Making Elite Lawyers: Visions of Law at Harvard and Beyond

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Routledge, 1992 - Law - 248 pages
Harvard Law School is more than a law school; it's a cultural icon. Home to the best and the brightest, training ground for the corporate elite. Surprisingly enough, however, an overwhelming majority of students in any entering class identifies itself as liberal to leftist in its political orientation. Then why does the majority of any graduating class choose corporate law practice over public interest work? What happens to students in those three years between orientation and commencement?
Making Elite Lawyers is the first detailed study of legal education at America's premier law school. Drawing on in-depth interviews, student questionnaires, and his own classroom observations, author Robert Granfield documents the conservatizing effects of the Harvard legal education on a broad cross-section of the student population, paying particular attention to the fate of women, students of color, and those from working-class backgrounds at Harvard Law School. In his analysis of the legal curriculum, Granfield shows how the boot-camp of first-year law school marks the emergence of a finely-tuned legal consciousness which comes to value gamesmanship over ideals, and competition and victory over right and wrong. As learning to "think like a lawyer" begins to take its toll on students - leaving them confused and alienated by this legal education - students are forced to pragmatically conclude that their moral beliefs are a thing apart from their work as attorneys.
Making Elite Lawyers reveals how the "Harvard Mystique" also helps conservatize students. From the moment they arrive on campus for orientation to the manner in which they are wined and dined as summer associate candidates by top-flight corporate law firms, students are encouraged to accept the status, power, and money that the Harvard Law School experience confers. By offering students the psychological and material path of least resistance into America's higher circles, Granfield concludes, Harvard ultimately only schools its attorneys to represent the interests of the social and political status quo.

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American Legal Education
The Moral Transformation

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About the author (1992)

Robert Granfield is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Denver.

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