Thanks so much for doing this. I was wondering if you could talk about Harvard's alumni network? Has it been helpful in terms of finding jobs after law school? Do you feel close with other alumni after graduating?
I have been amazed by the strength of Harvard's alumni network, and yes, I think it has been relevant to my post-law school applications and practice. Ways in which I think it has been relevant:
- HLS maintains internal databases of students and graduates who have done clerkship interviews, clerkships, and who hold public interest positions. With respect to clerkships, people can "review" the judges with whom they interviewed and/or clerked and indicate whether they are willing to be contacted by students with questions. I took advantage of this twice as an applicant and found it invaluable (phone calls with former clerks, in which they could talk candidly, were sometimes more valuable than the written reviews.) I participate in this as an alum. With respect to public interest positions, alums can indicate their areas of interest/practice and invite students and other alums seeking positions in the area to contact them. It's a great way to network with people in your field or city, learn more about new practice areas, etc.
- On a more practical level with respect to clerkships and the alumni network: there are judges who are HLS alums who reserve one or more clerkships each year for HLS alums. There are a smaller number of judges who will only hire from HLS. This is less common with respect to non-judicial positions, but there are definitely other employers who recruit disproportionately from HLS or who strongly prefer to receive applications from HLS alums.
- When I've needed additional contacts in a particular field/geographic area, OPIA and OCS have always had names of specific people for me to talk to, and who have uniformly been willing to talk to me when I've called them with a, "[Specific adviser] at [OPIA/OCS] advised me to contact you for guidance." Because the HLS network is so strong and deep, your request can be very specific and people will be able to come up with multiple names of alums who can help. At one point, I had a very specific question about how a particular SCOTUS justice would view a couple of things if I were to apply to him or her - the amazingly helpful clerkship adviser at OCS immediately furnished three names of current and former HLS clerks to this justice who would be willing to talk to me.
- I live in California - not the foremost destination for HLS graduates - and I've still found the alumni network to be very strong. Getting involved with your city's Harvard Club and staying connected into the HLS Association (HLSA) are both excellent ways to network. The HLSA's Recent Graduates Council, for instance, has been developing a number of national practitioner networks with focus in specific areas (e.g. entertainment and sports law, public defender, appellate, etc.) The network in which I'm interested in participating is actually being led by more experienced HLS grads (not "recent" by any definition) who aim in part to provide a source of networking/mentoring for younger attorneys working in the field.
You asked how the network has benefited me, and I've tried to lay out some examples. I also am a strong believer in helping law students and younger attorneys and in building the HLS network; I try to help out in each of the above-described ways as I'm able, too. In terms of feeling close to other alums, generally yes. I have a core group of my own HLS friends with whom I'm in regular touch, even though they aren't all in my area. Because I live in a West Coast market with fewer HLS alums than NY, DC, and Boston, I do feel close, relatively speaking, to the HLS alums I've gotten to know out here.
Also, HLS comes with two chief employment benefits - the network ... and the school name itself. What I've honestly found even more helpful than the alumni network is the positive way in which an HLS degree is viewed by employers who did not
attend HLS. I'll say more about this in response to the three people who asked whether the expense of HLS is worth it. (Sorry to you three for the delay in answering; I feel that's the most difficult question, because it's so subjective, because both the cost of law school and the hiring market for new attorneys have changed since I attended law school, and because it's difficult for me to compare the law school experience that I had to the law school experience I might have had at CCN. I probably won't directly attempt to do the last; I will probably lay out what I felt were the benefits of attending Harvard relative to the cost, and ask that any CCN students/alums who might click into this thread offer thoughts on how their experience compared.)