On the occasion of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy's fortieth anniversary, it is fitting to provide a brief reflection on the Journal's history.
In the mid-1970s, the environment at Harvard Law School and other law schools was not friendly to conservatives. While there was an abundance of liberal publications on a variety of topics, neither Harvard nor any other major law school published a single conservative journal. Conservative academics had no outlet in which to publish their work. If law students wanted to develop their editing skills, their only option was to aid in preparing liberal scholarship. So, during the 1976-77 academic year, a handful of Harvard students decided to approach the Law School administration about founding a journal dedicated to publishing conservative and libertarian viewpoints on issues of law and public policy.
Unsurprisingly, we were met with resistance. The Law School leadership refused to grant us funding for our endeavor, claiming that the Law School only funded facially neutral publications. The many liberal law reviews associated with Harvard Law School at that time did not explicitly state their political viewpoints, and the Dean and other officials were apparently untroubled by the fact that they had not published any conservative articles in years.
Undaunted, we sought funding from outside sources. Though it was initially difficult to find donors, within a year we identified a benefactor who was willing to invest in the first issue of our new conservative publication.
That fall, a band of about ten students met with then-Dean Albert Sacks. Though he could not bar us from publishing our own independently funded journal, he initially refused us the use of the Harvard name in our title, claiming our publication might somehow injure the reputation of the Law School. We resisted and ultimately prevailed by pointing out that Harvard had never challenged the use of its name by other independent efforts--including not only scholarly endeavors, but also restaurants and a liquor store.
The first volume of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy was published in the spring of 1978 with only a handful of student editors on its masthead. Several hundred law libraries purchased subscriptions, and the Journal was on its feet. During Ronald Reagan's presidency, conservative campus publications gained traction. We found ourselves with more students willing to serve as editors, more writers contributing...