Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David J. Fischer
FISCHER: Well, for those people who may not know Harvard Law School, there was a book and subsequently a movie called “The Paper Chase” which is the most frightening, realistic description of what life was like as a first year law student at Harvard Law School that I know of. I came to that law school, I was a good student at Brown, I graduated in the top ten percent in my class, so I went to the law school thinking I was pretty hot stuff. Then you realize all of a sudden that you're not. Everybody else around you was Valedictorian at Princeton, they were number two at their class at Yale, etc. Very, very bright people. I was intimidated by the law school. I hated the law school with a passion. Largely because of the paper chase aspect being constantly open to ridicule, criticism, and sadistic behavior on the part of professors. Today it is inconceivable that anyone could do to students what was done to students at the Harvard Law School. My favorite story was that I was unprepared, which was not an unusual circumstance. But at Harvard Law School, when you were unprepared, you had the right to sit at the top of a horseshoe amphitheater and if you were seated in the back row, that led the professor to know that you were not prepared and so therefore you were rarely, if ever, called upon. I got called upon by a professor whose name is Kasner, very, very famous man in American contract law. The case that I was supposed to describe that I had not read was a case involving a newspaper subscription which was delivered free for six months and then subsequently continued to come and through that form of contract do people have to buy the newspaper. So I said “Mr. Kasner, I'm not prepared.” He said that's all right, step down to the well. I had to walk down in front of one hundred and twenty five of my peers. “I bet you had a paper route when you were a little boy,” he began I said, “yes, as a matter of fact I did.” He said, “what did you have, a little wagon, a Red Flyer to carry the papers?” He proceeded to make me walk up and down in front of this amphitheater talking about the case and at the same time giving me newspapers to fold up and throw up to certain rows. It was humiliating, I can tell you but I had never had such excellent training on the need to think on my feet as I had there. But it was not a pleasant experience.
Q: Ok, one year, it's a three-year course. It's a bit like boot training. Once you're through the first year I wouldn't say you're home free, but it's a whole different name. Why didn't you complete it?
FISCHER: I got a call from the Foreign Service, saying there was an opening in the A-100 training class beginning in June. Did I want it? This is June 1961 and I say you bet ya'[you]. In the meantime, I met a woman who I'd fallen madly in love at Wellesley, who subsequently became my wife. I figured I'd gotten enough of the Harvard Law School and I didn't want to risk having to take the Foreign Service exam over again. So that was my ticket out.
Q: So you took the written exam, passed it obviously. How about thoral exam? Had you taken that already? Can you talk about that?