My First Day of Class
In the first minute of my first class on the opening day of
my law school education, I encountered for the first time Edward
Levi, then Dean of the Law School.
This was no politically correct experience.
Levi glared, looking at each and every one of us disapprovingly.
Finally, he opened his mouth: “This,” he said loudly
and threateningly, and we all waited for what could possibly follow:
“…is intellectual boot camp!” Silence followed.
We all wanted to look at one another to be sure we had the advantage
of numbers in the face of what seemed to be a maniac.
Finally, he spoke: “You,” he shouted. Again silence.
Then: “…you will never be the same again!”
And we weren’t. Law School fundamentally changed me. Let
me count a few of the ways.
First, Law School was actually the beginning of my education,
though I had learned a great deal at a state university. The focus
on analysis and especially rigorous analysis, rather than on learning
and memory, transformed my way of approaching almost every professional
Second, under the method used by Levi, Blum, Kalven and Meltzer,
the four great stars of the then Law School, where nearly every
case led to a policy discussion, I became immediately interested
in public policy issues. My subsequent career in government and
in public policy institutions followed quite naturally.
Third (and this does not exhaust the list), under Levi’s
Deanship, students were directly exposed to a number of leading
figures of the day. I recall particularly having dinner with Attorney
General Francis Biddell and listening to a talk by an enormously
intelligent and compelling lawyer named Abe Fortas -- then unknown
to the world at large but later a major, albeit in the end somewhat
tragic, public figure. Such occasions, relatively infrequent to
be sure, made me see not just that law was a profession (as opposed
to what seems today more like a business) but also that a life
at the law could open to us the great political and social issues
of the day.
It may not have been “boot camp,” but for me it
was at least “officer training school.”
Kenneth W. Dam, Class of 1957.