Harvard Law ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

By A. James Memmott

March 12, 2009 at 11:55am

To save on travel expenses, the Harvard Law School Class of 1991 might as well have its reunion this year at the White House.

The best-known graduate of the class, President Barack Obama, is both working and living there, and he’s shown no reluctance to hire his classmates.

Class of ‘91 members Cassandra Q. Butts and Norman Eisen are serving as deputy counsels to the president.

Their classmate Michael B.G. Froman is a deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for international economic security affairs.

David Kris, also ‘91, has been picked to head the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. And Thomas J. Perrelli, ‘91, has been nominated to be associate attorney general.

The 1991 graduates are just part of what the Harvard Law Record has called the “avalanche” of Harvard law alumni who have joined or are soon to join the Obama administration.

The best-known member of this group is Michelle Obama, the First Lady, and a 1988 Harvard Law graduate.

Daniel J. Meltzer, ‘75, and a professor at the law school during Obama’s time there, is the president’s principal deputy counsel.

Michael J. Gottlieb and Danielle Gray, 2003 graduates, are associate counsels to the president. Blake Roberts, Class of 2006, will be a deputy associate counsel.

Samantha Power, ‘99, is serving on the National Security Council. She won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 2003 for A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

Power had been a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, as well as an adviser (sometimes controversial) to the Obama presidential campaign.

Todd Stern, ‘75, is the special envoy for climate change.

And Jocelyn Frye, ‘88, a law school classmate and friend of Michelle Obama, is serving as director of policy and projects for the First Lady and as a deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.

Obama has nominated Elena Kagan, Harvard Law ‘86, to be the U.S. solicitor general. Kagan was dean of the law school. David W. Ogden, ‘81, has been nominated to be deputy attorney general.

One Harvard Law School graduate and 1991 alum not working at the White House is Bradford A. Berenson, a Republican and a former associate White House Council in the George W. Bush administration.

While at Harvard, Obama and Berenson worked together at the Harvard Law Review, Obama serving as president, Berenson as Supreme Court Editor.

According to Berenson, Obama may have learned how to mediate competing factions while running a Law Review staff that was divided not only by politics but also by legal philosophies.

“You know who the people are who, despite their politics, can reach across and be friendly to and make friends with folks who have different views,” Berenson told Frontline on PBS last year. “And Barack very much fell into the latter category.”

Obama will probably feel right at home at cabinet meetings, as the room will be full of lawyers:

There’s Vice President Joe Biden (Syracuse Law), Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (Columbia University), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (Albany), Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (University of Virginia), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (Michigan) and Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton (Yale University).

Gary Locke, the nominee to be secretary of commerce, graduated from Boston University Law School.

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  • #1.   Ralf 03.14.2009

    So good ol’ boy clubs are alive and well regardless of race or sex…

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