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Law School officials are hoping that law firms nationwide follow the example set this week by Kirkland and Ellis--which announced Monday that it would endow a $1.5 million chair at Harvard.
"We expect the chair to have a radiating effect with other firms," said Harvard Law School Dean for Development Scott G. Nichols yesterday. "This is an enlightened gift from an enlightened firm."
With more such donations from other law firms likely, Nichols said the school hopes to establish additional chairs in existing areas of study. In addition, Nichols said the school is investigating new areas of study that might be appropriate for endowed chairs. such as environmental and health law.
Nichols said that Kirkland and Ellis chair, which will not be activated until the funding is complete five years from now, has not yet been assigned any specific area of focus because "the firm wants to be responsive to the school's needs."
Kirkland and Ellis partner Daniel W. Vittum, Jr. said in a phone interview that "the nature of the gift is that there are no strings attached" and that his firm "did not seek to put any restriction on area." He said the firm preferred to leave such determinations to Law School officials.
Although Law School Dean Robert C. Clark is not expected to organize a search committee for the post for several years, Nichols said the chair most likely would be in a "basic area," such as tax, constitutional or criminal law.
The Harvard endowment marked Kirkland and Ellis's third large gift to a major university in recent years. In 1985, the firm funded a chair at the University of Chicago. Last fall, it established a chair at Northwestern University.
Gifts like that have made the firm "nationally prominent," Nichols said. "No other firm has this record of investing this appropriately and this generously."
Vittum said the firm's interest in legal education stems from its desire to repay a "debt of gratitude" to the nation's law schools.
"Law schools do a terrific job," Vittum said, "they make our job easier. This is our way of making their job easier. Everything we can do is in our advantage and the profession's advantage."
Vittum added that his firm often recruits at Harvard, and said he believed that around 40 of Kirkland and Ellis's400 attorneys were Harvard Law graduates.
According to N. June Thompson, director of theLaw School's Office of Career Services, thelitigation firm has an "excellent relationship"with Harvard. Thompson said that Kirkland andEllis has "always come here to interview andhire.
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