncan Kennedy teaching
Phil Areeda ’54 teaching
Nadine Strossen ’75
Kenneth I. Chenault ’76
Kathleen Sullivan ’81
David Barron ’94 and Juliette Kayyem ’95
Bruce Wasserstein ’70
Ralph Nader ’58
Faiza Saeed ’91
Robert B. Zoellick ’81]


BRYAN STEVENSON: My life was changed by the rule of law. It was only when lawyers came into the community to enforce Brown versus Board of Education that they opened up the public schools, which is the only thing that made it possible for me to graduate from high school to go to college and to end up at Harvard Law School.

William T. Coleman Jr. ’46
Charles Hamilton Houston ’22]

HABEN GIRMA: I work as an accessibility and inclusion advocate teaching organizations and individuals to design with accessibility in mind. I’m deaf-blind. Deaf-blindness encompasses a wide spectrum of vision and hearing loss.


LORETTA LYNCH: I, Loretta Elizabeth Lynch.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Do solemnly swear.

LORETTA LYNCH: Do solemnly swear.

I had actually attended court with my dad. He had taken me just to watch. But you would see sometimes how someone’s life could be changed by a decision, by a judge, or by something that they had chosen to do about how a case was handled.

BEN FERENCZ: In the area in which we lived was known as Hell’s Kitchen, because it was a high density crime area. And so I know a lot of criminals. I didn’t know any lawyers.


I went to City College. And I inquired then which is the best law school in the world. And I was told the best law school is Harvard. So I filed an application to only one school, Harvard.

MICHELLE WU: I left my life as a young professional and went back to take care of my two younger sisters and my mom and decided to open a small family tea-house to keep us going. And that experience completely changed my life trajectory. Every interaction with government permitting and licensing, I saw that government matters a whole lot, but the way that it was connecting with people’s real life experiences was not at all helpful. So I vowed then that if I ever had the opportunity, I would do something about it.

H. RODGIN COHEN: I would say the most valuable lesson from Harvard Law School really was to think, not to just have a case and read it and understand it, but to think more about what it meant.

BEN FERENCZ: In Harvard, I was primarily concerned with juvenile delinquency. I was raised in the atmosphere of juvenile crime. And I was interrupted by the war so that then I had seen real crimes.

BRYAN STEVENSON: And I wasn’t absolutely certain what I wanted to do when I showed up at Harvard Law School. But I was hoping that commitment to justice through the rule of law that opened up so many doors for me when I was a little boy might empower me to open up doors for other people. I needed to know everything about substantive due process and procedural due process and federalism and comity and all of the doctrine that were going to impact my ability to help condemned people get the justice that they deserved.

LORETTA LYNCH: I enjoyed my time at the law school. I enjoyed the questioning. I enjoyed the different perspectives. Talking to people who saw an issue in a very different way than I did was eye-opening. It was engaging. It was what I came here for. I was involved in activities here on the Legal Aid Society. And being able to actually work for indigent people and go to court and make a change in someone’s life made my Harvard experience great.

HABEN GIRMA: Growing up, I’ve experienced many access barriers, organizations that say, sorry, we can’t help people with disabilities. So I went to law school to become a disability rights lawyer and advocate.

BEN FERENCZ: I was hired by General Telford Taylor. [IMAGE OF Telford Taylor ’32] He said, I understand that you’re occasionally insubordinate. I said, that’s not correct. sir. I’m not occasionally insubordinate. I’m usually insubordinate. I don’t obey orders that I think are illegal or stupid. But I don’t think you’re going to get me any such orders and that you can find a better man. He said, you come with me. I went with him back to Nuremberg for the subsequent trials.

H. RODGIN COHEN: Law is so pervasive in society. It touches everything we do. Our role in the freeing of the Iranian hostages was the most complicated and difficult set of negotiations one can imagine because it was being played out on the world stage. To be able to sign the deal that morning and go home and hear the broadcast talking about the hostages going out of jail, getting on the plane, that that has to be, I think, the proudest moment.

BEN FERENCZ: When I was 27 years old, I was the chief prosecutor in the biggest murder trial in human history against 22 high-ranking and well-educated Nazi leaders. My problem as a prosecutor was to ask, what do I ask for? Do I ask to sentence them all to death?

22 defendants against a million people murdered? I said, there’s no way of balancing, of doing justice there. But if I could get them to create a more humane world, using this as an example, that would be worthwhile. So I asked the court to affirm, by international criminal law, the right of all people to live in peace and dignity, regardless of their race or creed.

BRYAN STEVENSON: We started out as an organization trying to provide legal services to people on death row, that right to counsel is available to people at their initial trial. But after that, there is no constitutionally enforced right to counsel. And so many people on death row can’t find legal help they need.

NEWS REPORTER VOICEOVER OVER VIDEO OF WALTER MCMILLAN BEING FREED FROM DEATH ROW: Being on death row brought attention to McMillian’s case that it otherwise would not have received. And that scrutiny revealed the weaknesses in the state’s case that eventually led to his freedom.

HABEN GIRMA, SPEAKING TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As internet services open more opportunities for people, we’re going to see more people with disabilities employed and succeeding.

H. RODGIN COHEN: There had been an amendment to expand the powers of the Federal Reserve to lend [IMAGE OF HENRY PAULSON]. We were able to discuss with the Fed, providing the assistance under that provision. And it opened the door then for it to occur a number of times during the financial crisis.

MICHELLE WU: I think if you had asked me at the beginning of law school, what would I be doing coming up on my fifth year reunion, there’s no way I would have said, I’m going to be president of the Boston City Council, no way in my wildest dreams, or my parents’, would they have thought that one day, their daughter would not only be able to be working in government, but having a strong role in it.

LORETTA LYNCH: I’ve always thought it was very important to always remember that the purpose of the law is to order our lives, is to order the lives of everyday people. How do we live together? How do we interact with each other? How do we deal with conflict? How do we, in fact, account for ourselves? For me, I think it really came to fruition when I was here in law school.



Loretta Lynch ’84
Michelle Wu ’12
Rodge Cohen ’68
Haben Girma ’13
Ben Ferencz ’43
Bryan Stevenson ’85

Dean Langdell
Dean Ames
Dean Thayer
Dean Pound
Dean Landis
Dean Griswold
Dean Bok
Dean Sacks
Dean Vorenberg
Dean Clark
Dean Kagan
Dean Minow
Dean Manning]

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA AT AMES MOOT COURT: Counsel for the petitioner ready? Proceed.

JUSTICE WILLIAM BRENNAN AT AMES MOOT COURT: Would you say that went too far?

STUDENT: Your honor, the only fair answer to that question is it depends on how Congress–

BRENNAN: I don’t ask for a fair answer.

STUDENT: Well, I’m going to give you one, Your Honor.



US Supreme Court from the 1990s
Justice Lewis Powell LL.M. ’32
Sam Ervin ’22
Chuck Schumer ’74
Navi Pillay LL.M. ’82 S.J.D. ’88
Justice David Souter ’66
Bo Li ’99
Sandile Ngcobo LL.M. ’86
Rob Manfred ’83
Jorge Elorza ’03
Barney Frank ’77
Michelle Obama ’88
Merrick Garland ’77
David Gergen ’67
Pat Schroeder ’64 and Jane Harman ’69
Martha Minow and Elena Kagan ’86
Derrick Bell
Wendy Davis ’93
Chenguang Wang LL.M. ’86
Janet Reno ’63
Michael Dukakis ’60
Ying-jeou Ma S.J.D. ’81
Bruce Babbitt ’65
John Sarbanes ’88
Adam Schiff ’85
Laurence Silberman ’61
Todd Stern ’77
William Weld ’70, Ray Mabus ’75, Jack Trope ’80
Dean John Manning ’85 with students
John Anderson LL.M. ’49
Larissa Behrendt LL.M. ’94 S.J.D. ’98
Joseph Califano Jr. ’55
Joaquin Castro ’00
The Oliver Wendell Holmes court in 1886
Elena Kagan ’86 swearing in by John Roberts Jr. ’79
The Felix Frankfurter 1906 court in 1906
Justices Anthony Kennedy ’61, Antonin Scalia ’60, Harry Blackmun ’32, and David Souter ’66
Justices Anthony Kennedy ’61 and Neil Gorsuch ’91
Rita Hauser ’58
Tim Kaine ’83 and Ann Holton ’83
Justice Stephen Breyer ’64
Elliot Richardson ’47
Debra Lee ’80
Lobsang Sangay LL.M. ’96 S.J.D. ’04
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg ’56-’58
Archibald Cox ’37
Antonio Oposa LL.M. ’97
Mary Robinson LL.M. ’68
Jennifer Granholm ’87
Chief Justice John Roberts ’79
Freddie Brenneman ’53
Lam Ho ’08
Sheila Kuehl ’78 and Anne Cicero Weisberg ’85
Koen Lenaerts LL.M. ’78
Carl Levin ’59
Annette Lu LL.M. ’78
Paul Clement ’92
Paul Steven Miller ’86
Samantha Power ’99
Margaret Montoya ’78
Joseph Flom ’48
Sheela Murthy LL.M. ’87
Bert Fields LL.B. ’52]

JOSEPH N. WELCH: Have you no sense of decency, sir?

ELIZABETH DOLE: I’d like to break with tradition…

ELENA KAGAN: Those wise restraints that make us free… that phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: So it’s with much love and pride that I present to you my best friend, my twin brother, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.


MITT ROMNEY: The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, and our faiths.


BARACK OBAMA: But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.




[HLS|200 FINAL CLOSING TITLE CARD: For more information and a full list of credits, please visit our web site: 200.hls.harvard.edu]


© 2017 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Executive Producer, Director and Writer: Chris Jennings
Director of Photography: Martin Albert

Cambridge, MA Crew:
Assistant Camera: Mary Anne Jenke and Christian Hollyer
Gaffer: Dave LaRue
Key Grip: Chris Husta
Sound: David Williams and John Osborne

Los Angeles, CA Crew:
Assistant Camera: Kira Murdock
Gaffer: Chuck Linkes
Key Grip: Samuel Linkes
Sound: Patrick Lamm

Albuquerque, NM Crew:
Assistant Camera: Adam Durant
Gaffer: Alan Fulford
Key Grip: Carson Hale
Sound: Tim Forrest

New York, NY Crew:
Assistant Camera: Reggie Francklin
Gaffer: Bryan Wachtel
Key Grip: Luke Deikis
Sound: Tyler Cartner

Editorial, color and sound provided by PS260:
Producer: AJ Massih
Editor: John Zieman
Assistant Editor: Paul Rummerfield

Images, audio and video courtesy of:

ABC News
Adam Easton
Amanda Friedman
AP Archive
Apple Inc.
Ben Ferencz
Brooks Kraft
Bryan Stevenson
Burk Uzzle
CBC Archive
Critical Past
David Barron and Juliette Kayyem
DNC Archive
Equal Justice Initiative
Gage Skidmore
George Fetting
Getty Images
H. Rodgin Cohen
Haben Girma
Harvard Library Special Collections
J. Dearden Holmes
Jon Crispin
Joshua Touster
Judith Dekker
Justin Knight
Kathleen Dooher
Kathleen Sullivan
Ken Heinen
Leah Fasten
Loretta Lynch
Margaret Montoya
Melvyn Calderon
Michelle Wu
NBC News
New York Times
Olivier Minaire
Patrick O’Connor
Peter Doyle
RNC Archive
Sheela Murthy
Steve Rubin
Steven Senne
Tsinghua University
US Department of the Army
Warm Audio