Law Students

A Slow Law School Start Didn’t Doom SG Nominee

The first semester at Harvard Law School didn’t go well for Elena Kagan, but she quickly recovered, earning an A-plus in one of her classes.

Now Kagan is dean of Harvard law and Barack Obama’s nominee to become solicitor general. Her law school transcripts, part of a clerkship application with Thurgood Marshall, were buried in the justice’s papers and unearthed by Legal Times. The application was successful.

In her first semester at Harvard law in 1984, Kagan didn’t make a single A, Legal Times reports. She got a B-minus in torts, a B in criminal law and a mark of “Cr” in legal methods. But the next semester, she made one A-minus and As in the rest of her classes. Randall Kennedy, one of five Harvard law professors who provided recommendations for Kagan, said he gave her an A-plus in his class and he recommended her “unreservedly.”

All of the professors gave “effusive” praise to Kagan, the story says. Charles Nesson praised her edits on an article he published in the Harvard Law Review. “She understood my arguments very well, pointed out weaknesses with precision and tact, suggested specific ways to remedy them, pushed me to say what I wanted to express, and helped me express it,” he wrote. “Indeed, I thought she was fabulous in every aspect of writing right down to spelling. I cannot give her a higher recommendation.”

Property professor Frank Michelman wrote that Kagan had “qualities both of seriousness and warmth, genuine and evident though not ebullient or obtrusive,” the story reports.

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