I’m not trying to compare the claims of Jaime Laskis, a former associate at the prominent Canadian law firm of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, with those of Charlene Morisseau (a legendary Lawyer of the Day honoree, from 2007). But we’ve got two stories vaguely related to alleged employee harassment and discrimination in the legal profession, and I wanted to click them both off so I have something to change the subject with when Sweet Hot Justice asks me if she’s a cougar when we meet for drinks tonight.
Let’s start with Jaime Laskis’s story, which is a bit more newsy. Laskis was an associate in the New York office of Toronto-based Osler, who claims she suffered various forms of sexual harassment while she worked there. One partner allegedly said that Harvard University was full of “pretty women pretending to get an education.”
I know, I know, that’s sounds like a man who has never been to a Harvard party. But Laskis makes other allegations….
I’m on record as being generally uncomfortable with hate crime designations. I’m not against hate crime laws across the board. You show me a guy with a demonstrable history of bigotry who then goes around beating people of some particular group, and I’m all for enhanced punishment. But in general I don’t think the state should be involved in punishing what’s in a man’s heart. If you murder someone, you are a hater; does it really matter why you hated the person?
And hate crime laws seem to force law enforcement into ridiculous positions. They’ve got to try to use physical evidence to prove or disprove what people were thinking when they did something. That’s like trying to figure out why I smoke based on my ashtray.
A great example of the problems with hate crime legislation is what’s going on at Harvard University right now. People found books in one of the undergraduate libraries were soaked in urine. But the books were about LGBT issues. HATE CRIME ALERT!
Or is it? Harvard police don’t really know, so they are being forced to say some absolutely ridiculous things…
So, let’s say that an intelligent child does do everything that she is told to do from kindergarten through high school, and then goes to Harvard and then to a very good law school, and then into a high-powered law firm, and ends up making $180,000 a year by the time she is thirty. So what? Her life will have been a life of drudgery piled upon drudgery, with no sense of freedom or self-knowledge.
The Harvard-Yale Game was this weekend. I didn’t attend. I’m at that uncomfortable age where I’m too old to go to The Game and get black-out drunk at the keg, but too young to show up in a fur coat handing out glasses of Cristal (rhymes with “Mystal”) while my butler grills porterhouse steaks out of the back of my Range Rover.
I look forward to going to The Game in the future, but I’m really glad I didn’t go this year. If I had, I might have been arrested. Seriously, you would have logged on to Above the Law this morning and been entertained by my “Letter From a Boston Jail” or something.
Because if I had gone to The Game, I probably would have gone to the party hosted by the Harvard’s Black Law Student Association (and other affinity groups) at a new Boston club called Cure Lounge. And had I gone to that, when the club owners shut down the party essentially because too many black people were gathering in one place, I would have had major objections and been thrown in jail for “being an angry black person in Boston” (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days).
CORRECTION: According to the Harvard BLSA president, “Harvard BLSA was not involved in organizing or running the party in question…. [T]he event was run by a group that is not affiliated with Harvard BLSA or Harvard Law School. Harvard BLSA did cover the ticket cost of several members who attended the party.”
I wouldn’t have been able to adjust quickly enough to being back in a place like Boston, so I would have gone nuclear when somebody suggested that too many African-American Harvard and Yale students might attract “gang-bangers.”
Was there a lawyer in the line outside the club who could have objected? Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered….
In April, we reported that Eliot Spitzer — former governor and attorney general of New York, until he resigned from office in the wake of a prostitution scandal — was applying for admission to the Harvard Club of New York. Spitzer graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984.
Well, the jury has reached a verdict for the ex-prosecutor — and the news for Spitzer is not good. His application was rejected earlier this year, according to an article by Sewell Chan and Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times.
So what did Spitzer, famously known as Client No. 9, have to say about his rejection?
You know the old joke: How many Harvard men does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one; he holds the bulb in place while the world revolves around him.
Many a Harvard man takes that approach to household maintenance, professional endeavors, and even dating. You’re not going to believe this, but some people who graduate from Harvard are real douchebags. Some of them think that just by dint of having gone to Harvard, people will love them, respect them, and shower them with jobs and money. They even make up special phrases for mentioning where they go/went to school, like “dropping the H-Bomb.” Good God, get over yourselves. I’m sure glad my own blazing Harvard credentials, which I keep in special pouch around my neck, have never once prevented me from interacting with the little people in a way that makes them feel like we are all the same species. I’m magnanimous like that.
In all seriousness, there are of course enormous, self-important jackasses who graduate from Harvard, but there are also more than enough people who gladly buy into the Harvard mystique. Now there’s a dating site dedicated to bringing the Crimson and their sycophants together. As they say in Wicked, “they deserve each other.”
Those in favor of hunting down illegal immigrants who come to this country looking to better themselves will probably view this story as a victory. They’ll skip right past the part where we find out that the illegal immigrant in question came to this country when he was four. Instead they’ll accuse this guy of “taking” a spot that should have gone to a deserving American.
Remember Kaavya Viswanathan? She’s the Harvard graduate who, while still in high school, landed a two-book deal worth a reported $500,000. The first book, a young adult / chick-lit novel entitled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, was published in April 2006, during Viswanathan’s sophomore year at Harvard.
And then things fell apart. To quote the blog Sepia Mutiny, “Kaavya Viswanathan got rich, got caught, and got ruined.” Shortly after the publication of Opal Mehta, the Harvard Crimson reported that various passages in the book appeared “strikingly similar” to portions of two young adult novels by Megan McCafferty.
Viswanathan was widely accused of plagiarizing — not just from McCafferty, but from Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and Salman Rushdie. Her subsequent fall from grace, including the cancellation of her book and movie deals, made national and even international headlines (due to coverage back in her native India). She claimed that the similarities between her book and prior published works were unintentional, but given the number and extent of the apparently borrowed passages, some were incredulous. (For samples, see Wikipedia.)
After graduating from Harvard College in 2008, she went on to Georgetown Law, where she’s a member of the GULC class of 2011. Her arrival at Georgetown made Newsweek in February 2009:
Viswanathan is a first-year law student at Georgetown University, where Stephen Glass earned a J.D. after being fired from The New Republic for fabricating a series of articles….
How’d she manage to get accepted? Applicants can submit supplemental essays to explain themselves to the admissions committee, says Dean of Admissions Andrew Cornblatt. “It’s impossible to get amnesia about what we may have heard,” he says. “But in all cases we treat them just like any other applicant.”
It seems Georgetown isn’t the only institution treating Viswanathan “just like any other applicant.” Despite the tough fall recruiting season and her controversial past, Viswanathan, who just finished her 2L year, has landed a coveted summer associate position at a top law firm — one of Biglaw’s biggest and best names, in fact….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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