By Jonathan Wroblewski
The 2014 edition of the Harvard Law School Semester in Washington has now ended. It’s been a terrific semester full of unusual weather, lots of learning and new experiences, and a few surprises.
In these last three months, we have tried to model and learn from great government policy lawyers. We’ve done so by exploring issues arising from our placements and our work in government, and also from the headlines: from data privacy to marijuana policy; from intellectual property protection to foreign affairs; from international trade and investment to crime and justice. We’ve learned from one another and from leaders in government and the private sector. We met fascinating people, including Chief Judge Patti Saris of Massachusetts, Justice Elena Kagan, Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of Texas, Monika Bickert of Facebook’s policy shop (and Kaitlin and Emily, too), Congressman Joe Kennedy, and an energetic group of young White House staffers from the Counsel’s Office and the National Security Staff.
We’ve looked at what policy making means and the building blocks that make up rigorous and thoughtful policy making. We worked on some critical skills for the policy lawyer and heard some pretty good “Elevator Pitches.” We visited the Supreme Court and watched two terrific oral advocates argue before the Court. We set goals for ourselves; met many; and missed a few too. We worked hard at our placements and shared and learned from each other’s experiences. We thought about the ethical responsibilities of the government lawyer and what it means to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, while the President and the Attorney General were regularly being criticized for failing to do so. We tried to figure out what makes a great organization great and how leadership figures in to that. We ventured outside the Washington of tourists and monuments and served some of the people who call Washington home. We shared a few meals together and got to know one another a bit better. For each of us, there were expectations met, expectations missed, and surprises too.
Most gratifying is that we were able to create a small community of learning away from Cambridge. I have enjoyed getting to know each of you a bit and sharing some of our experiences over the past three months. Please don’t hesitate to call on me if there is ever anything I can do for you. For our graduating 3-Ls, my congratulations to you all on a job well done. For our 2-Ls, I will be in Cambridge in the fall to recruit for our Semester in Washington Class of 2015, and I hope to see some of you there. For all of you, if you are ever near the Main Justice Building, please drop me a line and let’s find time to catch up.
My best to all. Enjoy the summer!