Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Bob Bordone’s last lecture: The seven elements of resiliency in hard times

Via Harvard Law Today

Professor Bob Bordone, who has now given a Last Lecture four times, began his talk to the Class of 2017 with words of appreciation: Getting to know them, he said, ‘has been a tremendous gift.” But then he apologized, explaining that he would follow last year’s lecture, “Best Job Ever,” with one with the more sobering title of “Worst Year Ever.”

After months dominated by the presidential election, and by unrest and tragedies around the world and on campus, “I think there’s a real sense that we might be entering, or have entered, an age where fear and anger, and winning and conquest, and violence are replacing empathy and compassion and generosity and peace as the kind of values that we might want to at least aspire to as people and as a nation,” Bordone observed. Drawing on concepts he teaches in the Negotiation Workshop, personal experiences, and some of his favorite poetry, he offered “a framework, of sorts, that I’m calling The Seven Elements of Resiliency in Hard Times.”

Comparing recent political turmoil to an especially challenging negotiation, Bordone spoke about engagement, noting that there are “a lot more ways to respond than just surrendering or fighting back.” He advised his audience to “[dig] in on what your own gifts are, and what your calling might be … because in fact we need people who are activists and resisters, and we need people, for example, who are peacemakers and bridge builders and facilitators.”

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The Law and Happiness in Bhutan

Via Harvard Law Bulletin

A new law school in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Stephan Sonnenberg ’06 has been helping to design the law school’s curriculum and will be one of the 11 faculty members.

Credit: Kristen DeRemer
Stephan Sonnenberg ’06 has been helping to design the law school’s curriculum and will be one of the 11 faculty members.

Among the rugged mountains and the swiftly flowing rivers of Bhutan, new legal institutions are taking root. Soon this small country—with just over 750,000 inhabitants—will open its first law school.

In recent years, the Himalayan nation, wedged between China and Tibet to the north and India to the south, has undergone significant political and cultural transformations. In 2006, the nation’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced that he would step down in favor of his son and he set in motion the drafting of a new constitution to replace an absolute monarchy with a constitutional one. In 2008, a new constitution was ratified. Now, nine years later, the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law will open its doors to its first class in July.

Envisioned by the current king to honor his father and his father’s guiding development philosophy for Bhutan, which he called Gross National Happiness, or GNH, Jigme Singye Wang­chuck School of Law will operate under the motto “Justice, Service, Wisdom.”

GNH may sound a bit hedonistic to some, but its origins are Buddhist. It makes collective happiness the goal of government and emphasizes harmony with nature and traditional values. Where the United States has its “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Bhutan has the four pillars of GNH—economic self-reliance, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion, and good governance.

“The school is the means of bringing GNH and justice to fruition,” says Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck LL.M. ’07, honorable president of Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law.

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Neither Facially Legitimate Nor Bona Fide–Why the Very Text of the Travel Ban Shows It’s Unconstitutional

Via International Human Rights Clinic

This article was first published on Just Security.

International Human Rights ClinicAs the litigation over the travel ban moves to the Supreme Court, the most important passage in the Fourth Circuit’s en banc opinion may be a tangential footnote finding “yet another marker” of illegitimate purpose in the text of the Executive Order. Both the first version of the Executive Order (of January 27) and the second version (of March 6) include language that any informed observer would recognize as evidence that the purpose of the travel ban is to gratify and further incite hostility against Muslims.Advocates seeking to persuade doubting Justices should not be distracted by the voluminous debates about whether candidate Trump’s statements count against the constitutionality of President Trump’s actions.  For Justices inclined to interpret narrowly the standard of review in immigration cases, the explicit statement of purpose in the first EO, and the residual markers in section 11 of the revised EO, should provide the starting point.

In the first EO, the final paragraph of section 1 explained the EO’s purpose as follows:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.  The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.  In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

As the Fourth Circuit noted, “Numerous amici explain that invoking the specter of ‘honor killings’ is a well-known tactic for stigmatizing and demeaning Islam and painting this religion, and its men, as violent and barbaric.”  The thinly coded incitement throughout this purpose paragraph is perhaps best explained in Aziz Huq’s amicus brief for Muslim Rights, Professional and Public Health Organizations.

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FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib, along with Vermont Law Professor Laurie Beyranevand, Make the Case for a National Strategy in Georgetown’s Food & Drug Law Journal

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

In the most recent issue of Georgetown’s Food and Drug Law Journal, HFLPC’s Director Emily Broad Leib and Laurie Beyranevand, the Senior Faculty Fellow for Food Law and Policy at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, lay out their arguments for a comprehensive, national food strategy.  Food encompasses such a wide spectrum of issues—touching public and environmental health, immigration and labor, trade, and safety, among others—and is regulated by dozens of government agencies and a web of laws and regulations. This complexity requires a more efficient and effective approach than the status quo in order to improve our food system outcomes related to the environment, health, safety, and access.

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School have been working together to draft a Blueprint for a National Food Policy Strategy, and released a report with that very title in March of 2017. In it, they make the case that we can and should commit to a national food strategy that addresses and prioritizes food-related issues, and which sets goals that take into account food’s unique cross-section of interests and challenges.

The FDLJ article follows up on the report with an analysis about how such a strategy would tackle some of the hot-button issues at the heart of the most recent presidential campaign, such as reducing regulatory inefficiency, promoting economic development, and incorporating stakeholders’ perspectives—especially those from rural communities—who feel that policymakers in Washington are out of touch with their challenges. The ideal national strategy, they write, should be transparent, accountable, durable, and resilient. The authors argue that the strategy should be created or endorsed by the US government, but concede that if this administration won’t create one, a People’s Food Strategy, similar to the one created in Canada, would be a welcome start. However, they argue that ultimately such a strategy will need government buy-in or endorsement in order to be successful.

The full article is available online here.

Negotiating Climate Change: The Perils of “America First”

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

By Clinical Professor of Law Robert C. Bordone

Clinical Professor Robert Bordone Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School Director, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Robert Bordone
Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Director, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Much ink has been spent lamenting President Trump’s decision to withdraw from The Paris Agreement. Political leaders, scientists, environmental policy experts, and even U.S. companies have condemned Trump’s move. More than just promoting ecological and humanitarian disaster, President Trump’s decision hurts the United States from a diplomatic and negotiation perspective.

Though certainly oversimplifying, in broad strokes we might argue that there are two divergent approaches to how to think about negotiation on the international stage. The first approach assumes that building trust, promoting positive relationships and partnering with allies consistently over the long term is worthwhile and even essential to achieving one’s foreign policy goals. This approach means that you stand with your allies, trade across issues, and honor commitments made by your predecessors on behalf of your country. This approach characterized (in large part) the foreign policy approach of former President Obama’s administration.

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America Needs To Get More Strategic About Food Policy

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Originally published on on June 14, 2017. Written by Emily Broad Leib, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Deputy Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, and Laurie Beyranevand, Professor of Law, and Senior Faculty Fellow, Food Law and Policy at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School.

“Eat your fruits and vegetables” is a simple-enough piece of nutritional advice most Americans have heard since they were young. When you look at America’s food policies, however, that straightforward missive gets incredibly complicated. Though our national nutrition guidance recommends that fruits and vegetables make up more than 50% of our dietary intake, the lion’s share of federal funding for farmers goes to soy, cotton, and corn. In fact, as a nation we produce 24% fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than would be necessary for us to meet that nutrition guidance.

There are many such head-scratching discrepancies all across our country’s food policy landscape. The web of food law in the United States is incredibly complex; for example, on the issue of food safety alone, there are over 15 federal agencies administering 30 different laws! Yet, at present, none of these laws or agencies are coordinated. For an administration that has pushed to reduce the role of regulatory agencies and save taxpayer dollars, the inefficiency of our food policies and laws is even more glaring.

At the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School, we’re committed to streamlining and improving our food policies. Earlier this year, we published Blueprint for a National Food Strategy which makes the case for laying all the pieces of our food policy on the table, together, so that we set goals and priorities, and fit them together in the way that works best. This week, we are hosting a webinar about our Blueprint report; the webinar will explain our research and findings in more detail, and provide an opportunity to kickstart a dialogue about making the idea of a national food strategy into a reality.

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Melissa Korta honored with Harvard Hero Award

Melissa Korta, Coordinator, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Melissa Korta, Coordinator, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Melissa Korta, Coordinator in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP), was among 60 outstanding Harvard staff members from across the University who were elected Harvard Heroes for 2017. Harvard Heroes celebrates the accomplishments of Harvard staff whose work supports the mission of Harvard at the highest levels of contribution, impact and excellence. The annual celebration was held Monday, June 5th, at the Sanders Theatre. Hundreds of staff members from across the university filled the theater and applauded their colleagues for their strong commitment to excellence.

“Three words come to mind when I think of Melissa Korta – anticipation, execution, and excellence”, said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono programs. “She anticipates problems, makes sure that we solve them, and that we solve them in a comprehensive way. Melissa’s job requires her to touch every part of our operations, including facilitating relationships with a large group of faculty, staff, students, supervisors, and potential clients of our clinics. She juggles this complexity with ease – her high energy and level of engagement are contagious.”

Melissa started working at OCP in 2012 and was promoted from staff assistant in 2014. She has twice won HLS’s Peer to Peer Award, an employee-owned program that offers staff members a way to acknowledge and express appreciation for co-workers who make a difference in everyday work life.  Also, this year, Melissa was part of the advisory board to HLS’s Emerging Leaders program, a staff run development program focused on developing leadership skills through educational sessions, mentoring events, and community service.

In the words of Lisa Dealy, Melissa “is the glue that holds the office together and she does everything with her characteristic efficiency and good humor!”

Presentation for Judicial Externships at AALS Conference

Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (left) and Kate Devil Joyce (right)

Hon. Judge John C. Cratsley (left) and Kate Devlin Joyce (right)

Kate Devlin Joyce and retired judge John Cratsley, who direct the judicial externship clinics and classes at Boston College and Harvard Law Schools, recently presented their innovative poster at the 40th Annual Conference on Clinical Legal Education in Denver. Recognizing that students in both of their clinics spend many hours doing court observation and assisting their judges with legal research and writing, they developed three simulations, essentially advocacy role plays, for students to do in class. Their poster and accompanying handouts contained these role plays, each of which challenges students with advocacy exercises reflecting moments in court they will likely encounter in practice.

The first contains two jury selection exercises involving the Batson/Soares (MA SJC) issue of the improper use of peremptory challenges, first, by a prosecutor to exclude Hispanic jurors and, second, by defense counsel to exclude female jurors. The second role play challenges students to marshal the arguments necessary to persuade a judge to keep their client in a drug court rehabilitation program.  And the third contains two scenarios in which various degrees of judicial participation in civil case settlement raise questions of moving to disqualify the judge from continuing with the trial.

Each role play is illustrated in the poster and the accompanying handouts contain learning outcomes and performance measurements, a teaching guide, and the role play scripts. The overall goal of the poster and the handouts is to provide teachers of judicial externship clinics with options for more active and engaging classroom activities.

The Diné Bich’iya (Navajo Food Sovereignty) Summit

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

“Food has been used as a weapon against the Navajo Nation.”

With those words, Amber Crotty, a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, began her closing remarks for the Diné Bich’iya (Navajo Food Sovereignty) Summit. “We’re in the remembering phase,” she continued; the Navajo people have to reconnect with their traditional food ways. The Food Law and Policy Clinic had flown me and my teammate, Katie, and our supervisor, Christina, to Arizona, so that we could attend the summit. All semester, we had been studying the 2014 Farm Bill, to see how the programs authorized by it could be used, or altered, to help the Navajo Nation regain control over its food system.

Regions of the Navajo Nation have obesity rates ranging from 23-60 percent, and 25 percent of people living on the reservation, which stretches across New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, are diabetic. There’s a lot of fast food, and few grocery stores. Hot Cheetos are the best selling snack across the reservation. Traditional foods and other healthy foods are harder to come by than highly processed alternatives, and are far more expensive. At the same time, Navajo farmers face barriers gaining access to land and water, and a lack of infrastructure makes it difficult for them to bring their products to market.

Local advocates have risen to face these challenges, and are working to achieve food sovereignty for the Navajo Nation. As a part of this effort, Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez sponsored the Diné Bich’iya Summit to create an opportunity for stakeholders to come together, identify issues facing the Navajo food system, and brainstorm solutions.

The summit ran for three days. Christina, Katie, and I spent them flitting from one break out session to another, trying to soak up as much information as we could. We heard from Navajo politicians, like Council Delegate Crotty and Vice President Nez, community organizers, public health professionals, botanists, farmers, and anyone else interested in the Navajo food system. It was exciting to be around so many motivated people eager to make a change. We learned a lot, too!

We weren’t just there to listen, though, and Katie and I spoke at a breakout session on the second day. We presented a food policy toolkit that the Clinic had put together in 2015 (Putting Food Policy to Work in Navajo Nation) and the Clinic’s 2016 report on how to expand farm to school in Navajo Nation (Growing Farm to School Programs on the Navajo Nation). We were joined by two exceptional women, our host, Sonlatsa Jim-Martin of Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment, and Pam Roy, of New Mexico Farm to Table.

Although the summit kept us plenty busy, we still found time to enjoy its setting. We stayed in Chinle, Arizona, which sits right at the lip of the Canyon de Chelly – a deep, dramatic canyon that native peoples have called home for millennia. We hiked to the canyon floor one evening, where the sunset bathed the sheer sandstone walls in golden light. We’d gotten selfie-sticks in our welcome bags at the summit, and they got plenty of use.

It was a privilege to work on this project and to travel to Navajo Nation. I met so many amazing people there, and learned so much about the challenges they face and the work they’re doing to overcome them. It was an inspirational experience, and one I won’t soon forget.

Advocacy in Action

Via Health Law and Policy Clinic

Seeing advocacy in action was the thing that stuck with me the most at the Tackling Lung Cancer in Kentucky Workshop. I was there to present with CHLPI students and staff about current proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and how those proposals could impact the lives of patients living with lung cancer. Our presentation was designed merely to set the backdrop for the more targeted discussions to follow – developing concrete steps to fight lung cancer in Kentucky.

One of the steps that participants quickly coalesced around was one for which the clock was ticking. The latest session of the Kentucky legislature was ending the following week and there was a bill related to tobacco cessation on the docket that advocates in the room hoped to see approved. The bill—SB 89: An Act relating to health benefit coverage for tobacco cessation treatment—would require insurers to provide barrier-free access to tobacco cessation services to its consumers. The bill had passed the Senate nearly unanimously, and was set to pass the House too—if it ever hit the floor. Advocates at the summit were worried that the bill would stall it in the Health and Family Services Committee and the session would expire without a vote.

They were determined not to let this happen. Advocates quickly organized a plan for what to do—namely, have the Kentucky residents in the room call their legislators to discuss the importance of the bill. The issue wasn’t convincing legislators to vote for the bill (it had passed the Senate 35-2). The issue was convincing legislators to make it a priority to pass that bill over other legislation during a period in which time was a scarce resource. The atmosphere in the room was energizing as people realized that their efforts could help score a win on this issue.

I don’t know how many people in the room ended up calling their legislator. I don’t know how many convinced other people to call their legislators. But I do know that the bill passed out of committee and was approved 90-1 in the House.

Their efforts worked, and now it’ll be just a little bit easier to quit smoking in Kentucky.

Alumnus Spotlight—Toby Berkman ’10

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Toby Berkman ’10

Toby Berkman ’10

We caught up with Toby Berkman ’10, a two-time HNMCP clinic student, and current dispute resolution professional, for our alumnus spotlight this year.

During his years at Harvard Law School, Berkman also served as a student mediator in the Harvard Mediation Program, as a Teaching Assistant for the Negotiation Workshop, and after graduation, as the first HNMCP Associate (the title has since changed to Fellow). During his year at HNMCP, Berkman co-wrote, edited, and produced the first DVD teaching tool put out by the Clinic, in conjunction with the law firm WilmerHale, “Critical Decisions in Negotiation.” This fall, Berkman served as a facilitator in HNMCP’s newest, soon-to-be-released, DVD teaching tool on facilitated dialogue, Police-Community Dialogue, and this past spring semester, was a Lecturer in the Negotiation Workshop.

HNMCP: Can you trace any particular influences in your life that lead you to pursue the study of negation and dispute resolution at HLS? Given the range of clinic options available at HLS, why did you choose HNMCP?

Toby Berkman: I’d had a couple of hugely formative experiences in the years before law school. First, I started working for the nonprofit Seeds of Peace, and became friends with young people from countries around the world including Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and others. Then I spent a year as a teacher living in Casablanca, Morocco, and felt this really compelling connection to that place and its incredible cultural diversity, and then some time working for Seeds in Jerusalem. I was experiencing all of this in the early 2000s in the context of September 11 and then the Iraq war. I felt this calling to get involved and do something to promote cross-cultural understanding and dialogue. After a stint as a researcher in D.C. (focusing on international peace operations) I came to law school with a vague notion that I wanted to do something “practical” in the “real world” related to conflict resolution. Truth be told I had very little interest in being a lawyer—at least for the long term.

HNMCP was the one community at HLS where I felt totally at home, both with the other students and the instructors, and where I felt like my work really had meaning and was focused in the direction I wanted. As soon as I started working at the clinic I had this feeling like, “these are my people.”

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T. Keith Fogg named clinical professor of law

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Bob Laramie

Credit: Bob Laramie

Keith Fogg, an expert in tax law and procedure and director of Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center, has been named clinical professor of law at HLS.

For more than 30 years, Fogg worked in the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. He joined the faculty of Villanova Law School, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. He developed a course for the Georgetown LL.M. program, Federal Taxation of Bankruptcy and Workouts, which he taught there for 15 years as an adjunct. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at William and Mary and University of Richmond law schools and as a visiting professor at University of Arizona.

“Keith brings years of experience within the government to his pioneering development of clinical opportunities in tax law, and shares with students and colleagues his remarkably broad and detailed knowledge of tax law and policy, in theory and in practice,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. “As a contributor to teaching, writing, policy making, and the improvement of actual law-in-practice, Keith is fabulous, and I will watch with delight as he grows the tax clinic here.”

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Sabrineh Ardalan named assistant clinical professor of law

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Martha Stewart Sabrineh Ardalan ’02

Credit: Martha Stewart
Sabrineh Ardalan ’02

Sabrineh Ardalan ’02 has been appointed assistant clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. She was formerly a lecturer on law at HLS.

Ardalan—who teaches in the fields of immigration and refugee law and advocacy and trauma, refugees, and the law—is also assistant director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC). She joined HLS as a clinical fellow in 2008, was appointed as a lecturer on law in 2010, and became assistant director of HIRC in 2012.

At the clinic, Ardalan supervises and trains law students working on applications for asylum and other humanitarian protections, as well as on appellate litigation and policy advocacy. She has authored amicus briefs on cutting-edge issues in U.S. asylum law submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the federal district courts, and circuit courts of appeal. Ardalan initiated the clinic’s interdisciplinary partnership with an on-site social worker, and currently oversees and collaborates closely with the clinic’s social work staff as part of her teaching and client advocacy. This year, she, alongside colleagues Clinical Professor and HIRC Director Deborah Anker and HIRC’s Managing Attorney Phil Torrey, helped coordinate HIRC’s response to the travel ban and border and interior enforcement executive orders, and launch HIRC’s effort to provide legal and social services to undocumented members of the Harvard community.

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In Support of Our Art

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

This year’s art contest at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program brought in over fifty submissions from Harvard Law School, the greater Boston area, and around the world. We received paintings, sculptures, photographs, and poems—some from seasoned artists and some from individuals who were trying their hand at an art submission for the very first time. Dean Martha Minow, Lisa Dealy, and Professor Bob Bordone served as the judging committee for the art contest. They used a set of criteria developed by HLS Negotiators to judge the artwork and select these six winners, whose work is currently featured in the HNMCP suite.

As I have gone around sharing the news about HNMCP’s art contest with friends, others around Harvard University, and various framing stores in the area, I have received a number of raised eyebrows. People are more than a bit surprised to learn that a group specializing in negotiation and mediation at Harvard Law School are spending their time receiving and judging artwork. People were genuinely curious as to why our program is hosting an art contest.

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FLPC Clinical Fellow Accepted to the Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship​

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Congrats to FLPC Clinical Fellow Lee Miller!

Lee was accepted to the Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship, an exclusive fellowship program for inspirational leaders with big ideas, a deep understanding of the food system, and the skills to collaborate with a diverse coalition of change makers.

The Stone Barns Exchange Fellowship, spanning July 10-28, 2017,  is an interdisciplinary program designed to connect change makers from different sectors of the food system, immerse them in the principles of agroecology and farm-driven cuisine, and focus them on strategies for accelerating food system change.

Exchange Fellows will gather for a 3-week residency at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture as they hone their knowledge and skills, connect with experts and each other and evolve their ideas through hands-on activities, conversation, and project design, ultimately working to support the development of a healthy and sustainable food system.

Learn more about the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

HNMCP: Fall 2016 Projects

Via the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Six clinical projects in the fall of 2016 allowed us to: strategize with two very different Ombud’s offices to help them improve their internal dispute resolution services; work with a local housing co-operative on communications and decision-making skills around large communal projects; develop a curriculum on negotiation in a legislative context for an institute whose mission is to educate the public about the role of the Senate in our government; support a government agency to improve stakeholder inclusion among collaborative groups with whom they work; and build an online toolkit for community college students and graduates to improve their salary negotiation skills.

Lyndsi Allsop and Sonam Patel

Lyndsi Allsop and Sonam Patel

Asian Development Bank, Ombudsperson

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) works in partnership with developing member countries to improve lives in Asia and the Pacific through targeted investments. This fall, HNMCP continued earlier work with ADB’s Office of the Ombudsperson to better understand employee needs, perceptions of the Office, and strategies for improving its services both in ADB headquarters in Manila, Philippines, and in its 31 field offices around the world.

Ashleigh Ruggles, Emily Joung, and Jose Alvarez

Ashleigh Ruggles, Emily Joung, and Jose Alvarez

Cornerstone CoHousing

Cornerstone Village Cohousing Community is a 32-unit residential community in North Cambridge. Its meetings are run by consensus and processes are intended to make sure all voices are heard before decisions are made. Cornerstone engaged the Clinic in order to focus specifically on a current conflict in the community, to help map a path forward, and to provide advice on how to build the community’s capacity for conflict management.

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Students honored at 2017 Class Day

Via Harvard Law Today

A number of Harvard Law students from the Class of 2017 received special awards during the 2017 Class Day ceremony on May 24. They were recognized for outstanding leadership, citizenship, compassion and dedication to their studies and the profession.

Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award

Credit: Heratch Photography Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17

Credit: Heratch Photography

Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17

This year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award was presented to Lisa K. Dicker ’17 and Nathan MacKenzie ’17.

Dicker has devoted her time at Harvard Law to public service, starting her 1L year with HLS Negotiators, serving first as a member and later as its co-president. She spent her 1L spring break in Nashville, TN, working pro bono with Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit civil rights organization founded by two HLS alumni. During the trip, Dicker and fellow students helped challenge widespread practices that penalize the poor: jail time for failure to pay fines, cash and property seizure in the absence of criminal charges, and the failure to provide competent lawyers.

While at Harvard Law School, Dicker has not only performed more than 1,500 hours of pro bono work, but she also served as part of a corps of trained student facilitators who volunteer to facilitate discussions among members of the HLS community on challenging and politically fraught topics. She also twice served as a teaching assistant for the Negotiation Workshop.

At HLS, MacKenzie participated in Harvard Defenders, the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and created his own independent clinical placement with the Migrants Rights Clinic at the Center of Law and Business, in Ramat Gan, Israel. 

 MacKenzie’s contributions to the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program have helped transform lives; his legal work was pivotal in obtaining asylum for a teenager fleeing gang violence and in preventing the imminent deportation of a woman who had been unlawfully denied a chance to present her asylum claim. He also worked long hours and late nights orchestrating the research needed for an amicus brief challenging the White House’s executive orders on immigration.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS. The J.D. student in the graduating class who performs the highest number of pro bono service hours receives the award and a $500 honorarium.

HLS requires all students to perform 50 hours of pro bono services but most go far beyond. This year, 10 students exceeded 2,000 hours of service and 100 students volunteered more than 1,000 hours.

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Mana Azarmi wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Via Harvard Law Today

Photo courtesy of Mana Azarmi Mana Azarmi spent time in London working on an independent clinical project during her time at HLS.

Photo courtesy of Mana Azarmi
Mana Azarmi spent time in London working on an independent clinical project during her time at HLS.

Mana Azarmi ’17 is the winner of the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

Azarmi participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) for two semesters. Over the course of her three years at Harvard Law, Azarmi logged more than 1,000 pro bono hours in service to the community through the Harvard Immigration Project, the International Human Rights Clinic, the Crimmigration Clinic, and two independent clinical projects which she designed on her own — one in London working with Article 36, a UK nonprofit, and the other in San Francisco working with the Center for Justice and Accountability.

In addition to advocating for HIRC clients, Azarmi spent a substantial amount of time working on crimmigration and Immigration Response Initiative-related projects. She wrote answers to frequently asked questions related to the travel ban, researched legal arguments to oppose a Muslim special registration system, drafted questions for Attorney General Jeff Session’s confirmation hearings on the Muslim ban, and wrote an amicus brief for the American Civil Liberties Union.

In their nomination, Azarmi’s nominators noted her passion for public service work and her commitment to human rights, immigration, and privacy issues, saying her background and considerable skills made her an outstanding candidate for this award.

“Mana is [also] a fantastic manager and motivator of others” they wrote. “For an extensive report on Syrian Refugee Resettlement that the Clinic is writing, Mana rallied a team of over 10 students to help with research and cite-checking. Without Mana’s fantastic research, writing, and advocacy skills, the Clinic could not have taken on all the projects we have been involved with over the past four months since the election.”

‘When we’re needed, we’ll show up’

Via Harvard Law Bulletin, Spring 2017

They don’t all want to be immigration lawyers, but this year, hundreds of Harvard Law School students have made immigrant rights their business

Credit: Mark Ostow

Credit: Mark Ostow

It began with the stroke of a pen: President Donald Trump’s signature on a January executive order banned entry into the U.S. by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Travelers were detained at airports. Students were unable to return to their schools. Impending travel for an Iranian baby’s heart surgery in Oregon hung in the balance. With airports in chaos and little information about their loved ones, families separated by the executive order pleaded on camera for the opportunity to reunite, awaiting a resolution many of them were unsure would come.

Then the lawyers showed up. They arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport carrying their laptops, turning airport terminal tabletops into makeshift offices, handwriting a habeas corpus petition for each individual in need. Law students clustered around a power outlet to coordinate the effort. Within 24 hours, attorneys around the nation were questioning the legality of the president’s action.

In Cambridge, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program hummed with activity late into the night as students worked on amicus briefs and human rights abuse documentation for clients. Founded and directed by asylum scholar and Clinical Professor Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84, the Harvard Law program has involved students in the direct representation of asylum seekers and refugees for more than 30 years. In the wake of the November election, it mobilized to strengthen protections for that population.

More than 400 students enrolled at Harvard have now joined the HIRC-based immigration awareness effort, called the Immigration Response Initiative. Assignments range from local community outreach in the form of webinars and information sessions for undocumented people, to legal research, litigation support, and legislative advocacy. Some of the students involved in the initiative had never considered practicing immigration law. Others have been familiar with the realities of immigration since childhood. Here are some of their stories.

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A disarming leader: Bonnie Docherty recognized for contributions to human rights, clinical community

Via International Human Rights Clinic

When Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, began the daunting work of documenting torture and mass hangings in a Syrian prison, she was prepared. She knew how to interview survivors of trauma. She knew how to protect the security and confidentiality of witnesses. She knew, when her 50th interview was done, just how to connect the dots.

“There I was, with my pieces of paper all around me, with different highlighters for each different fact I was trying to establish,” said Nicolette, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “That’s basically me modeling what Bonnie taught me to do.”

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Bonnie on a fact-finding mission in Iraq.

Over the course of her career, as Bonnie Docherty has emerged as an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, she has also mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the UN in Geneva.

Her biggest alumni fans call themselves “the Bonnie mafia.” When they heard of her recent promotion to Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection at the International Human Rights Clinic, the reaction could best be summed up in one word: jubilation.

“This is the best news I’ve heard in a while,” said Lauren Herman, JD ’13, a fellow atMake the Road, NJ, an immigrants’ rights organization. “I am just thrilled for Bonnie and the Clinic and all of Harvard.”

The promotion gives Bonnie room to deepen and expand her work on civilian protection. She plans to increase support for civil society organizations working in the field, create a track for students interested in careers in civilian protection, and provide a forum for experts to develop practical innovations.

A senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch as well as a Harvard lecturer on law, she’ll continue to dedicate much of her time to humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate civilian suffering from problematic weapons. It’s an area Bonnie has been working in for 16 years.

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Coding for Justice

Via Harvard Law Bulletin, Spring 2017

A new technology fellowship multiplies the impact of Harvard’s legal clinics

Credit: Tony Luong Bill Palin imagines and builds technology to help HLS clinics expand access to justice.

Credit: Tony Luong

Bill Palin imagines and builds technology to help HLS clinics expand access to justice.

It takes a lot of preparation to rev up a new case. That’s true in all law offices, including Harvard’s legal clinics. As a clinical law student who was cross-enrolled in an undergraduate computer science course, Jeffrey Roderick ’17 wondered whether he could streamline the process through technology. “Automating certain tasks can help students spend more time in clinics doing what they signed up for, which is to intelligently and creatively represent their clients,” Roderick says. He had the perfect person to turn to for guidance: William “Bill” Palin, Harvard Law’s inaugural Access to Justice/Technology Fellow.

With Palin’s help, Roderick developed a prototype that automates client intake and prepares the initial boilerplate documents that get a case rolling. Roderick estimates that the tool saves five to six hours per case, leaving more time for investigative fact-gathering and legal research.

That’s just one example of how Palin’s presence on campus is improving the ability of HLS’s clinics to represent disadvantaged clients.

A 2012 graduate of Suffolk Law School, Palin opened a solo practice in Cambridge. He added “software developer” to his resume after teaching himself to code with books borrowed from the Cambridge Public Library. He was creating award-winning legal apps, guest-lecturing at Yale Law School, and teaching at Suffolk Law and MIT before he came to Harvard Law School in September 2016. His task: to launch a project called “Developing Justice,” a response to the shortage of affordable legal services for poor and middle-class people who face eviction, child custody and support disputes, foreclosure, consumer fraud, and denials of benefits. Palin’s role is to imagine and custom-build technology that brings efficiencies to legal aid practice, boosts client advocacy, and expands the actionable knowledge of legal clinicians.

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ITT Trustee to Stop Collection on All “Temporary Credit” Accounts

Via Project on Predatory Student Lending

Yesterday, the court overseeing ITT’s bankruptcy case approved a motion to stop collection on all ITT “Temporary Credits.” ITT used unfair and deceptive tactics to get students to sign up for Temporary Credits, including by describing Temporary Credits as grants and threatening to expel students if they did not agree to the debt. Even after ITT filed for bankruptcy, its servicers and debt collectors continued to harass students to collect these Temporary Credits.

Former ITT students have consistently objected to ITT’s ongoing collection efforts. In January, the Project on Predatory Student Lending filed an adversary complaint in the bankruptcy case on behalf of hundreds of thousands of former ITT students, arguing that the debts were incurred as a result of ITT’s unfair and deceptive practices and asking the court to block the estate from collecting these accounts. The students then objected to the trustee’s request to hire more contractors to try to collect these Temporary Credits. The class of former students is currently represented by the Project on Predatory Student Lending and Jenner & Block LLP.

Former ITT students are gratified that the trustee has now decided to stop pursuing these accounts. Stopping collection on Temporary Credits is an important first step, but any ongoing collection on ITT-generated debt continues to harm students unjustifiably. Former ITT students continue to face collections on billions of dollars of federal and private student debts that the company generated by its unfair and deceptive practices.

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Clinic and partners call on ICC to investigate role of Chiquita executives in contributing to crimes against humanity

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Bogota, Colombia, May 18, 2017 – Today, on behalf of affected Colombian communities, a coalition of human rights groups called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International in crimes against humanity. To date, no executive has been held to account despite the company’s admission that it funneled millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitaries that killed, raped, and disappeared civilians. If the ICC takes up the case, it would be the first time it moved against corporate executives for assisting such crimes.

In their submission to the court, the coalition of local and international human rights groups traces the executives’ involvement with payments made to the paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004. Even after outside counsel and the U.S. Department of Justice said such payments were illegal under U.S. law, the payments continued. The submission includes a confidential, sealed appendix that identifies by name fourteen senior executives, officers, and board members of Chiquita who the coalition argues should be the focus of the Prosecutor’s investigation.

The coalition, which consists of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), relied on internal Chiquita documents and assistance from the National Security Archive at George Washington University to identify the Chiquita officials and show how they were involved with the crimes.

“The executives who oversaw the funding of paramilitaries should not be able to sit comfortably in their houses in the United States as if they did nothing wrong,” said a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, which submitted a letter to the ICC about how the paramilitary violence personally affected them. “Families across Colombia have been waiting for accountability for too long.”

Chiquita could have acted differently, or could have left the country years before it did, but instead decided to continue its lucrative business while paying paramilitaries for so-called ‘security’ in the banana-growing regions. By 2003, Chiquita’s subsidiary in Colombia was its most profitable banana operation in the world.

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Student perspective: The case for legislative advocacy

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

As a former Capitol Hill staffer, I was accustomed to drafting talking points. For nearly three years, I wrote “TPs” on foreign policy, defense, and veterans’ issues, including my boss’ favorite vocabulary words so that his voice would come through in press conferences and Senate hearings.

But I’d never written talking points to deliver myself until last month, when I stood up at a Cambridge City Council meeting and urged Massachusetts to end its partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since I became a graduate student at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, I’ve been particularly involved in immigration issues. I started tutoring at the Harvard Bridge Program, which provides English language support to Harvard employees, most of whom are immigrants. I analyzed proposals to enhance resettlement processing and interagency cooperation for HIRC’s Syrian Resettlement Project. I also coordinated events that connected recently resettled Syrian refugees in Lowell with American students studying Arabic at Harvard.

But I never expected to put my legislative advocacy skills to work in academia until the presidential election, when immigration issues changed overnight. Along with more than 300 students at Harvard Law School, I joined the Immigration Response Initiative, volunteering to help HIRC and advocacy groups. Another former Capitol Hill staffer, Annika Lichtenbaum, and I decided to form the legislative advocacy team.

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Class of 2017 Performs 356,953 Hours of Free Legal Services!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 for their great accomplishment of 356,953 pro bono hours in service to the community. Students averaged 586 hours each, working at hundreds of different organizations. 78 percent of the graduating class participated in at least one clinic.

95 students contributed over 1,000 hours. Ten students contributed over 2,000 pro bono hours. They are:

  • William  Ahee
  • Michael Gaerman
  • Michele Hall
  • Erika Johnson
  • Simratpal Kaur
  • Anna Kurtz
  • Emma Katherine Rekart
  • Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez
  • Amanda Sweat
  • Liza Freedman Weisberg

Students contribute over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges

By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)

The 23 students in this Spring Semester’s Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic contributed over 1500 hours of legal research and writing to local state and federal judges. This exceeded by hundreds of hours the assistance provided by clinic students in prior years. The value of this effort, particularly in state courts, comes at a time of tight budgets and limited numbers of full-time law clerks plus expanded litigation demands on judges. All of which makes this amount of law student assistance most welcome.

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley's house for dinner after the prison tour

Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic at Judge Cratsley’s house for dinner after the prison tour

The judicial placements in this year’s clinic included 8 with judges in the U.S. District Court, 9 with judges in the Massachusetts Superior Court, 2 with judges in the Land Court, 3 with judges in the Boston Municipal Court, and 1 with a judge in the Massachusetts District Court. While students began with court observation, including motions practice and jury trials, their participating judges quickly made research and writing assignments. The range of student work included habeas corpus petitions, motions to suppress evidence in criminal cases, social security disability appeals, class actions motions, zoning appeals, and various motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. Students also observed sentencing and mental health proceedings as well as the Aaron Hernandez double murder trial in the Suffolk Superior Court.

Two features of this year’s clinic were the participation of five LLM students, including Judges from Japan and Korea, and the prison tour of MCI Concord. The LLM students bring important comparative observations into both their judicial placements and our weekly classes. For example, both the Korean and Japanese Judges made presentations in our class on juries about the relatively new approach to trial by jury in their home countries. Our prison visit, already described in this blog by an LLM student from China, provided students with a realistic view of the challenges of incarceration and re-entry.

Student evaluations of their clinic experiences mention different learning goals and learning outcomes. Many identified “Insights into Judicial Decision Making” and “Learning Court Procedures” as key objectives before starting, but cited “Recognizing Good and Bad Advocacy” and “Improving My Writing” as significant learning outcomes at the end. This is welcome evidence of the changing impact on students from working so closely with a judge in this clinic. Student comments make this same observation, “He gave me thoughtful candid feedback and was always receptive to my questions/input.”;  “My judge was fantastic. She was very accommodating and keen to ensure that I was having a good experience.”; “I learned a tremendous amount and always felt challenged in an exciting way.”; and “My judge is wonderful, very engaging, and gives interns real work.”

Erika Johnson ’17 wins David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer Erika Johnson ’17

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer
Erika Johnson ’17

Erika Johnson is this year’s winner of the David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. The award is named in honor of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman ’88, a public interest lawyer dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to low income communities. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects.

Having contributed more than 2,000 hours of pro bono services to clients through the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), and Project No One Leaves, Johnson is the embodiment of Grossman’s tireless pro bono spirit. She was chosen for her compassion in legal practice and for her contributions to HLS’s clinical community.

Her clinical supervisors at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau recall one elderly client Johnson protected from homelessness. The client had been living in supportive housing for homeless elders for almost ten years, but after the facility went smoke-free he had trouble quitting and faced eviction. Over the next six months, Johnson attended more twelve court hearings, fighting tirelessly to stave off the eviction, but the client’s disabilities made it impossible for him to stop smoking. Realizing that her client had nowhere else to go, Johnson built a relationship with a social worker and found him an apartment with medical support services. Johnson even made sure to find him a bed and then physically moved it and most of the client’s other belongings into his new home on a cold winter’s day.

In another eviction case, Johnson followed her client’s lead in pursuing greater racial and economic justice. The client felt strongly that he had been wronged by his landlord, arguing the language used against him was racially biased. “Erika listened, at length,” said Clinical Professor Esme Caramello, who teaches in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Johnson convinced the HLAB Board to take the case and then fully devoted herself to researching and drafting legal documents, achieving not only the dismissal of the eviction but also moving to recover damages for her client.

“Erika’s approach [was] creative, but it [was] her persistence in following the client’s lead despite the ‘typical’ trajectory of such a case, and the steadiness of her hard work, that have impressed us the most,” her clinical supervisors said.

“I am grateful to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for its support and its embodiment of the values David Grossman modeled as a teacher and lawyer,” said Johnson. “Dave’s compassion, dedication, and commitment to community and to our clients are inspiring to every member of HLAB. I feel honored to have been part of this community, and I will rely on this experience and these values in all of my future work.”

On campus, Johnson has also collaborated with the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, a student practice organization that hosted a competition in which students created technology solutions to access to justice problems in the local housing courts. She met with the student leaders of the project, taught them about the court system and the challenges unrepresented tenants face, trained them in basic eviction law and procedure, and then judged the final projects. Her clinical supervisors noted that she did this expertly and almost entirely on her own — all as a second-year law student with a full course load and a substantial docket of housing cases.

After graduation, Erika will pursue a career in public interest law, a choice that she says was shaped by her HLAB clients and colleagues.

Reflection from the Fatherhood Program at Quincy District Court

By Takaaki Ishii LL.M ’17

The Five Principles of Fatherhood

As a father it is my responsibility to:

  1. Give affection to my children
  2. Give gentle guidance to my children
  3. Provide financial support to my children and the mother of my children
  4. Demonstrate respect at all times to the mother of my children
  5. Set a proud example for my children by living within the law and without the taint of alcohol drug abuse.
Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Takaaki Ishii pictured left

Every Wednesday, the Fatherhood Program in the Quincy District Court, starts with the reading of these five principles. This program began in 1994 with the mission of teaching probationers to be positive and attentive parents to their sons and daughters. In the program, fathers who are under probation supervision make a circle with probation officers and discuss what the responsibility of the father is.

I am an LL.M. student from Japan taking the Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinic headed by Hon. Judge John Cratsley (Ret). As part of my clinical work, I visited Quincy District Court every Wednesday and worked with Judge Mark Coven. I observed jury trials, bench trials, pre-trials, mediations, and more. Prior to coming to Harvard Law School, I worked as an associate judge in Japan for about three years, and dealt with criminal trials and civil trials. The reason I took this clinic is to observe the practice of law in the Massachusetts State Courts and bring back lessons and insights to Japan.

One day, the probation officer in the Quincy District Court invited me to observe the Fatherhood Program. Even though I am single and do not have any children, I decided to join the discussion because I believed I would learn more about the state’s criminal justice system. Doing so was a great experience for me.

Every Wednesday night, I joined the circle of probationers and probation officers who talked about their experiences as fathers. The probationers had various backgrounds and thought seriously about how their crime influenced their relationships with their children and how to improve their future relationships with their children. The probation officers also talked about their experience as fathers and shared personal life stories. In addition, the program invited guest speakers – judges, clergy, social service providers and representatives from state agencies. One night, Judge Casey came to the program as a guest speaker. He joined the circle and talked with probationers at the same eye level. He also responded sincerely to probationer’s criticism about the court system. I could see the actual departure from the traditional trial judge who sits on the bench and remains distant from the defendants.

As I head into the graduation ceremony on May 25, 2017, I will think about the probationers who finished the Fatherhood Program and the open discussion about fatherhood.

Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab aims to challenge legal exceptionalism

Via Harvard Law Today

Jim Greiner presenting to audience

Credit: Lorin Granger/HLS Staff Photographer

Since its founding nine months ago, Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab has aimed to revolutionize thinking about access to legal help. Often misunderstood and sometimes controversial, the lab sponsored a five-hour symposium in April that drew scholars from across the country to Harvard Law School.

As a response to the shortage of affordable legal services for poor and middle-class people who face debt-related legal problems, denial of benefits, domestic violence and divorce, the lab seeks to compile rigorous evidence of what works in law and what doesn’t, using randomized control trials. What the lab does, explains Faculty Director Jim Greiner, is apply scientific and statistical research to the questions of who gets legal assistance and how much difference it makes. “We are researchers and scientists, and we’re all pretty nerdy,” he said in an interview last week. “Our instinct is to go into our caves to find out truths about the world, but that isn’t very useful by itself. Being a Southerner, I’d describe the event as coming-out party for the Lab — and also an opportunity for objections to be raised and answered.”

The lab displayed different facets of its work during the afternoon sessions on April 19. Beginning with remarks from Greiner and Dean Martha Minow, the afternoon included presentations from the lab’s Research Director Christopher Griffin and Associate Director of Field Research Erika Richard ’10, who outlined studies now underway. The class then split into groups for a problem-solving exercise, and compared results when the class reconvened. Finally, Greiner led a wide-ranging discussion on the lab’s future direction.

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Beyond a Judicial Philosophy: My Time in the Harvard Mediation Program

By Lauren Godles J.D. ’17

Lauren Godles J.D. '17

Lauren Godles J.D. ’17

In law school, we spend three years studying cases, with the expectation that by the end, we will develop a personal judicial philosophy. This judicial philosophy will consist of a set of legal principles and preferred modes of interpretation that will guide our analysis of legal issues for years to come. While I would say that my legal philosophy has certainly evolved during my time at HLS, perhaps even more important is the “human philosophy” I have developed through my experiences at the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP).

I trained as a mediator during my very first semester at HLS, and I immediately clicked with the members and their way of thinking. The people I met in HMP were kind and thoughtful. They had arrived at law school wanting to spend time learning how to listen. On the first day of training, we learned about the core principles of the program: self-determination, informed consent, and neutrality. It was the self-determination piece that made the most lasting impression on me. Because of HMP’s commitment to self-determination, as mediators, we don’t suggest solutions to parties in court. Rather, we provide a safe, open forum where litigants feel heard and brainstorm solutions that will work best for them.

At HMP, we teach mediators about the power of self-determination through the parable of a parent with two children fighting over an orange. The parent, desperate to stop the fighting, suggests cutting the orange in half and giving a half to each child. However, when the children continue to protest, the parent instead asks why each child wants the orange. Then, the children reveal that one wants to eat the fruit and the other wants to use the rind to make a cake. Only by inquiring about the children’s interests does the parent help them reach a solution that is better than the one initially proposed. Sometimes, during mediation, I have felt like the parent. The parties may be close to reaching an agreement and I have to refrain from suggesting they split the difference. I realize that is what I must do because so often there is an underlying interest that is causing the continued disagreement, and I know that the problem won’t be resolved until the parties are ready to ready to address that interest directly.

I have internalized the lessons I have learned about self-determination and incorporated them into other areas of my life, including my work at the Family Law and Domestic Violence Clinic housed at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain. For example, after hearing about the abuse my clients endured at the hand of a spouse, my gut reaction is to try to prevent that spouse from spending time with the clients’ children. However, sometimes my clients want their partners to spend time with the children, because the partner is good with the kids or my client thinks a continued relationship with two parents will be beneficial. Even though this is sometimes hard for me to accept, I value my client’s self-determination and trust they are making the right decision.

Finally, I have carried the lessons of HMP into my personal relationships. In fact, my partner likes to refer to it as “mediation black magic” when I ask him open-ended questions about why he wants to buy a boat, rather than telling him he can’t. All jokes aside, I know that making a daily commitment to self-determination has made my relationships stronger. Since my mediation training, I have tried my best to put faith in people’s abilities to understand their situations and come up with solutions that best address their needs. As I think about graduation and what lies ahead, I know my judicial philosophy will serve me well as an attorney. But even more importantly, I know that the human philosophy I formed through HMP will make me a better person and member of the legal community.

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