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March 28, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

BROKEN CONTRACT: A Memoir of Harvard Law School by Richard D. Kahlenberg (Faber & Faber: $11.95; 238 pp.). This critical memoir of Harvard Law School owes a great deal to both "The Paper Chase" by John Jay Osborne Jr. and Scott Turow's "One L." Kahlenberg expected to enter an institution geared to a lofty (if nebulous) vision of public service, but was disappointed to discover that many of his classmates were less interested in pursuing liberal ideals than in landing the lucrative jobs that were available at high-power law firms in the late '80s.

Kahlenberg's beliefs seem admirable initially, but the whining tone of the narrative begins to grate after a few dozen pages. Although he felt practicing law was "amoral at best, immoral at worst," Kahlenberg stayed at Harvard, where he apparently spent his time deciding which students, faculty members and graduates lived up to his ideological standards. Kahlenberg concludes, "(T)he sad truth is that every time an idealistic lawyer turns into a hardened attorney for the wealthy and powerful, she brings closer to the breaking point another agreement--the social contract--and that is simply unacceptable." But doesn't the fine print in that contract also forbid authors to bore readers with self-righteous posturing?

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