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Ralph Nader Urges Harvard Law Students to Pursue Public Service in Talk

Ralph Nader in Austin Hall
Ralph Nader argued for the importance of public interest law during a talk last year.

Former United States presidential candidate Ralph Nader urged Harvard Law School students to enter public interest legal careers at a lunchtime event Wednesday.

Around 100 people, including both Harvard affiliates and members of the public, attended the event hosted by the Harvard Law Record — the Law School’s independent student-run newspaper. Nader, who graduated from the Law School in 1958, was a member of the paper’s staff while attending the Law School.

In his remarks, Nader urged current students to pursue public interest law over jobs in corporate law. Historically, Harvard Law graduates have overwhelmingly gravitated toward the private sector though the school has pursued initiatives to encourage students to enter the public sector.

“This is a law school of huge talent,” Nader. “We’re in a major constitutional crisis, the likes of which this country has never seen.”

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Nader said there is a pressing need for more public interest lawyers in today’s political climate. Nader has run for president of the United States four times in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. In 2000, he was the Green Party nominee and received 2.7 percent of the national vote.

Nader also spoke about national politics and called U.S. President Donald Trump the “most impeachable president of all time.”

“Lawlessness is the norm when it comes to the rich and powerful, which is why when you come to this law school you should have a choice,” Nader said. “Do you want to be a traditional lawyer who draft contracts, deeds, and represents corporations or do you want to focus on lawlessness, which is the norm?”

Roughly halfway through his speech, Nader asked the audience how many of its members were first-year law students. A handful of audience members raised their hands. He then asked how many were second- and third-year law students. Almost no one raised their hands.

“See what I mean?” Nader said in response. “See what happens to you? You come in idealistic, and then you get processed. It happens all over the country.”

Vincent R. Parascandolo, a first-year student at the Law School, said he attended the talk because he has appreciated Nader’s work in consumer advocacy and considers him a “fighter for justice.”

“I think he makes a good point that we would be best served by using our time here to look beyond the narrow technicalities of the law just for commercial purposes and look to, really, what it means to be an officer of the court and pursue justice,” Parascandolo said.

—Staff writer Meena Venkataramanan can be reached at meena.venkataramanan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mvenk82.

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