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The Networking Value of Harvard Law School

According to U.S. News and World Report's sometimes controversial law school rankings system, Harvard Law School ranks third, after Yale and Stanford. But for those who want a law school to serve as a stepping stone to a career in politics, Harvard comes in first. At least, that's the impression that I drew from reading this article, It's Obamalot: Harvard Law Mafia Led by Larry Tribe Resurrects Obama Ties, N.Y. Observer (3/12/07). The article reports on how Obama's Harvard Law School ties are giving him an edge in access to top advisers and major sources of funding.

What's especially interesting is that, apparently, Obama's stellar academic achievement, rather than any particular popularity during law school, is helping him attract support. For example, well-connected professor Larry Tribe is marshaling support for Obama, who served as his research assistant. And Obama's service as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review generated publicity for him while in law school and enhances his credibility with potential donors now. From the article:   

Mr. Obama’s closest circle of law-school friends has also produced some of his most committed fund-raisers. Citigroup executive Michael Froman and hedge-fund manager Brian Mathis, both Harvard Law School friends, are chairs of the March 9 gala being held at the Grand Hyatt. A Harvard Law Review colleague, law professor Jonathan Molot, hosted 180 people for a fund-raising event at his home in Washington, D.C., last week. At it, Mr. Obama surveyed the crowd. “Geez, I feel like I’m at a law-school reunion,” he joked.

Last month, classmate Julius Genachowski, a private-equity advisor based in Washington, D.C., arranged a meeting between Mr. Obama and about 50 new-media and technology executives at an office in midtown. It was co-hosted by former AOL chief executive Jonathan Miller and technology venture-capitalist Deven Parekh.

“I’ve gotten e-mails from people I haven’t talked to in 15 years [saying], ‘Hey, I hear you’re still friends with Barack—what can I do?’” said Thomas Perrelli, a Washington lawyer and managing editor of the law review under Mr. Obama.

And other law school friends of Obama have emerged as policy advisers, including Cassandra Butts, domestic policy expert at the Center for American Progress, and Julius Genachowski, who worked at the FCC.

Of course, with Hilary Clinton in the race, we'll have a chance to see if the Yale Law School networking machine is any match for Harvard.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 7, 2007 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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