GUEST COLUMN: Harvard Law School Submissions, Weeks 8-9 | Opinion


Editor’s Note: Ryan Miller is a 2017 graduate and former valedictorian of Apalachee High School. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and history and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia in December 2020 and graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in public administration from UGA in May. He was accepted to Harvard Law School and recently started studying there. He documents this experience for the Barrow News-Journal.


• Columbus Day: The celebration was declared by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 and became an official federal holiday in 1971, primarily intended to celebrate Italian-Americans.

• Indigenous Peoples Day: The celebration began in 1992, 500 years after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, to recognize the resilience of Indigenous peoples past and present.

• Taíno: The Taíno are the indigenous people with whom Columbus first interacted, and although they were decimated by the Spaniards, they survive thanks to their Caribbean descendants.

• Christopher Columbus: Lost for most of the celebration, Christopher Columbus’s tenure as governor was so brutal that he was arrested and returned to Spain by order of the Crown through Bobadilla.

• Lesson for the day: There is much more behind our holidays and celebrations, and it is important to think critically about where they come from and why we are making them.

• 1L Fall Break: Harvard Law School gave all of its freshmen an extra day off after yesterday’s vacation, so we only had three days of class this week.

• Legal research and drafting: research mission. During the break, we were tasked with familiarizing ourselves with Lexis and Westlaw, the two most successful legal databases.

• Lesson for the day: Don’t get too deep into the rabbit hole; if you’re reading material unrelated to what you’re looking for, start over.

• Civil proceedings: 12 (b) (6) Motion for dismissal. This specific motion concerns the failure to make a claim on which relief can be granted and would end a case after pleading and before discovery.

• Contracts: Exception to the obligation to read. Terms are only enforceable if they are brought to the attention of the signatory or should reasonably have been understood as part of the contact.

• Legal aid project in prison. Working hours. Each week, students spend an hour in the organization’s office, responding to requests for research and representation.

• Lesson for the day: The “lemon market” demonstrates how buyers without enough information, such as with used cars, push sellers of good items to leave the market.

• Civil proceedings: Twombly and Iqbal. These Supreme Court rulings have clarified that claims must set out factual allegations on which relief can be granted, not legal conclusions.

• Section meeting: Guest speaker. A partner at a large Boston law firm told us about her journey from HLS to her current role, giving us advice throughout our career thinking.

• Contracts: inequity. Contracts are canceled if they were concluded in the absence of a meaningful choice and with unreasonable conditions, such as disguised clauses.

• Legal research and writing: case research. On Lexis and Westlaw (as well as Google Scholar), you can go to the “Cited By” section to find cases that build on the case of interest.

• Lesson for the day: You must be able to identify the source of a problem before you can target it with a solution.

• Civil Procedure: Joining. This process allows additional claims and parties to be attached to existing lawsuits to help courts operate more efficiently.

• Contracts: Non-execution for public order. Courts will not enforce contracts when performance of the contract is against public order, as if the matter is illegal or immoral.

• 1L Cup: An HLS student organization is hosting a Field Day-like event, where each section competes in games such as tug of war to win the ultimate prize.

• Lesson of the day: pro tip, don’t admit that you don’t agree with your client’s position, especially in front of the judge (or the class).


• Wrongs: Customs of the industry. Customary practices in an industry inform general expectations of care, but courts do not rely solely on those customs to determine liability. See TJ Hooper.

• Ownership: simultaneous rentals. Several people may be entitled to the same property at the same time, for example with roommates or spouses.

• Student Body Town Hall: The HLS student government hosted a forum where students could voice concerns about student life at Harvard.

• Before exams: determination. A common practice in preparing for law school exams is to create an overview of the rules and cases of the class so far – and the sooner the better.

• Lesson for the day: heirs, technically speaking, are those who inherit property when there is no will, while legatees (real) and legatees (personal) inherit property by will.

• Zoom breakfast: Teacher’s property. Our teacher continued his tradition of hosting small groups of students for breakfast, albeit through Zoom due to pandemic precautions.

• Crimes: cost-benefit for precautions. To determine the care expected, courts often measure the likelihood and severity of the risk of injury incurred versus the cost of taking action against it.

• Ownership: future interests. Leases and wills allow owners to assign rights to non-owners that take effect for a certain period of time or after the occurrence of a certain condition (such as death).

• Reading group: A market for organs? We discussed Dirty Pretty Things and whether a market for organs would be a good thing and how that market could be regulated.

• Lesson for the day: If you have bad handwriting, be thankful for online banking methods, as banks often reject checks for people like my teacher.

• Civil procedure: Counterclaims. Some counterclaims must be filed immediately when you are sued (mandatory), while others may be brought in the same case or later (permissive).

• Misdemeanors: negligence per se. When certain injuries occur as a result of a rule violation (eg no headlights at night), they are automatically responsible for negligence.

• Contracts: Identification of relevant terms. Before a court can determine whether a contract has been broken, it must identify the relevant terms in the writing and the circumstances.

• Mississippi Delta Project: Conference. Experts working in the Delta discussed how we might begin to conduct our research to shed light on USDA discrimination (see Pigford v. Glickman).

• Lesson of the day: the three lies of the statue of John Harvard. John was not the founder, the school was founded in 1636 (not 1638) and the statue does not represent John.

• Civil Procedure: Discovery. A guest speaker introduced us to the concepts of discovery, the process of acquiring relevant information, both formally and informally, before trial.

• Section meeting: practical exam. Our Civil Procedure teacher walked us through part of the final exam, explaining the answers and answering questions to help us prepare for what lies ahead.

• Contracts: Parol Evidence Rule (PER). PERs determine the amount of evidence of prior terms and discussions that courts review to identify contract details, and they vary by state.

• Legal research and writing: Legal analysis. Affirmative cases (which confirm a conclusion) provide stronger support for legal arguments than negative cases (which deny a conclusion).

• Bar review: Felipe’s. HLS students continued the fun (and pun intended) tradition of sharing food and drink on the rooftop bar near Harvard Square.

• Lesson for the day: When doing legal research, you should check that the law or case has not been overturned (because it is not a good law).

• Contracts: Doctrine in the clear sense. Courts under this doctrine only look at the terms of a contract to determine what those terms meant to the agreement.

• Conference: Originalism, a debate with Professors Sachs and Feldman. The Federalist Society has provided a forum for professors to express their support and criticism of the theory.

• Lesson for the day: It is not possible to interpret words without outside information because everyone thinks something slightly different about the same words.


Nancy I. Romero

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