George Romney Wanted Harvard Law School. Mitt Romney wanted Harvard Business School. “The joke is they compromised and did both.”

December 24th, 2011

That was why Mr. Romney was cramming a law degree as well as a business one into four packed years at Harvard: as a kind of insurance for success, to give him more options and training, classmates said. Besides, George Romney, who never graduated from college, had insisted on the law degree. “My dad wanted H.B.S.,” Tagg Romney said, referring to the business school. “The joke is they compromised and did both.”

Initially, Mitt Romney seemed to be preparing to become his father, albeit with a fancier education — he planned to return to the Midwest and become an auto executive. He carried a hand-me-down briefcase with the initials G.W.R. around campus, telephoned his father when a law school project touched on housing policy and wrote a paper on a statute governing automobile dealerships. (“Quite good, not brilliant,” the professor, Detlev F. Vagts, rated it in an interview. “I felt his research was relatively easy.”)

Overachiever, but unimpressive research. He did graduate with law school honors.

Mr. Romney was in his element. His class performances were outstanding; his peers described him as precise, convincing and charismatic. He won the high grades he craved, becoming a George F. Baker Scholar, a distinction awarded to the top students in every business class, and would graduate from the law school with honors as well.

But he never wanted to be a lawyer:

Mr. Romney never seriously considered practicing law. “He wanted to make money, he wanted to solve problems,” said Mr. Serkin, his former classmate. (In Mr. Romney’s world, money is “how you keep score,” he added.)