Martha Minow

Martha Minow. Credit: Harvard Law Record

I remember the very first hour of my very first day of law school. I was sitting in the back rows of one of the large amphitheaters in Austin Hall, waiting nervously with my new classmates for Professor Kingsfield to arrive. Well, not really. We knew that our civil procedure professor was going to be Martha Minow, but that didn’t mean anything to me or, I think, to most of my classmates. Maybe she was a Kingsfield.

Professor Minow, a small, intense, but warm woman, began to talk. She told the story of a homeless man she had come across in Harvard Square. I don’t remember the set-up of the story very well. Perhaps the man recognized her, or perhaps they had a conversation and she told him who she was. In any case, he knew she was a law professor, and he said, “Professor, I went to law school!” She didn’t believe him at first, but he persisted. “Really! I went to law school. Pennoyer v. Neff!” Surely he was telling the truth, for who else would have known or cared about the old Supreme Court case on the territorial theory of personal jurisdiction? Pennoyer was the first case we ever learned, and Professor Minow told us that like the homeless man she met in Harvard Square, we would never forget it.

Some lawyers love mergers and acquisitions. Some love secured transactions. Ever since studying with Professor Minow I’ve loved procedure. I’ve always felt a great debt to Professor Minow, and if you like Letters Blogatory, you owe her a debt, too. So on the occasion of her announcement that she will be stepping down as dean, I wanted to give her a Letters Blogatory shout-out. Professor Minow! I haven’t forgotten Pennoyer v. Neff!

Over the past eight years, Dean Minow led Harvard Law School during a time of innovation in curriculum and in clinical legal education. She worked to make financial aid more available, in particular to students taking public service jobs after school. She has been a strong advocate for the Law School as a place of rigor, curiosity, respect for others, and innovation. In short, she was an excellent dean who left the Law School better than she found it.