Esther Lardent

September 26, 2006; December 16, 2010; March 22, 2011;

November 9, 2011; February 22, 2012; August 3, 2012



Transcript of Interview with Esther Lardent (Sept. 26, 2006; Dec. 16,

2010; Mar. 22, 2011; Nov. 9, 2011; Feb. 22, 2012; Aug. 3, 2012),

Attribution The American Bar Association is the copyright owner or licensee for this

collection. Citations, quotations, and use of materials in this collection

made under fair use must acknowledge their source as the American Bar


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Trailblazers in the Law Project, a project initiated by the ABA Commission

on Women in the Profession and sponsored by the ABA Senior Lawyers

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Bar Association and the American Bar Foundation. Reprinted with

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Women Trailblazers in the Law





Maureen Thornton Syracuse

Erica Knieval Songer

Dates of Interviews:

September 26, 2006

December 16, 2010

March 22, 2011

November 9, 2011

February 22, 2012

August 3, 2012



September 26, 2006

Tape 1

This is Maureen Syracuse interviewing Esther Lardent on September 26, 2006. We are in

Esther’s home and the purpose of this recording is to record her oral history. So Esther, if you

would begin, tell me your full name and your date and place of birth.

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

My full name is Esther F. Lardent. F is for Ferster, which is my maiden

name, and I believe that my date of birth is April 23, 1947, in Lienz,

Austria. But there is some confusion about that.

All right. Tell me about your parents. What were your parents’ names?

My father’s name was William Ferster, and it’s Polish, Polish-Jewish and

so he was also known as Wladjek which is William, I understand in Polish

and my mother’s name was Rose Seidweber Ferster.

Where were your parents born?

Unfortunately I don’t know the exact place where they were born. They

were both Polish, and I know that they both were born in and lived in very

small towns in Poland, but I don’t actually know the names of the towns

that they were born in.

Well tell me what you know about your parents’ early life. What sort of

work did your father do when he was starting out?

My parents were both the eldest children of very large families. In both

cases, I believe six children. And they were very poor, and neither of

them ever went to school. My father’s family actually was Hasidic and

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:


Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

religious, my mother’s family was not. My father originally became a

kosher butcher, and that was the work that he did. And my understanding

is that in the schtetls, in the little Jewish communities in Poland, that was a

very important responsibility, being a kosher butcher. And it was

something that he took a great deal of pride in.

And what about your mother, did she ever have an occupation?

I don’t think so, but my parents didn’t talk a great deal about their lives

before I was born, so I don’t know. My mother actually was married

before she married my father, and the only thing that I really know about

that is that she married a man who was somewhat older than she was who

was a — he was involved in business of some kind. Apparently quite

affluent. They lived in Warsaw and they had a child, a daughter named


Tell me what you know about your parents’ life. You say you don’t know

much. Tell me what you know about their life before you were born.

What happened to them?

I know literally almost nothing about their lives before the war. I have

some photographs that give me some hints, but I really don’t know very

much about them before the war. Both of them were in concentration

camps during World War II. My father was in Bergen-Belsen which was,

as all the camps were, a terrible camp, but was considered more of a work

camp than a death camp. My mother, it’s my understanding that she and

her husband and her daughter actually hid during the early part of the war,

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:


Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

after Poland was invaded and taken over by the Germans, and they tried to

pass themselves off as Catholics, but were inadvertently outed to the

authorities and — my mother and her daughter were sent to Auschwitz.

And they were separated, and so I am not sure exactly where my mother

was at the end of the war because, I think, that many people who had

survived in Aushwitz were marched to other places, but that was where

she spent much of the war.

Do you know what happened to her daughter?

I don’t know. My assumption is that the daughter, who I think was about

eight when she was brought to the camps, was probably killed. But my

mother I think firmly believed that her daughter had been able to survive

and, indeed, after the war spent a great deal of time going to the various

displaced persons camps for children to see if she could reconnect with

her daughter, but never found her.

You said that you are not exactly sure when you were born. What do you

know about where you and your parents were living at the time that you

were born?

My parents met after the war. They hadn’t known each other before the

war. They met at a displaced persons camp, and my understanding is that

that camp was outside of Linz, Austria, in the American sector. Germany

and Poland were divided into sectors among the British, the French, the

United States, and Russia. And the camp was in the American sector,

which was a good place to be. And they met there. They presumably

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:


married there, although there was never any actual external validation or

record that I ever saw of their marriage. And I was born there. And we

stayed there for some time, and then — we spent the first four years of my

life traveling around Europe and Israel. We went to Germany, we went to

Venice, we went to Marseilles, and then we went to Tel Aviv and Haifa in

Israel. And I gather what was happening was that my parents were trying

to both search for my mother’s daughter and also, in Israel, to reconnect

with my father’s brother and his family, since they were one of the few

relatives that had survived the war, along with my parents. I believe that

the reason that I have some confusion about my birth date and my

birthplace is that, at some point, like many people who were living in the

displaced persons camps, my father became involved in the black market,

which was quite prevalent in Europe after the war. And he was caught by

the military, the U.S. Military, which was in charge of this whole area, and

was actually imprisoned for some period of time. And because my parents

very much wanted to come to the United States, they avoided mentioning

that imprisonment, not surprisingly. And apparently because my birthday

and birthplace could have been connected to this, in the official records,

the only official records of my birth, which are my immigration records, I

am listed as Ella Ferster born in Poland on July 7, 1946. And I would

never have known anything different, but when I was registered for school

my mother gave the April 23rd d ate and Austria. And my mother’s aunt,

my mother’s sister rather, my aunt, who was with us after the war,

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

confirmed that that was my birth date, so apparently it was. When my

parents and I were in Israel, they thought that was where they were going

to settle there, but this was 1949/1950 very soon after the war that created

Israel as a nation, and they found the place frightening, I think. I think it

was a little too unstable for them, and so we came back to Germany, and

what I do know is that we lived there for at least several months, I don’t

know exactly how long, in one of the largest of the displaced persons

camps, the camp called Bad Reichenstol, and from there we emigrated to

the United States. We came over on a converted battleship, in steerage,

and came actually through Ellis Island.

Let me ask you two things. Do you have any memories of anything from

that time before you actually came to the United States?

I do have some memories, they are very sporadic, but very visual. I don’t

remember anything about Austria, I think I was probably quite young. I

remember though being in Venice, and because it’s such a striking city, I

actually have visual memories of Venice. And I remember singing in

Italian in a little — being put on a table, I think I must have been two or

three, and singing in a little bar or trattoria in Venice, and I remember, in

Israel, being taught Hebrew. And my teacher was a former soldier who

had lost his leg in the war, so I do remember that. And I remember being

on the boat coming to the U.S. because I was incredibly sick. I was seasick

the entire time, and I think I remember when we came into the New


York harbor, my father brought me up to the deck of the ship so that I

could see the lady, so I could see the Statute of Liberty.

Ms. Syracuse: And how old were you when you came to the United States?

Ms. Lardent: I was four, I was about four. So it was 1951.

Ms. Syracuse: And when you came in through Ellis Island, where did you go from there?

Ms. Lardent: Apparently we were supposed to be going to Louisville, Kentucky or as

my mother would say, Kantooky, because there was a synagogue and a

group of families there who were willing to take us in and help support us.

But my mother’s sister, her younger sister, who we had spent a great deal

of time with after the war, she and her husband and her daughter had

actually come to the U.S. before us, and they had moved to Springfield,

Massachusetts. And so my mother wanted to know how far Louisville

was from Springfield, and the answer was, of course, a long way, and she

apparently convinced the immigration authorities to let us go to

Springfield, where my mother’s sister was going to sponsor us. So we

ended up moving to Springfield. And neither of my parents spoke a word

of English and certainly couldn’t read or write English, and we ended up

living in one room together, in the home of a woman who’d agreed to take

us in.

Ms. Syracuse: And how long did you live there, do you think? Do you know if you lived

there and what age you were . . .

Ms. Lardent: I don’t have very strong memories, I do know that we lived there for a

while. We then moved to apartments that were in public housing in the


Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

North End of Springfield, which was very racial diverse community, and

stayed in those for a while, and we then lived on the first floor of a duplex

house that was conveniently located literally next door to a synagogue. It

was a Russian synagogue, but it was an orthodox Russian synagogue, and

it was the synagogue that we went to. So I know we did that. And then,

by the time I think I was probably eleven and twelve, my parents actually

had saved enough money to buy a house.

And now — and you continued to live in Springfield?

We did. We lived in Springfield. We moved when I was in high school to

Forest Park, which is the more affluent neighborhood in Springfield, and

bought a very little house in a very nice neighborhood. But yes, we lived

in Springfield that whole time.

So what do you remember about your life in Springfield, before you

started school? Do you remember anything?

The interesting thing is I started school actually right after I got there. My

parents, as I mentioned, had never gone to school, but they had a very

clear sense of education as the most important vehicle for advancement,

and they very much wanted me to succeed. And so, again, I don’t know if

it’s apocryphal or real, but I think it is real. Apparently the day that we

actually got to Springfield, they somehow managed to get me to the

library near our house and get me a library card. That was sort of a first

step. And they got me enrolled in school, even though I think I was

actually a little bit young, and probably theoretically should have waited

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

for the next year. So I ended up going to kindergarten in the Springfield

public schools. And one of the things — it was a fairly tough school, it was

very much a ghetto school — but the thing that I remember is that my

parents became very unhappy because they, I was learning about other

religions. The story that I remember is that I came home from school one

day and showed my mother what I had learned and what I had learned was

to cross myself. And my parents were not happy with that, even though

my mother wasn’t particularly religious, they were not happy with that.

And so they ended up enrolling me in Lubavitcher Hasidic Yeshiva, and I

would take the school bus and go to the Yeshiva every year for several

years. I remember the Yeshiva, because there was not a great deal of

English being taught in Yeshiva, and girls were not expected to be

particularly intellectually outstanding, and so it was a very safe

environment, I think from my parents’ prospective, but a very frustrating

environment for me.

So does that mean that you were going to the Yeshiva full time as your

education, so you were out of the public school system?

I was out of the public schools, and English was taught only sporadically

there. Many of the classes were in either Yiddish or Hebrew, and that was

a problem because obviously I wasn’t hearing English at home. We didn’t

have — you know television was just sort of coming to its own — we didn’t

have the money for a T.V. I did have some volumes of an encyclopedia

and, of course, I had my library card, and so I would go to the library


every couple of days, pick up four books, bring them back, read them very

quickly. And so I learned my English originally from books, almost

completely from books, because nobody around me really spoke much

English at all.

Do you remember friends from that time in your life?

Having just gone to a reunion, I now do remember. And one of the things

that’s interesting is that the public housing project that I was in, and the

Yeshiva were populated for the most part by children of other

concentration camp survivors, who had come over after the war. The

families were quite close, although they also had their own feuds and

disagreements. But quite close, and the children, of course, were all

typically of a certain age. There was one or two children who had actually

been born during the war, who I am sure had amazing stories about how

that happened. But most of us had been born in 1947, 48, 49, 50, and we

were a transition generation. On the one hand, we were very much

steeped in our parents’ history and past and language. For most of us,

Yiddish was our first language. And their culture, which was a very

different culture. One of the things, when I was at this reunion of some of

my childhood friends was that we talked about the fact that none of us

actually knew how to set a table correctly, because spoons and forks and

knives go in a different place — in my parents world — and we were all

confused about how to do that. But we were also given fairly

contradictory messages. We were supposed to respect and value our

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:


Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

Jewish heritage and their past in Europe. And, in a way, I felt as if I grew

up in a Polish schtetl, which had been transported pretty much intact to

Springfield, Massachusetts, but it was like growing up in the turn of the

century. But in another way, of course, we were becoming Americans,

and so we were picking up the popular culture at the time, and we

reinforced that among each other. My parents, and I think the rest of the

parents, never talked to us about their experiences at all. And we didn’t

talk to each other about what our parents had in common. But

subliminally, we understood that we had a very special history, we had a

very special obligation, and that we weren’t actually either greenhorns

which was what these people were called or Americans. We were

somewhere in the middle between those groups. We were sort of a

transition link between those groups.

Did you, when did you come to know your parents history?

You know that’s an interesting question. I am not sure. I think that at

some level I probably knew something about it when I was quite young,

because I remember having dreams, really nightmares, quite vivid ones

about the camps. And what was amazing to me was when I was older and

I can remember those, they were physically accurate, you know the

barracks and the cots placed on top of each other and that sort of thing. So

I think I knew something about it and I knew it was different. And one of

the things, when I started public school, which was in second grade, then I

noticed that the adults that I saw in public schools, the teachers and the

families of the students there, didn’t have numbers on their arms. And all

the people that I knew, all the parents of the children that I knew, all my

parents’ friends, all had numbers on their arms. So I think there were

ways in which I sort of understood that. I think that it became very clear

to me actually through television — we got a television set, I don’t know

how old I was, but you know it was Howdy Doody and all those

programs. But we also watched documentaries, and the two that really

stand out in my mind were Judgment at Nuremberg which, and they had

some actual footage of camps and at one point my mother recognized a

woman who was a guard at Auschwitz and she fainted dead away. And

then we actually watched the Diary of Anne Frank, and I remember telling

my mother that Anne Frank had survived because I didn’t want to tell her

that she hadn’t. I don’t know how old I was, but I am guessing maybe I

was a teenager by then. So by then, it was, I understood, I had at least

some sense of what they had gone through.

Ms. Syracuse: Did you have any other siblings?

Ms. Lardent: No.

Ms. Syracuse: So it was you and your parents.

Ms. Lardent: It was me and my parents. I did have some cousins in Springfield and in

New York and then some second cousins in New Jersey and then some

people . . . another cousin came over from Poland in the mid-fifties, so

there was at least some family, but certainly no grandparents, no siblings.

And so it was an interesting environment. I think part of the reason that

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

my parents really strongly encouraged me to become a doctor or a lawyer

or to be very successful professionally was the fact that they didn’t have a

boy. And so I was their sort of hope, if you will, in terms of making a

success of myself. And I still remember — the only paper that we ever got

because they didn’t read or write English was the Daily Forward, which

was a Yiddish newspaper that my mother couldn’t read but my father

could. And my father would show me pictures of Golda Meir and say,

“You see, see what she can do, you see.” I think that if they had a son I

am sure that their son would have been the focus, but instead it devolved

to me.

What did your dad do to work?

When he came to this country, he tried to become a butcher again, and he

went to work for A&P, which was then sort of the dominant grocery store

chain, at least in that part of the world, and he found it too stressful,

apparently, and he couldn’t do it. So, he very proudly joined the

Teamsters union, and he became what was called a Teamster’s helper. He

didn’t drive for most of the time that I was home before I left for college.

My mother never drove, my father finally learned how to drive, but didn’t

drive and didn’t have a car. So he couldn’t become a Teamster. What the

Teamster’s helper would do is to load and unload the bottles, the empties

onto the truck and unload the full bottles of beer and wine and sodas at

various bars and restaurants. Both of my parents were very short. I think

my mother was probably 4′ 11″ and my father maybe hit 5 feet. So here is

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

this little man with these very broad, muscular shoulders. He really

enjoyed his work. He loved it. His colleagues called him Bill, and they

would make little jokes and, although he had a very thick accent, he did

learn English because he was out there, and he enjoyed the camaraderie.

And he was proud of the work and he worked constantly.

So Esther, you went back to public school for second grade, what was the

name, or do you remember the name of the school that you went to for

elementary and grammar.

I think it was Lincoln Elementary — they tested me when I went back to

the school. And apparently, although it was supposed to be an objective

test, it was quite culture-biased, and so I actually ended up in a class for

emotionally retarded children for a while. And so I had a very interesting

couple of months there, and then someone there noticed that I was actually

reading novels. They realized perhaps the test didn’t actually reflect my

capabilities, and so I was put into regular classes. I think it’s one of the

reasons that civil rights is such an important issue, given my parents’

background, but I think that that experience of understanding that

seemingly objective qualifications and criteria can, in fact, be quite

culturally biased was really important to me. The other thing about it was,

as I mentioned it was a school in a very poor neighborhood. Many of the

children were African American or Puerto Rican, and thinking back, I

think the teachers were very supportive of me. And I think it was for a

very troubling reason, which is that they assumed, because I looked like

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

Ms. Syracuse:

them, that I had intellectual capabilities that other kids didn’t have. So in

a very distressing way, I kind of benefited from bias being in the school.

And then did you go from elementary school to a junior high school?

Yes. Springfield at the time had three-year junior high schools, so you

went from first through sixth at elementary school. And I went to a junior

high school very close to my home, called Chestnut Junior High, which

was again very much of an inner city junior high school where there were

some very tough crowds, there were a lot of pregnancies, but I did have

some teachers, again, who were very very supportive of me, and they were

the ones who encouraged me. I don’t think my parents had any idea about

this, although maybe they did from other parents, but I don’t remember

them actually mentioning this. The city had magnet high schools. They

had a commercial high school, technical, classical and then there was

Cathedral, that was a parochial school. And you had to take a test to get

into Classical High School, which I did. It was really quite an amazing

school. A lot of the teachers had advanced degrees including doctorates,

they had a lot of advanced placement courses, and it was really a very

dedicated group of teachers and a very rigorous academic climate. I did

quite well there, although certainly I was not at the very top of my class. I

came out of my shell a little bit. I was in student government, and I was

the arts editor of the newspaper.

And what other hobbies did you have, other interests did you have outside

of school?

Ms. Lardent: Well, I didn’t really have hobbies. It’s interesting that you’d mention that.

You know that concept was sort of foreign to me because my parents had

none of that. They didn’t really think in terms of recreation. We didn’t go

to movies, we had no books in the house, they didn’t read, and they didn’t

have hobbies. They did play cards. They had a group of people that they

socialized with and played cards with, and we went on vacation to the

beach, to the Connecticut shore, for probably a week, two weeks every

summer. But hobbies were sort of a foreign notion, and my parents were

very focused on work and survival [END SIDE A]. I never learned to

cook, I never learned to sew. I was discouraged from any of that, and, as

there were for many people at that time, there were home ec. classes in

school, and I was a dismal failure. You started out, I think the first thing

that you were supposed to sew was an apron which tells you sort of where

things were, and of course the boys took shop and the girls took home ec.

And I somehow got very stuck on the waistband of my apron, I remember.

Everybody else had moved onto skirts and suits, and I was still trying to

get the waistband on my apron. So I didn’t have those hobbies and all.

My big interest, I read still a tremendous amount. When I had my reunion

with my friends, they talked about the fact that people used to worry about

me because I always had my nose in a book. And, in fact, I don’t know

how old I was, but I got in trouble once. I came home and my mother met

me at the door very upset because she had gotten a call from the police

because I had been at the library, the same library where they had gotten

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

me my library card when we came to America, and had taken out, again,

four or six books and I was reading on my way home and crossing streets

oblivious to traffic. And the police and a neighbor called my mother to

tell her that I was doing this and that I needed to be kind of disciplined for

it because I was endangering my life.

But what did you read? Did you read certain kinds of books? What do

you remember?

Well, what I remember, particularly when I was younger, was I loved fairy

tales and there was the brown book of fairy tales and the lavender book of

fairy tales and the blue book of fairy tales and Grimm’s and Scandinavian

fairy tales and Arabian fairy tales, and I loved all that. And as I got older.

I read fiction, lots and lots and lots of fiction and almost no non-fiction at

all. So I loved that, and I was, thank goodness, at the time of growing up

at a time of cultural upheaval, so I loved music. The Beatles had a very

profound effect on me when they came to the United States, and I loved

the Beatles and I loved the Rolling Stones and I got very very involved in

music. And like lots and lots of teenage girls of that age, I figured out

who my favorite Beatle was and why and that sort of thing. I was

interested in politics. I grew up in Massachusetts, you know, as you did,

when John Kennedy was running for President, and I adored him and

hated Richard Nixon with a passion. When I was a kid, I wanted a pet, I

wanted a dog. And my parents actually got me a dog, for a very brief

time, but decided the dog was too dirty an animal, so I ended up with a

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

parakeet who I did not like and I named the parakeet Richard Madhouse

Nixon — Dickybird, for short — because I really didn’t like the parakeet.

And so politics was a little bit of a hobby. And actually, as young as I

was, I got very very interested in what was going on with civil rights, and

I wanted to travel to the South and participate in sit-ins and civil

disobedience, but, as you can imagine, my parents frowned on that. But I

actually joined the local chapter of the NCAAP.

While you were in high school?

While I was in high school. And was very very interested in and very

committed to the civil rights struggle and the values and couldn’t figure

out how a seventeen-year-old white girl in Massachusetts could actually

do something, but I was very much taken with that.

When you think back to high school, are there any particular friends who

stand out who influenced you or teachers or other adults who maybe had

an impact on you.

There were definitely teachers. I mean, my history teacher whose name

escapes me, but who I have a picture of actually, I think was very

important to me because he give me a larger world view. I mean I really, I

think he was an exceptional teacher, and it was the first time that I sort of

understood anything about history, including relatively modem day

history, but, you know, the history of the United States and how it was

created, and that was very important to me. I had a French teacher who

had her doctorate and had been educated at the Sorbonne, and she

introduced me to French literature especially French theater, which I

loved. And then Mr. Black, it might have been Dr. Black. He was the

faculty advisor to the newspaper staff, and he was the one who encouraged

me actually to apply to schools other than — you know my parents wanted

me to attend — they wanted me to go to college, it was very important, but

they wanted me to go to college close to home and that would have either

been Springfield College or the University of Massachusetts. And it was

Mr. Black who encouraged me to apply to Radcliffe and to Pembroke and

who particularly was enamored to Pembroke because one of his children

had gone to Brown and who created an expectation among us. Looking

back, we were incredibly annoying, because we would, on the blackboard,

if you were on the newspaper, you were at the newspaper for homeroom.

And on the blackboard, we would list in the fall, in the winter and spring

of our senior year who was going where and to what schools and it was

only the Ivy’s and related schools that really mattered. So we were little

snobs. But he was the one who actually told me that there was a distinct

possibility that I could get into these schools and that I could get

scholarships because, of course, my parents were, my mother wasn’t

working at all because she had significant health issues. She worked for a

while in a hospital laundry, but she really couldn’t sustain it. And she

cleaned houses for a while, but she couldn’t really sustain that. And my

father was I am sure making minimum wage, and one of the reasons he

worked lots of hours was to get enough money. And they were very

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

careful with their money and very interested in saving money. But they

had no ability to send me to a private school. So those three teachers, I

think, were very important to me. And in terms of friends, I hung out with

this group of pretty verbal, fairly confident students who did very very

well academically. And they were some amazing people. I still remember

one boy in my class who also came from Europe, his family was Russian,

and in fact I had a girlfriend who also was Russian. And he was amazing.

He actually directed a movie that I helped with in very modest ways as his

senior writing project. I have always wondered what happened to him.

He was a great guy. So a lot of very bright, very accomplished students

most of whom came from families very very different from mine. They

lived very different lives. They were much more prosperous, and their

parents were professionals, middle class, that sort of thing.

When you think back to your high school days, do you remember, did you

have any ideas of what you wanted to study if you went beyond high

school or what work you might want to do? Do you remember any

pictures you had of your life, what you thought your life might be?

Well, I think my parents thought that I should become a doctor. But

science was not exactly my forte to tell the truth and nor did I think math

was. I remember being humiliated in my math class by a teacher who kept

asking me questions I couldn’t answer. So I loved being the arts editor, I

loved reviewing books and films. In theater, I didn’t even know there was

anything called live theater, to tell you the truth, as I had never seen it, so I

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

didn’t know about that, but I did do book and movie reviews, although I

didn’t see many movies when I was a kid, and I loved that. But that didn’t

seem to be like a profession at all. And I knew my parents wanted me,

were into the idea of medicine. But I don’t know, I think I wanted to do

something that would be to help other people, and I wanted to somehow

get close to the truth, whatever the truth was. Those were my goals, but I

also knew we didn’t have a lot of money and, as I said, my grades were

not bad at all, but they weren’t terrific. But then in my senior year I took

the SATs and got terrific scores on the SATs. I remember everybody

being very surprised at that because I wasn’t really perceived to be

somebody who would do that. And that opened up a lot of possibilities.

Well tell me about applying to college and where did you apply? Do you

remember? Where did you want to go? How did that all work, and then

where did you end up? That’s five questions.

It is a lot of questions. I applied to U Mass, I probably applied to

Swarthmore College. I applied to places that were — I didn’t want to go to

I think a women’s college, but I applied to places that were well regarded,

that had a women’s school in the context of a coed university. So there

was — Rutgers, I think, had a women’s college, Douglas, it was Douglas.

So I applied to that, I applied to Radcliffe, I applied to Pembroke. And I

went with another friend of mine in my class to Providence to actually

interview, which, you know, I don’t think that ever happens anymore.

And I got into, I think, pretty much every place that I applied to. And I

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

don’t know if it was Mr. Black or if it was the school counselor, but I was

discouraged from going to Radcliffe because, I think, people thought it

would be overwhelming for me, which, I think was probably right. I

think, you know, the size of it, the very different backgrounds that people

had, I think I could have gotten very very lost there. And I ended up

going to Brown. And again I don’t know if this is true, but my memory is

that I actually got into Brown when the woman who was number one in

our class and a cheerleader did not. And then I got in through their

students of disadvantaged backgrounds program. And the result of that

was it turned out to be really a perfect place for me to go to school in

many many ways. One of the reasons was that they just gave me extra

attention and extra help. And so they would, for example, they’d give me

money to go to New York, and I went to museums and live theater for the

first time ever. So it was a terrific environment, and it was also one where

I didn’t get lost in it, let’s put it that way.

And what kind of, what were your academic interests? What was your

major? What classes did you take?

I started off taking biology and things like that, what you need for a premed

degree and soon realized that that was a big big mistake. And then I

kind of actually pretty much took whatever interested me, I have to say,

and so I took a little more history, which continued to be really fascinating

to me, poli-sci was fascinating to me. But my first official major was

religious studies. Not that I was religious in any way, I really . . . as I

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

mentioned that my father was very very religious; my relatives were

Hasidic, and I didn’t like their version of religion at all. And I pretty

much was falling away from all that. But I thought that religion could

maybe get me to the center of things, to the heart of things. And I had

some wonderful teachers. One of them actually just died. But really

amazing teachers who were ahead of their time, I think, in thinking about

sort of the continuum of religions and sort of what was common to all

religious thoughts. So it was really very interesting. But it turned out, that

wasn’t for me either. So I took fabulous comparative literature classes,

and then I became a French literature major for a while, and I ended up

graduating with a major in English and American literature because it was

what I had enough credits in to graduate.

What kind of student were you? Were you a dutiful class attender? What

kind of college experience did you have?

I had a wonderful college experience, but I was not a dutiful class

attender. First of all, you know, I went to college at a very interesting

time because when I went, Brown and Pembroke were very much a

school, as one of the dorm heads once said to me, for fine young women

from fine old families. It had a little bit of the sort of clinging vine of the

Ivy League aspect to it, and it was, I think, probably viewed as a place

where people who couldn’t get into Harvard went. So there were a lot of

people who were children of well-known people, a lot of people came

through prep schools and that sort of thing, incredibly different. It was

also a party school. It had no sororities, which was one of the reasons I

went there. I had been in a sorority, and I had been president of my

sorority in high school and hated it and wanted to have nothing to do with

  1. But it did have fraternities and a very very robust social life which I

engaged in fully. When I first went, I remember coming to the school and

my parents didn’t drive me. My father wasn’t capable of driving that

distance, it would have been too frightening. I was wearing a suit and a

panty girdle and a hat and gloves. And, you know, four years later when I

graduated I owned several pairs of bell bottoms, work shirts and buffalo

hide sandals. So it was a time of cultural and political foment, and on top

of that, for me, was the fact that I came from this very very sheltered

home, and that it was very clear, from — the message from my parents was

that I was supposed to do well in school and I was supposed to be very

well behaved and not be in any way a problem for them. And I was in

high school, which meant that when I went got to college a whole new

world opened up for me. So I would say I was a . . . I attended classes

idiosyncratically. If I liked the course, I would go all the time, if I didn’t

like the course, I would rarely ever go. I was not consistent in any way. I

spent a lot of my time involved in political protests. It was certainly the

time for that, antiwar protests, also protest related to things like parietal

rules for women. And it was definitely a time when my sense of the

inequality of women’s lives came to the fore. So I spent a lot of time

doing that. On the other hand, I also graduated magna cum laude and I

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

was in Phi Beta Kappa, so I clearly had a very good grade point average

and did well academically. But I was known for my nickname, which was

the Midnight Wonder, because I just procrastinated terribly, and I think I

got pretty unpopular because I would just complain and moan and weep

and gnash my teeth and have anxiety about the fact that I had paper due

the very next day and, you know, I hadn’t even started it, and what was I

going to do. And then I would get the paper done and get a really good

grade on it, and people got very sick of and very unsympathetic to my

ways. But I was quite undisciplined, and a lot of my education was in

classes that were absolutely wonderful classes and wonderful teachers. It

was an extraordinary education. But a lot of my education also came

outside of that in the usual college bull sessions with people, and I read

what I wanted to read and often that had nothing to do with the reading for

the courses that I took. I read. I discovered modern literature in a way

that I hadn’t before, and I fell in love with Joseph Heller and Mikhail

Bulgakov and Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut and all those people

and just read deeply and widely. So, it was a wonderful experience, and I

came out looking as though I had worked really really hard, and I worked

harder, I think, than I pretended I worked, but I was not a diligent student

by any means.

You mentioned something about the protests that you participated in.

Your college years were . . .

1964 to 1968.

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

And can you, do some examples come to mind of how the changes in the

outside world impacted your life, when you were in college?

Absolutely. I mean the biggest thing, of course, was — well, there were so

many things. I mean part of it was YouthQuake and cultural, and it was

clothing styles and hairdos and music and drugs, and I was, you know,

fully there with all of that, without a doubt, and sexual liberation and,

again, fully there with all that. But also politically — I think the biggest

thing was the Vietnam War and protests against the war. And all the

things that were happening nationally were happening at Brown, so the

mobilization, the mock funerals, the demonstrations, burning of draft

cards, teach-ins, all of that was going on, and I was very much, not a

leader in any of that, but very much a participant in all that and read

widely and that sort of thing. And, you know, more discussions, and you

know heroes and villains. Senator Moss was a hero, Lyndon Johnson was

the villain, the world very black and white. And I would go, I think, we

probably had demonstrations weekly. I walked out of my college

graduation in protest because they were giving an honorary degree to Bob

Hope, who was viewed as very much supporting the military and the war,

and to the father of then Senator John Chafee who was quite famous on

the Brown campus because he had strenuously objected, I think he had

become physically involved in trying to stop an anti-ROTC protest that

was going on at the school. It was those times. So, that very much was an

enormous part of our lives. And we had teachers who understood that that

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

was really part of, it was part of their own school to help us gain some

knowledge in the times that we were living in. So that was a big big part

of my life as it was so many other peoples. And then the other thing was I

discovered movies and theater. I had many lives in that sense. I mean it

was definitely the sort of social dancing to James Brown and The Rolling

Stones and enjoying spring weekend, and all that sort of thing, but also I

did theater reviews and movie reviews and I just remember that Brown

has now and had then an amazing theater department and I can still

remember seeing my first live play which was at Brown. It was an

Edward Albee play and it was incredible. And just being blown away by

that — that was another major that I thought about, but I lack the talent

really to participate in it. But I still hung out at the outskirts of the theatre

crowd, and I would go to every movie I can imagine. And we would each

come out just high as a kite from these movies, from watching Bonnie and

Clyde which just felt like a completely different kind of movie or Ingmar

Bergman movies which were so unbelievable or, you know, it was very

sort of, the movies that were fringe, Flaming Creatures. Did you ever see

Flaming Creatures?

No, I don’t know that one.

Oh my God, a very bizarre movie, very out there in many many respects.

And music and rock and roll, as it was for so many of the people, was so

important. I remember seeing Janis Joplin perform and the Animals and

following The Rolling Stones around to several concerts in the New

England area because I was so taken with them. So it was an amazing

time. It was an amazing time, and the other part of it for me was the

continuing interest in civil rights and, of course, that was going on and that

was so important, as well. I ended up my junior year of college, I did a

summer VISTA program, and I was assigned, they asked me what I

wanted to do, and I expressed my interest in working on civil rights issues.

And I was assigned to work with an organization called Operation

Exodus. That was in Roxbury, the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.

And what Operation Exodus did was it took kids out of the inner city

schools and voluntarily sent them to schools in some of the wealthier

suburbs like Newton. And so I worked with them programmatically and I

also volunteered to be a playground counselor for kids in the Roxbury-

Dorchester neighborhood where I lived. One of the things about VISTA

was you have to live in the neighborhood where you worked, but my main

task was to research and document and hopefully to end de facto

segregation on the bus and in schools. This was 1967; it was right after all

the Watts and riots and all those issues. And, of course, in Boston, school

desegregation was the issue, and so I actually went and met with and

interviewed people like Louise Day Hicks and various other people about

the situation. I went to the schools in Roxbury and Dorchester, and as

Jonathan Kozol, who was writing his book then, documented, they were

abysmal. And I prepared my report. And I handed it over, and nothing

happened. And I was outraged. And I realized that just being right didn’t

Ms. Syracuse:

Ms. Lardent:

matter, nothing was going to change. Operation Exodus was on Blue Hill

Avenue in Dorchester, in the area it was known as the Strip, with lots and

lots of community groups, and one of the groups that had its offices

nearby was CORE. And the NAACP also had an office. And the folks at

CORE and NAACP were in the middle of a developing lawsuit that

became the Boston desegregation case. They were among the many

people that I interviewed and I did volunteer work for them. Before that

summer, what I’d decided that I wanted to do was to go to graduate

school, get my doctorate, go to New York, find a job teaching in a college,

and hopefully figure out a way to become a movie and theater reviewer.

That was my vision for what I was going to do. When I came back to

school after that summer, I had decided that I was going become a lawyer

because, as near as I could tell, the only people who had a capacity to

make things change were lawyers. I had not known any lawyers growing

up obviously. These were the first lawyers I was exposed to, and I

realized how much power they had to do right. So I went back for my

senior year, and I applied to law schools to become a civil rights lawyer.

Did you have, at that same time, did you have any sense of any issues

affecting you as a student because of your gender.

Oh absolutely. As I mentioned, I think, there were issues that were

coming up and it came up interestingly around — you know it was

interesting because being at Pembroke, Pembroke had its own deans and

vice-deans and that sort of thing, and they were very strong, very smart,

very capable women. So there were some role models there that were

quite interesting. And, in fact, the generally accepted wisdom at the

school was that Pembrokers were much brighter than men at Brown. We

thought that, they thought that. But despite that, we were, in many ways,

viewed as needing protection in lots of ways. And, you know, when I

look back at it now, I think that some of the sort of fundamentalism that

you see now toward women and why women need to wear burkas and

things like that. It’s a much more moderated version of that. So of course

we had parietal rules. The men didn’t have parietal rules. We were

objects of temptation, I guess, and the idea was that the way you

controlled it was to control us. So they could come back any old time and

we had to be back at 11:30. Now those parietal rules kept getting watered

down and expanded and expanded until they were really pretty

meaningless. But still why us? And you couldn’t have men in your room

except certain times of the day and under certain rules and that sort of

thing and we all started to really resent that and to question that.

Tape 2

Ms. Syracuse: So your burning issue when you ran for Student Government . .

Ms. Lardent: A winning issue, I might add was coed dining Really. What happened was all

of our classes for Pembroke were on the Brown campus which was several

blocks away, and you know Providence, Rhode Island, the weather got pretty

bad, but we had to eat at Pembroke. We were not allowed to eat at the Brown

Refectory, affectionately known as The Rat, and so I ran for Student

Government on the coed dining ticket, and just swept right into office. Because

I was a movie reviewer. I used a poster from the movie “Tom Jones,” where

Tom and this woman, they’re eating and she takes a bite of a turkey leg and then

he takes a bigger bite, very sexual. I used that as my campaign poster. So, uh

coed dorms, we wanted coed dorms and, of course, that was unthinkable at the

time. By my junior year, I think, the women began to realize that we were in

many respects second-class citizens, and so much less so, I think, than women

on other campuses. We had our newspaper, for example, we had our own

yearbook, so that the fact was that the women were not necessarily very much in

positions of leadership and authority, in Brown institutions. We had our own

Student Government; didn’t matter quite as much. But we began to realize that

we really were being held to different standards and that we were being

restricted in activities. And so we actually had a big protest march which was

very Martin Luther like. We had a list of demands, and we went up and we put

them on the door of the Dean’s house. But interestingly enough, I still

remember this, and resenting it at the time. There was a guy, who was a year


ahead of us at Brown, and he kind of helped us orchestrate the protest. And I

remember thinking why do we need a guy to tell us to do this, so it was

fascinating, I mean, there were certainly external things going on. I mean Ms.

magazine was beginning to appear, and women were starting to talk about this

issue in New York. And I’m sure that had some impact, but it was just, in our

own world, we felt it and we couldn’t understand why if we were intellectual

equals and even the physical equals, I mean, Pembroke was interesting because

we had a women’s hockey team, and, you know, it was a school in which

women really were equal except that we weren’t.

Ms. Syracuse: So, separate but equal?

Ms. Lardent: It was separate but equal, but every time we kind of had to deal with men — I

remember even the protest against the war, men were the leaders and women

were sort of the facilitators. We were the secretaries, we took notes, we made

sure that we had everything we needed for the meetings, but we were never

people who spoke. And in a way, you could rationalize that by saying well it

was men who had been drafted and we weren’t. But there was just something

wrong with it all, and I still remember when I came back and I decided I was

going to take my LSATs and apply to law school and there were three women

who took the LSATs. There were more women from my class who went to law

school afterwards, but that year there were three women who took the LSATs,

and when we came in we were booed, because the men thought that we were

going to ruin the curve, we were going to skew it. And it was very clear that we

really, that our strength and our capacities were threatening to men and to the

school and that there were all kinds of preconceptions that didn’t apply to us at

all, which was frustrating. But it was kind of exciting to see, you know, how

you could just knock those things down. So I’d say my, and I was definitely one

of those people who, I had wonderful friends, women friends at school, but my

rep was I don’t really have that many women friends, most of my friends were

men. And I think that underlying that was that those are the people who are

more interesting, more intellectually adventuresome. And something happened,

I think in my junior and senior years when I began to realize how important

other women were to me. And how much we had to share. And it was a major

shift, definitely.

Ms. Syracuse: Well, tell me a little bit about applying to law school. How did you decide

where to apply and I know you wanted to be a civil rights lawyer, but what was

your idea about what law school would be like?

Ms. Lardent: I really, again, I had absolutely no idea. I mean the only lawyers I knew where

these NAACP and CORE people. I didn’t really know anything about schools.

Pembroke didn’t have anybody who could really counsel me on that at all. And

so, I’m not even sure how it was that I knew where to apply, but what happened

was my grades, as I say, were good. I did very well in my LSATs. And it was

1967,, and I was not somebody who was going to be drafted. So, somehow, I

don’t know if I talked to friends, I don’t know if I talked to men, I don’t know

how I knew this, but I knew that I was in very good shape, and so I applied to all

the top schools. So I applied to Yale, I applied to Harvard, I applied to NYU,

Columbia, Chicago. I don’t think I applied to Stanford, although I wanted to,

because my parents were extremely unhappy about the idea of my going all the

way to California. But I applied to those schools, and I got in everywhere. And

I had sort of knocked Columbia off my list because I was actually sort of seeing

somebody who went to Columbia, who was an undergrad at Columbia. And I

went to see him and visited the law school while I was there, and the class that I

saw, I have a feeling it might have been Judge Rifkin, I’m not sure, but it was

somebody who is a judge who was teaching who made people stand up to

answer. And I was at the height of my political radicalism, and I didn’t stand up

for anybody. So, that did not look appealing to me. And then Yale, I went and

interviewed at Yale, and in retrospect, I’d probably have been happiest at it, I

think. But there were very few women there. There were nine, ten, eleven

women in every class. The classes were small, but there were very few women,

and there were rules about when women could live off campus, for law school.

And that didn’t seem right to me. So, I finally narrowed it down to Harvard or

Chicago. Chicago was further away, which had great appeal for me, further

away from my parents. I really wanted to kind of be out on my own. And they

gave me a $100.00 a year more than Harvard, which was at the time all the

money in the world. Because again, I had, as a VISTA volunteer, I had earned

$40 a week and had to pay, of course, my rent and other expenses out of that.

My parents had no money, I had no money, and so I needed quite a bit of

financial aid, and that just was a tipping point for me. So, I decided that I would

go to Chicago. Chicago, I thought, was a pretty liberal school, you know I

didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know anything about the law school. I

knew nothing about the Chicago School of Economics. I just had no idea.

Because, again, I had no counseling. But that was where I decided I was going

to go. In the spirit of the times, I was thinking of myself as a free spirit, and

while my lifestyle wasn’t really counter-culture, it was in some ways. I went

barefoot, and I had to borrow a dress for my senior year photo, because I didn’t

own one, and ommed a lot. So there was a part of me that really resented going

to law school. It felt like a little bit like prison to me. I’d have to be very proper

and wear suits and that sort of thing, but living a life in the arts just seemed, it

seemed incredibly self-indulgent, given everything that was going on in the


Ms. Syracuse: How did you spend the summer between college and law school?

Ms. Lardent: Well, because I did think of myself as kind of going into this very straight

world, I decided that this was my last summer of freedom. So a very good

friend of mine from high school, probably one of the very few people from high

school that I stayed in touch with, June Freeman, and I decided that we were

going to spend the summer in Europe. We got inexpensive tickets from

Icelandic Air, and we had our Europe on five dollars a day book. Part of the

decision actually, just stepping back, I would have to say that one of the reasons

why we made that decision of other than sort of wanting to have our freedom

was, of course, everything that happened in the spring and summer of ’68. First,

the assassination of Martin Luther King, which was just almost unthinkable. It

was only thinkable because we had been through John F. Kennedy’s

assassination. And that was such a loss of innocence. I think the closest

experience, similar experience for younger people would have to be 9/11. That

sense that the world as you know it was somehow a sham and that there are all

these horrible things going on that you weren’t aware of And that the capacity

for evil is so close to the surface and so prevalent. I was actually at home, I

think on a school break and hearing about his assassination, and just thinking

that the country was going to go mad, that the center just literally wouldn’t hold,

that there would be an uprising of incredible proportions. And then, Bobby

Kennedy’s assassination. And I think part of the reason that June and I did this

was we had started it sort of more in that spirit of the last kind of fling, if you

will, before adulthood. But I think it evolved into a sense that we weren’t sure

we wanted to live in this country anymore. And we wanted to be away from it.

We really did. We wanted to be away from the hatred and the anger and the

divisions and everything that seemed to be going so terribly wrong. And so we

actually had a very schizophrenic summer, part of it spent hanging out with cute

French boys, drinking wine, or sleeping on the beach on the Riviera because that

was all we can afford. And part of it spent in Maoist student centers talking

about politics and trying to explain in French what was happening in the United

States. And what was going to happen next. Was there just going to be this

conflagration, and will the revolution come. We thought that was actually what

was going to happen. We really thought the people would rise up. And the

pressures of racial hatred and this horrible and divisive and unfair war were

going to lead people to just overturn the government. And so did the students in

the Maoist centers. And, of course, we flew into Paris, and the first thing we

heard from everybody was you can’t stay in Paris, because the student uprisings

were going on and the police were arresting anybody of a certain age. So, we

ended up — we didn’t exactly have a big plan for where we were going, so we

ended up actually hitchhiking through the Loire Valley and then down to the

Riviera and had a number of, amazing little experiences there. And then, and I

think this was sort of the final moment in creating my feminist consciousness,

we were hitchhiking through the low Alps. And we had learned never get into a

car with two men. You would think that people would know that, but we were

young and foolish and we didn’t. But we learned that lesson soon enough, and

so we would only take rides from couples or from single men. And we got in a

car with this man and June didn’t speak French. I spoke French with a terrible

accent. I was quite fluent. And we got into the car with him, and we were

driving along in a very lonely stretch of highway and he now said that he

wanted to sleep with us. And I explained that we didn’t want to do that. And he

was upset, and he was going to make us do that and stopped the car and grabbed

  1. And we ended up running away from him, leaving everything we had in the

car. And then going through would have been funny if it wasn’t so frightening,

this experience of dealing with small town French gendarmerie and trying to

explain what was happening, and their version of somewhat investigating the

crime and ending up in Marseille without passports, toothbrushes, changes of

clothes, money, anything. We ended up finally coming back to the U.S. early

because we didn’t have enough money to really take care of ourselves in

Europe. And certainly we were not going to be doing hitchhiking and sleeping

on beaches anymore, because we had learned our lesson. So I came back and

went to stay with friends of mine in Providence. And they tell me that routinely,

when I started talking, I would start talking about this attempted rape. And

again, I think it’s the shift in thinking. I think that my assumption, before this

happened, was that being raped would be awful, but it wouldn’t be the end of

the world. I mean, you know, I wasn’t a virgin. What did it matter? And it

wasn’t until I came very, very close that I realized that this wasn’t a sexual act at

all, it was an act of rage and aggression. And how powerless I felt, and how

differently the police treated the crime. That was, I think, the final lesson that

turned me into a very strong feminist.

Tape 3

This is Erica Knievel interviewing Esther Lardent on December 16, 2010. We’re at the Pro

Bono Institute, and the purpose of this recording is to record Esther’s oral history for the Women

Trailblazers Project. This is tape number three in that recording. Now Esther, when the last

session ended, you were discussing your trip to Europe with June prior to law school. Can you

describe what happened and how you felt when you were returning to the U.S.?

Ms. Lardent: Absolutely. It was a fascinating time of course to be in Europe because it

was the summer of 1968, and everywhere we went there were

demonstrations, strikes, and riots — not just workers, but also students. So,

very much that same sense, I think, of a time of great turmoil and upheaval

and a very split society where people were very much at odds with each

other, and with some terrible things having happened, obviously violence

and assassinations and everything, but also sort of a sense of promise —


very much a sense that there was a new generation that wasn’t going to do

things the same way. So, then coming back to the United States, having

been very happy to leave after the King assassination and the Kennedy

assassination and just this sense of the center not holding, when I came

back, I stayed with friends in Providence, Rhode Island — my friends who

were a year behind me at Brown, and just really didn’t do much of

anything, you know, picked up a little work here and there, waitressed,

that sort of thing, but honestly didn’t do much of anything. And of course

we were all fascinated by, and glued to the T.V. watching the 1968

Democratic Convention, and watching what was going on in the streets of

Chicago and the demonstrators — the way that Mayor Daley really

suppressed any efforts to bring different views, and the fact that the — and

you know, I feel badly actually about the way that I viewed him, but the

fact that Hubert Humphrey, who we viewed as sort of part of the old, tired

party, and who turned out to have in fact, if I had researched it, some real

bona fides in terms of civil rights and progressive politics, but we didn’t

view him as, I didn’t view him as an opponent, but just somebody who

really felt like someone from the past, as opposed to somebody who could

lead us into the future. Watching the demonstrators in the streets and

being clubbed and everything else in the city that I was about to go to, was

quite — it made me think again about whether — really, was this what I

wanted to do. Did I want to go to law school? I mean it seemed as though

that was so far removed from what was going on in the streets, and had so

much less immediacy and then I was going to Richard Daley’s city, so it

raised some issues for me, but I decided that I was going to go. I had

never been further west than New Hampshire before I went. So, I went

there and got to the building that the university owned, and what they had

done which was really interesting was, the building was on 60th Street, and

at the time in Chicago, I don’t know if this is still true, then 60th Street was

sort of the — it was kind of the northern most edge of a very unsafe

community. Chicago is very — there was an amazing amount of racial

segregation and tension in the city, and the law school was on 60th Street

as was the School of Social Work — I think it’s SSA. And what they did

was they put — I had been assigned a roommate from the social work

school and put in an apartment that looked out on the Midway, which was

where the — the place where it turned out a lot of the gangs in the area

would come and negotiate and sometimes fight with each other. The

building was all women, interestingly and it was a pretty dangerous place

to be. We all had experiences with getting held up when we went to do

laundry in the basement or having our apartment broken into and that sort

of thing, but it was only two blocks from the law school, which was great.

So I went to law school, you know, went to my first day of law school and

what was really striking was there were 25 women in a fairly small class.

I think the class probably was 140 people. It was the largest number of

women to have ever come to Chicago and of course it was because of the

Vietnam War and so it was really quite striking. I’m not sure the law

school knew quite what to do with us and not only were there a lot of

women, but obviously there were a lot of women who had had kind of a

feminist awakening as well. And the school definitely wasn’t ready for

that, nor was it ready for people who were very progressive in their

politics. I hadn’t gotten a lot of counseling about what law school to go to

and I think I made the assumption that Chicago was, in fact, a very liberal

school and while it certainly had a lot of old New Deal folks there, it was

also the time when a number of people, Judge Posner, most notably, were

coming to law school who were from the law and economics school.

What we found was there were all these interesting regulations so, for

example, women couldn’t wear pants — had to wear skirts. I don’t know if

that was a written or an unwritten rule but women had to wear skirts. By

the time you hit about November or December in Chicago, there was no

way that you were wearing skirts. So that was one of the rules and the — I

still remember that the only woman, I believe at the time, on the faculty,

was Soia Mentschikoff. And Soia Mentschikoff had with her husband,

Karl Llewellyn, who by then was gone but they had basically been the

authors of the Uniform Commercial Code and Soia was, you know,

obviously brilliant, enormously well respected and we used to joke that as

a woman you could be on faculty at Chicago if you had written some

major piece of legislation.

Ms. Knievel: Is it that simple?

Ms. Lardent: Yeah, exactly. And she was very soft spoken, so you had to lean in to

listen to her, but very powerful. But I remember that we, because we felt

like we were in a guy’s locker room and there was no place for her. There

were not even enough bathrooms for us and of course we couldn’t stay in

the student housing because that was all men and it was attached to law

school. So we formed a Law Women’s Caucus, just as a support network.

And I still remember Soia, Soia I think asked to speak to the women in our

class and she gave what was in many ways a lovely speech about how

wonderful it was to see more women at the Law School, how wonderful it

was that more women were coming into the law. But then she said a

couple of things that I think were very . . . upsetting. She talked about the

fact that we needed to dress modestly, of course this was the time of

miniskirts, and then she said that one of the things that was really

important was that we had to be very careful in the way that we portrayed

ourselves. And she said “so for example, if you’re doing moot court and

you get upset, you really shouldn’t cry.” And I thought, well why would I

cry? I mean, why would we be more prone to crying? And the other thing

she said was “and just remember, always remember that you’re law

students first and women second.” And that did not go over well with our

crew. Then we went into our classes and what we found was that the

professors, most of them, were just not prepared to deal with women and

particularly a large number of women. There was one professor that just

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

wouldn’t call on women at all. Just kind of pretended that they didn’t

exist in the slightest, and then .

Would women raise their hands?

I don’t remember if we did. I mean it was — this was definitely at the

height of Socratic method teaching, too. It was brutal. My first class in

law school, which was, it was an introduction to the legal profession, it

was Geoffrey Hazard, and I remember one man — I didn’t really expect

that they’d just start right in, that didn’t happen so much in the world of

liberal arts, and so I remember one guy was crying. What I tried to do was

sit behind the tallest guy I could find in the class and hope that I would

never get picked out in the chart, you know. I don’t remember if women

did raise their hands, but women just didn’t get called on. The other side

of the coin was, Norval Morris, what he liked to do in his class was he

would pick the youngest, most innocent looking woman in the class and

he would ask her to state the facts in a case called Stephenson v. State.

And Stephenson v. State involved the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan

in, I think in Indiana, who kidnapped a woman who was a kindergarten

teacher, took her to Chicago, raped her and ultimately she died from being

abused sexually and physically. We’d heard about this. So we all actually

vied to be the youngest looking, I mean people wore pigtails. We were

pretty in your face and we certainly tried to be pretty in your face. We

vied for who would be the most innocent person and that person presented

the facts in the case but did it with, you know, an obscenity here and a

kind of colloquial term for a body part there, and I think he was really

quite appalled by the whole thing. But you really did have this sense that,

you know, we were just out of place there and there were rules, we didn’t

know the rules, they were like secret meetings, we didn’t have them, so we

kind of created our own group. It was a very contentious three years at the

law school, for a lot of reasons, not just around issues of gender but, you

know, the Vietnam War was continuing and it was expanding into

Cambodia and there was the violence on campus at Kent State and Orange

State and other places and there were demonstrations about a politically

active faculty member, not at the law school, but at the college itself who

had been denied tenure and so the students were — you know there was a

lot of marching, there was a lot of demonstrating and students were being

summarily dismissed from the school and so we were demonstrating and

helping them, you know asking that they be given fair hearings and

demonstrating and some people were working on helping the Chicago 9

with their defense as that case started preparing for trial and one of the

things that we did was we asked — after Orangeburg State and Kent State —

for teach-ins. We asked for time for that and the faculty and the

administration were very, very unsupportive of that and so that resulted in

more friction and discussions. Actually for me it was great. It kept me

engaged enough in the school because I wasn’t necessarily loving my

teachers and my courses. It’s a school that’s very highly rated and we did,

which was amazing because it’s not a very large school — we did actually

have, you know, very senior respected people, you know the Editor-in-

Chief of the Supreme Court Review and person who wrote the book on

Admin law and that sort of thing —teaching first-year classes, which was

pretty fabulous. But it just felt out of sync and we definitely, I think many

of the women in the class felt that we were being tolerated but not


Then what started happening was that women who were being interviewed

got all kinds of interesting responses from the employer interviewers.

Again they weren’t particularly used to having all these women as well.

So people were told things like, you have two strikes against you, you’re

not on Law Review and you’re a woman. Or we don’t hire women, we

find their high squeaky voices really distracting, or you know, we need

you to, you know, go in, work really hard, be committed for the long term.

This is when people in firms went in and then literally died with their

boots on at the same job, you know, forty some years later. And you’re

going to get married and have kids and so, you know, why would we want

to invest in you. And what we did was we, again the Law Women’s

Caucus, complained to the law school about that. What they did was they

set up a process to investigate our complaints and the process was led by

Owen Fiss, who taught at the law school. He then, he left, I think he went

to Yale, I think after a couple of years at the law school. He had been a

major figure in the Justice Department in civil rights, obviously at an

amazing time in civil rights and he, in fact, had a big picture in his office

that I loved. It was Bull Connor’s troops with hoses, you know, trying to

push back civil rights demonstrators. And civil rights was why I went to

law school, of course in the first place so I was very moved by that. He

led the process and the process that the law school came up with was that

they wrote a letter to the firms, a number of firms, that were alleged to

have made these statements, they didn’t identify particular students, which

I think was right, and they would say “you know, it was alleged that da,

da, da, this obviously creates an, you know, an unwelcoming environment,

etcetera, etcetera, and did this occur?” And then the law firms would

write back and say “why no, it didn’t.” And that would be the end of the

process. We didn’t think that was a really great process. Eventually what

happened was that a number of people, the lead plaintiff in the case was a

woman in my class named Karen Kaplowitz, and a number of people

came together, filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging that under Title

VII (I thought this was really very creative), the law school was, in effect,

acting as an employment agency that allowed employers that

discriminated against women and people of color. We had, I think two or

three students of color in our class, a very, very small number. But they, if

we felt isolated, they felt doubly isolated. And we actually got a Show

Cause ruling from EEOC and then we went to federal court and we lost in

federal court because the law school wasn’t getting any direct financial

benefit and wasn’t actually an employment agency. But we made a lot of

people very, very tense, as you can imagine at the law school. It was not a

happy place for me at all.

Ms. Knievel: Were there any professors that were supportive of the Women’s Caucus?

Ms. Lardent: Yes.

Ms. Knievel: Or of you particularly?

Ms. Lardent: Well, I mean, you know, again Soia Mentschikoff was of a different

generation but she certainly was a strong woman. And not so much in

terms of supporting women as much as someone that we felt really taught

a different way and had a different approach to the law. There was one

professor who taught Contracts and Admiralty, Grant Gilmore, he was an

older man and we loved him and actually, we did a skit at the end of our, I

can’t remember if it was our first year or second year, and it was called All

Law Professors Should Be Shot. It just gives you some flavor for what the

environment was like. And we had people who, in my class, who imitated

various law professors, many of whom are now senior partners at large

firms in Chicago and New York, and they would plead their case and then

we would shoot them. And then at the end somebody said “but wait,

where’s Grant Gilmore” and then there was a blackout, that was the end.

So he was the only one that we saved. So other people, again guys in my

class clearly developed terrific relationships but we were just not happy

campers. Oh and the other thing that I should say that was also an issue

for us was, as I mentioned, you know, the law school was on 60th S treet so

it was facing Woodlawn which was a very poor community, it was where

Jesse Jackson was actually starting his neighborhood organization that

then grew into the Rainbow Coalition. So you had this very white, very

wealthy, very privileged, very elite school and then you had this

neighborhood that was completely falling apart and a number of us

volunteered with TWO, the Woodlawn Organization, and we mentored

kids and did things like that. Behind the law school there was a big lawn

and we would sit there and play volleyball and hang out. And we just

thought the neighborhood kids should be able to come because they didn’t

have any place. They had burnt out buildings and dangerous alleys. That

was also not a popular thing at the law school either. So we got into

battles about that as well. I think it’s fair to say that intellectually I had

loved Brown and I didn’t love my law school classes. I took a seminar

with Ellen Fist on discrimination and I didn’t love that. I just, you know, I

felt very alienated from the place and I think that’s true of, probably a few

of my classmates. But there were some people who loved it and really felt

that it was intellectually exciting and stimulating. One of my classmates

went on to be the Dean of the Law School, Geoff Stone, and then went on

to be the Provost at Chicago and continues to be a very progressive,

fabulous thinker in the law. I’ve only been to one law school reunion and

I was one of I think two women from my class there, which was pretty

telling. It was a tough time. We were right at the cutting edge and nobody

had figured this out. We hadn’t figured it out, nobody else had figured it


So the other thing with respect to law school or two things, I think that

made it a lot more palatable for me included the fact that there were

wonderful people and I loved many of the men and women in my class,

are friends to this day and just wonderful people. There were two other

things that really made it palatable. The first was that I discovered legal

aid and did a lot of work with the Mandel legal aid clinic and that felt right

and meaningful and important and helpful for me. I wasn’t interested in

doing individual legal aid because I thought that was a little bit “band-aid

on the gaping wound” but I loved the idea of kind of making people’s

lives better and helping powerless people so that was really important.

The other thing was that when I was coming back to law school after the

first semester break, I ended up sharing a cab with a med student and then

we ended up getting married after my first year and I was very lucky that

my then husband was very supportive and that I had a life outside of law

school and there was so much that pushes you not to have a life outside of

law school. He was really very supportive of my staying in law school so

that when I would threaten to quit, which I did about every other day, he

would say, you get through it and then you get to be a lawyer and you will

be fine. That was, that was really wonderful and it really helped.

Although between his being in med school and my being in law school we

didn’t see each other that much but it, it still was, was a really terrific

thing. Just to give you another example of sort of how fraught the

experience was after we had filed the complaint, what we then did was

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

that the next year, which I think was our 3″ 1 year, when the law firms came

to interview, many, many, many of the students who were scheduled to

interview with them were women. Including people like me who were

never going to go to a firm and we interviewed them and we asked them

about their policies . . about parental leave; well then it was maternity

leave, but parental leave. We asked them about whether there were

women there who were partners. What practice areas women worked in.

We drove them insane. Some of these people were sweating bullets

(laughter) by the end of the experience. And so we messed up everybody

else’s placement stuff which . . . I’m sure that some of the people were a

little hostile about, but we, we made our point, which was great. Honestly,

I really did think of it as three years that I needed to get through. Which

makes me sad. I look at, you know, friends of mine who went to law

school and really enjoyed it and I, and it might have been the time, it

might have been law school, might have been where I was at. But it was

not a great experience for me. It was not certainly intellectually a great


When you threatened to quit, was there something else you thought about

doing? Or did you always want to be a lawyer and you just, were hating

the experience?

There were sort of two separate things and they were very different. One

was the idea of just becoming more politically active in a much more sort

of front line way. Cambodia was happening. The war was continuing and

everything else and . . . But the other was what I had really wanted to do

until I had my experience in working as a VISTA, I wanted to write. I

wanted to be a theater and movie critic. I wanted to do creative writing

and not only did I miss that in law school but . . . I think it really destroyed

my capacity to be that kind of creative writer. I became a drier writer — an

outline 1, ABC person. And you don’t put juice into a brief most of the

time, although it makes for some interesting briefs and opinions that have

had some, some, fascinating, you know, literary allusions. But I had taken

this course and I sort of accepted that, that course, and move forward. So

then I started to think about what I wanted to do and the summer after my

first year, I didn’t work at all. I actually just hung out with my husband

and got married and didn’t work which was great.

Ms. Knievel: Did you stay in Chicago or did you go home?

Ms. Lardent: What happened was that my husband’s father had died a number of years

before and then his mother died in his first year of med school. So we

ended up . . . his parents lived in Maryland. We ended up going to

Maryland. We got married in Springfield in late July and then we drove

down to Maryland to fix up his parents’ house and sell it and hang out and

do nothing. And so then I thought about what I was going to do my

second year. Originally, what I was going to do was come to D.C. and be

a Nader’s Raider. I would have met a lot of people that I now know who

actually were Nader’s Raiders at that time. Then what happened was

somebody at the school said “you know there’s this really interesting thing

that the HEW Office of Civil Rights is doing.” They’re the ones who look

at universities and hospitals and other organizations that get federal money

and investigate complaints of discrimination, and it’s always been racial

but they’re now starting to look at discrimination against women. It just

seems like something you might really like. So that’s what I did after my

second year. I really enjoyed it. It was looking at and investigating

complaints and also they were beginning to write the regulations for the

executive order that expanded discrimination and expanded the

jurisdiction to include women and so I helped to work on those regs. It

was very committed group of people. Originally, what I thought I wanted

to do was to try to get a job with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or the

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which had an office in Mississippi

and go there and work on civil rights issues. My husband, who was at

Pritzker said, “you really want me to transfer from Pritzker to Ole Miss

Med school?” Compromise is everything in a relationship. So I tried to

figure out what I was going to do in Chicago and I thought, this will work.

This is good. So, I graduated and went to work for the federal government

which is something I never thought I would do . . . I was there for only a

short period. The greatest thing I did . . . unfortunately was also the

reason that I left, that was a complaint that had been filed by women at the

University of Michigan saying that they were being discriminated against

because of their gender. So we went and we did an on-site review at the

University of Michigan. The fact that all of this was so new meant that

. people didn’t couch anything in the files in subtle ways. We found the

most amazing things in there. For example, there was one comment in a

file about a very distinguished woman . . . and her husband had accepted

an appointment at Michigan, and in the file it said “and we’re very lucky

because she’s following her husband, so we can pay her a lot less than

we’d have to if she were a man.”

Ms. Knievel: So did the case just involve faculty or did it involve students as well?

Ms. Lardent: It was faculty. The complaint was faculty, and we sat in a room for weeks

at a time and just went through files and that sort of thing, and we found

that there had been discrimination and under the Executive Order — I think

it’s 11246 as Amended by 11375 — what you can do is you can

recommend that federal monies be terminated and at Michigan, even then,

it was millions of dollars . . . millions of dollars. So you had this amazing

power. I mean there was this fabulous remedy, except of course, when we

went to go ahead and try to do this, and by this time, you know, I mean, it

was Richard Nixon’s administration that was in. Although, I will say the

head of the Office of Civil Rights was a guy named Stanley Pottinger who

was really quite progressive. I think he might have been a Republican —

was quite progressive, and supportive about this, and then a guy named

Marty Barenblat, but they really cared. But as you can imagine, what

happened was this complaint winded its way through what was then HEW

— we were overturned. So, it was like having an atom bomb, but you

couldn’t drop it, and at that point, I decided that I need to get out.

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

Were you shocked by what you were finding in the files?

I was appalled. I don’t think any of us sort of realized how intense this

was, how accepted it was, how wide-spread it was. Women were clearly

not taken seriously. They were not viewed as peers. What we would do is

literally go through people’s credentials, and the credentials would be

identical to a man, and they would be seen as second rate . . . or, innately

presenting problems and obstacles, and that sort of thing. It was exciting

because this had never been done before. We literally created the model

for how the review went. Women were there in greater numbers, and

women were applying in greater numbers, and it was just a different kind

of discrimination, but it had an intensity to it that was very strong. When I

thought about doing civil rights work, I had always thought about it in

terms of race, we have such a horrible history that is pernicious and

lingering, to this very day obviously, racism in this country, but there was

kind of viciousness about this that was really disturbing. It felt so

wonderful to be able to do something, and then so distressing to realize

that, you know, we were always going to get blocked politically. I’ve

never been a fan of big institutions. I went to fairly small schools in part

because of that, but this convinced me that, one, that I was not somebody

who worked well totally inside the system, I would get too frustrated with

  1. And also that, you know, large institutions like the government were

. . . they could do good, but they could also do some pretty bad things. I

just felt like I really needed to leave. I was very unhappy.

Ms. Knievel: What was happening at home at the time with your parents? Were they

supportive of your decision to be at HEW?

Ms. Lardent: You know my parents, really didn’t understand any of this. They didn’t

understand it. They thought it was great that I was a lawyer. They

thought it was great that I had a job. They didn’t really understand. They

were concerned that I was leaving, you know, fairly soon after — it was

like a year and a half I think that I stayed there. So, they worried about

that because I looked like I was unreliable and just jumping around and

that sort of thing, but they really didn’t understand. My husband, again,

was very supportive of whatever I wanted to do even though, at this point,

he was finishing up his last year in med school, so my income was the

only income we had. He was great. He was just fine with whatever I

wanted to do.

Ms. Knievel: What was his reaction to this case?

Ms. Lardent: He wasn’t surprised actually. I mean I think if anything, the

discrimination against women in med school was so much greater. It

really was like a hell week experience for women. People would do things

to try to shock them, you know, with cadavers or sexual stuff. It was

pretty brutal, and there were not that many women. It’s amazing when

you look at the number of women in law school and med school now

compared to then, you know, it was so different . . just incredibly

different. So I started to try to figure out what to do. At the same time,

my husband was being matched for his residency, and he had decided after

thinking about . . . surgery, particularly orthopedic surgery, what he found

that he liked even though he’s a great, really a great doctor in terms of

diagnosis was that he wanted to go into psychiatry, and he really wanted to

go to Cincinnati, where there were a number of people who were really the

cutting edge people in psychiatry and he really wanted to train with them.

I looked at him and went “really Cincinnati, really?” What to do? We

decided he would go there. I would stay in Chicago, and I lived with a

friend. We would see each other every couple of weeks, and then, see

where we were going to go, and maybe I would move there or maybe we

would do something else. What happened eventually was that he — I think

he really enjoyed the program. He did not enjoy Cincinnati, and one of

the things about psychiatrists is that even when they’re residents, they start

picking up patients. Wherever you do your residency, you’re very likely

to sort of stay, and it’s very difficult to pull up roots and move because

you’ve got people who are relying on you in long-term treatment. So, we

decided, not Chicago, not Cincinnati, and we talked about it, and the two

places that both of us really liked were the San Francisco area and the

Boston area. Growing up in western Massachusetts, Boston was like the

big city for me. So, either one was going to be fine, and we ended up in

Boston. He ended up doing his residency in Boston. While he was still

doing his residency in Cincinnati, I was looking for a job. I wanted

something that I wasn’t going to care about basically. I wanted to make

some money, but this was just clearly interim because one way or another,

I was going to be leaving Chicago. I heard about this job at the American

Bar Association. I was not a member of the ABA and not a big fan of a

professional association, but the job was fascinating. It was being the staff

director of the ABA’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities

which was the liberal conscience of the ABA, and working on issues

around the criminalization of marijuana and conscientious objectors in the

war, and women’s rights, and civil rights, and I thought, “wow, this is

really pretty incredible.” And so, I applied, and I got the job. There were

hardly any women lawyers who were actually on staff at the ABA. I came

in, and starting working on these issues, and the leadership of the section

was incredible. They had these incredible people — Brooksley Born, Sally

Determan, Cecil Poole, Mona Tucker. Unbelievable people who were

leaders, who were creating public interest law in so many respects, and it

was just . . . it was great, and they very much treated me as a peer, which

was terrific. And the division of the ABA that I was in had a number of

men who were also staff directors, who were also younger, and they were

great to work with, and you know, the rest of the institution was

bureaucratically stodgy, but we didn’t care . . . we didn’t much care about

the institution. We just kind of did our thing, but it was a really great

group of people, and I really enjoyed it tremendously, and we were

working on all kinds of interesting issues. Chesterfield Smith, who

became one of my beloved mentors — just an amazing man. All the issues

about the Nixon impeachment were raging, and Chesterfield had testified

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

and supported the impeachment in court, and Bert Jenner who was the

counsel for the Democrats in the impeachment, was one of the leaders in

the section. It was the legal education that I never got at law school .

being around these amazing people . . . many of whom are still some of

my dearest friends, and many of whom were my mentors, and really

taught me what the law could be and how you could be a really good,

effective lawyer. It was an amazing experience.

Do you remember any advice that some of gave you? Does anything stick

out in your mind?

It wasn’t advice as much as it was very much this sense that if you were a

good lawyer, you cared about these larger issues, and you could really

make change. So it’s this amazing sense of potential, and the power of it

all. They were such empowering experiences for a young woman. I

would . . . I remember sitting there once with Chesterfield when he was

president of the ABA, this legendary, amazing guy, and he said, “So, what

aren’t we doing that we should be doing? What are your ideas?” My

husband and I actually were talking a lot about the intersection of law and

psychiatry, because it’s such a horrible fit. I mean, you’ve got psychiatry,

which is all shades of grey and uncertainty, and then you’ve got the law

that’s all black and white, and I said . . . and this was at the time when

Judge Bazelon and the public interest people in D.C. were looking at

things like right to treatment, right to refuse treatment . . . all these

fascinating issues. People were looking at the insanity defense and what it

meant, and how, what it should look like. The American Bar Foundation

had actually published a fascinating piece on all of this stuff. So, I said,

“well, you know, I think we should do something on this,” and that

became the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability that

exists to this very day, and we went out and got funding for it. It was just

incredible. Having said that, I still remember the first meeting of the

Commission, which was chaired by, a man who was a leader of the section

and later, President of the ABA, I had literally written the charge for the

Commission. I had written the funding proposal for it. I really understood

this issue of the law substantively as well as most people, better than a lot

of people. We got into the first meeting, and somebody starting talking

and he looked at me and he said, “Okay, Esther, are you getting this

down?” And I broke my pencil in two because I was so ticked off. I

couldn’t believe it. I was still being treated like a secretary, and there was

still a lot of that. You know, women would get up and get coffee — even

in this very progressive part of the bar, but what I saw were women in

positions of leadership, people of color in positions of leadership and

white men who respected them and understood their capacity and

encouraged and supported that. And, of course, it was at this time when

this group in the ABA, that’s now been kind of main-streamed in a way,

was doing the most attention getting things. One year, there was the, what

I refer to the “ass and grass” period where the section was looking at

decriminalization of sexual activity between consenting adults and

decriminalization of marijuana. How much fun is that? And we actually

got those adopted by a much more conservative ABA House of Delegates.

I loved the people I was working with. I loved the work I was doing. It

was very policy based. It was really a lot of fun, and obviously. I was

leaving Chicago, and I couldn’t continue to do it. I stepped down as head

of the section, although, then I chaired a committee for the section, and I

served on the council of the section, so I stayed in touch . . on a continual

basis. But, I did a consultancy on a commission on legal education, and

Attorney General Levy was on it and some other folks were on it. What I

realized was it wasn’t nearly as much fun when it was an issue that I

didn’t care very much about. There I was in Boston, with my husband,

who was gone all the time because he was doing his residency, and trying

to figure out what I wanted to do, and I was still doing some consulting,

but you know, feeling a little bit at loose ends, and very fixated on the

Nixon impeachment process, because I had, as somebody who grew up in

Massachusetts, I worshipped John Kennedy, so I hated Richard Nixon

since 1959, 1960, when I was a little kid. And so . . and just watching

this all play out was just . . . it was incredible, again, it was like a legal

education in and of itself . . . I kept sending telegrams to people because I

would be watching the hearings, and there’s a Jules Feiffer cartoon, and it

shows somebody, sort of, sitting there, and the person goes, “I’m so

depressed. I don’t have excitement in my life. I don’t have a reason to get

up in the morning. I don’t have something that I feel passionately about. I

miss Nixon.” [laughs] And that was true. But I realized this was not

good, I thought, “I went through all of law school. I went through all that

hassle. I should litigate, and I should do public interest litigation.” So I

started volunteering for an organization called the Cambridgeport Problem

Center, which was a little artifact of the 60s that was in a basement in a

kind of iffy neighborhood in Cambridge. It came out of a time when there

were a lot of kids in the late 60s in Cambridge, who were homeless or

runaways or living alternative lifestyles, and who needed counseling —

drug counseling in particular. They were having substance abuse issues,

and so it started there with volunteers, and then after a while, they added

just generally, psychological counseling, and then legal counseling. I

started volunteering there, and it was really fun. It was just the usual

range of individual low-income issues — people who needed to get

disability and had been denied it even though they were clearly eligible,

and people who were being evicted. I did a lot of domestic violence work,

and some federal disability work and some other things, but mostly just

state courts — one by one, little cases, but they meant a lot to these folks.

After a while, they said, “we’d like to hire you,” because they were

working with law students at Harvard, and they said, “we need somebody

to supervise the students.” So I was doing that and really enjoying it. You

know, it wasn’t a huge time commitment. It really wasn’t even

necessarily full time. What I realized by doing it was that I wasn’t really a

litigator, that I was incredibly anxious about litigating. I over-prepared

like crazy. I literally would get kind of nauseated. I knew where every

ladies’ room in Eastern Massachusetts was in the courthouses. From

friends of mine who are litigators, I get that that is not atypical for very

successful and effective litigators. After the hearing, even if we won, I

didn’t get a high. And doing individual case work to me felt — I just felt

like it was a drop in the ocean. It was just really frustrating. The Boston

Bar Association, which is one of the great bar associations, as much as

that I am not such a fan of bar associations, there are places — the D.C. Bar

is one, the Boston Bar is another, that are incredible. Fabulous leadership,

wonderful people, really focused on, again, public interest more broadly

than just the profession, and a long history of that. In fact the Boston Bar

had helped to establish one of the earliest Lawyers’ Committee for Civil

Rights affiliates there and one of my classmates was the head of that

organization, so it was really very interesting. The Legal Services

Corporation, when it was created in 1974, as a sop to the conservatives

because it was controversial, had agreed that it would do a study of using

private lawyers on a pro bono basis to provide legal services. This was

because for a lot of attorneys, particularly sole practitioners and

particularly in states like the south and the southwest, were concerned that

what would happen in legal services is that these wild-eyed, radical carpetbagging

lawyers would come down and, you know, sue every institution

in the state, which in fact did happen in some states. And that they would

be . . . and at the same time would be representing people for free and

taking business away from practicing lawyers. So when they talked about

using private lawyers to provide legal services and doing the study of that

delivery methodology, they were thinking about Judicare, or contract

lawyers where people would get at least partial discounted payment to do

  1. What somebody added in at the last minute was pro bono. And so the

Legal Services Corporation had put out like an RFP, it said we’re going to

fund six projects and, you know, here are the different models and the

Boston Bar, because of its experience with the Lawyers’ Committee,

which had been very successful and a community with a very strong

culture of giving back, had applied and gotten funded. $110,000 in

funding to set up a pro bono program and they were advertising for the

founder and first director of that program. I interviewed and I got the job.

And some of that was my experience both with the ABA Individual Rights

section and with the Cambridgeport Problem Center. It really made me

believe in volunteerism and the impact that volunteers could have because

the work that people did with the section was all volunteer work on top of

very demanding full-time legal jobs. Nobody had really thought about

what this should look like. I was lucky enough to have this amazing board

of people from many of the larger firms in Boston, but from different areas

of practice and was lucky enough to have colleagues at both the legal

services program, Greater Boston Legal Services and the Lawyers’

Committee who didn’t feel threatened by this at all. They thought this was

a great thing and were incredibly supportive and viewed this as a joint

effort that we could do together. We hired a couple of people and I think

my salary was $17,000 and . . . we started. There was no roadmap really.

The existing pro bono efforts that were around, first of all nobody really

knew what was out there, but they were mostly tied into the old Legal Aid

Societies that had started at the beginning of the 1900s. And they were,

what I would call Hey Joe Programs. Somebody’s secretary would call up

and say “hey Joe, would you take a divorce?” You know, very noblesse

oblige, very informal, certainly not looking at cutting edge. I thought, this

is a time where we could do something different. So we put together a

program, again with these wonderful advisors and supporters and Board,

that married volunteerism with the best practices in public interest law.

We recruited more broadly, we had a broader range of cases that we would

handle, we provided training and manuals and support and we did quality

control on volunteers and we fired volunteers if they didn’t do what they

were supposed to be doing. We tracked all of that and it didn’t seem

strange or unusual to us, but we were building something very, very new.

The Board and the staff of the Legal Services Corporation watched this all

happening and they thought, “wow this is really great.” So they funded

five more pro bono programs in the second year as experimental funding

and they were in New Hampshire, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York

and Washington, D.C. And the people who were running those programs

contacted me and we became the Pro Bono Six, again many of them are

still my friends. We felt like we had found something pretty incredible

and very powerful and that there was a huge promise to this delivery

method and so we would just get together on our own. Nobody brought us

together to talk about ideas and how do you do this kind of recruitment

and what do you do with the conflicts and that sort of thing, we just kept

improving our programs and learning from each other. At the same time,

the people in the Legal Services programs, the staff attorney programs

were very suspicious of all of these delivery models because – they

viewed them as alternatives, not supplements but alternatives to what they

were doing. Things that would take the sort of progressive proactive, you

know, legal reform aspects of legal services and get rid of it and of course

they were always under attack from Congress for exactly that so they were

very, very worried and we would go to conferences and nobody would

talk to us. We were seen as stalking horses for Judicare and nobody

would talk to us. What happened eventually was first of all, that there was

a study done that looked at the quality of these programs, the impact of the

programs, and found that what happened in terms of client outcomes and

that sort of thing, was very similar to the programs that were full-time staff

attorney programs. So the power and the capacity of volunteerism I think

really came through. But also what we kept saying as the Pro Bono Six,

(we actually had stationary with little fists. [Laughter] a sort of artifact

from our times.) What we kept saying was that pro bono is an incredibly

powerful force and it is a supplement—it can’t exist on its own. That the

only way that we were able to function well and effectively was by

aligning ourselves with and taking advantage of the presence in the

communities [END SIDE A] and of course the substantive expertise of

these full time lawyers who understood context, understood the law, had

to live with the precedents that were established. So we made it very clear

that we were complimentary and that I think helped to ease concerns plus

the fact that people could actually see that clients were getting helped. So

we moved ahead refining the model, growing the model and then the ABA

got interested in this and they funded, with the Legal Services

Corporation, another small chunk of programs that were in areas like

Austin, Texas and Honolulu and so not quite the usual suspects, although

I’m not sure New Hampshire would be considered the usual suspects. We

tried to look at some places that were a little more rural and then we

helped those folks out and worked with them. And things just started

happening. Wonderful people, the then-President of the State Bar in

Texas, a guy named Chris Dougherty, who was very engaged by this, and

people just started talking about it and leadership within the ABA and with

bar associations started talking about it because you could see that it was

really leveraging resources in a tremendous way. In 1980, we were told

that the Pro Bono Six were finally, instead of getting money year by year

as an experimental program, we were going to be permanently funded.

This was a big moment. My Board was really excited, and we were

getting great coverage in the media and everything else. It was terrific.

And then Ronald Reagan was elected. Ronald Reagan, when he was

Governor of California, had tried to basically destroy California Rural

Legal Services which represented migrant workers, and he came damn

close to doing it. He and Ed Meese. And when he came in, of course he

was trying to create a smaller government, and so his recommendation for

Legal Services was zero funding. He wanted to just eliminate the program

And the idea was that, if every lawyer in America would just do one case,

we could handle this, it would be fine. It was devastating. I mean, I still

remember I was at a meeting of the project directors in New England

when we heard about this and it was sort of like “My God, there was a 48

hour period where I actually had permanent funding for my program

[Laughter] and now it’s gone.” Now after years of doing public interest

work I just always assume I’m going to have to figure out funding year to

year and not worry about it but it was a shock to the system then. And you

can imagine the reactions in these programs. What had happened is in the

Carter years there had been money for expansion because originally the

program only covered certain areas, so they figured out a formula, there

were programs set up in more rural areas and in again, the south and the

west where these programs hadn’t existed and people were beginning to

really get a feel for what the potential was and then BOOM. Zero funding.

And so it was just a shock to the system. It turned out, I think, in a strange

way, to be really a blessing. Because a couple of things happened. And

one was, that the Bar which really had viewed the legal services programs,

continued to view them with suspicion changed. The ABA was supportive

but it was more lip service than actual activity but when this happened,

people came together. And Reece Smith who is from Florida, was

President of the ABA and a supporter of legal services and so he started to

work on efforts to push back on the Reagan recommendation. I was one

of the very few people in legal services that actually was bilingual, I spoke

Bar, I was active in the ABA, I understood how that organization worked.

So I became very involved in that effort to save legal services. And a

number of people in Boston, led by a wonderful man named Jack Curtin,

who then went on to become a President of the ABA, came together — we

originally called them the Gang of Eight, although they got much, much

bigger — Jack was President of the Boston Bar — it was really the most

respected people in Boston and what we worked on, they did and people in

other parts of the country and the ABA, was a march on Washington. A

lawyers’ march on Washington to go up to the Hill and make the case for

why Legal Services should continue to be funded. So I spent — we all did

— enormous amounts of time making this happen and here’s a very telling

thing — in some places we had a hard time getting one person to come. In

Boston, in Massachusetts the big problem we had was we had too many

people wanting to go. We couldn’t bring everybody. And everybody was

on their own dime, nobody was getting paid for this, so we set it up, we

coordinated it and we had set up a meeting with key members of Congress

and the day before or two days before was when Ronald Reagan was shot

at the Hilton. We went through this discussion of ‘what are we going to

do?’ Is this disrespectful, what can we do. We’re talking about how he’s

made this misjudgment, and we decided to go forward. It was incredibly

effective and what came out of it was a 25% cut in funding but that was

obviously a lot better than a 100% cut in funding. Still awful for the

programs. But what happened was that the ABA decided to own this

issue. And so did, in many cases state and local bars, and so the Gang of

Eight, just as an example in Massachusetts, which was by now a gang of

about 40, didn’t stop meeting. They started trying to figure out what else

they could do to deal with the 25% cut and one of the things was push for

state funding for Legal Services for the creation of Massachusetts Legal

Assistance appropriation for IOLTA funding in Massachusetts, really

amazing. It really was transformative. Suddenly people understood. The

Legal Services programs had been doing their own thing, not talking to the

Bar, not talking to the leadership of the profession, not talking to the

judges, pretty much not talking to anybody but themselves, which was a

mistake. And so nobody knew how grievous the need was and nobody

understood how much they had to do. People started doing legal needs

studies and doing all these things to clearly make the case for legal

services and Legal Services Corporation funding. It’s the best of the bar.

It’s what the organized bar does and does well. They don’t do it often but

it was dramatic and it was fabulous. And I continued to stay involved in


There were several other things that happened. One was that there were

changes, some of them terrible restrictions on what legal services lawyers

could do, there are lawsuits that are still out there charging that that’s a

breach of First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, they haven’t been, for

the most part, very successful, but it is really offensive, obviously, to say

that you have to limit your ethical obligation to provide the best possible

representation by a client because you can’t do a class action suit or you

can’t represent a prisoner or you can’t get involved in redistricting,

whatever it is, but unfortunately, it’s probably not illegal, it’s awful but

it’s probably not unconstitutional, at least that’s what courts have said for

the most part so far. And Congress hasn’t been willing to overturn that.

In fact it’s gotten worse. It got worse in ’96. They also changed the way

boards of legal services programs had to be selected and it made bar

associations the people who appointed a lot of the lawyer members of the

boards and the programs were crazed. Because what they had were true

believers and clients and so frankly, nobody ever challenged them. It

turns out, however, and this is the power of legal services, that when

people get involved in legal services, even if they come in with the belief

that it’s social engineering, they become believers. They become quite

passionate about it. So that broadened the range of supporters and more

people understood about Legal Services even more. The legal services

program started to get really smart about working with bar associations.

One of the other things that happened was not the result of a Legal

Services Corporation but it was the LSC Board. And the LSC Board at

the time, Hillary Clinton was on the Board, a wonderful man named Bill

McCalpin, who is a Republican, I always say he’s my favorite Republican.

He used to say; he’s no longer with us. He was my only Republican, he

knew that. But Bill was very active in the ABA as well and Bill had seen

the pro bono movement happening, and so what Bill did was he basically

muscled through the Board a regulation that said that any nonprofit that

got funding from the Legal Services Corporation would have to use a

portion, a percentage of that funding to involve private lawyers in the

delivery of legal services — a private attorney involvement resolution. The

programs went nuts because — a 25% cut, they had to lay off their friends,

close offices and now they were going to have to take another 10, 12%

and use that for these private lawyers to help their clients, which they

didn’t think the private lawyers either wanted to do or could do. There are

still people who think that that was done by the Reagan administration to

kill legal services, and they don’t realize it was friends trying to strengthen

legal services. That was when pro bono exploded. Because we had,

probably by then 50 pro bono programs of varying degrees of quality. In

just a few years we went to 900 pro bono programs. Because people had

to do it and if they were going to do it, there are few programs in rural

areas that do Judicare, but for the most part, they wanted to do pro bono

because it would let them keep more of the money inside the program and

keep more of the control and that sort of thing. So the ABA put funding

into trying to figure out how to get bar associations up to speed so that

they could support this effort because this was massive. I mean there were

300 and some legal services programs that needed to have pro bono efforts

and you know, they had to have certain operational systems and Legal

Services Corporation people came to me and said “We want to give you a

grant to hold a series of conferences, joint legal services-bar conferences

and then to provide technical assistance to legal services programs to set

up their pro bono programs.” Thus was born the “pro bono roadshow.” It

was group of people from bar associations and from programs who

understood the mechanics of pro bono and other types of delivery. We did

regional conferences in the East, the Midwest and the West. We actually

did six conferences because we were so afraid of putting the programs and

bar associations together, that we did a separate program for the legal

services people where they could say all the nasty things about the bars

and then brought them together for a small amount of time and then did a

separate program for the bar association people who could trash the legal

services people and we literally were on the road for weeks and weeks and

weeks and weeks — there’s a wonderful picture I have of all of us wearing

our t-shirts. John Ferren, a former Hogan person, was Chair of an ABA

committee so he was involved in it and every once in a while I see him

running with his now pink, formerly red t-shirt from that road show. We

developed protocols and planning documents and everything else and did

a huge amount of technical assistance. I had a group of consultants that I

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

was managing, getting out there to set up these pro bono programs. Just

overnight. I mean it was incredible. It was 1982 through 1984, it just kept

going, Hillary was no longer on the Board but Bill McCalpin and the folks

on the board, there was a midnight massacre where the Republicans

kicked them off but the grant money was already with us so we could keep

going. The ABA created a pro bono support project as well that is still in

existence today and pro bono just started going to a completely different

level. It was really just amazing. And it was something good coming out

of something terrible.

So your career was going crazy at this point. What was happening in your

social life or at home?

Well, interesting question. My husband was completing his residency, not

around much and then had started working. When we first met — this

happens in a lot of relationships — we were quite young. I was 21, I think

he might have been 22 . . . and the way that we thought of ourselves was

that he was the practical, real world one who was very much in control of

his emotions and I was the big picture but not particularly practical person.

He was the steak; I was the sizzle. All these developments made me

realize that I wasn’t actually quite that unworldly and that I could

accomplish a great deal. I also developed a lot of very strong relationships

that he didn’t have any part of I was traveling and things just fell apart.

They really did fall apart and so in the middle of this, of all this, I just told

him I thought we needed to get divorced. We did a little counseling but

we needed to get divorced. This, by the way, was at the same time that

Brooksley Born was getting divorced and that Sally Determan was getting

divorced. So we used to have some very interesting discussions about

this. There was no rancor at all in it, although we didn’t stay in touch

because we didn’t have kids. It just felt like we were just very different

people at that point, than we had been. He was going through some, some

very tough times, I think. He was just emotionally going through a lot. So

we divorced and then I was living alone for the first time in my whole life,

because I’d gone from home to college and then to roommates and then to

marriage and I’d never actually lived on my own. I found out that I could

do it and like it, which was good. But I also felt, Boston is a big city but

the legal community’s kind of a village and so everybody knew me. The

joke was that I always had to leave an extra 30 minutes when I was going

to meetings because you’d walk places and you’d meet people and they’d

want to tell you about their pro bono case or whatever, which was great

and I loved people and I loved my program. But I had also been there by

then for, what, 8 years I think. And this big exciting thing was kind of

coming to something of an end and my marriage was ending and I felt like

I was kind of in a rut. I felt like I needed to shake up my life. Some very

good friends of mine, actually one of the people I had worked with when I

was at the ABA, he and his wife had become very close friends. He had

been a partner in a firm in D.C., and they decided they wanted a different

life, too. They had moved to Santa Fe where he was having a very nice

practice, they were having a wonderful life. I went out to visit, and we

also did the first national pro bono conference there for some of these

programs that had gotten started to provide more training and technical

assistance. One of the key people in that (some of the key people were

part of the Pro Bono Six) was somebody who was a leader in the ABA

Young Lawyers Division at the time who was chairing a pro bono

committee. She’s a little tiny person and she was very pregnant. She

became a huge part of this, a woman named Laurie Zelon who is now a

judge on the California Court of Appeals, who has chaired every ABA

committee on legal services and pro bono and gotten every award that you

can imagine. We’ve named an award after her, and she was very, very

critical in setting up our law firm project and then the Pro Bono Initiative.

She’s on my board to this day. I fell in love with New Mexico, which is a

very special place with a very special kind of energy. It’s very beautiful.

My two favorite places in the world are Paris and northern New Mexico.

And what they have in common is that when you’re there, even though

you’re not talented and you’re not an artist, you understand why people

are artists because you almost see the way they see. When you are going

down the River Seine in Paris, you’re likely to go “of course

Impressionists, and of course I see it, I see the trees.” Of course you

wouldn’t if the impressionists hadn’t showed it to you, but you can see

their vision. And the same thing in New Mexico. You know, you see

what Georgia O’Keeffe saw, you really see it. And the light is beautiful

Ms. Knievel:

and the place attracts very spiritual, creative people. I think part of what

was going on was not only that I was in a rut but that that whole part of me

that is, you know, more of a creative person, was not getting any attention

paid to it. So I decided that I needed to really break away and here I had

the Volunteer Lawyers Project that I’d started that was now really big and

very well-known and a national model and had gotten awards and we’d

gotten more money and we were doing great things and I knew that it was

going to be incredibly hard — it was like leaving your child or letting your

child be adopted by somebody else. And so I thought, you know, I can’t

stay in Boston and I don’t think I really want to. Where do I want to go? I

thought about San Francisco because I love San Francisco. But I thought,

I want to go to New Mexico. I want more balance, I want to kind of get

more in touch with my creative self, I want to go someplace where I don’t

know that many people and I can meet new people and be a different kind

of person and so that’s what I did. I went out there, I gave notice, II . . .

Well the first thing I did was I put my house on the market and then I had

to give notice [Laughter] because the — my real estate agent was Nina

Totenberg’s mother. And I knew Nina. Her mother told Nina and then

Nina told the world, I had to tell everybody. [Laughter] And I don’t think

she announced it on NPR [Laughter] but it was pretty damn close. So I

told everyone and I didn’t have a job.

What were their reactions?

Ms. Lardent: They were astounded. In fact the article about this in the Massachusetts

Lawyers Weekly, in very large letters said “Lardent Leaving Boston!”

Exclamation point. [Laughter] It was hysterical. And it was both that I

really had become a pretty integral part of this community and knew a lot

of people, was known by a lot of people, but it was also, you know, an

East Coast Massachusetts thing about “She’s going to some square state

out west? [Laughter] Where they have like Indians and cowboys and

horses? What’s that all about?” People were shocked and amazed. You

can only imagine, when that article came out the calls that I took from my

friends. I would pick up the phone and there’d be hysterical laughter and

somebody would go “Lardent Leaves Boston!” The great thing is that the

Volunteer Lawyers Project continues to exist. The question some had was

really, would it, would it continue to exist if I wasn’t there. I thought

“Wow, that would be such a failure” because I would never have

institutionalized it. It’s vibrant, it’s bigger than ever, it’s doing great

work. The woman who came in after me, who I knew although I played

no role whatsoever in picking my successor because I was the person who

was not going to have to live with that, stayed until, like a year and a half

ago. So she was there for like 18 years or something. It was like watching

your kid grow up and go “Oh look, it’s attractive and going to college and

doing great things and I really like it.”

I decided I would leave there with an amazing, [Laughter] particularly for

Boston, going away party. What they decided to do was they rented out a

nightclub right on Kenmore Square, right near BU, so very studenty, kind

of fun neighborhood. You know, nightclub area. On the sign out front,

instead of “wet t-shirt contest tonight,” it said “Lardent Farewell Party”

[Laughter] and they did a roast. And the theme of the roast was Why Was

I Leaving? [Laughter] People had some really funny, wonderful, amazing

stories about why I was leaving. They were hysterical. And all of these

very Brahmin Boston lawyers, you know, danced, [Laughter] we have to

dance, and drank too much and we had a great old time.

Ms. Knievel: Do you remember some of the stories?

Ms. Lardent: Well, yes.

Tape 4

This is Erica Knievel interviewing Esther Lardent on March 22, 2011. We are in Esther’s office,

and the purpose of this recording is to record her oral history for the Women Trailblazers Project.

Ms. Lardent: It was a difficult decision to leave Boston, not only because it’s a

wonderful place to live, but I made friends there obviously, and loved —

both the city and the legal community, and it was pretty wrenching to

think about leaving this organization that I’d founded, and that was doing

really well. But it felt like it was time for a change. I really did not love

managing an ever-growing organization. That was not always one of my

favorite things or I think one of my strong suits, and I’d also fallen in love

with the southwest which shocked me, and just wanted to try to have a

different quality of life, a different kind of life, and so moved to Santa Fe.

There was a little bit of culture shock involved.

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

Let me stop you right there, because I want to know about the farewell.

Oh, the party. When I left, the legal community in Boston did a farewell

party for me and it was wonderful because it’s a very decorous city and a

decorous bar, and what they did was they rented out one of the nightclubs

in Kenmore Square near where BU is, and it was great because on the

marquee for the nightclubs, which is right at the heart of Kenmore Square,

instead of “wet t-shirt contest” like it usually said, it was like . . it was

“goodbye Esther.” It was really very funny, and there was a lot of dancing

and a lot of drinking. It was really quite fun, and they did a roast, and the

theme of the roast was why was Esther leaving Boston, and it was

particularly funny because it did reflect the fact that Boston calls itself

“the Hub” and people honestly were shocked that I would leave Boston for

some strange square state out west that they couldn’t possibly identify on a

map. So people would get up and, you know, they said lovely things

about me, but also told some pretty funny embarrassing stories, but the

theme was “why was it that I was leaving” and my favorite theory was that

I’d had an arrangement with AT&T so that I got a kick back on every long

distance call made to me because in addition to doing the pro bono work

in Boston, I was also administering this technical assistance grant that had

been given by the Legal Services Corporation.

So, I loved all that, and then, now I was traveling all over the country and

all these people were calling, and so the theory at the roast was that if

somebody called me and said the words “pro bono” I got fifty cents for

every long distance call, but that . . . this was at the time when the long

distance providers were changing the way that they were billing. The

notion was I had lost this important piece of revenue, and so I was leaving

because I had to live some place less expensive as Boston is. It was great.

It was a wonderful night. I, you know, watching some of the most

respected leaders of the Boston Bar dancing to Material Girl was

something I’ll never forget. I was pretty apprehensive about going out by

myself to this place where I’d never lived. I had some friends there, but it

was still a little nerve-racking. So, we organized a caravan of friends who,

at various times, accompanied me on the road, and got me out to Santa Fe.

One person went with me from Boston to New York, and a second person

went from New York to D.C. From D.C., there was a conference that I

was speaking at . . . a legal services conference somewhere in South

Carolina, and then a friend did the very long leg from South Carolina to

Santa Fe, and it . . . definitely culture shock. The place that I was renting

in Santa Fe was what my friends refer to as a yuppie adobe. It was on the

Old Santa Fe Trail, and it was definitely built of adobe, but it had decks —

one that faced east and one that faced west . . . beautiful light of Santa Fe.

Just before I left Boston, somebody called me and said, “We hear you’re

coming to New Mexico. Would you like to teach at the law school?” And

I said, “great” — which is in Albuquerque by the way, 60 miles away. I

decided I was going to do consulting, and I was going to teach, and I was

going to work less and enjoy life, and it didn’t quite work out that way. I

did love teaching. The University of New Mexico is an amazing law

school — very diverse population. I had students who were Apache Indian,

and a school that’s very committed to public service. They require you to

do clinical work in order to graduate, and have just a really wonderful

faculty. That was really fun. So, a couple days a week, I would drive

between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, 120 miles, mostly on reservation

land, so no speed limits whatsoever — just put the petal to the metal and

  1. And then, typically, once a week I would get on a plane from

Albuquerque to Dallas-Fort Worth and then go consult some place. I was

working with the legal services programs and bar associations and quite a

bit with the Ford Foundation. And I really . . I must say, I enjoyed

consulting for a couple of different reasons. One is that, unlike having

your own program, you did the best you could as a consultant, and then

you just didn’t own it. So, you didn’t wake up at 3:00 in the morning

wondering if you were going to be able to meet the payroll for everyone or

what was going to happen with that particular staff person. There was a

kind of simplicity about it that I really liked, and it was fun to go into a

new situation — not necessarily knowing who all the players were and the

history and the dynamics, although I certainly tried to do my research.

The part I really loved was the diagnostics . . . figuring out what really was

going on, how well the program was running, and what could be done. It

made me a believer, and I very much am to this day, of the power of fresh

eyes on things, and the advantage of not having somebody who’s been

doing something for 20 years, comes in and sort of can scope out the

situation, and it really was terrific. The other part that was really

interesting was respecting the fact that since you weren’t going to live

with the outcome, you certainly couldn’t mandate the outcome. I brought

a certain level of knowledge and expertise, but it was the people who were

in the local situation who really understood what was going to work. So, I

could suggest things, but they would have to really adapt that in local

circumstance, and they really had to own the awareness of the issue and

the situation and, absolutely, the solution. That was really a terrific

experience for me because that’s essentially what we do at the Pro Bono

Institute. We really are . . . we’re technical support experts so we have

different ideas. We understand the benchmarks in terms of peer firms or

peer legal departments. We know what some of the opportunities can look

like. We know about other players often in the community, but we don’t

ever suggest the solution. We offer alternatives, and the final shape of

things really comes from the firm or the legal department, or if we’re

doing a city-wide campaign from the people who are going to be the

forces for change in that city, and so it really turned out to be a great skill

and approach to develop, and it taught me a lot.

Ms. Knievel: How did the legal community differ out west and how was that an

adjustment for you?

Ms. Lardent: Yeah.

Ms. Knievel: What was it like to be a woman in that environment?

Ms. Lardent: Well, it was interesting because I actually had met years before one of the

leaders . . . a guy who was then the president of the New Mexico Bar, who

was somebody who, after graduating from Harvard Law, had gone to work

for the Navajo Nation in Chinle, Arizona, and so very public interestminded.

I would say, and I’m not sure that New Mexico is typical, but it

was a very progressive bar, but the most interesting thing about it was how

everyone knew everyone. For example I did a little work — most of my

consulting was outside of New Mexico, but I did work with folks on legal

services for the elderly there, and you’d be talking to somebody, and

they’d say, “I’m going to call the Secretary of Health and Human Services

in New Mexico.” You know, “Joan, hi, how are you?” I mean it was the

most amazing thing, so it’s a much tighter community, and I will say that

people did achieve what lawyers in the large law firms on the east coast

and west coast didn’t. They really did have balance. You know, people

would take longer lunches or they’d go out and ride horses for a while.

The other thing that was wonderful about the bar, and I think this is

probably very specific to New Mexico was that there were a lot of people

who were lawyers, but they also were artists or at least . . . they wanted to

be artists. They were lawyers, and they wanted to be photographers. They

were lawyers, and they were writers. It allowed people to kind of fulfill

the creative side of their personality a lot more, that bar at least was a very

progressive bar, and women were very present. In fact the first woman to

become president of the ABA was from Albuquerque, Roberta Ramo. So,

women were really very much accepted, and at the law school — of course

my classes were filled with women. There was much less formality in

dress and in manner and everything else. There wasn’t as much of a

bifurcated profession. You did have big firms, but the differential I think

in salary and certainly in perceived status was very different. People who

did solo work were often very highly respected, and it wasn’t as though

somehow working with people was . . . in some way less intellectually

challenging or had less status than working with corporations. So it was

really a lovely place to be, and like I said, the law school was superb . . . I

mean wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people there. My favorite project

was some consulting with the Ford Foundation. One of the things that had

gotten lost in legal services with the funding cuts was a fellowship

program called the Reginald Heber Smith program, that was designed to

bring people into legal services who were more community-based in their

approach and often in their background. Geraldo Rivera, who was then

known as Jerry Rivers, was a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow, and many of

the people who ten years later were some of the leaders of legal services

were people who had been Reggies. Ford wanted to know whether or not

it might be possible to resurrect the fellowship program, but instead of

getting public money which didn’t look like a real possibility — using law

firm contributions. So I began to look at . . I looked at the Reggie

program and its history and talked to the people who had participated in it

about what it was about, and then I looked at some of the law related

fellowship programs that were out there, that were fairly small, and then I

went to Skadden because Skadden had started the Skadden Fellows

program, and looked at that program which was pretty remarkable. Before

I had actually filed my final report, a young African American Federal

District Court judge in Chicago, Ann Williams — she’s now in the

Seventh Circuit — was presiding over a major class action antitrust suit. It

was the folding carton case, and they had come in with a huge verdict in

the case, and after distributing it to the members of the class. Somebody

had mentioned fellowships, and she was really intrigued by it. I had

gotten to know a wonderful young man named Michael Caudell Feigen,

who straight out of law school had started an organization called the

National Association for Public Interest Law for law students who were

interested in public interest careers. I think it was at the time, just him.

They were operating on an absolute shoe string, but finding summer pro

bono opportunities. So, I brought him with me to Chicago to meet with

the judge and with the distribution committee. And she ordered 2.3

million dollars in cy pres funds to go to NAPIL which is now Equal

Justice Works, and that was the heart of and the biggest endowment for

the Equal Justice Works fellowships. The operational funding for EJW

originally came from Ford, and then Open Society, George Soros’

foundation took up the funding, and the number of fellows just increased

and increased. That was one of those wonderful situations that I think has

characterized my career — I seem to have this wonderful luck about being

in the right place at the right time. The pieces were there. It just required,

first of all, a very wise and wonderful judge, but also just somebody who

knew some of the different pieces of information. So, before the report

even was published, it had this amazing effect, and it continues to this day.

I served on the board of Equal Justice Works for many years. I’m now not

on the board any longer, but still very committed to it, and to the

organization, and particularly to these amazing young people who are .

it isn’t just that they want to do public interest law, it’s that they want to

do it in a different way, and they bring not only the sort of commitment,

but this amazing creativity to what they do. I enjoyed all of my work. I

really did some really fun things — sometimes difficult. Telling people at a

bar association who thought that they had a wonderful pro bono program,

that in fact, less than ten percent of the lawyers who were on the volunteer

panel, the much vaunted, very large volunteer panel, had never taken a

case, because the program just was not well run at all. So, you know,

important — not as much fun. [Laughter] You didn’t get a lot of thanks

for that. Thanks for making us feel bad, but an important thing because,

you know, obviously the clients were suffering because of it. I loved the

consulting. I loved being in Santa Fe, but in order to do what I wanted to

do, I was travelling constantly, and I started to feel as though I had no

permanent abode. People would ask me where I was from, and I would

say I was from DFW because that was where I spent the most time, and I

also was involved with someone there and we broke up, and it’s a small

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

town. So we saw each other . . . he and I saw each other all the time. It’s

not pleasant, and so I started thinking about what I was going to next,

much as I hoped to stay in Santa Fe forever because it was so beautiful.

Do you mind talking about him at all? How you met him or . . .

Well, he was also somebody who ran a legal services program in

California that focused on Native Americans, and he and I were both in

volunteer leadership positions in legal services advocacy organizations,

and got to know each other, and when I was moving out to Santa Fe,

somebody said, “well, are you going to see Bruce?” And I said, “why

would I see Bruce?” Because he was living in the Bay area at the time.

They said, “he was working for the Navajo Nation in the Justice

Department of the Navajo Nation, and he’s in Santa Fe now.” And I said,

“Oh, that’s great because I only know like three people in Santa Fe.” And

so, I called him and then we, you know, kind of went from there. He was

trying to become a lawyer/photographer [laughter]. So it was really fun

because we would literally just set out in the morning, head up towards

Taos and wait for the perfect light. We used to refer to it as God’s

spotlight. Then he would take these beautiful photographs, and we’d just

hike around. He was not a good candidate for a long term relationship,

sort of a rebound person definitely. So I was trying to think about what I

was going to do. One of my really close friends is a woman named Sally

Determan. I may have mentioned her before, and Sally was at Hogan, and

she kept saying you have to come to D.C. You have to . . . your policy

work, you know, you do public good. D.C. is your place. You really have

to come here. She was becoming the chair of the American Bar

Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and one of

the things that was a focus for her was post-conviction death penalty

representation. She’s a dynastic tax and estates lawyer, and took on a

death penalty case because what could be more similar than death to law

and taxes. [Laughter] I guess death and taxes. So she started to do that

and she got . . . and she was, as I think virtually everyone is if they start

kind of looking at the capital system in the United States . . . appalled by

what she saw. And her client was somebody who had gone completely off

the deep end. She used to refer to him and a class action capital defendant

because he’d gone out and just killed many people — no question about

innocence. But the whole question about whether or not . . . you know,

what his mental state was and everything else, had not been dealt with

because the quality of representation he received was appalling. So she

was starting this project, and it happened in part because she had been

working with folks at the NAACP LDF through particularly, Elaine Jones,

who then later became the head of NAACP LDF, was very much involved

in providing representation, and they recruited people, but the numbers on

death row were growing so quickly that it just overwhelmed them. Sally’s

project was designed to recruit more volunteers to handle these cases in

states, and Sally’s theory was that I could sell people any kind of case, and

that I would be a good person to do this even though of course I knew

nothing, nothing, nothing about death penalty law, and had stayed as far

from criminal practice, which scared the bejesus out of me as a possibly


Ms. Knievel: How did she convince you?

Ms. Lardent: She basically told me that there were two other people who were very,

very knowledgeable in death penalty areas. One of them was Russ Canan

who’s now on the D.C. Court, and I cannot remember the name of the

other woman who was very, very knowledgeable — and also a guy named

George Kendall who was working at the Inc. Fund, remarkable guy, was

helping us out. And she said, you don’t have to do this full time, but

there’s a tremendous need and you could do it, and I thought “I could. I

could do it.” So, I was in D.C. speaking at a conference at, of all places,

the American Enterprise Institute, and decided that I would take the job. I

agreed to do it as a part time consultant, and extended my day for two

days, found a house, [Laughter] went back to New Mexico, packed up my

things, and drove to D.C. with the person that I was going out with which

was a bad, bad, bad idea, really . having fights in cars on highways

across America is really not a good thing.

Ms. Knievel: Not as fun as the first caravan?

Ms. Lardent: No . . . definitely not. There was not a lot of laughing going on. Came to

D.C. in the middle of this amazing ice storm with ice inside my house and

of course no phone, no furniture, God knows where the furniture truck was

— I couldn’t communicate with them. It was before really cell phones

were operational — I and started doing that work, and really the people

who work in this area are amazing people. They’re extraordinary lawyers.

It is probably the most complex, counterintuitive jurisprudence I’ve ever

seen. There are 87 million ways to mess up one of these cases, and the

law is so harsh and unforgiving in so many ways, and then way too

forgiving in others. So for example, the awful case law that has been kind

of slightly eroded, but still exists in terms of ineffective assistance of

counsel. Death penalty cases at trial are bifurcated. So, you have guilt or

innocence, and then you have sentencing, and there were people who

would submit nothing at sentencing, and the court decision said, “well,

that was a strategic decision.” The fact that they were sleeping or drunk or

incompetent or on drugs or you know, then were suspended from practice

for other reasons didn’t seem to matter. So it was incredibly important

work and the people who did it were remarkable and we got more

systemic. It started out purely as sort of a recruitment effort, and I think

this is partly because again — right place, right time — the system was so

egregious that people were really beginning to take notice, but also people

were beginning to be willing to sort of approach this in a more systemic

way, and . . . that’s my approach. It always feels more comfortable. The

job kind of grew. It expanded, and we began to work on things like

standards for providing representation in post-conviction matters. You

know, what kind of training should these lawyers have? How much

independence should they have? What kind of experience should they

have? We worked within the ABA, but also with the various groups like

the Inc. Fund, and Death Penalty Information Center, and the ACLU’s

Death Penalty Project to develop that, and got those adopted and they

began to be used in court decisions, and kind of expanded some of the

ineffective assistance law. We started working with the Federal Judicial

Center and with the Judicial Conference on these issues because they

oversaw federal defenders, and there was also a federal death penalty as

well, and began to start working with the states, and in the middle of . . . I

think it sort of overlapped Reagan, and Bush I. We actually managed to

get $20 million in federal funding to set up death penalty resource centers

in states like Texas and Alabama and Virginia, to provide training and

resources to these lawyers who were taking on these cases that were so far

outside of their practice area and their skills sets. That was really very

exciting. It was a really good thing that this effort was within the ABA,

and the ABA didn’t take any position on the death penalty. People kept

trying to sort of get the ABA to bring a resolution opposing the death

penalty, kept saying, “don’t do it, don’t do it,” because we were doing so

much better recruiting people on an administration of justice platform.

You know, the ABA isn’t for the death penalty; they’re not against the

death penalty. They have no stand on that, but what they are saying is

when someone’s life is at stake, they should have competent counsel and

due process. We got presidents of the ABA to testify before Congress and

wonderfully brave chief justices and we worked with people on the Hill in

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

the Senate and in the House. It was a tremendously exciting time, and it

was wonderful work, but I missed the civil side. I missed some of the pro

bono stuff.

Did you ever think “Sally, what did you get me into?”

Well, yes. There were times because honestly, I’d be getting ready to

refer a case, and I’d be thinking, what if I can’t find somebody. I mean,

this guy is going to die. I mean literally, his life is in my hands. So I

would have nightmares, and it was very stressful. The other thing is, there

are wonderful people in the death penalty community. It is a very tight

community, and they go through amazing things. So, sometimes you call

people up at a resource center or at the Southern Center for Human Rights,

or Equal Justice Initiative, and they yell at you, and later on you find out

that one of their clients had just been sentenced to death or they’d actually

been, at their client’s request, there when their client was killed. So, there

were moments when I thought, “okay, this is just um . . this is a little

intense.” I enjoyed it, but something for me was missing, and I always did

other consulting. I kept doing some of the other consulting that I did as

well, because I didn’t want to just do this. I admire the people who do this

and have done it for ten and twenty years, and really there are lots of them

that stay in the community. But . . . it was very stressful, and I needed a

balance. One of the things I was doing that was tremendous fun was, one

of my mentors — remarkable, remarkable man named Bob Raven, was

elected President of the ABA . . . I knew Bob because he’d been President

of the California Bar, very involved in legal services and pro bono, the

head of Morrison & Foerster which had this incredible pro bono culture,

and he asked me if I would do the speech writing for him which I’d never

done before, although I had some experience with creative writing. He

wanted to provoke people, and he wanted to give a new perspective. I

remember Bob giving a speech on human rights, and a very progressive

Assistant Secretary of State came over to me and she said, “Are you sure

this guy’s President of the ABA?” Bob was Midwestern born, very

attractive, shock of white hair. He looked like what everybody would

imagine a managing partner would look like, and there was something

about his sort of Midwestern demeanor that meant that you could put

really strong ideas in his speeches. So, I had a great time with that. He

was very worried that the increasing pressure for large law firms to be

business-like was negatively impacting pro bono, and he pulled together a

conference of people from law firms to talk about pro bono. Mary

McClymont, the person at the Ford Foundation that I had worked with on

the fellowship study and had gotten to know well, attended, and then came

to me and said, I’m hearing from all of the groups, the Inc. Fund, the civil

rights groups, the ACLU, that use these large law firms that they are

becoming more resistant to taking on really big cases, really controversial

matters because it’s not business-like. And she said, “I wonder whether I

could convince you to work on a project to strengthen law firm pro bono

work.” And I said, “That would be fun.” And so they came up with a

$40,000 grant, but the catch was they needed to run it through a 501(c)(3)

couldn’t just give it to an individual, and at the time, Laurie Zelon was

the chair of the ABA Pro Bono Committee on which I had served for a

number of years, and she said, “well, we’ll sponsor it, and you just kind of

do your thing. I mean complete independence, and we’ll sponsor it.” So I

started doing that project. Sally Determan was the inspiration in many

ways for what we decided to do on the law firm project because she was

doing pro bono at Hogan, the best job in the world, and nobody knew what

most of the law firms were really doing. Nobody was writing about it

because it was the pre-American Lawyer days, and there wasn’t any place

where law firms shared that information. When we started looking at

what firms did about pro bono, we did regional listening tours where we

would bring people from firms together, and it was fascinating. You look

at D.C. D.C. was very active in pro bono. You look at Texas and that

region, and they thought United Way was pro bono, and you know, and

even then, it was probably like one tenth of one percent of their time. We

put together an advisory committee. We did this listening tour and I still

remember one day saying to Sally, “given what’s happening with billable

hours, you know, the increased expectations and also the fact that the

targets are becoming more firm, I wonder whether it would make sense to

give billable hour credit for pro bono,” which Hogan was not doing. And

she looked at me and she said, “oh, you’re so Pollyannaish. That’s so

sweet, but firms will never do that.” Well I knew that Arnold & Porter

down the street was encouraging people to spend up to 15% of their time

on pro bono and it was counted in the same way that billable time was. It

just made me realize that there was this huge vacuum of information on

best practices, and that’s where we went with the project — each firm was

unique and had a unique culture, had a unique structure, but what were the

common elements that allowed firms to continue to be very prosperous,

but to maintain pro bono despite changes in size of firm, because . . . again

this was the right place at the right time. I started doing this in ’86, or ’88

I think. I’m terrible at dates. Just as big firms were giving a whole new

meaning to big and as they were becoming increasingly the sort of power

center, dominant force and exemplar in the profession (albeit not always

loved by the rest of the profession). More and more of the law school

classes were going there, and the things that they were doing, whether it

was technology or types of practice filtered down to the rest of the

profession. There’s just no question about it. So they were becoming

larger, more prosperous, much more managed, much more focused on the

bottom line, much more aware of the bottom line, and then of course The

American Lawyer came and told everybody about what everybody else

was earning, and so then they became incredibly competitive and had to

keep up with their peers. It was a perfect time to begin to focus on this. It

was perfect time, and we looked at those firms and we . . . you know, we

could watch through a recession and a recovery. We’ve got this

wonderful wealth of longitudinal data. Now we have three recessions and

three recoveries — two recoveries, and whatever we’re in now, to see what

was working, and why was it that, for example, the four big D.C. firms

just seemed to stay committed to pro bono. It didn’t matter if they were

having the best times or the worst times. It didn’t matter if the managing

partner changed. It didn’t matter if they merged. Pro bono was a

constant, and that was true of Paul Weiss and it was true of MoFo, and we

wanted to identify some of the key elements. We tried to tease those out,

and then, without realizing how impactful this would be, our advisory

committee said, we’re in lots of different states, and every state has a

different aspirational goal about pro bono. What we really want is the

same pro bono culture across the firm. We don’t want to do different

things in different states. All the pro bono aspirational goals speak in

terms of individual attorneys, but we think as institutions, we have an

obligation. These were people like Jack London who was Bob Raven’s

protegee at Morrison & Foerster and John Pickering and Jim Jones who

was the managing partner of Arnold & Porter, and Scott Atlas who was a

very highly respected litigator at Vinson & Elkins who I’d met because he

did a death penalty case, and his client was freed. It was a really great

group of people, and they said we think we need a pro bono standard for

larger law firms, an institutional standard. We spent two long years

drafting and redrafting what became the Pro Bono Challenge ®, and it was

very much a group effort. I don’t think any of us would have ever

imagined that it would become the industry gold standard and how much it

would drive firm behavior. People said to us, three or five percent of

billable hours, are you crazy? That’s money right off our profits, and we

won’t be competitive anymore; we’re going to lose money. It’s like

money walking out the door. How can we do that? And now, it’s

considered, you know, entirely feasible and doable and everybody strives

toward it, and it’s really — it’s just amazing. The people on that advisory

committee, particularly Jim Jones and there was a guy named Curt Caton

who was at Heller Ehrman, which was another firm that had, the late

lamented Heller Ehrman, had a terrific tradition, literally just picked up

their briefcases, and they were like the Willy Lomans of pro bono. They

went out on the road [Laughter] to sell pro bono to firms. We had very

hostile reactions. There were some firms and some people who were just

furious about the Challenge, and sent us really hot letters and tried to stop

the effort, and it was very controversial. It’s funny to look back on it, but

very, controversial.

Ms. Knievel: Did you expect it to be as controversial as it was at the time?

Ms. Lardent: We knew that it was. We deliberately did not bring in bar associations or

the ABA House of Delegates, and we didn’t bring in public interest people

because we were very concerned that they would not be as aggressive and

onerous. One of the things about the public interest community is they

really value process — sometimes more than outcomes. They value

process, and the fact that they weren’t consulted made them furious. So

they were really angry with me, and yeah there were firms that probably

shouldn’t be named, but some of the New York firms that were appalled at

the idea. In some firms some conservative people were outraged because

they saw this as a takeover by the radical left, and there were just all kinds

of exciting things going on. What we did as a strategy which worked well

was, before we unveiled the Challenge, we got 48 charter signatories and

we got geographic diversity. We got highly respected firms. We got

firms that were among the most prosperous firms, and so when we went

out to recruit Challenge firms, we already had that base. There was a

rational justification for what we did, including the principles and the

definition which really very much tied into what we had seen about

successful, longstanding economic-cycle resistant pro bono efforts at

firms. We incorporated all of that. One of the great stories, and people at

Wilmer Hale tell this story all the time, was that John Pickering was very

much involved in this effort, and very excited about it. We were housed at

the time at Arnold & Porter. Jim Jones, who was one of the key people

involved in the drafting clearly was planning to have Arnold & Porter be

the first firm, and John Pickering, who was then probably in his late 70s,

signed the challenge on behalf of what was then Wilmer Cutler Pickering,

and hand carried it over to our office so that they were the first charter

signatory. And, as his partners always remind me, he then went back and

reported to the formal leadership of the firm what he had done and how he

knew that of course they were completely behind him, which they were.

He also was very close friends with Justice Brennan who had just retired

and was not in great health, but very excited about this, and Justice

Brennan agreed to write a letter on his Supreme Court Justice stationery to

all the firms. It went out to about 500 law firms inviting them to

participate in the Challenge. I still treasure my copy of that letter, and

then we did the visits, and we did road shows, and we talked to people and

we jaw-boned, and we got another I think 50 or so firms, and then we did

a kick-off event. The kick-off event was, I have to say, quite wonderful.

We asked firms that were Challenge signatories to send us stories to tell us

about what difference pro bono had made, all kinds of stories, and we put

them all together, and then we selected a few firms and a few people, and

we brought them and their clients in and we thought about doing this at the

ABA. We thought about trying to do at the Supreme Court. Where we

ended up was at a church that was part of N Street Village which is a . . .

it’s a multi-disciplinary support effort for women who have been homeless

and in prison, and it deals with their health issues, mental health and

physical health, helps them with résumés, helps them reconnect with and

stay with their children, provides legal help, provides housing and

everything else. And so we did it in the church with a wonderful pastor of

the church, and we had Justice Brennan there. We had leaders of firms.

We had Janet Reno who was the Attorney General at the time, and we had

the lawyers, but the lawyers sat behind their clients, and the clients told

their story. A wonderful community-based Latino woman talked about

the partnership that began when she and a group of families were

abandoned by the owner of their building who had not paid . . . they paid

the rent. He had not paid the utilities or taxes or anything else, and they

and their children were freezing in the middle of a Boston winter, and not

only did they get the utilities turned on, but their pro bono firm worked

with them to create owner-occupied subsidized housing, and new

affordable decent housing that ten years later, had led to 500 units of

owner-occupied housing. So the clients told their stories, and it just . . .

there was something . . . because it, I think it made the focus exactly right,

and it didn’t make the lawyers look like they were being self-important.

There was the bakery. There was a bakery in one of the boroughs of New

York, and the owners announced that they just couldn’t make it work

anymore, and so the pro bono firm helped the workers, you know, keep

the bakery open as a co-op that was owned by the workers. They were

amazing stories about the power of pro bono, and about law as a force for

fairness and justice and prosperity and better lives. It made you feel about

as good about the legal profession as you could possibly imagine, and then

we all went up with the Attorney General and she visited with the women

who were staying at the N Street facility. The press was incredible. We

got really positive press in the Wall Street Journal, in the New York Times

and all kinds of places. It was really terrific.

Ms. Knievel: How did it happen that Janet Reno was there? How did that transpire?

Ms. Lardent: A number of people were close to her particularly Chesterfield Smith who

was again one of my mentors. I have to say these people, Bob Raven,

Jack Curtin in Boston, Chesterfield were people who cared so deeply

about doing the right thing. It was so important. Chesterfield took a twoperson

law firm and turned it into a 1,400-person law firm, and yet, I think

his favorite thing was figuring out how to make the world a more just

place, and he particularly . . . he loved women. He just loved women . . .

just generally, and he believed very much in them. So he mentored an

amazing number of women lawyers, and I was lucky enough to be one of

them, but Janet Reno was another. Martha Barnett, who then became

President of the ABA, and Chesterfield, along with her husband Marty

was the reason that Ruth Bader Ginsburg got on the Supreme Court. He

fought for Ruth. We had him contact Janet and she said, “this is

wonderful. I love this. This is really incredible, and I’d love to be a part

of it.” That was in 1993, and the Challenge came into effect. We had

narrowed the pro bono definition. We took out, among other things, all

work with bar associations, and . . . and this was particularly controversial

in New York, service on boards, except if you were doing legal work, part

of the reasons sometimes people go on boards. So we gave people two

years, and we gave them the option of either three or five percent because

we realized firms were in such different places. If you were a law firm in

Dallas, Texas, getting to three percent was going to be quite a struggle and

an achievement. What is really fascinating is that we have the

longitudinal data, and over the period of time from 1995 when we had the

first reports to 2007, the amount of pro bono work that firms, that the

firms undertook was, I believe it increased if I remember right, 370

percent, and more than that, the kind of work that they did, the way they

structured pro bono, their policies around things like giving parity and

billable hour credit for pro bono time all changed — literally one of the

most profound sea changes imaginable. To give it its due, it happened at a

very good time for firms for the most part — there was another recession

obviously around the tech bubble and 9-11, but for the most part, they

were great years, and the firms experienced incredible prosperity. You

could argue that it was the easier time to do pro bono, but in fact, some of

the toughest . . . years were typically those where literally for some firms,

they were wrung out of excess capacity. So the firms that particularly that

were the go-to firms for the tech community in the late 90s, they .. .

people were . .. the average number of billable hours was beyond belief.

They were turning away paying work, and so pro bono took a hit — not a

huge hit, but a hit. But what is fascinating is through an interesting

combination of factors . . . again, I’d like to think that what we’ve done is

to be very opportunistic about what’s been out there — pro bono just

became more and more institutionalized and accepted. I still remember in

the late 80s, early 90s talking to the managing partner at a firm in Chicago,

who said, “Pro bono? Our job is to provide the best possible work to our

clients and to make as much money as we can for our partners. Pro

bono?” That firm now has a full-time pro bono partner. So even things

like the American Lawyer, the advent of the American Lawyer . . . we

went to them with our leadership, people like Bob Sheehan, who is

Executive Partner of Skadden, who we knew they would listen to, and our

message to the American Lawyer was, you are doing an incredible

disservice to the profession because every year when you publish your

results, all you talk about is profits for partner, revenues. What you’re

saying is that this profession is all about money and so . . . not only is that

appalling, it’s wrong. Some would say that profit . . . oh, I need to talk

about Judge Katzmann’s book . . . remind me. That profit — that stature

and profitability and durability are tied only to money, and it’s not the

case. Firms that are only about money will not succeed. You know,

because somebody else will always be there to offer you a little bit more

and so there won’t be the loyalty, there won’t be the sense of

connectedness, there won’t be you know . . and God help you if you run

into a bad year, people will start fleeing for the hills. So, we suggested to

the American Lawyer that they needed to start using our definition of pro

bono and reporting on pro bono and they did. I’m thinking ’93, I want to

say, they started reporting . . . now, you know they have the Pro Bono

issue and they reported on pro bono. And that was really good until the

reporting on financials became even more elaborate and complex. And we

went back again and said, you’re going wrong again . . different editor,

you’re going wrong again . . . you’re doing this snapshot of firms and you

know, frankly, you’ve kind of “ghettoized” the pro bono, and it seems like

an afterthought and that’s exactly what it shouldn’t be. It really needs to

be seen as part of the identity, and the value, and the fabric, and the goal,

and the character of the firm. And, they went away and came back with a

brilliant concept and that was the A-List — measuring not only

profitability, but measuring pro bono, diversity, and associate satisfaction.

And, they, God bless them, gave as much weight to pro bono as

profitability which was terrific. And again, talk about being consciously

opportunistic, so we went to the firms and we said, “Okay, everybody

wants to move up on the A-List.” So we said: associate satisfaction, pretty

hard to predict or control; you can try your best, who knows and you

know, it’s going to vary, you know, you have a year in which you’ve got a

big case and you have everybody doing document review in the basement,

you’re going to get cranky people. You know, your bonuses were slightly

lower than Cravath’s, you’re going to get cranky people. And sometimes

for no reason that you actually understand or can predict, you are going to

get cranky people. It’s important that you do actually want to make your

associates happy and feeling as though they are growing but it’s not going

to be something that you can really control very much. Diversity, you

know, is a 10-year, 15-year project and you’re all failing at it. So, none of

you are going to look so good in this. So, the easiest, most predictable and

least expensive way to increase your score on the A-List is pro bono, and

they brought it. In 2000, we published “The Business Case for Pro Bono,”

which again, was very controversial. That again became utterly accepted.

People believe it. There was actually a study that showed that there was a

positive correlation between profitability and pro bono. And we keep

tweaking it and changing “The Business Case” as different factors become

more important but it has become an utterly accepted part of the landscape

which is great. And the A-List certainly very much helped with that. We

also used the fact that at a certain point, competition for talent was getting

so intense that I used to say if somebody who was on Law Review at one

of the top 10 law schools, said to a managing partner, “I’ll come but only

if you paint yourself green.” The managing partner would say, “Pea or

lime,” and just do it. So we used that and we started sending the

Challenge and the list of Challenge signatories out to law schools right

before interviewing season, so the students could ask about it at all of the

law schools. Just luck, but this wonderful man, Bob Katzmann, who was

at the time at Brookings decided that he wanted to do a publication on pro

bono. So, I did a chapter, in fact where I mentioned Hogan quite a bit in

the CSD, on “The Typology of Pro Bono,” it was some very law review

sounding thing. That book was also where the studying on the correlation

between profitability and pro bono came out. Most recently, we are taking

advantage of the competition for clients, the change in the client-for-life

phenomenon. We started to go to corporate counsel to have them

encourage firms to do pro bono and then started the Corporate Pro Bono

project to involve legal departments in pro bono so they weren’t feeling

hypocritical . . . also so that when they said, we want to know about your

pro bono work in their RFPs and beauty contest and retention vehicles,

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which they are doing more every day; they could do it with a clear

conscience. So, we used the war for talent, the war for clients, the fact

that the legal press was omnipresent — anything we could think of we used

as a tool to help us. And we are still doing that — we are looking at the

whole change that’s going on in terms of how associates are evaluated and

the fact that legal departments will not pay for associates who haven’t

demonstrated certain skills. We’re promoting pro bono as the way to get

your associates up to speed with core competencies, experiential work,

confidence, skills so they can become more profitable to you earlier. And

we have general counsel of Fortune 50 companies saying, “It’s not that I

won’t pay for first- or second-year associates, I won’t pay for people who

don’t have the demonstrated skills. If you show me somebody who has

been doing pro bono work and they’ve actually done motion practice or

discovery or been involved, had actual direct experience working with a

client on a negotiation or working with a non-profit group on some of their

compliance issues, that person is worth paying for.” A lot of what I do is

try to understand everything that is happening in large law firms and now

in legal departments that has nothing to do with pro bono. It’s pretty

funny since I’ve never worked in one, but what we’re able to do is look at

the things that are unhelpful and try to minimize the impact and look at the

things that could be helpful and try to maximize that in terms of pro bono.

As we went along, we evolved our work. I think it was 1989, when we

said, “Gee, we might want to get people together to talk about how to do

pro bono because there’s a lot of learning out there in the firms, and they

could do peer-to-peer learning.” We brought together that first time, 20

people. We had, I think a two-and-a-half-hour schedule. I think we were

worried that we didn’t have enough content to fill the time, but we did and

they really liked it. Our latest conference had close to 350 people,

including people from Brazil, South Africa, lots of Brits, Canadians,

Japan, Australia, the people from large firms, and people from lots and

lots of legal departments and public interest organizations and some of

them are there for two-and-a-half days — just talking about how to give

their time away better which is pretty incredible. One of the things we

continue to do is we scan the pro bono scene, we look for models and

projects that are working well. We evaluate them with a very tough

critical eye and if we think they are really effective, we publicize them.

We’re conveners and popularizers, and we use all of kinds of vehicles to

do that. What we do hasn’t changed; how we do it has changed. And the

ways people do pro bono have changed. It used to be that people viewed

pro bono has one case at a time and now we have signature projects and

major collaborations and interdisciplinary work where lawyers are

working with doctors and social workers to help at risk families. My goals

for my work are three things. I want to make good things happen. I want

to make the world a better place even if I’m doing it three steps back from

the front lines and in fact, I think I actually feel more comfortable being

three steps back. And certainly, if you think about the concept of

leverage, we’re as fully leveraged as you can get here. I mean if I think

about what the 12 people here, if we were just doing direct client service,

how many clients we service versus potentiating other people to do it. The

second thing is I really want is to work with really smart, really good

people who can teach me and who are a pleasure to work with and that

again, this work is perfect because people self-select out. If you’re a nasty

screamer, who is totally focused on what your draw is going to be this

year — very unlikely that I’m going to have much interaction with you,

which is great; I don’t want to. So, instead I’m working with people who,

from a pure logic perspective, don’t have time for this. They’re juggling

families and, other interests and jobs that are insanely busy — particularly

the people that are in our leadership, if you think about people who are

managing partners or chairs these days and general counsel. The idea that

general counsel will come and stay for two days at our seminar is insane.

Their time is measured out in nanoseconds practically and there they are.

So, that to me is just wonderful. There are so many people that I work

with at so many levels that I just learn so much from and just adore. And

then the final thing is that I don’t want to be bored. I get really easily

bored. I think I have law ADD. When I would be reading long decisions,

even if they were interesting, most of them I didn’t find that interesting

. . . it was very hard for me . . . to focus but because this is a profession,

and a legal system that flux, we at PBI rarely do the same thing twice. I

love doing different things; I need to. So in the . . . some kind of

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wonderfully lucky way I’ve sort of hit on what for me is the work that

gives me exactly what I need and I feel very, very blessed by that. Really.

It’s incredible and it’s very intellectually challenging. It’s really

challenging to figure out . . . how to respond to these changes. One

example that I’ll give you is when everything went awry in 2008, 2009;

we began to do what we always do, which is on an individual confidential

basis, working with firms that were laying people off and/or deferring

incoming associates or both. We did a late-breaking session on the issue

at our conference and we realized it was such a huge phenomenon that

doing individual technical assistance was not really addressing the need.

And so we literally stepped back, did some research and the week after the

conference, put together a paper to provide guidance to firms and to public

interest organizations on what their options were in terms of deferred

associates and sabbaticals and that sort of thing related to the economy.

We tried to show them how nuanced the issue was, both for firms and for

public interest organizations; some of the hidden costs, some of the

concerns, some of the issues and the continuum of options all the way

from the firm actually helps place the individual with a particular public

interest organization that they know, have worked with, or vetted, to the

free-agency model, which is, you can get $60,000, go out there and find

something, and the pros and cons of each — definitely not loving the free

agency situation. We got that out in a week and then did conference calls

and training sessions and webinars around it for like all of the legal

directors at the ACLU, people from a range of public interest groups, all

the law firms in a particular city, to try to help as much as we could.

There wasn’t one central place that people could go and it was chaotic and

even with that help there were missed opportunities and some wasted

opportunities definitely and some people who got caught in the middle in a

not good way. But fundamentally we really tried to help rationalize the

phenomenon and make it as productive as it could possibly be, and then

we surveyed the legal services organizations about their experience. They

were, many of them, initially unbelievably skeptical about this. I mean

these were after all not firm people who had chosen to go to public interest

jobs. They didn’t have a lot of choice, and so the feeling was they don’t

really care about our mission; they don’t care about our clients. There was

the issue of people who even at a reduced compensation level were

making more than far more senior people at the public interest

organization. Some of the legal services programs were unionized; how

do you deal with that, and even though they got the person for free there

were student loan issues, there were insurance issues, there were “where

do you find the space,” “where to find a computer for them” issues, and

these very beleaguered programs. Almost 98% of the organizations that

reported to us in the survey, and we got a very good response rate, they

said the experience was incredible and they would absolutely, absolutely

do it again; that these lawyers had added so much. Not only in terms of

the clients that they helped but just what they had brought with them in

terms of enthusiasm and new ideas and new approaches and the .

slightly above 2% who were not satisfied it was because they didn’t get

any deferred associates.

Tape 5

This is Erica Knievel interviewing Esther Lardent on November 9, 2011. We are at Esther’s

office at the Pro Bono Institute, and the purpose of this recording is to record her oral history for

the Women Trailblazers Project. This is Tape Number 5. Esther when our last tape ended we

were discussing your move to D.C., your work on capital punishment which Sally Determan

persuaded you into doing. I’d like to talk a little bit more about the Pro Bono Institute and its

birth; its evolution and your time here in D.C.

Ms. Lardent: Absolutely. Well Sally for years had said to me you really have to come

to D.C. It’s the right place for you and I think she was absolutely right. I

mean I am after all a policy wonk, and D.C. is filled with policy wonks

and I love being in a place where the cab drivers can tell you what the

burning issue is in Congress that day. So I came as we’ve discussed to

serve as a chief consultant for the ABA Post-Conviction Death Penalty

Project. But I also continued to do different kinds of consulting. I think

we’ve talked about some of that. I did consulting for the Ford Foundation;

I consulted sometimes for state bar associations. I worked, as I always

had, part-time on the death penalty project, part-time on the law firm

project and then also did other consulting. For the law firm project, we

put together an advisory group because the ABA project didn’t necessarily

have people from firms at all, and we wanted people from firm leadership

who could not only tell us what was going on but also be effective

communicators and missionaries for whatever we found out. We did this

series of listening tours and in order to attract firm people to them, we

looked for in-house general counsel to speak because even then the client

voice was a very important voice and one leader of a law firm who would

send the right message about the importance of pro bono. It was really a

struggle to find these people because most legal departments really were

not involved with pro bono and frankly there were firm leaders who really

cared about pro bono, but it wasn’t something that was being discussed.

What we found were some terrific firm programs — many of them in

Washington, D.C. and in San Francisco. There were enormous regional

variations. One important concept was this notion of institutional support

— that just as the firm is an institution rewarded and acknowledged and

pushed lawyers to help meet the firm’s revenue goals, the firm would have

the same role with respect to pro bono. The notion that pro bono wasn’t

just left to a tiny segment of the usual suspects. There needed to be much

more broad participation, and frankly we thought it should be both

associates and partners. Because . . . well, to broaden the nature of the

work, to give it heft and responsibility. Having some kind of some focus

within the firm on pro bono, so it wasn’t utterly decentralized and ad hoc,

whether that was a pro bono committee or just a couple of people who

cared about pro bono or a non-lawyer coordinator or in a very, very small

number of firms then, a lawyer who spent part-time or very, very rarely

full-time of their work or, in some firms, very, very few like Hogan, an

actual practice area, a pro bono department. And we saw what some of

the impediments were. And one of the impediments was that as firms

were growing, even in D.C. where you saw a lot of certainly litigation and

regulatory work, their transactional and business parts of the firm were

growing very quickly. And, with the exception of the late great Howrey,

you know firms just were not dominated by litigators anymore, either in

terms of firm governance or certainly in terms of work. It was like the

New York-ization of firms, if you will. And yet most pro bono work,

whether it was a simple individual matter or a big class action suit, was

very litigation focused, the people who were active in pro bono, people in

pro bono leadership positions, were all litigators who really understood

nothing about [Laughter] business and transaction work and really just

didn’t see a role for pro bono there. And, out in the public interest

community, very little awareness of or interest in providing transactional

opportunities, because it was all litigation based as well. What we began

to do was to try to look for ways to overcome that. We looked at

malpractice insurance, because there were some questions about

malpractice insurance and many, many public interest organizations didn’t

have malpractice coverage for pro bono lawyers, so we worked with

insurers, not my strong suit — [Laughter] insurance coverage — but were

able to get reasonably affordable policies. At every stage we’ve tried to

figure out what was working for pro bono, what was working against pro

bono. And for the people who were doing it well, the firms that were

doing it well, what could we learn from them and how could we use them.

Once we figured out that law firms are competing and conforming

institutions, though, we had it knocked. Because there were enough law

firms really doing great work that we could talk about what was possible

and replicable. So a couple of other things we did that were, I think

critical, and one came from the field and one came from us. So the firm

said to us, what does it mean, I mean, how much pro bono is really

reasonable? We don’t know because in Connecticut they say . . . but in,

you know New York and then in Los Angeles and, you know, it’s even

different throughout California, and we don’t know. And so we came up

with this idea of Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and a number of people,

Jim Jones, who was then the head of Arnold & Porter, Curt Caton who

was the head of Heller Ehrman, Jack London and Bob Raven from MoFo

and then Scott Atlas actually from Vinson & Elkins in Houston, and Jack

Martin who was then the General Counsel of Ford Motor Company,

because we just thought it would be good to have somebody who cared

about pro bono from the in-house world, started a process of drafting and

redrafting and redrafting and redrafting what would then turn out to be the

law firm Pro Bono Challenge. We decided on the 3 or 5% option in part

because there were firms that were doing nothing and there were firms that

were doing 10%, you know. The other thing I would say about the

Challenge was the most important and the most difficult thing was the

definition. You know, get a group of lawyers together and basically, you

know, write a statute and a statutory definition, and it’s a piece of work.

The good news was that at the same time that we were doing this, because

I was on the ABA committee on pro bono, we were rewriting Model Rule

6.1 on pro bono and I did a lot of the drafting of that. So what came out of

the ABA process was very much a compromise. It includes time spent on

bar committees as pro bono and it includes work done at a discount as pro

bono. So when we looked at a definition through the filter of large firms,

we said, it can’t be the same standard. First of all, people in large firms

tend to be bar junkies, so including bar work would accomplish little.

Second, discounting, you know, then probably $600-$700 hourly fees,

doesn’t actually meaningfully increase access to justice; I don’t even want

to think about how many drafts it went through.

Ms. Knievel: What were the primary criticisms?

Ms. Lardent: Well, there were a couple. I mean, to some extent you had firms, Cravath

is a great example, who simply felt that they were so unique that they

would never sign on to anything that anybody else would sign on to. And

they’re still not signed on to the Challenge. There were a lot of places that

thought that 3 or 5% was too much, that that was just a crazy idea. In

New York there were a lot of people who were angry because we

wouldn’t include service on the Board of the Legal Aid Society, which is,

you know great, but includes fundraising for the Legal Aid Society, which

does not use legal skills. To some extent it was just the idea of who’s this

ridiculous little organization with one-and-a-half staff people who are

telling us what to do, right? We asked for more hours and we asked for

them as a progressive standard, which I think was exactly right for law

firms. And, unlike almost anybody else, we articulated a benchmark, and

we actually made people report to us and themselves on it. There are pro

bono standards all over the place and they mean nothing. Because nobody

ever really looks at them — certainly doesn’t look at them, as in our case,

in a disaggregated form, and do things like kick people off if they don’t

meet them. Now we have a long trajectory before we do that. But still,

we do do it. Everything in the firm world was moving toward

benchmarking, so the Challenge was a good strategy. What we didn’t

expect was that we would then become a quasi-regulatory agency that

would issue decisions on whether things counted or didn’t count. It’s

gotten to the point now where it’s literally like angels dancing on the head

of a pin. But we have hundreds of pages of explanatory answers about

what counts and what doesn’t count. We’re about to do a renewed issue

of it. And we’ve almost never changed the Challenge, and the result,

which is, again another thing we didn’t anticipate, is that we have almost

20 years’ worth of longitudinal data so that when, for example, pro bono

hours dipped in 2010, we didn’t lie about that or try to fudge that. That

was a significant, you know, 8.4 or so percent drop, but we also didn’t get

crazy about it because what we’ve seen is, we’ve now been through four

recessions in those years. And what we’ve seen is that when you do have

an economic downturn. We say to firms, you really don’t want to RIF

everybody because then you’re going to have to hire back those same

people, and it’s an incredible waste of money and resources and

everything else. So for people that you really want to keep but maybe

they’re in a practice area that’s going through a little bit of a downturn,

you can keep them busy with pro bono. They can keep up their skills and

expand their skills and be visible and their morale is good. And firms do

that. It’s that year of recovery where everybody’s sort of sitting there

going, “I have to do work. I have to show people I can bill.” And where

the firms are too nervous to staff up so that people are very tight on time,

at least in certain specialties, then it’s always tough. And so we saw that

as just another tough year, but it is so wonderful, I think, to have actual

data and fact-based information and longitudinal trends. It really helps us

to understand what’s going on. And obviously the folks that we work

with, we now have such a depth of understanding of individual firms, of

what’s changing right now in firms, so that we understand a lot about

firms that isn’t about pro bono, so that was great. And what all this led to

was the firms taking the kinds of things that we had talked about, breadth

of participation, leadership from the top, projects that would . . . like

signature projects or rotations or externships that would frankly boost

hours pretty quickly, but that also are good, I mean they’re not just good

for boosting hours, they are actually good for boosting productivity and

impact, firms began to take those far more seriously. They started to

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professionalize their pro bono staff, and things just started to build

tremendously, so that was an incredible boost. I think we can talk a little

about and where we’re going in pro bono, but maybe also talk about the

corporate stuff and then maybe also talk about women in the profession

and diversity a little bit where that’s going too.

Tape 6

This is Erica Knievel interviewing Esther Lardent on February 22, 2012. We’re at Esther’s

office at the Pro Bono Institute, and the purpose of this recording is to record Esther’s oral

history for the Women Trailblazers Project. This is tape number six. Now Esther as we

discussed the last time when we ended we were discussing the Pro Bono Challenge and the

development of the A-List.

Ms. Lardent: We had a number of people who were leaving law firms and a couple of

legal department leaders who spent a lot of time in shaping and drafting

and finalizing the Challenge, and I think I may have mentioned that it was

really quite controversial in so many ways. I mean there were a lot of

people who thought that the 3% or 5% level was simply not feasible; that

that would bankrupt firms or you know really reduce profitability and that

sort of thing. There were people who did not like the definition that we

created partly because we excluded things like service on bar committees

and service on boards except when people are actually doing legal work

and so that was really controversial. And there were a lot of people whose

attitude was, you know we’re a private partnership and how dare you tell

us what we should be doing. And so we really weren’t sure whether it

would have legs and what I think is interesting is that we still don’t have a

majority of big firms who signed on. Primarily honestly because we

simply haven’t had the resources to go out and beat the bushes because it

is a kind of one-on-one salesmanship that you need to make it happen.

But what has happened is that in part because of the American Lawyers’

use of our definition and in part because we began to issue reports about

the Challenge that were more than simply statistical reports but did some

analysis of where firms were and what the trends were and what was

going on, it became essentially an industry standard. So even firms that

are not signatories to the Challenge will often use the Challenge as their

goal or their benchmark for their pro bono work, which I think is really

interesting. But the thing I think that we didn’t expect, and if I repeat

myself just stop me, was that, and we should have, with all these lawyers

involved that what we would be spending an incredible amount of our

time doing is answering questions about what counts. I almost feel like

we’re a regulatory agency that issues decisions and opinions. We actually

have a publication on what counts and people ask us questions and that’s a

significant portion of the work that we do with firms and what we’ve also

seen which is very interesting is people like law schools and others again

adopting the definition and then using it too, the “What Counts”

publication to do it. And given lawyers’ natural tendency to parse

language as much as you can we get some pretty amazing questions, and

our philosophy at some level is you know let’s not figure out how many

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

angels can dance on the head of a pin; let’s just do the right thing and not

worry. I mean there are things that are clearly outside the scope and you

know let’s not spend a lot of time arguing around the edges. People want

a level of precision and want clarity, and so we keep saying it’s a factbased

process and so we try to not issue any kind of broad ex cathedra sort

of opinions but it’s amazing how creative a bunch of lawyers can be about

well, does this count, what about this, well I would argue this, and it’s

very funny. The other thing that people do which is quite interesting is

that they use us as the bad guys in making some hard decisions so you

may have a partner’s pet project that is a perfectly lovely thing to do but it

really is community service and not pro bono, and they don’t want to be

the person to tell the partner, and so they call us up knowing what we’re

going to say, and then they say well you know we think it’s a great project

but really you know those mean people at the Pro Bono Institute won’t

count it.

But I think that says something about the level of authority that comes

from PBI, because if it wasn’t universally recognized that way then there

wouldn’t be this deference and these consultations, right?

Yes, and we spend a huge amount of time getting those statistics right.

We’re now working, of course on a pro bono basis from them, with

Deloitte with what we lovingly refer to as our very own math geeks who

have helped to create a program and formulas that will allow us to slice

and dice that information both for the current year and many years of

longitudinal data, slice and dice comparisons with AmLaw; information

on revenues, profits for the partner and that sort of thing. So we can do

some interesting, not causation, but correlation and look for patterns in a

way that I think is really exciting; I can’t believe I’m getting excited about

this since I’m not exactly a math fan, but it’s really quite wonderful.

Ms. Knievel: How did that come about?

Ms. Lardent: We’re actually working with them on two projects which is really quite

exciting. What happened was I got a call probably 5 years ago, out of the

blue this guy called or emailed me and said I’m trying to create a culture

of pro bono in professional services and the corporate world outside of

lawyers; I think this is a great thing and why should lawyers be the only

ones to do it and would love to talk to you about it. So we started to talk.

He’s somebody who is a tech person and he’s kind of got a systems and

engineering approach so what he was doing was taking what we did which

was honestly sort of instinctual and opportunistic and reactive and he saw

it as all part of one great fabulous strategic plan. Which I wish it were but

it wasn’t. He had started an organization called the Taproot Foundation

and the theory behind it is that giving time is like giving money and you

should spend the same kind of care and have the same kind of impact. I

ended up going on their board, and I was the only lawyer on the board and

it was fascinating figuring out how they could get IT professionals,

marketing people, HR people to provide free services doing exactly what

they do for their corporations or professional services firms for non-profit

organizations and I think they’ve done their thousandth project now. So

it’s very, very exciting that they did that. And they’re working with . . .

the Corporation for National and Community Service. They put on a

program in New York on pro bono, and they do call it “pro bono” you

know, and how companies could kind of do more of it. And one of the

people who spoke was a man named Barry Salzberg, who at the time was

the U.S. CEO for Deloitte. He’s now their worldwide CEO and he was

talking about pro bono in exactly the way that the best firms talk about pro

bono. They give billable hour credit; they try to be strategic about what

they’re doing; it was really incredible. And with him was the person who

was in charge of community affairs and corporate social responsibility

who’s in the D.C. area who I just thought was incredible, and so I

encouraged him to go on the board of this organization and we got to

know each other through the board, and I just loved the work they were

doing. They really do big time-intensive projects where they bring their

consulting and accounting and business skills to bear. For our annual

dinner, we have co-chairs and I thought it would be great to have a CEO

rather than just a GC; I mean I thought sort of pushing it up the ladder

would sort of signal something really important to the legal community

and so I asked Evan Hochberg who’s the CSR person, whether or not we

might be able to get Barry to be our co-chair, and for scheduling reasons

he couldn’t do it, but he suggested the man who is the CEO of their

Financial Advisory Services division, which works a lot with law firms

and legal departments. The CEO is a guy named David Williams, and

David came to town, and we had lunch so that we could kind of get to

know each other a little bit better, and definitely it was the work version of

falling in love. He’s this amazing guy who has been one of the real

drivers of pro bono. He’s a Wharton MBA; not a lawyer but knows firms

and legal department because he’s worked with them for years. When the

tsunami in Indonesia hit, he basically went to the company and said here’s

some things that we can do to help and committed them to something like

$50 million in pro bono work out there, and he himself took off a big

stretch of time and went to work in the area. And I just find him to be a

really remarkable person because he’s just . . . he’s very thoughtful but he

explains things in a very clear and simple and wonderful way. He became

a dinner co-chair, and we started talking about ways that we could work

together. One of the things that we’ve been thinking about for years but

that really has been accelerated by having more contact with companies

and with legal departments, is the whole question of what difference is pro

bono making, and how can you use transparency and measurement to

improve and hone pro bono programs. The mantra in corporations and

legal departments is “what gets measured, gets valued; what’s valued gets

done,” and I what I saw was that we had done a wonderful thing with

respect to the Challenge in articulating a benchmark and this idea that

large law firms would have a single unitary goal, but the downside was

that what we were measuring was hours and we were measuring

participation. We weren’t measuring anything else, and while that was

important and meaningful information, it was not sufficient, so the vision

that we had was you could have two firms each with 500 lawyers each

doing an average of 100 hours per lawyer. It was great, right. And one

firm in terms of what it was doing externally was certainly helping some

people but doing it in a pretty random atomized unstructured way. So

people got help but the larger problems didn’t get solved. The other firm

could be doing it in a strategic way; the example I always try to think

about is you could do 200 landlord-tenant cases for clients, and it would

be important work, it makes a huge difference, those clients have

benefited, but in terms of any kind of larger impact, you might not

succeed. What if you did 200 landlord-tenant cases but you did them

where the landlord was the worst slum landlord in the world and what you

were basically trying to do was to do targeted litigation that held them to a

particular standard and made it at a certain point economically unviable

for them to have this horrible housing. A lot of people think we’re talking

about class actions versus individual matters. That’s really not what it’s

about. But it is about having an impact beyond simply the immediate

benefit to the client. We started to think about the firms’ best year, was

over five million hours of pro bono contributed, but the number of people

who still couldn’t get legal help was barely moving and the number of

people in poverty certainly was getting worse. It’s not like lawyers have

the magic key to take people out of poverty, but creating better solutions

seemed like a very important thing, and yet what we were getting from

people was here’s how many people we helped and here’s how many

hours we spent and here’s how many people did it: inputs and outputs, but

not outcomes and not impact, and so I was just very frustrated because I

felt as though this was the next natural thing for pro bono, and I didn’t

know how to get there so what Deloitte has done is committed thousands

of hours of pro bono work to help us to work on doing a couple of things

to aid in metrics and measurement of pro bono. The first is to develop a

generic but hopefully tailorable framework for law firms and legal

departments to be able to measure meaningfully what difference their pro

bono is making. And we’re actually doing it in a way that looks at two

different things. It looks at business benefit and it looks at social good.

Because we talk a lot about the business case for pro bono; we think

people have really bought into that, but we don’t have any really hard

data. I mean it’s all very impressionistic, and so this is a way to actually

track things like skills development or reputation, visibility or enhanced

relationships with clients. It’s also a chance to take a look at what

difference are you making in terms of the benefit to the individual client

and some of the ripple effects of that. So if you keep a family from being

homeless; if you keep them in their home; there are all kinds of things that

happen that are very positive in their lives that are not easy to measure, but

they actually can be measured, and then beyond that you may be having an

impact on the overall functioning on the legal system. Maybe by doing

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those 200 cases you have really gotten the attention of the housing court

judges, and so they’re not going to do the kind of gavel ’em in, gavel ’em

out on housing cases. So we are spending enormous amounts of time and

Deloitte is spending enormous amounts of time figuring this out. Our goal

is to be as realistic and limited and as careful about what we’re trying to

measure as possible so that we don’t take up a lot of time measuring

instead of doing, and we only get the information that really is meaningful

and that people can use. The most important thing about it though that we

think is what happens before you measure, and what happens after setting

goals; it’s amazing when we ask people what their goals are for their pro

bono program. They typically give back to us the Challenge goals — a

majority of partners and associates — and 3 or 5% of billable time. And

again that’s useful, but you should sort of drill down and do more in terms

of goals so we want people to be thinking about for your pro bono

program looking back a year from now what would success look like for

you. And setting some goals, some of them quantifiable some of them,

probably not so, doing that work before you start measuring and then

figuring out how you’re going to measure progress towards those goals

right. And then at the end, most importantly, taking what you’ve learned

and actually taking a long hard look at it. Not because the statistics are

determinative but because they cause you to ask the right questions, right?

And then from that doing this continuous improvement loop. Thanks to

David and to Evan. They’re giving us literally thousands of hours of free

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Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

time to do that. And then . . . I put David on my board because I loved

being around him and learning from him, and he was at one of our board

meetings and we started talking about the report we do on the Challenge

and our frustration that we know we could go deeper but we don’t know

how to do that. So he said, well you know I’ll give you a bunch of people

to do this, and so they’re our math geeks which is great.

Over the course of your career one common thread running throughout is

that you seem to develop solutions and innovative ways of thinking about

issues that others haven’t come up with themselves that haven’t been

articulated the same way previously. How does that process happen for


Well I think . . . it doesn’t sound very modest, but I think you’re right. I

think there are really two things I think that drive that. The first is that I

don’t seem to have the group-think conventional wisdom gene. I just

don’t. I mean even in my politics which you know are clearly very left

there’s inconsistency and heresy. So I think some of it is that it’s almost

like being a little bit outside of things and being a little bit of an observer

and looking at things from that distance. The second think — do you know

the movie “Working Girl” at all; you probably were about three when it

came out. There is this scene in “Working Girl” where Melanie Griffith is

sitting on the Staten Island ferry and she has like one newspaper and a

magazine and she cuts them out and puts them together. I spend a lot of

my time reading different things or listening to different people and then

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trying to see if they can fit together. It was just like what I was saying

about what law firms can learn from corporate social responsibility. To

me I just see those connections, so I think some of it is just that I like to

think in quirky, unorthodox, in-your-face ways a little bit. But the other

thing I think is; one of the things I think that is also fairly consistent in my

career is that I’ve been lucky enough to work with different segments of

the profession or society. One of the great things about what we do is we

talk to public interest people, and they have certain perspectives, a way of

doing things that are really terrific and interesting and useful. And then

we talked to corporate people and they bring other perspectives to the

table, and then we talk to law firm people and we can take all that and

integrate it. We’re very siloed — a very siloed profession — so people don’t

talk to each other about how do you establish value or how do you do the

very best you can. I think it’s not only a missed opportunity, it’s almost

dangerous because people can get very blinded by what they do every day.

One of the things that we’re doing at the conference is we’re looking at

other ways that law firms and legal departments can help public interest

organizations because they’re so hard pressed. Obviously money,

obviously pro bono service but they don’t often even realize how much the

wealth of resources and information and knowledge that they have, and so

we’re using as a case study as an example not limited to this but I think

it’s intriguing. You know a lot of legal departments use a Six Sigma as

sort of a tool for planning and design and continuous improvement and

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

everything else and there’s a firm that uses Six Sigma Lite, and they’ve

used it as a firm very successfully. So they ended up training a pro bono

program in Six Sigma Lite and it has changed . . and so the program has

made these changes, some big, some small in how it operates, and that

makes it a much more effective institution. So I think that’s what it is. I

think some of it is just the way I think and some of it is literally

opportunity and exposure that I’ve been very lucky to have.

Would you say that some people have more difficulty talking across

groups; across title; across silos?

Yes. I do think so. When they’re talking to people in a different part of

the profession or in a different profession completely they come with a lot

of preconceptions and I have to say the one thing I think has been

consistently true for me is I judge people not by where they sit but by what

they do in terms of good works. When we first started working with firms

there were a lot of people in the public interest community that basically

were like well these people represent the establishment, I mean they’re on

the other side of cases which is true somewhat, but actually turns out not

to be very much true when you look at what legal services programs do.

And so how could they possibly understand and feel compassion for poor

people or really be zealous in the way they’re doing it. It certainly helped

me that I did the death penalty work because here you had people bonding

with and committed to and just killing themselves advocating on behalf of

the most unlikely clients. I mean clients who were terrible people who

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had done terrible things in some cases but in more cases were just deeply,

deeply troubled people and you watched people bond with them and care

about them. The other thing is the fact that in the first four years of my

life I was surrounded by a lot of languages and a lot of varied people. It’s

almost like having language facility. I can corporate speak. I can law firm

speak and I can public interest speak, and I sort of feel as though some of

what I do is literally translation across those communities. And I really

love . . . not only can I do it but I love it like learning new languages and

then the context for them. There’s a wonderful book by a woman named

Tina Rosenberg called “Lost in Translation.” She comes from a family

that survived the war. She moved to Canada from Poland when she was

young but not an infant, and one of the things she talks about in the book

was how, having come late to English, she just loved the language, and I

think some of that really may be literally language facility in the same way

that if you learn German or Italian when you’re three . . . it is still there

somewhere in your brain so I think that may be a piece of it too. But a lot

of it really is that this notion that I view everybody regardless of where

they work or what they do as a potential public interest lawyer. I just

assume if they’re not doing it they just haven’t been asked yet or we

haven’t found the thing that excites them yet, but I know that there’s a

public interest lawyer wanting to get out there and our job is to sort of

empower them to do that.

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

In one way you were beginning to talk about what you did that was

through corporate counsel departments; it might seem an unlikely

audience for some, but can you talk about how that came about?

Sure. And to the extent that the public interest community is suspicious

about large law firms, you can imagine how they feel about large

corporations, right. When we were still working with law firms we would

occasionally have somebody that we had worked with at a firm who then

had moved to a legal department and who asked us to help. As I think I

mentioned to you, one of the things I think we’re very clear about is what

we know and what we don’t know, you know I sound like Rumsfeld, and

we knew that we didn’t understand how legal departments worked; that

they were very different from firms and we didn’t understand them and so

we really shied away from doing any of that although I did even before we

had any formal project, one of the people that advised us on the Challenge

was a man who was the then General Counsel of Ford Motor Company,

Jack Martin, lovely guy who had come from one of the white shoe New

York firms and gone in-house at Ford and who looked like a New York

white shoe lawyer; you know the immaculate suit and had kind of a

daunting presence. But he and I met; I don’t even remember how,

probably like some ABA thing, and it turned out he just had a tremendous

passion for pro bono work and for legal services too and so he helped us

with . . . we pulled him into the Challenge because we thought it would be

great to get some legal department perspective. He was bound and

determined to get in-house counsel involved in pro bono, and Ford had

one of the earliest pro bono programs, and I worked with him to kind of

help spread the word, and we went to meetings, and we talked about what

it would look like and that sort of thing, and he was just very far ahead of

his time. And then the other person that kind of piqued my interest in this

was a guy named Tom Gottschalk who had been at Kirkland and then

became the General Counsel of GM. And I was speaking about pro bono

at some ABA event I think, and this guy came over to me and said, “Will

you help me start a pro bono clinic for GM in Detroit,” and I said, “Sure

I’d be happy to,” and so we worked on that, and then GM ended up having

quite a vibrant program, and we became quite close. He ended up being

one of the co-chairs of our corporate advisory board once we formalized

the project. So we’ve been thinking about it but in a lot of ways it was a

little bit like the metrics thing; we didn’t have the skill and capacity, and

we didn’t want to do something if we weren’t going to do it with

confidence that we knew what we were talking about. At the end of the

Clinton administration I think the President was very much concerned

about legacy, and as somebody who had always been very committed to

civil rights and affirmative action, he had this One America initiative. The

goal was obviously to increase diversity and to reduce the income gap, the

education gap, the achievement gap for people of color. And one of the

initiatives that he focused on was Lawyers for One America, and Eric

Holder, who was then Deputy or Associate Attorney General under Janet

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Reno was very much involved in it, and so Eric pulled together a group of

people to talk about it, and the goal was increasing diversity in the

profession so people from the bars of color were all very involved but also

increasing pro bono to people in communities of color, so they pulled me

  1. I’d been working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under

Law; they were involved, so they pulled me in and various groups from

around the profession were a part of it including people from the

Association of Corporate Counsel, and we were in Eric Holder’s office

probably once every two weeks trying to make this happen, and what he

wanted were very clear commitments of what we were going to be doing.

As I started talking to people at ACC, I really got excited about the

organization and what they were doing. It’s a very well-run thoughtful

organization, and they know their membership base, they know how to

give value, and they’re very highly respected, and so they have a voice

and they have communications vehicles and everything else. And as we

were thinking about sort of what commitments we were going to make,

the ACC folks came to me and said, “You know we know in-house, you

know pro bono, let’s do in-house pro bono together.” They compared it to

the Reese’s peanut butter commercial where one person has chocolate and

one person has peanut butter, and they run into each other, and that was

the visual. So they did a proposal for a joint project to their board, and the

board thought it was a great idea. We jointly hired a director of the project

who was actually somebody who had been Hogan, a woman named Lily

Garcia, and we developed a website and we began to figure out . . . our

goals — we had two things that we wanted to do. The first was we wanted

to increase the visibility and the sense of feasibility of pro bono for inhouse

departments by highlighting departments that were actually doing it

because there was no place where that was happening. So, for example,

we ghosted a piece for Ken Frazier when he was the GC at Merck about,

“Why I Do Pro Bono.” Our goal was to turn the notion of in-house pro

bono from an oxymoron to an inevitability. The second thing that we

wanted to do was to figure out why; pro bono was more difficult for inhouse

legal staff — what were the obstacles and problems for people inhouse.

We set out to identify those obstacles and to figure out solutions.

We put together, as we had with the law firm project, an advisory board,

except that because it was the corporate world and it’s a very hierarchical

world we made it all GCs. No substitutions, nobody at a different level,

which was quite controversial again, but we did it. And we just started

researching and talking and understanding in-house departments. Now,

when we talk to a legal department that wants to set a pro bono program,

we can tell you the first six things that they’re going to say or ask about.

We know. The answers and the solutions are different for different

departments. It’s very much kind of individualized, expert consulting. In

some ways, we’re really a consulting firm in a lot of ways. But we know

exactly what the problems are and we really set out then, to solve some of

the problems. Some of them are pretty easy — malpractice insurance. We

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figured out simple ways for legal departments to get coverage because

they often don’t cover their folks through a policy but rather

indemnification, as employees and agents of the company. The whole

notion of skill sets and the size of departments and therefore the need for

small, finite, predictable pieces of work initially so that they wouldn’t, you

know, worry that they were going to bite off more than they could chew.

And also trying to find sources of transactional pro bono opportunity, not

that that was all people wanted to do, but to make sure that there were

ways in which they could add value by doing what they do every day.

What started to happen was that all these incredibly supportive pro bono

people started to come out of the woodwork. It’s like they’ve been

waiting for somebody to whisper “pro bono.” It took a while. For a while

it was a little quiet. We were pushing a lot of stuff out. We weren’t

necessarily getting stuff back, and then all of a sudden people just started

coming to us more and more and more and people were talking about it,

and they wanted to do programs and we did a pro bono summit in

Tennessee, and that led to this consortium of legal departments in

Tennessee that began working to strengthen pro bono and to raise funds

for legal services programs. It just felt like everything you touched just

bloomed. Now, what we’re doing, is taking a very long hard look at it all.

I should say we started that project with one full-time person, that was it,

and then as much time as I could sort of dedicate to it, and Susan Hackett

who was then the Vice President at ACC, could dedicate to it. And then

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we used other resources, so we used the ACC Docket, which is read by all

these in-house people, to publicize what we’re doing. We used the ACC

meeting. They have a listsery of chief legal officers — we used that. There

were all these tools that ACC had that we didn’t have. And they

understood corporate speak, so the pace of our work increased, and the

pace of the requests increased. And then we started thinking about more

sophisticated projects, more sophisticated work, what happens when you

have a program that’s been around for a while and it’s going to the next

level. We still have only three people in that project. We have the

Director and Assistant Director and a project assistant. And I — just as

with the law firm project — I just continue to be astounded at how much

they’re able to get done. We’re trying to do more and more off-the-shelf

work, so that when we’re working with departments individually, which is

obviously time intensive and high touch, we’re doing it in a way that is

tailored to them, and the initial steps and information, you know we’ve

taken care of in a much more time efficient manner for us and for them.

Ms. Knievel: And that’s what I was wondering because in a sense, the development of

this project sounds like a microcosm for PBI where you start off with

limited human resources.

Ms. Lardent: Yeah.

Ms. Knievel: And then the demand develops . . .

Ms. Lardent: Um hmm.

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Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

To such an extent that it requires going to the next level. How have you,

how has that happened and how have you leveraged those resources to

accomplish much more than you thought possible?

I think some of the fact that we’ve focused and limited what we’ve done is

very important. I look at organizations like Law Works, for example, in

the UK and say, “Wow, how do they do it?” Because they’re looking at

banisters and solicitors, they’re looking at law students, they’re looking at

legal departments. We’ve got a very clear mission and very clear

stakeholders, so it’s legal departments and large law firms. It’s a lot easier

to sort of do that than to try to figure out how to take 1.5 million lawyers

individually to get them engaged. It still is a massive amount of

information and contact. One of the things we’ve talked about is too much

of it is in our heads and we need to, like, every legal institution or every

institution, do knowledge management so that we’re getting that

information across. But I think that clear focus really helps and honestly,

if somebody from a 40 person firm calls us, we say we can’t help you.

The other thing that we’ve done some, but I think we’re now thinking

about doing better, is basically leveraging more peer to peer efforts. One

of the things that I always tell my friends in the public interest world when

they sort of say “Well I don’t know about using pro bono and blah, blah,

blah.” What I keep saying to them is you have a wish list. You have

things that you’re dying to get done, and you never get to them as an

institution. You never get to them, and with your resources, you never

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will. So why don’t you think about engaging with pro bono people to get

that done. Yes, you know, you have to still be involved to ensure that

your vision is being carried out. It does mean managing resources and

sometimes prodding people or whatever, but it’s a great way to leverage.

And I came to the realization a while back that we were guilty, to some

extent, of the same thing. So because the volume of requests at both the

law firm and legal department is so huge, what we’re now doing is we are

experimenting with peer task forces. Some of them are only law firms,

some of them are only legal departments, some of them are both. And

we’re still in the early stages of learning how to do it right, but the idea is

they want to be more connected to our work. And they have a tremendous

amount of expertise and knowledge and so, for example for the metrics

project, in addition to having a live lab, we’ve got about 10 law firms and

legal departments that are just going to help us walk through the process,

so that we know that it’s applicable to a range of settings, and it makes

sense for them, and we deal with any unintended consequences. We have,

I think I mentioned this, the global corporate task force. There are people

on there that are just getting started and there are people on there who are

spending 20% of their pro bono time outside the U.S. Pretty dramatic.

And so it’s just kind of sharing information where there are areas of focus

and at a certain point, we’ll start to put them to work. You know, we’ll

have them write things, we’ll have them do research. So I think that’s one

answer, and people are just incredibly generous with their time and

knowledge, too. A lot of what we know, we know because people in

firms, legal departments, have shared that with us. And they do these

great things. Verizon did a year book, a pro bono year book. It’s

fabulous. And so, with their permission, we then blasted that out to as

many people as we could. The other thing that we do is we use trainings

and convenings, to share the information we have and to do peer-to-peer

sharing. So you’ll see when you go to the conference, it is immersion pro

bono. I mean it is all pro bono all the time, and it’s lots of people. We

have people whom we ask to speak and facilitate but the expertise is all

over the room, and it’s amazing what comes out of that.

Ms. Knievel: And how many years has the conference been?

Ms. Lardent: We’ve been doing it probably close to 20 years, I think. Maybe even a

little more. And the first one, 20 people in a room for two hours at a—I

still remember the room because it had like Mylar wallpaper, near O’Hare

Airport—and we were worried that we wouldn’t have enough time and

now we get close to, you know, somewhere between 315-400 people, and

they’re there, some of them are there for three, two-and-a-half days. So

it’s, you know, it’s pretty amazing. So we really do try to think about

leveraging. And we write. The other thing we do is we research and we

write and that’s another area where we’re really talking about how can we

link up with, you know, maybe a think tank or an academic institution to

really even go deeper in terms of research so that we’re not just talking

about things anecdotally. We’ve got evidence-based information and data.

We can say this has worked. We can’t say it will absolutely work for you,

but we can say this has worked and we can also say this is what the trend

  1. This is what’s happening. You know, you may think pro bono is X,

but you know, our data shows pro bono is actually X and Y. We did a

conference call on best practices in pro bono committees. Or we’ll do a

session on working with the courts. You know, just whatever sort of

seems to be happening and working. The tough thing is that everybody

here is very flat out busy. I worry a little bit about that. The conference

is always a very important moment for us. Not only because we get to see

in person people that we otherwise talk to over the phone or electronically,

and also because we’re putting out information definitely. We always say

we try to look descriptive but be prescriptive. So we have a viewpoint,

and we put it out there. But we’re also listening as hard as we can. I mean

we have staff assigned to every session to figure out what’s going on out

there and what’s working and what are some new ideas and what are some

innovative models and that sort of thing. But we also feel the

disadvantage is we’re not front line. We’re not doing this stuff hands-on.

We’re not in firms, we’re not in legal departments, and so there are things

that we don’t know because we are simply not hands-on. But again, just

as with sort of battling conventional wisdom, the fact that we’re outside is

also a strength. It’s a weakness and a strength and what we try to do is to

be in some ways, ahead of the curve to identify areas and changes and

innovations and issues that maybe people in the firms and legal

departments don’t even know yet that they have. And that takes time, it

takes an ability to sort of step back and it also takes a lot of understanding

of content and what’s going on at firms and legal departments that has

nothing to do with pro bono. And sometimes we’re too early ahead of the

curve. So, for example, last year we did a session on project management

pro bono. I don’t know if project management has hit your firm yet but it

is huge. It’s been driven by the clients and the idea is it’s not just about

the quality of the work you do or your expertise, it’s how you execute it.

It’s are you thinking four steps ahead? Are you putting the pieces

together, are you creating efficiencies? And it’s not something that any

lawyer ever gets taught in law school. And so there is now a growing

movement to train people in project management skills. And we thought,

what a cool thing for pro bono. It went over not at all. People didn’t get

it, and I think that we were a little too early and maybe that in two years

we’ll look at that again. We literally try to take some of the things that

would work, we’re very focused right now on sort of core competencies

and how firms identify that and how people get, you know, the level of

skills and experiential base and soft skills and everything else and tying

that into pro bono. Because we see that — I mean, not every firm is doing

it, they’re certainly, of course, all doing it differently but it is something

that is clearly, you know, you can see it kind of rippling through the law

firm world and what we want to do is figure out how to align that with pro

bono, right? So it’s—and that’s the thing that I worry that we could lose

touch with because we want to be very responsive to our stakeholders but

there’s a way in which we just need the ability to step back a little bit, and

it’s hard. It’s hard to find that time to do that. It’s getting harder and

harder to do that.

Tape 7

This is Erica Knievel interviewing Esther Lardent on August 3, 2012. We’re at the Pro Bono

Institute, and the purpose of this recording is to record Esther’s oral history for the Women

Trailblazers Project. This is tape number seven in that recording.

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent

Esther, when we left off, we were talking about the amazing expansion of

PBI and the Challenge and we ended talking about your annual

conference. Are there any memorable conference experiences that you’d

like to talk about?

Well, I think there are several, although they do, at this point kind of blend

together for me a little bit, but just thinking about things that were really

particularly striking. I think we talked about the fact that we started with

this tiny, very brief gathering of people and didn’t know whether it would

work and then that became much more expansive in terms of size, in terms

of length, in terms of topic. Probably about, I would say maybe about 10

years ago, I was really struck by two things that happened. The first was

we started, not through any efforts of our own, but just kind of because of

interest on their side, having people from outside the U.S. at our

conferences. It wasn’t something we had thought about; we didn’t

actually invite people — we wouldn’t have known who to invite, but all of

a sudden there were people with these fabulous accents from, you know,

the UK and South Africa and South America and Australia and Canadians

coming and, it really brought another dimension to the conference for a

couple of different reasons. To the extent that people thought of this as

solely a phenomenon to be developed in the US, that really broke the

mold, but the other was that in a number of these places, people were

doing things that were frankly far advanced from what we were doing.

And so to the extent that people worried that pro bono going forward and

looking globally would be, sort of paternalistic — you know, we’re from

the U.S., we know everything and we’re going to tell you exactly how we

do it and you should do it exactly that way — there was really a pushback

because it was so clear that in many respects, simply because they came to

it with fresh eyes and because they honestly had some really positive

things happening in their countries, or some very difficult things that they

had adapted to. These people had a great deal to teach the U.S. and we’re

seeing that more and more. And we see it not only at our conference, but

there’s a group called Pilnet that is a European pro bono forum and while

you don’t want people from the U.S. to dominate that forum — that would

be very unfortunate, and they don’t — you do see people from the U.S.

coming more to that, just because they’re learning and they want to learn.

So it’s really pretty terrific. The other was when we realized that we use

the conference for two reasons. One is, in a way, we test whether we’re

listening well and understand where things are with the audience. We

generate the topics and the sessions based on what we’ve been hearing in

our conversations with people and our calls, and our house call visits and

our regional conferences all year long. And so it’s a really interesting test

to see if we’ve got it right. Sometimes we don’t, but mostly we really are.

And we push a lot of information out at the conference. The notion is we

want to look descriptive while being somewhat prescriptive. So we hope

to change hearts and minds as well as impart information. It is valueladen

and again about 10 years ago, I think was when, what I saw was that

the pushing was coming from both directions; that the level of

sophistication, the level of creativity, the level of maturity among the law

firm participants was really dramatic. That we were a catalyst, but . . .

information, ideas, great things were happening all around us that we had

nothing to do with and I thought that was pretty incredible. I was just

really struck by that, that we were still an important player, but there was

just a very different dynamic. This thing had its own organic capacity and

growth, which was incredible. The other really memorable, or two other

memorable conferences that I would mention. One was the year that Eric

Holder came and spoke at the conference and was our honoree because, in

a very real sense, our corporate project was very much due to his

leadership in a Clinton administration initiative in the last years of the

Clinton administration that got us together with ACC and got us really

moving in terms of reaching out to the in-house bar. And he was

somebody who, when he was at his firm, was a very strong supporter,

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

when he was a judge, was a very strong supporter, so he’s always been

somebody who is great. So we, he agreed to be an awardee, which I

thought was wonderful, and he came and spoke and this was about the

time when Congress and some of the conservative particularly the talk

show hosts, were hammering on people in the Justice Department, who

had either been directly involved with Guantanamo Bay inmates’

representation or whose firms had been, and of course the AG’s firm was

one of those, I mean Covington was involved in Guantanamo Bay, very,

very deeply with a number of their partners. And the AG gave a speech.

We had a huge media presence. And so we had bomb sniffing dogs, and

we had T.V. cameras and you know, things that we generally don’t have at

the conference.

Not typical PBI? [Laughter]

(Laughter) Yeah, we really don’t usually have that so much. But his

speech essentially talked about how lawyers should do pro bono, the value

and the importance of lawyers doing pro bono. And he specifically said

that lawyers who are representing Guantanamo detainees were patriots and

heroes. And it was all over everywhere. It was really amazing. And I

thought, an incredibly courageous thing for him to do because . . . clearly,

he was going to pay for it and it went everywhere. We get quite a bit of

media coverage here and we use the media a lot to get our message out,

but I’ve never seen anything like that level. And then what happened,

which was really wonderful, was that night at our reception, by somewhat

happenstance, our honoree was Brackett Denniston, who is the General

Counsel of GE, and who I believe to be, I think he’s still a Republican, I

don’t know, but I mean definitely has been a registered Republican at one

point, and obviously one of the largest corporations in the world and

enormously respected legal department, sort of the sine qua non of a great

legal department. And Brackett — a couple of years ago when there had

been an effort by people at the Department of Defense to get corporate

clients stirred up about the fact that there are law firms who were

representing Guantanamo detainees, there was a guy at DOD, who literally

on the news listed some of the firms that were most active, and he said “I

wonder what their clients think about the fact that their money is going to

represent these people who want to kill us?”

So we worked with ACC to get a wonderful statement from the

Association of Corporate Counsel Board that said, we believe in pro bono.

Pro bono is incredibly important; it’s essential to our system of justice that

both sides be fully represented. We do pro bono, we promote pro bono in

our own departments and we value pro bono including pro bono on behalf

of detainees, which is a huge thing because if people feel as though they’re

doing something that is, you know, going to affect their corporate clients,

it has a huge impact. So, we did that, but Brackett had been in touch and

on his own, he issued a personal statement about the importance of this

and GE among other things, works as a military contractor. A very

courageous act. I had told Justice Ginsburg about it, and Justice Ginsburg

– 145 –

Ms. Knievel:

in her remarks talked about what he had done and also talked about the

importance of providing pro bono representation to people at Guantanamo.

And then Brackett talked about it and it was really, to me, just an

extraordinary moment because what it showed me was, I think what it

showed everyone, was that this wasn’t just about the easy stuff. This was

really about people saying, you know, sometimes you have to take a risk.

And as a lawyer, you have to remind people what justice really is all

about. Even when it’s going to make you unpopular, even when it’s going

to be controversial, and we had three highly public individuals in very

politically sensitive positions. I was just so proud to be playing even a

little bit of role in all of that, and so proud that we, I mean this would not

have happened 10, 15, 20 years ago, I don’t think. I mean there’s

certainly, and D.C. is one of the places where it happened, firms that in the

`50s represented people before the House Un-American Activities

Committee, and there’s certainly people who have been doing that with

death penalty defense for years, but this cuts so close to the bone, and it’s

so intense and emotional. For me the other high point is, for many years,

we’ve had Justice Ginsburg come and speak, and she’s come when she

was getting treatment for cancer, and she’s come after three days of oral

argument on the Affordable Health Care Act. We got too big to do this,

but one year we had the formal program in the actual Supreme Court


Oh wow!

Ms. Lardent:

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

And the people who come to this event are, you know, they’re not easily

impressed. They are people who have met a lot of superstars in the legal

world. Many of them are superstars in the legal world, but there was

something about being in that courtroom and talking about pro bono and

the best of what this profession is about. That was just — it was really

quite a moment, and so that really, you know, stays with me as well.

That’s incredible. You mentioned that the conference started to be a place

where you were learning from law firms as well as providing an agenda.

Are there things that law firms were bringing to the table — ways that

they’ve changed that have surprised you or inspired you?

The Conference is where we get the ideas, the content, the grist, the vision

that then feeds our work for the next year, and — what I’ve been struck by

is just that law firms, again most of them, you know, in earlier years have

been very receptive — many of them have been very receptive to pro bono.

But they’ve been sort of passive vehicles. So, if you came to them and

you had a problem or you had a matter, they would review it, and they

would take it and that would be great, and what we’ve seen is they’re not

that anymore. And I think, actually, in many ways 9-11 was the turning

point for that because many of the legal services agencies in New York

were right near ground zero. And not only were they overwhelmed with

the client demand, they couldn’t go back to their own offices. And if

people were going to serve the different clients who needed help, you

know, including families of survivors; families who had illnesses or issues

related to that; the small businesses who were there, who were almost

financially destroyed; undocumented workers; and obviously the families

of those who were lost, the impetus couldn’t come from the public interest

community, and so the firms basically developed their areas of expertise

and their projects, and they reached out not simply to the legal services

providers, although they certainly included them, but they reached out to

labor unions, and they reached out to other groups. And that’s what we

saw was that all of a sudden, you had firms thinking really big about how

to do things. So, just thinking about things like education projects. So

you’d have, for example, Bingham McCutchen taking that model that

George Lang had of, “I’m adopting this class, and for any of you who

have at least an X average, I will pay your tuition to college.” And so

they’ve done a version of that which is we’re adopting this school, and

what that means is that we’re going to provide legal help to the families in

this school because we think that intervention in terms of preventive legal

work, helping people with problems that are causing stress and dislocation

for the family, will help kids to be able to be educated better. Or, Akin

Gump saying, KIPP academies, we’re your lawyer for anything and

everything that you need, and we’re going to help you be a stronger

institution because charter schools are like little businesses and need all

that assistance.

So all of a sudden this amazing kind of creativity that was reaching deeper

into the community and that was no longer reactive — they became

significant players which caused a little discomfort on the public interest

side because it means less control, and which has to be done with some

finesse because you want to be sure that this isn’t just a firm saying, “Oh

we’ve got a great idea for a project,” and not looking at whether it’s really

a critical need, who’s already working in the area, where are the experts.

But what we’re seeing is people doing this work and doing due diligence

and with appropriate, I think, respect and care for people who are players

in the area, but really owning this effort in a much more significant way.

And in a way that means, I mean it’s signature projects, and you know,

frankly signature projects on steroids to some extent. So, what it means is

you can’t be a dilettante about this. You can’t say, “Oh my gosh. We’ve

suddenly gotten so busy. We’re really sorry, but we’re going to have to

walk away from this project.” That doesn’t happen. So, it’s a level of

commitment. It’s a sense of being central to this as opposed to just

ancillary, that is really profound, and that’s what we’re seeing. That’s

what we’re – that’s what I see that is tremendously exciting, and you

know, honestly, isn’t something that people in other practice settings have

the human capital to do, and so, to me, it’s particularly exciting that big

firms do this. I think all pro bono is good, but I do get kind of sad when I

see a big firm doing — because this is what their legal services program

told them to do — doing uncontested divorces, because it’s just

underutilizing who they are, and it’s at odds with who they are as an

institution with how they generally work. Yes, there are benefits to the

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

client, but it doesn’t use their efforts in the highest way, and it doesn’t take

account of the fact that they have a lot of people that they can kind of

command and push at something and make a big difference — and a range

of skills, and a range of experiences and everything else. I have great

respect for people who are sole practitioners or small firm people who do

pro bono work, and they do a lot of it. They don’t get nearly the coverage.

I sometimes feel guilty because we push very hard to make sure that

American Lawyer covers pro bono more. We push for more and more and

more, and nobody’s kind of doing that as much for people in other practice

settings. But, I will say that there is just some unique work and unique

approaches to work that only these firms could do, and when we realized,

it was just breathtaking to realize that they were taking this stuff on and

owning it without reservation, which was terrific. It’s not all firms, but

it’s a growing number of firms which is very, very exciting.

It is exciting. And corporations — we’ve talked a bit about that, but

corporate legal departments and the way that PBI has expanded, as their

interest in pro bono has expanded. Can you talk about that a bit?

Sure. Well, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about the fact that there

were things going on. In fact, there were some organized programs. The

oldest is 30 years, and the next oldest if about 18 or 19 years old, and there

are a couple that are around 10, I think. At legal departments, there were

always people doing something, but they were generally doing it

informally, and those obstacles. Two things I think made a real

difference: one is that people then assumed that there was a lack of

interest. You know, in some ways, and I apologize if I’m repeating

myself, but in some ways, when we started working with firms, what we

got back as push back from public interest people was these people have

made a choice. They’ve made a choice to represent the establishment, and

the establishment is at odds with poor people a lot of the time, and

therefore these are people who really cannot — we don’t believe that they

have either the commitment or the will to really provide representation. It

just isn’t part of their makeup. You know, they’ve just gone down this

path, and in a very real sense, when we started working with corporate

people where there were even fewer examples to show, you know, then

there were in the law firm world, so say well, if that’s the case, then why

is it that Hogan has had since 1969 this department, why is it that Arnold

& Porter is doing 15 death penalty cases as we speak. Why is it that

Morrison & Foerster, you know, we could go on, and it wasn’t a majority

of firms by any — in any way, but we could point out those firms. With

fewer legal departments that we could point to, and what we heard then

with the public interests people and with the firms was, these people have

made a choice. It felt like an instant replay. It was so funny. They

haven’t been doing pro bono, and they really don’t care about it. You

know, they’re just very focused on their client’s agenda and that’s it. And

of course that turned out not to be the case at all.

– 151 –

I think the other thing that really was tremendously important with the

legal departments just as it was with the law firms was we somehow

lucked into being in the right place at the right time. So, when we started

working with firms it was a time of growth of big firms, the really go-go

years, their greater importance, their greater size, more human capital, and

frankly, just I think on the part of the firms, more of a sense that they had

to play a larger role in the profession and the justice system because they

were such increasingly important players, and taken so seriously — that

was when we started. So, it was perfect. Same thing with legal

departments. You know, after decades of being considered by people at

firms as sort of second-class citizens, all of a sudden, these were the folks

that were not only highly powerful because they controlled big chunks of

work and money for the firms, but also they were the folks who were seen

as the forward-thinking people. They were integrating business practices

with the legal side and therefore, you know, instituting things that law

firms would look at and say “Hah — maybe we should do Six Sigma Lite

because we’ve seen GE’s legal department do Six Sigma Lite, and maybe

we should try to figure out metrics, and maybe we should XYZ.” So, in

some ways it was the same kind of thing, and so, by the time we started

working with legal departments in 2000, there was that same sense that

we’re bigger than simply our clients, and when it comes to larger issues of

the justice system, we certainly have our own interests in making sure that

we’re getting out client’s goals accomplished there, but it also was things

like diversity and then pro bono because they were bigger, and they

frankly had a larger obligation. I think was really important to the push

that we did. The time was right, and then the other thing that I think I

mentioned before is, 10 years of people in law firms hearing pro bono, pro

bono, pro bono and then migrating over to legal departments and thinking,

“Where’s the pro bono?”

I wish I could say we had planned it and staged it that way, that we would

make pro bono really strong in law firms and that we would follow them

over to legal departments. It was not planned, but it was kind of a

wonderfully perfect time because everything had aligned in the right way,

and the fact that ACC, which is only about 20 years old itself, had

morphed from the need to get respect and visibility for people in-house as

real lawyers, to we need to be a player in the larger justice system, meant

that they were the perfect partner for us in that sense as well. So, taking

their knowledge and their credibility in the community and then our

understanding of pro bono, we then did what we did with the firms. We

stepped back again to try to understand where were the obstacles and

where were the opportunities. It’s a very simple formula, and it works

each and every time. I wish people would do it with like small firms and

solos in a more thoughtful way and figure out what are the obstacles and

what are the opportunities or the triggers or the catalyst for pro bono for

them. I think we haven’t even yet begun to figure out where the corporate

world could go, although we can see certain indications. So they, for

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

example, probably have more obstacles, but also incredible interest on the

global side for reasons I think we’ve talked about that relate to the fact that

they are all looking outside of the U.S. for growth and revenues.

The other thing that I think is really exciting is — and this is another reason

that the time was right, was the growth of corporate social responsibility —

so analogous to pro bono, and the fact that that was happening and the

ability to use pro bono as sort of the wedge in companies to develop

interdisciplinary efforts that will focus not just on individual clients. So it

would be more focused on community-based nonprofits, but that can help

those organizations in such a huge range of opportunities so that you give

them legal assistance, but you also give them assistance in strategic

planning, in HR, in IT, and you sort of, you know, instead of sort of

shoring up one piece, you’re kind of just taking them to a completely

different level in what they’re doing.

I don’t know where it’s all going to go. I really don’t, and I think there are

some clouds looming on the horizon for both law firm and legal

departments that worry me a lot, that could undermine the potential, but I

think the potential is enormous, and I think particularly, these partnerings

between legal departments and law firms where there can be incredible

synergy are really tremendous. The clouds that I see . . .

Yeah, I was just going to ask.

There are three elements to it. One is the financial picture. Part of this job

that I really do not love is I have to read to the financial pages and read

reports on what the legal market looks like. Is client demand up or down?

Are law firm expenses up or down? What are legal departments doing?

Are they outsourcing more? Are they looking for alternatives to firms?

Are they bringing people in-house? We need to know all of that. And

honestly things are so precarious, I think is the way I would put it. I mean,

the demand is more than it has been, but the whole thing feels like it’s just

slower, and everybody’s nervous, and everybody’s kind of overwhelmed,

in the same way I think that companies are sort of holding onto their

money just in case, and not putting it into R&D or increasing headcount or

investing in new locations unless they really think they can make money


You see legal departments kind of doing the same thing. How can we

lower our costs? How can we control our costs? It’s like squirrels putting

away nuts for winter because they think winter is coming. That worries

  1. It worries me for law firms. It worries me for legal departments that

there is this sort of trepidation. And so it’s hard to say to people, open

your hearts — give us more time, open your wallets, when people are

feeling that kind of concern. They don’t feel grounded enough, so I think

that’s one piece of it.

The second is at firms in general, billable hours are just nowhere like what

they were in like, 2000, and yet people feel more distracted and busier and

more overwhelmed than ever before. Some of that I suspect is a function

of technology, social media, information overload — all that. But I do

worry that that sense of franticness makes it even harder. It’s just harder

to get people’s attention to say, “Here’s a project.”

It’s what’s happening with everybody, and that kind of overload and

distraction, I think, is a problem because we haven’t figured out the tools

to kind of regularize pro bono enough so that it’s just in people’s

schedules and easy to take on, and part of that is the way that public

interest groups do pro bono and the way they offer pro bono opportunities

which needs to be shifted, but that’s a big concern of mine.

And then the third is really the big issue, and the big issue is that the entire

sort of legal system from how we educate lawyers to how we deal with

end-of-career issues with them and everything in between I think has

gotten really dated and tired and not productive. There’s a way in which

what we’re doing in terms of pro bono is kind of the great little thing over

here, but we’re not addressing bigger issues. I mean, how do you deal

with pro bono generally in a world where 55% of law students are getting

legal jobs and the rest can’t. So, one of the discussions we’ve been having

with people, and one of the pressures that I’m feeling personally is a lot of

people who want us to somehow address those bigger problems. Can’t we

change law school to something more like the English trainee model, and

use that training period for public interest fellowships so that students

wouldn’t be in that catch-22, of, you can’t get experience without a job,

you can’t get a job without experience. Law schools should, you know,

help to pay for that because it’s in their interests to have their students

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

actually learn and maybe at some point, it would actually back up and

you’d see law schools who understand that teaching people to be lawyers

is as important as teaching them to think like lawyers.

Employers should pay for that because it turns out to be a very

inexpensive way of getting people who can then add value to client work

and they can get compensated, but there’s so many pieces of the puzzle.

The problem is so much bigger, and I really worry that because nobody

kind of is dealing with that — that we’re getting as a result, we’re getting

this nasty, I think, terrifying cycle where more and more, for more and

more people in this country, justice is inaccessible and unattainable for

them, and their willingness to have their tax dollars go to the justice

system, keeps getting weakened. The profession, because it doesn’t

reinvent itself, it feels increasingly sort of defensive and tired and is

sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Pro bono so far has been pretty

protected and buffered, but I worry that those bigger issues, if they go

unaddressed are going to — they’re going to crash the legal profession in

some really profound ways, and transform it, and that pro bono can get

lost in the middle of that.

What about nonprofits? I mean, you’re — PBI also consults with

nonprofits, and you’ve seen nonprofits change over time. Are there

lessons to be learned there?

Well, you know, it’s interesting. I was having a discussion with our sadly

departing head of strategic communications, and she’s leaving because she

started her life as a teacher, and then did communications work for

education-based nonprofits, and she is going to — one of the new breed of

education advocacy organizations out there that are really looking at

shaking up supporting public education, not walking away from it, but

shaking up education and particularly focusing on STEM education — and

she was saying that what she hears and sees from public interest people

reminds her of what she’s seen with teachers’ unions, and that is that they

started out very focused on mission, and now they seem very focused on

members, and protecting the status quo, frankly at a time when it isn’t

defensible. Teachers are vitally important. Society has not given them

respect or the acknowledgement that they deserve or the compensation,

but having said that, the vocal part of a profession is all about, let’s go

back to 1960 — it’s not going to happen and shouldn’t — or don’t change

anything, don’t change anything.

And that’s what the public interest groups, and again I’m overgeneralizing

because there are people who are really doing important and

transformative things, but that’s what they remind me of, and so what you

see is declining budges, declining staff, increased client case loads and

they’re in a defensive crouch. They’re really tired. They’re really

emotionally just bereft because their life’s work is being taken away from

them, and they’re being told that they don’t really matter. They’re

overwhelmed and saying no to people day after day, moment after

moment. So I completely understand it, but I also think that they’re a part

of the legal profession that needs to transform. They don’t have enough

people. If you look at the ratio of public interest, nonprofit lawyers to

low-income people or more broadly, just people who need assistance and

can’t access it for whatever reason — financial or because they’re too

controversial or whatever it may be. The reality is I think that the public

interest folks need to transform themselves from people who are doing the

hands-on work. I mean they still have to have — they have to do some

hands-on work because in order to understand systemic issues and change

and help other people do the work, you have to know what’s happening on

the ground. But the percentages of time spent on hands on work, I think,

have to drop, and the percentage of time spent being strategists, and

trainers, mentors, co-counsel — that needs to increase because you’ve got

leverage, and I think there are two problems with that. The first is that a

lot of people who go into legal services or public interest law, go into it

because they are what I refer to as “hands-on helpers.” Their satisfaction

comes from touching the lives of these people, and if you tell them that

they’re going to have to pull back from that, that’s a lot of the reason that

they’re willing to do what they’ve been doing, and work for far less

money and endure some real financial hardship and that sort of thing. Not

to mention the fact that the costs of law school are also kind of — not only

do we have fewer public interest jobs, we have fewer people who can even

slide into those jobs because of the increasing costs. But the other thing is,

in order to do that, they have to be able to believe that the leverage is

gonna work, and pro bono still feels to them so unpredictable and so

untrustworthy, and I can understand why. Frankly that’s the case in pro

bono too. When we talk to people in pro bono about focusing on better

outcomes and higher impact, there are immediate concerns. You’re taking

away our client base, and we’re going to have to say no to all these

individual cases and only do the class actions. What we keep saying to

them is, “It’s not that you’re not going to do individual work. It’s just that

each individual case has to bring you closer to a bigger systemic goal.” I

mean you’re only representing two percent of people who are being

evicted — threatened with eviction. So, have your goal be, let’s represent

the two percent where we can really make some significant changes and

let’s see if we can get another 10 percent that aren’t getting represented

right now, and work with DAs and AGs to see if we can use criminal

violations and fines to make slum lords step up and do things lawfully or

make these apartments decent or let’s — I don’t know enough substantively

anymore to know what the tactics are, but doing something different.

Number one, they don’t want to change. It’s like their comfort level. It’s

like telling academics at law school that you should be teaching, you

know, you should be teaching people with real legal cases and real clients.

That is not what they want to do. I mean, they went to teach partly

because they love law as an intellectual pursuit, and because they never

want to be in a courtroom. “So how can you possibly ask me to do it.” So

it’s really to me a tremendous problem, and I love the public interest

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community, and I get so frustrated with them. I keep waiting, I keep

thinking that there’s going to be a point where it just gets so bad that

people say, “Okay, we have to do something different. We have to.” It’s

a — with a small “c” — it’s a conservative community.

I wrote an article once, because I love making myself unpopular, for

something called the MIE journal, which is, MIE is sort of the — it’s the

trade association for legal services project directors. And I wrote a

column saying, “Here’s what I’ve noticed about legal services. The

response initially to any new idea — use of technology, pro bono — you

know, whatever it may be, is no. It’s always no. Could you just like for a

minute say, well, maybe or I’m withholding judgment until I learn more.”

Ms. Knievel: “Let me think about it.”

Ms. Lardent: Yeah, exactly. But that is the reaction, and we’re in a very conservative

profession, and with people who feel that little by little, everything, every

capacity they have is being stripped away from them, they’re

understandably like holding tight to whatever they can, but I do — I am

concerned about that as well. I also think it’s one of those things where

the firms’ — well the profession more generally — have to step up and say,

we’re not fair-weather friends, we’re not — you know, we’re gonna be

there. You can count on us. We’re making that commitment, and I don’t

really know how, you know, that’s gonna happen, but again, it’s another

reason why, with law firms, again not all of them, but a bunch of them, I

think there is a growing sense of confidence that they’ll be there, but of

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

course they’re — if you’re living in North Dakota, that doesn’t help you a


And you see women who are players in all of these various entities now in

a way that they weren’t when you were starting your career. Can you talk

about how you’ve been affected by that evolution or what you’ve

witnessed in that?

Well you know, the public interest community itself is really, well I would

say, woman dominated, but it’s interesting because you still, in some of

the sort of entities around, there’s still — you don’t see women as — women

are still less proportionally at the very top in leadership positions,

although, for example, a woman just became the head of the National

Legal Aid and Defender Association. In about two days, a woman is

going to become President of the ABA. So it’s definitely better, and I

would say that what excites me — I mean law firms obviously are still

terrible. We have an advisory committee for the law firm project, and we

scour lists because we want to have people who are the very top of their

firms or at least number two positions. It’s so hard to find women who are

running major law firms. It’s very, very troubling, but we are seeing, you

know, managing partners of offices. We are seeing heads of practice

groups and so hopefully that’ll start to happen. But it is definitely the two

areas where we’ve really seen women and we’ve seen honestly a different,

and I would say a greater flexibility, a greater willingness for change. In

the corporate world, women are still a minority of corporate general

counsel, but they are growing every single day, and Fm convinced that

they’re going to use their purchasing power and their clout to break

through in terms of firms because the numbers are there in the firms. Its

just, you know, the proverbial glass ceiling. And then judges — women on

the bench. A majority now of the state supreme court justices are women.

Ms. Knievel: Wow.

Ms. Lardent: And we see them taking a very different approach to their role, and very,

very interested in access to justice issues, and so I think that’s an area to

me that’s a really positive area. A majority of clients of legal services

programs are women. So I think, what I’m hoping is that people will

begin to focus their energies there and understand that these low income

client issues or the disadvantaged client issues really have such broader

implications for our society and I really do see women leaders in all

segments of the profession, honestly more open to that. I mean I’ve

worked with, and I’m incredibly grateful for them, amazing men who are

very, very sensitive to these issues as well, but there doesn’t seem to be

sort of a growing critical mass of people who understand in the same way

that I think people are beginning to understand that what had been called

the soft values of pro bono and associate satisfaction and quality of life

and balance and diversity, turn out to be incredibly important in terms of

productivity, in terms of keeping people that you want to keep with you as

an institution, in terms of really, that sense of connectedness between the

individual lawyer and wherever they’re working. So, I do think that there

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

are some real possibilities for improvement in part because of women with

vision and with kind of, you know, a little different slant on what’s going

on in the profession.

You mentioned judges. Can you talk about the role that they’ve played in

conjunction with PBI and the way that their perspectives —

Well, you know, it’s interesting because we — I mean we’ve obviously had

support from a number of the Supreme Court justices which has been

wonderful, but until recently, we really haven’t viewed judges as a key

constituency for us, and one of the things we try to do is really focus our

efforts. We are not about pro bono at-large. We’re not about access to

justice at-large. We have key constituencies, and everything, even our

work with public interest groups, we wouldn’t work with a program in

rural North Dakota. In fact, I know we wouldn’t because there aren’t big

firms, there aren’t legal departments, and so it all comes back to that, and I

think in a lot of ways that’s been helpful to us because instead of sort of

skimming the surface, we can really go deeper and understand those

constituencies and I think do a better job at serving them, and ultimately

then serving justice. But what we’ve seen is that a number of factors have

brought judges, federal judges and state judges, to the fore in this whole

area of access to justice and pro bono. And I think there are couple of

different factors. I think one is in fact the number of people who are

leaders on the bench for whom these issues just matter personally and

that’s important, but also you have with courts, I think, a real

understanding that their isolation from the political process, from the

community, and from the profession which seems like a very highminded,

you know, “we’re above the fray,” thoughtful approach, turned

out to be I think a limited approach because what it did was — they got

lost, honestly. And — they were presumed to be aloof and distanced and

not part of the solution, and so we’re seeing judges everywhere at all

levels engage far more than they ever have and really reach out to the

community, to the courts and the legislature and government, to the other

segments of the legal profession, which I think is incredibly important

because they are still the most respected part of the profession, and so I

think that they can be incredibly missionaries in support for pro bono for

access to justice issues. There are two other reasons I think that they’re

looking at this, and that is while this isn’t universally the case, in a lot of

the states, judicial budgets have been slashed as well. And so you have

furloughs, you have lower headcount, you have longer delays, and in some

courts, in some states, they literally close the courthouse down, and to me,

courthouses are like churches. They should always be open. And so the

idea that you know, we’re sorry, but justice is closed today, you know, is

just terrifying.

So there’s that piece of it. It’s their own self-interest. And then the other

thing that has happened is — and it’s a function in part of lack of resources;

it’s also I think a function of where we are as a society and of technology

— but more and more in some states in a majority of matters, at least one

party going into the courts is unrepresented. So not only do you have

courts with more clients, more poor people, more complex situations,

they’ve become the emergency rooms of the justice system. This view of

the courts which is two parties come in, each of them represented by

counsel, we have a level playing field, people present their best arguments

and justice is done, and good law is made, is in fact the exception, not the

rule. It’s like a society — we still have the society that assumes that every

family is a nuclear, two parent family, and that’s not the majority either.

And all of our systems of child care and school and everything else are all

based on that. So, same kind of thing with the courts, and so they are just

overwhelmed. They are completely overwhelmed because it’s not just

more people in the system and fewer resources for the court, but it’s

people who are utterly new to the court system, have no idea what to do,

and are pushing the boundaries of — I mean the judges can watch bad

things happening, unfair outcomes, bad law being made, and their ability

to address that is so limited. It is really, really stressful and very, very

difficult. So, I think for them, reaching out to the rest of the profession to

try to — because this is not a problem that’s clearly going to be solved just

by the courts, and frankly just as with legal services, it isn’t going to be

solved with some more money either. I mean it has to be more resources,

but more resources to do things in a different way.

And so, what is really striking to me is the impact that judges are having

on pro bono and that pro bono is having potentially on judges. In our last

– 166 –

couple of conferences have focused on pro bono in the courts, pro bono

and pro se. In many ways, those were like separate siloed things. You

had the courts over here. You had pro se litigants over here. You had pro

bono over here, but more and more we’re trying to figure out, is there a

way to use pro bono resources to improve the pro se system, to figure out

how to do diagnostic and triage, and figure out where clients should be

going in much the same way that good emergency rooms work, so that,

okay, one person needs a full soup to nuts representation and you have to

have a lawyer. Another, on the other hand, just needs some legal

information and some help filling out forms and we simplified the forms

so you can do that. You need something somewhere in the middle. You

need unbundled services. You need somebody to help you fill out those

forms, you know, show you how to, you know, make your case in the

courts, but not with a lawyer going with you. And so what we’re really

talking about now, I think, is the situation where pro bono and the courts

have really become sort of mutually dependent in a good way, and it isn’t

necessarily even just pro bono lawyers representing those folks or

providing some kind of limited assistance, unbundled assistance. It may

actually be they’re running the pro se program in a court or helping to

design the pro se system so it goes more smoothly. And we’re seeing that

for example in Connecticut which has a very good pro se system, but it is

just being drowned because of the flood of demand and people. In a

couple of their courts, law firms have basically taken on an administrative

Ms. Lardent:

role in those courts, and so it’s pro bono as infrastructure rather than just

pro bono as client service, although the two obviously relate to each other.

And you know, it’s a smart thing to do because if you’re doing something

directly with the client, with the courts, you’re going where the clients

already are. [END SIDE A]

What I think can be helpful in terms of efficiency, you have a group of

lawyers who said, okay, we’re going to go down to the court every

Thursday afternoon and our role is going to be to interview people who

have come in looking for protective orders because of domestic violence,

and we’re going to do that diagnosis and triage and then we’re going to

give them assistance. What we’ve seen is systems like that work much

better for lawyers because having a legal services program call up and say,

“Hi, we have a woman here who’s really seriously abused. Can you help

her now,” doesn’t work very well these days. I mean good luck getting

anybody even on the phone, whereas if you’re there, and the court systems

are such that, you know, people are being slotted in, you’re going to help

more people. You’re going to use your time much smarter, and you’re not

going to go down to court for one person and then come back, and then a

week later go in for another person, and then come back. Those four

hours or whatever you use are much more effectively used, and you really

become part of the mechanism of the court. So we’re definitely seeing

that. The other thing that we’re seeing with the judges, well two things

really. The first is, honestly, there are places that have fabulous pro bono

cultures — D.C. would be a great example of that — and then are places that

have not so fabulous pro bono cultures, and part of our goal and part of the

work we do is while we do a lot of our work with individual legal

departments or individual law firms, there are places where we just want

to improve the pro bono culture. We want to have people’s vision of how

to do pro bono and what it means to be a firm that’s good on pro bono, a

legal department is a strong pro bono provider, their vision of that, become

much more ambitious and much more expansive. And so how do you sort

of do that kind of culture shift, and how do you get in the people who are

able to make that culture shift happen, which means the people at the very

top of the firms and the people, the general counsel of corporations? Well,

it turns out that the one person who can get those folks together is the

chief justice of the state supreme court. That is an invitation that — and we

found that years ago when we did an event with the D.C. Bar, where we

had the four the two chief district judges, and the federal district chief and

the federal appellate chief, and the four of them sent an invitation to the

heads of the law firms in D.C. We also had a client who did a lot of work

with law firms in D.C., general counsel was a client, to come and say, we

know you’re doing great stuff. D.C. is in crisis. You have to do more.

Here are some ways that you can do more pro bono work, have a greater

impact, etc. . . . , and everybody showed up. Then the judges said, and we

want to know, we’re going to come back next year and find out what you

did. So, accountability was really good. And so we’ve used that model

now in a number of other states. So, they become really at the heart of

that process, and one of the places where it’s working really well, very

well, is I mentioned Connecticut, where they had a pro bono summit. The

chief had everyone who should have been there. It was every managing

partner of every firm; it was the general counsel of all the departments, all

prepped to say the right things and do the right things, but also had all the

heads of the various divisions of the court there to talk about what they

could do differently, and one of the things that she did — she, an appellate

judge who was sort of, was more hands-on with this effort — was that they

then went out and individually visited all the large firms and the legal

departments and did follow-up visits to say, let’s talk about what you want

to do which is more than simply a string of individual things. What are

you going to do? What project? And that’s how they go then, we’re

going to own the pro se clinic for the landlord tenant in Hampden County,

whatever it may be — so, really tremendously important in that way. And

then also, changing court processes and rules so that it’s easier for lawyers

to take cases. So one classic example, and it’d work some places, but not

everywhere, is you’ll have pro bono lawyers come into a very busy

courtroom. Let’s say it’s housing court or district court, and they’re on the

call for the day, and then they wait. I get crazy just thinking about how

much time I waste in the jury room waiting to get called or not called for

service. Imagine these folks. And so things like scheduling, giving them

priority in scheduling, which sends an incredible message; helping to

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

recruit them. We talked about changing the rules that create obstacles for

in house counsel to do the work, figuring out how to deal with issues like

fee waivers so that it’s easier for people to — if your client doesn’t have

$65, is that a reason that they can’t get justice really? And do you really

want to spend your time doing fee waivers as a voluntary lawyer? That’s

insane. Holding ceremonies to thank or being part of ceremonies that

thank people for participating in pro bono; doing training on what the

court wants to see in certain kinds of matters. So, all of that I think — you

know, that participation by judges both on a symbolic and very practical

level means that states can become much more pro bono friendly, and the

culture becomes more pro bono friendly.

Absolutely. And you said something a moment ago that I just wanted to

come back to. You said something like courts should be like churches.

They should always be open. That’s such a poignant thing to say. What

do you think — how do you think that developed — that concept of really

you know, exalting justice and valuing justice the way that you do?

Well, you know, honestly I think it really, it comes back to two things. I

mean, the oldest is my parents’ experience, and this notion of people who,

this notion of what the legal system is at its best and at its worst. At its

best, I think the American justice system when it works right and isn’t

dependent on the resources of the client, and at its worst, it was the

judicial system in Nazi Germany where the judges swore fealty to Adolf

Hitler — not to the law, but to Adolf Hitler — and where there was

– 171 –

absolutely no mechanism for people to, who were imprisoned, to

challenge that. So I think some of it’s that. I think some of it really goes

back to my experiences in Boston watching public interest lawyers and the

power that that had, and seeing the ability, for things to change, to really

be different. You know, I worry sometimes since I’m at a certain age

about, you know, sort of false nostalgia for the past and that sort of thing,

and there are some things that I think did work better, but the reality is that

the law really has been in so many respects a force for good in this

country, a force for change, and the problem is that again, the analogy to

education sort of comes up, that if you think about it — I mean there are a

lot of factors that made this country, you know, the place that people want

to be, and want to emulate. Even if they resent us, they still want to be

like us. But the two, I think, really most significant were the rule of law

and sort of fair treatment as exemplified by the legal system and the

courts, and public education which meant that regardless of where your

parents were in terms of positions and economic situation, you could be in

a very different place, and I experienced both of those very graphically in

my family and in my life. So I think that’s really where it comes from. So

that I really do think of the law and the legal system as sort of a sacred

place. It’s a sacred task, and just like public education because it’s

imperfect, and because people feel that it’s not as accessible and available

to them, we could lose it. We could lose it in a second. And so that’s —

and I think this idea that, I’m sorry we only do justice on Mondays,

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

Wednesdays and Fridays is terrifying. You know, it really is. And it

sends absolutely the wrong message to people in this country. So I think

that it really does come from personal experience, but it also comes from

watching what’s happened in terms of the law and people’s rights and the

fact that we really do move in the right direction — sometimes imperfectly,

sometimes we step back a little bit, but we do move in the right direction,

and I worry about what will happen if that’s — you know if we lose that or

if that’s impaired or if we hold on to — instead of holding on to, sort of,

what the legal system should be, we hold on to what the legal system was.

I think that’s my biggest concern.

So what do you think is going to happen next for you in your professional

life, in your personal life — what’s next?

Well, I’d say a couple of things. One is that I really, I’ve told folks in my

office and on my board that as long as I am able physically and mentally

to do this job, I really want to continue with it because it is — it’s such a

gift to do this every day. I mean I get very impatient sometimes with

things in part because if I’m dealing with something that’s sort of trying to

avoid somebody doing something that’s silly or negative, my frustration

with that is that I could be using that time to touch something else and

something really tremendous would happen. It’s an incredibly enviable

position to be in, but people in my office are also under instruction that if I

start saying things like, “We tried this 20 years ago, and it didn’t work,”

that they are to bring out the letter that says I have loved my time here at

PBI, that I hereby resign and wish you the best and send me out, because,

unfortunately, there is the tendency for people in the public interest world

to stay past their due date, and I don’t want to do that. But for right now, I

want to continue in that, and as much as I can. I would though love to,

well there are two things. One is I really can’t actually work as many

hours as I have worked in the past. So, I really need to shepherd my

resources a little bit more and be realistic about that, but also, I would like

to be able to step back from some of the kind of more detail-laden things

which are not my strength as anybody in this office will tell you, and

really focus on bigger opportunities which, and so one of the things we’re

talking about is bringing in a COO here, which was something I

suggested. That person would be much more involved in employees and

finances and that sort of thing, and I would pull out of some of that, and be

able to spend more of my time on the substance and the content and

relationships, and I also want to really, without in any way designating my

successor because that’s what my board should be doing and the staff, in

consultation with the staff, but to begin to transfer more relationships and

use the fact that I know a lot of people, because I’ve been around a long

time, to other people in the office to make sure that those relationships are

institutional and not just personal.

So, I would really like to do that for a number of years, and then get to a

place where I feel as though I can step back and there’s enough of the

transition work that’s gone on that the organization won’t be harmed by it.

The transition can be really as smooth and seamless as possible. And that

may mean, you know, at some point, not immediately, but in a number of

years, stepping down from my job. In terms of what I could do next, I’ve

been watching other people — my friends who are a little bit older than me

and looking for object lessons and trying to figure it out. I don’t think I’m

somebody who could ever retire and play golf or even be a docent in a

museum as much as I’d love that. So I’ve thought about the possibility on

a more part-time level, or maybe some teaching and maybe some writing.

There’s a part of me that really would love to write about the profession

and the issues impacting the profession, and there have been some very

good books on that. I don’t want to cover existing ground, but I do think

that those bigger issues that I talked about really need to be addressed — so

I have this vision of maybe doing a book, which is a pretty ambitious

undertaking, and that I think might be something. And then I really love

teaching. I just haven’t had the ability to do it, just because it’s time

intensive, and so I’ve had to, sort of, step back from it, and give my

courses up to other people. The idea of giving people the right approach

and the right vision, I think, in law school is going to be so important —

especially over the next few years as we take a profession that is, in terms

of careers and opportunities, just way out of balance, and figure out where

we’re going to take people. So something like that would be like teaching

research and writing I think might be really appealing for me. Although,

the other part of it for me is kind of coming full circle, going back to

creative writing, and like every lawyer in the entire world, I have this book

that I would like to write. It is fiction, but it is about the Holocaust and the

impact of the Holocaust, and getting deeper into that too, and sort of really

doing more research on my family than I’ve done, maybe visiting some of

the places that in the past, emotionally, I haven’t been able to handle,

getting back to that other part of my brain.

Ms. Knievel: Relationships right now that are important to you — who are they? How do

they affect your life right now?

Ms. Lardent: Well, you know, one of the things I do worry about, again having watched

some friends that are older, is how many of my most critical relationships

are work-based, and it’s one of the reasons why I think I keep thinking, “I

don’t want to leave, because I would miss these people.”

Ms. Knievel: It’s very common.

Ms. Lardent: I think particularly, and I’ve never seen the statistics about this, but

anecdotally sort of looking, at my friends and colleagues, it is, it seems to

be the case that, this age cohort of women are less likely to have

traditional family ties. You know, there’s more divorces and that sort of

thing. And for me, of course, my family of birth doesn’t exist. There’s

nobody around anymore. It’s trying to kind of create a different network,

so one of the things I’m actually trying to do both to create balance, but

also to try to have connections with people that are different and not just

focused on the work is doing things as simple as just joining a book club

with people who are, yes, there are a few lawyers there, but it’s D.C., there

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are a few lawyers everywhere, but people who come from different

backgrounds, and just spend time not talking about work at all, but talking

about books and talking about our lives, and talking about, you know,

mostly we’re about the same age, so talking about kind of what that feels

like. So I want to do more of that, but also figure out if there’s a way to

sort of regularize the time I spend with people who are really important to

me — getting season tickets to the theatre or doing that sort of thing. And

the other thing that I am trying to do is to, and I really love it, is spending

time with people who are younger than me. In some cases, it’s not a lot

younger. It’s like 10 years younger or 15 years younger, and so I’ve got

more friends who are sort of in that age cohort, but I also love really

young people — we have summers here, and this year we had just a

particularly fabulous group of people. Some were undergrads and some

were law students, and they were just — they help us so much. We

couldn’t do what we do without them, but they’re also just terrific

individuals. And so I really like the idea of figuring out sort of socially as

well as work-wise, spending time with more people at that age because

they’re coming into a world that’s very different obviously than when I

grew up, but there are things I think that I can offer looking back, and

there are connections so for example, one of our students is — really wants

to work on women’s issues in emerging countries, in post-conflict

countries, and one of the women that I’ve gotten very close to, is actually

a lawyer who’s in her mid-30s who is doing a lot of pro bono work in

Ms. Knievel:

Ms. Lardent:

Africa, and she’s just fabulous, and I try to see her when I’m up in New

York and we hang together, and so I hooked them up, because I think she

can be a tremendous resource and mentor to this young woman, very

young woman. And I’d love to do more of that, I’d love to figure out how

to create those networks outside of work, and I think honestly for my

generation, just generally figuring out how to create social networks that

are a little bit different is going to be part of the challenge, and we have to

kind of spend some time and energy on that.

What sorts of advice do you have to give to your mentees either outside

the office or within the walls of the profession?

Well, I think there really are sort of two things, and the first one, and you

know, I just saw an article about what baby-boomers shouldn’t say to

millennials, and this is something I say and really do believe it, but it

really — and this was one of the five things you shouldn’t say, but follow

your bliss I think really is a really important part of it because I’ve just

seen too many people who, at a certain point of their lives, it’s almost like

they wake up and they go, what have I been doing? I feel like I’ve been

on automatic pilot, and kind of on a kind of work and life treadmill and all

of a sudden I’m 50, and I feel very empty, and I feel, you know, regretful,

and you really don’t want to do that. There always will be things that you

wish you could have done better or differently, but to kind of just lose

yourself because you’re just not letting yourself Think about this —

there’s somebody I know who is retiring and who has spent the last I think

15 years since I’ve known her — the vision I have of her is like a prisoner

in jail who crosses off every day, and I just think, you know, honestly, that

you just can’t do that to yourself. So I do think it is really trying to figure

out what makes you happy, and how to get that, I’m not supposed to say

follow your bliss, but I do think that that’s incredibly important.

And then the other thing I think really is making time for relationships

which I think can be again really difficult. You know, you think about

work-life balance and I think what happens is that, you know, if you’re in

a marriage or relationship, you need to work very hard on that to make

that work, and having kids and doing this kind of work I think is amazing

and challenging and requires the most organized compartmentalization

I’ve ever seen, and I’m in awe of people who do it, but what it means

sometimes is that you don’t then, sort of, focus on other relationships. I

think you know, and I would say that those — it’s amazing how enriching

those other relationships are, and the other thing I’d say is honestly taking

full advantage of the people you meet as you pass through because they

keep popping up again in some really wonderful ways and that’s one of

the great things is really the happenstance of meeting somebody — they’re

interested in what they do, you’re interested in what they do, and then they

kind of follow you through your life which is really pretty incredible.

So, I think those are the really important thing — figuring out what matters

to you — both in work and in life. And not letting yourself kind of just

unconsciously keep from doing that. Having as enriching relationships

with people as you possibly, possibly can because that’s where you learn.

I mean I, you know, I always say that I went to law school, but didn’t get

my education there. I got my education from Chesterfield Smith and Jack

Curtin and John Pickering and Sally Determan and Brooksley Born and

Alex Forger, and I’m still getting my education from different folks — I

think it’s time that people will never regret and it’s incredibly well spent,

even if you don’t have quite the high affiliation needs that I do.

Ms. Knievel: I think that’s a wonderful place to end.

Ms. Lardent: Yeah. Well that’s great.

Ms. Knievel: I can’t thank you enough Esther for all of your time.

Ms. Lardent: Oh well, same to you really.