Remarks of  Dean Robert C. Clark at Memorial Celebration

 On behalf of Harvard University and its Law School, I would like to welcome all of you to this Memorial Service for Gary Bellow and thank you earnestly for taking the time to be with us.  

Together we will voice many recollections about Gary, but I will confine myself to a single theme.  As Dean of the Law School I want to emphasize one stunning achievement of Gary’s life:  he was the visionary spirit who made the Harvard Law School Clinical Program the impressive reality that it is today.  

When Gary arrived on the faculty in 1971, no Harvard Law School students did supervised fieldwork for real clients for academic credit.  There were, to be sure, important volunteer organizations like the Legal Aid Bureau, but little integration of them into the academic program.  Gary had a new vision.  His attitude about lawyering skills was like that of Plato toward virtue:  this is something that can be taught.  Lawyering skills are not something that have to be picked up intuitively.  They can be taught.  They should be taught in law schools.  They are often taught best when students are serving actual clients.  Servicing poor or low-income clients is an independently good thing that will fit with the teaching mission and improve the soul of the Law School.  That was his vision.  

Three decades later the reality is very different.  The Clinical Program is now big.  For the upcoming academic year, for example, 415 J.D. students have pre-registered to do clinical fieldwork for credit, all in connection with academically oriented courses.  About 215 of these students will do their work in-house in one of the Law School’s owned and operated clinics.  They will be guided by 38 Harvard Law School-employed clinical instructors, 24 of whom are full-time.  They will be taught in the classroom not just by Charles Ogletree--—who does a lot but can’t yet do everything—but also by a very sizeable sub-set of the regular academic faculty who have agreed to offer a clinical component to their courses.  These students will learn a vast amount of law.  They will improve their skills.  They will gain insight into other people, and in my view they will become better persons.  They will help literally thousands of poor people in the Boston Metro area.  They will do all of this not because there is any academic requirement that they do it, but because each one of them individually has been persuaded to do so by the quality of the offerings and by the intellectual and moral force of the argument for participating.

Gary Bellow did not cause this vast sea-change in the structure of legal education at Harvard all by himself.  He had lots of help, and many of the helpers are in this room.  But I think we would all agree that he was the necessary condition, the sine qua non.  He was the moving spirit who made it happen by 30 years of inspired persistence in the pursuit of his vision.

Gary was also a practical and astute person.  When I started as Dean, I didn’t know what it would be like dealing with the head of the Clinical Program, but I quickly discovered that he was a joy to work with.  He was someone who always had his facts and figures lined up, his budget requests all in order, and a good case for his requests.  I could say the same of his wife, Jeanne Charn.  They were quite a team, always practical, always working in the system.  One might have thought that, given his pre-teaching experiences, the kind of work he had done, and his orientation to legal services for the poor, Gary would be someone who was consistently and automatically opposed to “the system,” whatever “the system” is, but in fact he learned to work with it and enjoyed doing so.

Early in my deanship, for example, he came by for one of our periodic meetings and started to make the case for why we should finally think about a new lease arrangement for our legal services clinic in Jamaica Plain.  The operation was then housed in a cramped and wretched little frame building.  Gary had a good case: his figures were worked out in detail, and his proposal was reasonable, even within the budget parameters that I had set out to all the people who had reported to me.  He was rather surprised when I said no, we’re not going to do this, and was then a little bit relieved but skeptical when I said, “No, Gary.  What we have to do if we’re going to have this clinical program is do it right.  We’ve got to get a whole new building.  We’ve got to go out as part of our Campaign and raise some money for our new building from a law firm.”  He said, “That’s a great idea, Bob.”  He looked a little doubtful, but agreed we should give it a try.  After that meeting we talked to Jack Cogan, who was then the Chairman of our Law School Campaign, and said, “Jack, your law firm, Hale & Dorr, is going to give a big gift to the campaign.  Stop thinking about another well-endowed professorship.  Why don’t we buy a  building for the Legal Services Clinic?”  Jack, the ultimate good trooper, said we should pursue it and went to his firm.  As luck would have it, the managing partner of the firm was a classmate of Gary’s, John Hamilton, who is also, it turns out, a secret admirer.  John was someone who, in the quiet moments—I assume there are at least some quiet moments for a corporate lawyer—would think about the divergent paths that different classmates had taken, and conclude that it was a wonderful thing that there were some people to honor the class like Gary Bellow.  In any event, because of Gary’s attractiveness as a person, that gift came about.  The Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School was built, and we have a very different clinical operation.  

Those of you who have not been there should realize that the building is a major one.  It has a library, a classroom, staff offices—36 of them—staff and student lounges, and numerous client in-take offices.  It’s a far cry from what we had before.  The program it houses services upwards of 3000 low-income or no-income people per year, the largest such operation, I believe, in Massachusetts.  It has been the venue for teaching many hundreds of law students. 

Gary was very happy about this development.  At first he was a bit nervous about having a clinic linked by name to a major corporate law firm and to Harvard; he thought it might scare off some of the poor clients or even the clinical instructors, but he agreed we should give it a try.  As it developed, he became very eager to have the relationships continue.  Even today, for example, the Hale & Dorr firm is still involved with the Center.  It provides a lawyer who spends half his time at the Center supervising students and servicing clients.  It provides training and trial practice in depositions to our students, and it offers back-up legal research.  The spirit of Gary had won over a major corporate law firm.

Although Gary accomplished much in the pursuit of his vision at the Law School, and evolved a great deal in his own approach to things, he had, as some of you know, quite a bit in his in-box.  It was never empty.  He had major things on his agenda when death unfairly snatched him away.  He and I talked a lot about his goals—what he thought were the most important things to do in coming years.  There were three items that really stand out.  First, he wanted to spend his sabbatical next year working on a history of clinical education in the United States.  Who could do it better?  Fortunately, Dan Coquillette, our colleague, has already seen to it that we have extensive oral interviews of Gary, so that others can carry out this work.

Second, Gary was quite saddened by the reaction of some clinical faculty at other law schools and on ABA committees to the Harvard model—that is to say, his model—of clinical legal education, which stresses a very wide penetration of the large student body and a wide delivery of service to lots of poor people, and therefore seems to entail a highly differentiated organization of personnel.  Fortunately, his friend and successor as Faculty Director of the program, Charles Ogletree, is now ably carrying on the battle for understanding of our program.

The third agenda item that we talked about was the biggest and most important.   Gary seemed very concerned in recent years that there be serious academic inquiry into the best way for society to organize mass delivery of good quality legal services to low-income people.  How could it be done?  How could it be encouraged?  He had come to think that the pro bono model and the government-subsidized legal services models were quite inadequate; that the problem was challenging and important, every bit as important as the challenge of organizing delivery of medical services to people; that a comparative study of other countries’ ways of dealing with the problem might be useful; and that in any event, we needed some great academic minds to become absolutely devoted to solving this structural problem.  This third agenda item, how our society can effectively deliver legal services to the whole population, is still with us.  In a sense, it is Gary’s legacy.  It is his challenge to both lawyers and legal academics.  My strong wish is that some of you will honor his memory by responding to the challenge.

As I reflect on Gary’s 30 years of inspired persistence in the pursuit of his vision, I keep asking myself, “How can this be?  What caused him to do it?  What explains such intense focus, such enormous drive?”  I think the answer is virtually staring us in the face.  To put a word on it:  Gary was a philanthropist—that is, in the true and ultimate meaning of that word, he was someone who loved other human beings.  He was a mahatma, as the Indians would say—a great-souled man.  He was an enlightened, good man.  It’s no wonder that we all loved him so much.

Return to Memorial Celebration Page