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Law Students Won't Represent Apartheid

By Rebecca K. Kramnick

Last spring, several Law School students helped occupy an administration building to protest apartheid in South Africa.

Now they're going to strike where it'll really hurt.

Some 250 aspiring Harvard lawyers this fall have pledged to refuse to take jobs with five major law firms that represent the South African government. Organizers said they expect to gain two or three times as many supporters before the job interview session for second- and third-year students begins in early October.

Students from a dozen other top law schools around the country--including BU, Cornell, Yale and the universities of Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin--are also participating in the boycott.

"Our message to the firms is simple: If you work for apartheid, we won't work for you," second-year student Elissa Stein said yesterday. Stein said protesters hope the boycott will "encourage law firms to join the growing national movement to isolate the white minority regime."

Only one of the five firms targeted for the boycott, the 220-lawyer Washington firm Covington & Burling, is among the 700 firms that have planned interview sessions in Cambridge next month.

Covington & Burling, which acts as counsel to the government-owned South African Airlines, was boycotted by a number of New York University Law School students at a recent interview session there, according to firm spokesman Edward Dunkelberger.

Dunkelberger said Covington & Burling advises the airline on its United States operations and not on South Africa-related questions, so "apartheid issues are not involved." The spokesman said that "the representation of a client does not at all involve the approving, endorsing, or accepting by a law firm of the policies or moral standing of a client.

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Law School organizers plan to stage a protest rally on October 18, the day Covington & Burling is scheduled to interview in Cambridge. Until then, organizers said, they'll continue to distribute information about the targeted firms as well as coordinate activities with other law schools.

The four other boycotted firms include Smathers, Symmington & Herlong and John P. Sears, which have lobbied on behalf of the South African government; Saxe, Bacon & Bolan, which is representing South Africa in a personal injury action; and Shipley, Smoke & Henry, counsel for the Administrator General in Namibia, a South African colony which has been the site of bloody clashes between South African armed forces and Black guerillas.

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