Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau: Fight Trump’s Threat to Defund the Legal Services Corporation

Via Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Weeks into office, Donald Trump took aim at the 40-year-old Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the single largest funder of civil legal aid, serving two million low-income people nationwide who can’t afford legal representation. His proposal? Destroy LSC’s entire budget —$503 million—every penny of which currently goes toward providing access to justice in our country’s courts. This decision affects us directly: Massachusetts receives $5.1 million in LSC funding and more than 757,235 of the Commonwealth’s residents are eligible for civil legal aid support.

While neither Appropriations Committee has adopted such a drastic measure, the House bill cuts the LSC’s budget by about 25%, and the Senate bill maintains the current funding level. Our message? No cuts; not now, not ever. Civil legal aid is already overburdened and underfunded. Without lawyers to help low-income people enforce their rights, those rights become meaningless, empty promises. These funding threats attack our justice system. We won’t stand for it; you shouldn’t either.

Photo of the building of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau located on Everett Street

Credit: Brooks Kraft
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

We, the student attorneys, staff, and faculty of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), know that if the White House demolishes LSC, it takes our nation’s prized promise down with it: equal justice under law. If Congress slashes the agency’s funding, it’ll destroy a legal aid lifeline millions of low-income Americans rely on, and exacerbate longstanding inequities that low-income communities of color face in our judicial system. The dignity of low-income people—children, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and domestic violence victims—is at stake in courtrooms across our country, and right here in the Commonwealth.

Though HLAB itself doesn’t receive LSC funding, as the second largest provider of civil legal aid in the Greater Boston Area, we know the LSC’s value, and how critical civil legal aid is to providing people with tools to protect their families, homes, health, and livelihoods. Every day we are forced to turn away potential clients, many of whom we refer to LSC-funded organizations, such as the Volunteer Lawyers Project, because we lack the capacity to serve them. But even with the LSC, we can’t meet the current overwhelming need for legal services in our community, from Dorchester to East Boston to Jamaica Plain. There’s already not enough LSC funding to go around—even small cuts would devastate access to justice.

If acted upon, Trump’s proposed cuts to LSC’s full budget will hit all 50 states, hard, and its aftershocks will leave many of our neighbors without the representation they so desperately need and deserve. Defunding LSC means that more domestic violence victims will face their abusers in court alone. It means more tenants who face hefty, arbitrary rent hikes from Boston gentrification projects will be evicted from their homes or continue to endure dangerously sub-standard housing conditions, especially when facing well-resourced landlord attorneys. And that’s only a handful of the consequences we stand to face.

Money shouldn’t determine one’s right to have parenting time, to be free from an abuser, or to stay in one’s home or in this country. The LSC and civil legal aid organizations like ours help level the playing field by providing legal assistance and representation, clinics, pro bono and court-based services, and access to information, language resources, and forms. It fulfills our nation’s bedrock promise of justice for all, not just for the few who can afford it.

When legal services are under attack, what will we do? Stand up and fight back. What can you do? Call your representative. Attend town halls, marches, meetings at City Life Vida Urbana, a tenant rights organization fighting evictions in Boston. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor in your local paper. Donate to a legal services organization. The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau will stand with you, alongside the millions of Americans who deserve the right to counsel. Access to justice is worth fighting for.

Alumnus Alec Karakatsanis and his Civil Rights Corps organization win $14.3 million settlement

Alec Karakatsanis ’08, alumnus of Harvard Defenders and the Criminal Justice Institute and founder of Civil Rights Corps (CRC) is making headlines for his effort to end the practice of jailing people for failure to pay fines or fees.  Recently, CRC won a $14.3 million settlement for over 25,000 impoverished people in Rutherford County, Tennessee, who were the victims of the County’s decision to privatize its probation system. HLS students doing pro bono work over their spring break helped on the case in 2015 and 2016. You can read more via:

The Murfreesboro Post

Rutherford County and Providence Community Corrections have settled a class action lawsuit over private probation practices for $14.3 million, a move compensating nearly 30,000 Tennesseans for fees the company allegedly extorted from probationers.

The private company is paying $14 million and Rutherford County is contributing $300,000 to class action members, according to court documents.

“This case is a tragic illustration of what happens when for-profit companies are allowed to turn the criminal legal system into a mechanism for making money,” said Civil Rights Corps attorney Elizabeth Rossi.

When PCC took over Rutherford County’s probation system several years ago, rather than receiving a fee from the county, it earned millions in profits annually by requiring payments from low-income people under its supervision. Often this meant having probationers sent to jail because they couldn’t afford to pay its private fees and trapping them in a cycle of debt, endless probation extensions and more jail time, the plaintiffs’ attorneys contend.

“The pursuit of money over justice has corrupted our legal system,” said Civil Rights Corps Executive Director and founder Alec Karakatsanis. “No human being should be put in a cage because she cannot make a payment, and no local government should make important decisions about liberty based on profit. We’re pleased that there is agreement to end these exploitative practices forever in Rutherford County.” Continue reading

Independent Clinical with the MacArthur Justice Center Criminal Justice Appellate Clinic

Location: Washington D.C.

Applications Due: October 20, 2017

The Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in Washington, D.C. (“MJC”) is offering a two-credit winter term clinical opportunity for students who are interested in appellate litigation and passionate about criminal justice issues.

Students admitted to the clinic will travel to Washington, D.C. office for the winter term to work full-time on appeals before federal circuit courts and/or the U.S. Supreme Court, which raise important issues related to civil rights and the criminal justice system. Students will have the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the office’s ongoing appellate cases, including performing research and draft legal analysis for briefs that will be filed in federal court. Students will gain exposure to the broader appellate process, which may include participation in client interaction and strategic decision-making, analysis of factual records, and participation in moot oral arguments (depending upon the stage of their assigned appeals). Students will also have the option of continuing the clinic in the spring semester, allowing more substantial involvement in their assigned appeals and increased exposure to appellate litigation.

MJC is one of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations and champions criminal justice reform through litigation, in areas that include police misconduct, rights of the accused, issues facing indigent prisoners, the death penalty, and the rights of detainees. The organization’s Washington, D.C. office focuses specifically on appellate litigation as a vehicle for achieving change in these areas. Examples of issues raised in MJC appeals include:

  • Unsettled questions of criminal procedure under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments (search & seizure, privilege against self-incrimination, right to a jury, right to counsel);
  • Fundamental trial rights under the Due Process Clause, including issues unique to capital trials;
  • Issues facing indigent prisoners, including the constitutional rights of prisoners to be free from cruel and unusual treatment by prison officials and access to courts;
  • Constitutional challenges to the use of solitary confinement in the prison system;
  • Challenges to certain discriminatory executive actions outside of the criminal justice system, including discriminatory practices of Immigrations and Custom Enforcement and discrimination against Muslim travelers at the border.

Students admitted to the clinic will be supervised by Amir H. Ali, who founded MJC’s Washington, D.C. office and serves as Supreme Court & Appellate Counsel. Mr. Ali will be a Lecturer at the law school during the spring term, providing opportunities to meet with students who continue the clinic during the spring semester.


Students interested in this clinic should submit a resume, an unedited writing sample, and a statement of interest (less than 300 words) that includes: (i) the student’s reason for applying to the clinic, including particular criminal justice issues the student is interested in; (ii) any prior exposure to appellate and/or criminal justice issues; (iii) whether the student would be interested in continuing the clinic during the Spring semester. Applications should be submitted to by October 20, 2017.

Limited funding for students’ travel/accommodations in Washington, D.C. will be available through the Office of Clinical Programs. Students will be notified of their application results by October 23, 2017.  Accepted students will be required to submit an Independent Clinical Application to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs by October 31, 2017.

Students interested in applying for funding must submit the Independent Clinical Funding Application by October 31, 2017 as well.

Independent Clinical with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Location: Washington D.C.

Applications Due: October 20, 2017

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious faiths. Becket seeks interns for the winter term to work in its Washington, D.C. office on a variety of Supreme Court, appellate and trial-level matters. Such work might include representing: religious ministries seeking protection from government mandates to violate their faith; Native Americans seeking the right to use eagle feathers in their religious ceremonies; prisoners seeking the right to exercise religion while incarcerated; members of the military seeking accommodations to allow them to continue to serve while meeting religious requirements for their appearance or dress; and mosques, churches, and temples challenging zoning decisions that restrict their ability to build houses of worship or other ministries.

Interested students are requested to send a resume and cover email to and Elizabeth Dobak at by 5pm on Friday October 20, 2017.

Students who are selected must submit an independent clinical application to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) by October 31, 2017.

Students will be eligible for housing expense reimbursement from Becket.

Students seeking reimbursements for travel will need to submit a funding request to OCP by October 31, 2017.

LSC Alumna Leading the Way for People with Disabilities

Via Legal Services Center

Haben Girma, a Harvard Law School alum and alum of LSC’s Disability Litigation Unit (now the Safety Net Project), is featured on the cover of the September issue of the American Bar Association Journal for her consulting and public speaking work encouraging companies to hire people with disabilities and to develop fully accessible products and services. Girma has worked with organizations ranging from Apple and Google to Pearson Education and the American Alliance of Museums.

Before going into consulting, this former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom fellow practiced litigation for more than two years with the nonprofit organization Disability Rights Advocates.

Girma is a first-generation immigrant who has both limited hearing and vision and refers to herself as “Deafblind.” She was named one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels.

Successfully Protecting Housing Rights of Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse Survivors

Via Legal Services Center

photo of apartment buildings

Getting out of a lease to leave an unsafe home

Attorneys and students in LSC’s Housing Justice for Survivors Project are working on multiple fronts to protect the rights of survivors of sexual assault and physically abusive relationships to ensure that they have safe, affordable housing. Sometimes that means helping tenants break a lease to relocate quickly. In other cases, it means fighting to help them hold onto an apartment the survivor formerly shared with an abuser.

Their efforts are leading to favorable rulings in the courts and greater understanding of state laws that protect survivors from being re-victimized.
Most recently, their work filing an amicus brief in one case has helped lead to a major court ruling in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. That ruling ensures that even if a survivor’s name is not on a lease, even if she/he is labelled an “unauthorized occupant” by the landlord, or even if she/he is accused of fraud for living in the apartment without being on the lease, she/he still may have a valid claim to the apartment and that claim should be heard at trial.

Survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking often have to leave their homes with little notice or planning in order to avoid harm by a perpetrator who knows where they live. Clients of LSC have had to leave their homes because their perpetrator lived upstairs, because they were getting ready to file criminal charges and feared retribution, because their abuser threatened their safety in and around their homes, or because their rapist worked around the corner from where they live.

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LSC Reaches Out to Homeless and At-Risk Vets at Stand Down 2017

Via Legal Services Center

Group photo of the Legal Services Center staff

Members of the Veterans Clinic at LSC with volunteers from Veterans Legal Services as well as the MA Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena

A team of lawyers from LSC’s Veterans Clinic joined staff and volunteer lawyers from Veterans Legal Services  to offer legal advice at  the 2017 Greater Boston Stand Down on September 8 at City Hall Plaza. More than 100 Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness came to the legal services tent as part of the day’s events.

Stand Downs take place across the country and bring together community providers and Veterans in one place to make it easier for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to access services such as employment assistance, housing assistance, medical care, wellness programs, legal support, and prevention services.

The event in Boston was organized by the New England Center and Home for Veterans.

LSC has participated in the Greater Boston Stand Down for several years, and a number of veterans who attend the event each year ultimately become LSC clients to receive in-depth legal representation on issues such as VA and disability benefits, SNAP and other public benefits, tax controversies, or issues concerning housing law, family law, estate planning, and consumer law.

HRP Welcomes New Staff and Visiting Fellows

Via International Human Rights Clinic

Photo of Debbie Frempong and Dana Walters side by side

Debbie Frempong and Dana Walters, the new program assistants at HRP.

Now that the semester is underway, we want to extend our warmest welcome to all of the new staff and Visiting Fellows at the Human Rights Program. They are, in a word, fantastic.

Debbie Frempong, the new Program Assistant for the International Human Rights Clinic, comes to us from Harvard Divinity School, where she graduated with an MTS in Religion, Politics and Ethics. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Politics from Pomona College.

Debbie is taking on many of the responsibilities previously held by Katherine Young, who until recently worked as Program Associate. This summer, she was promoted to Program Manager, in charge of administrative management of the International Human Rights Clinic and the financial administration of the Human Rights Program.

Dana Walters, the new Program Assistant for the Academic Program, comes to us from the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she was a coordinator, and the Atlantic Media Company, where she was a fellow. Dana holds a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, where she was previously pursuing a doctorate.

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Spotlight on Student Practice Organizations

Harvard Law School has 11 Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) providing students a wide range of opportunities to gain practical legal experience starting in their 1L year.  Each SPO is headed by 2L and 3L students who serve in leadership positions and one or more supervising attorneys who provide legal oversight and supervision. Most SPOs also work closely with an HLS clinic so students enjoy a cohesive experience in the respective area of the law during their time at HLS.

Every fall semester, Student Practice Organizations host information sessions to familiarize new students with their work and application process. A list of these events and deadlines can be found here. Most (but not all) SPOs require an application and all of them require students to complete a training. Everyone, including LL.M. students, is welcomed and encouraged to participate in SPO practice.

While students do not receive academic credit for participating in SPOs, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement starting 1L year.

Student responsibilities and time commitment vary across SPOs. Students who participate have found the experience to be positive and meaningful. They report they enjoy the community they build with other students while helping real people and communities in need of legal services.

Here are some of their reflections:

Harvard Law School Library: A trove of resources for clinics and student practice organizations

The Harvard Law School library offers a wealth of resources including information guides, tools, and toolkits relevant to students and faculty working in clinics and student practice organizations (SPOs). With the front-line lawyer in mind, the library covers more than 50 subject areas, each one detailing the best way to get started with legal research, including pertinent regulations, case law, and journal articles.

There are also more than 10 Library Liaisons, assigned to the clinics and SPOs, ready to help clinical faculty, staff, and students develop efficient research skills and techniques through training sessions and individual meetings.

More than that, clinics and SPOs have access to a number of online tools, including:

  • LexisNexis, where a dedicated LexisNexis on-campus-representative can offer trainings on topics related to a specific clinic’s subject matter;
  • WestlawNext for quick access to textual forms and clauses, fillable PDF forms, and drafting aids;
  • Bloomberg Law to find a topic and keep current on issues; and
  • Practicing Law Institute Discover Plus for access to more than 50,000 documents, including treatises, course handbooks, answers books, transcripts, and forms.

Recently, the library began offering free and total access to Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education’s (MCLE) OnlinePass, a searchable database containing all MCLE’s live and archived webcasts, books, forms, and practice-area professional development plans.

OCP encourages you explore these resources and connect with your library liaison, individually or as a group, to meet your specific clinic or SPO needs.

For more information please visit the library’s Services for HLS Clinics and SPOs website.

Guidance to undocumented/DACAmented members of the Harvard University community

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

University President Drew Faust recently sent a letter to President Trump urging him to continue the DACA Program and to vigorously defend it in federal courts. In her letter President Faust writes: “At Harvard and other institutions of higher education across the country, DACA has made it possible for talented and motivated students to pursue their education and explore meaningful ways of contributing to our communities and economy.”

The University will continue to advocate for the continuance of DACA and will continue to support DACA and undocumented students with resources needed to thrive in their academic endeavors at Harvard and beyond. In that context, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Harvard Law School extends the following guidance to individuals concerned about DACA status.

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Welcoming Kendra Albert and Kicking Off the 2017-18 Academic Year!

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

With September just around the corner, we here in the Cyberlaw Clinic are eager to get the fall semester underway. And, we are especially excited to announce that the start of the new term comes with a new addition to our practice and teaching team in the form of the one and only Kendra Albert! Kendra is a familiar face around Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center, having worked at Berkman before attending law school at HLS. Kendra was a student in the Cyberlaw Clinic during the spring term of their third year, back in 2016. Kendra spent a year in private practice at Zeitgeist Law in San Francisco from 2016-17 before rejoining us as a Clinical Instructional Fellow this week.  We are delighted to have Kendra on board and anticipate that they will contribute to a wide variety of our projects involving privacy, copyright, and related issues.

Portrait photo of Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructional Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructional Fellow, Cyberlaw Clinic

Kendra’s arrival comes in the midst of some additional staff changes at the Clinic. We are delighted to report that Jessica Fjeld has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Director of the Clinic and has been appointed a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. In that capacity, Jess will co-teach the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar along with Clinical Professor Chris Bavitz this fall. Vivek Krishnamurthy will take on the role of Clinic Attorney, splitting his time between Clinic projects concerning technology and human rights and Berkman Klein Center research initiatives (primarily from his new homebase on the west coast).

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FLPC Welcomes New Team Member Katie Sandson

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Portrait photo of Katie Sandson, Clinical Fellow, Food Law and Policy Clinic

Katie Sandson, Clinical Fellow, Food Law and Policy Clinic

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is happy to welcome Katie Sandson to the team as a Clinical Fellow!

Katie first became involved with the Food Law and Policy Clinic as a student in the Food Law and Policy Seminar in the fall of 2015. During law school, she spent three semesters with FLPC as a clinical student, focusing primarily on state and federal food waste and food recovery initiatives, as well as the clinic’s work in Navajo Nation. As a law student, Katie also participated in the Employment Law Clinic and the Tenant Advocacy Project, worked as a research assistant on the Access to Justice Lab’s Intimate Partner Violence Triage Study, and was a member of the Senior Board of the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

Katie received her B.A. in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and her J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 2017.

FLPC Welcomes New Team Member Nicole Negowetti

Via Food Law & Policy Clinic

Portrait photo of Nicole Negowetti, Clinical Instructor

Nicole Negowetti, Clinical Instructor

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is happy to welcome Nicole Negowetti, who joins as a Clinical Instructor.

Prior to joining FLPC, Nicole was Policy Director of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on creating a sustainable, healthy, and humane food system by supporting transformative plant-based and cultured food technology companies.  Nicole also served as an Associate Professor of Law at the Valparaiso University School of Law from 2011- 2016.  As a law professor, her teaching and research focused on food law and policy, agricultural law, and sustainability. Nicole serves on the Food & Drug Law Journal Editorial Advisory Board and is a founding member of the Academy of Food Law & Policy. She is also a co-founder of the Northwest Indiana Food Council, whose mission is to build a just, sustainable, and thriving locally-oriented food system.

Nicole graduated magna cum laude from the University of New Hampshire Law School and earned a master’s degree in Peace and Development Studies from the University of Limerick, Ireland. Following graduation from law school, Nicole clerked for the Honorable Carol Ann Conboy of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Clinical alumna Catherine Howard ’16 is helping undocumented children pro bono

Via Hollywood Reporter

Group photo of O'Melveny attorneys Amy Siegel, Jordyn Ostroff, Matt Kline, David Lash and Catherine Howard pictured from left to right.

Courtesy of O’Melveny & Meyers
From left: O’Melveny attorneys Amy Siegel, Jordyn Ostroff, Matt Kline, David Lash and Catherine Howard.

How a Hollywood Law Firm Is Helping Undocumented Children Survive Trump

When President Trump signed an executive order in January preventing people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S., attorneys across the country sprang into action, racing to their local airports to sort through the legal chaos. O’Melveny & Myers attorneys were among them. “I spent the weekend of the travel ban working with lawyers all over the country to try to coordinate a response,” says David Lash, who oversees the Los Angeles-based law firm’s pro bono program. “By the end of the weekend, we had an email list of 900 lawyers.”

But even before Trump’s executive order, O’Melveny lawyers had been devoting thousands of hours to pro bono immigration efforts, all but making it a specialty of the firm. In fact, the very day Trump enacted the ban, Lash’s team was working with in-house attorneys at Warner Bros. to hold a clinic for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a nonprofit founded by Angelina Jolie and Microsoft in 2008 that connects undocumented children with pro bono lawyers to make sure they’re represented in immigration court. “We had 100 people on the 18th floor of our L.A. office,” says entertainment litigator Matt Kline. “In one conference room, there was a TV on, and I remember kids walking by and seeing images of what was going on in Washington, D.C. There was a lot of fear.” The attorneys sat down with the kids, often coloring to break the ice, and listened to their stories. “It was completely gut-wrenching,” says Lash. “We had 12-year-olds who saw their parents gunned down in front of them.”

So far, the firm’s SoCal offices have held three KIND clinics and put in more than 3,500 pro bono hours for KIND cases in the past year. Entertainment associates Jordyn Ostroff and Catherine Howard are representing a pair of young sisters from El Salvador in their efforts to stay in the U.S. “We’re going to try to get what’s called Special Immigrant Juveniles Status,” says Howard. “That is for children who come into the U.S. and, either because of neglect or abandonment, don’t have parents and would be threatened if they went back to their home country.”

The firm is working with KIND to set up clinics in San Francisco and New York — but that’s not the only way it’s making an impact on immigration issues. “We were recently on the briefs in the United States v. Texas case, which is an immigration case involving the challenge to the Obama policy regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA],” says partner Brian Berliner. “We’re also involved in drafting legislation. Our work runs the gamut of small clients all the way up to classes of clients.”

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Moving Day in Boston: What Are Tenants’ Rights?

Via Housing Law Clinic

With the single biggest residential moving day in Greater Boston coming up on September 1, renters moving out of one place and signing a lease on a new one need to know their rights as tenants. One way to do that is to check out the newly updated book Legal Tactics: Private Housing, an easy-to-understand, comprehensive handbook on Massachusetts tenants’ rights for lay audiences.

Portrait photo of Julia Devanthery, Clinical Instructor, Housing Law Clinic

Julia Devanthery, Clinical Instructor, Housing Law Clinic

The book focuses on private rental housing and answers questions on everything from security deposits and last month’s rent to rent and utilities, repairs, evictions, housing discrimination, lead poisoning, mobile homes, and tenants in foreclosed properties.

It is available for free online or you can purchase a hard copy online or by calling   Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education at 1-800-966-6253 .

Portrait photo of Maureen McDonagh, Lecturer on Law, Housing Law Clinic

Maureen McDonagh, Lecturer on Law, Housing Law Clinic

More than forty sample forms, letters, and checklists provide tenants and their advocates with the tools needed to prevent problems, gain protections, and communicate effectively with landlords, boards of health, and courts. A one-stop reference, this book also provides the legal information tenants need through footnotes, an expanded phone directory, and actual text of key laws.

“This book empowers unrepresented people and arms non-lawyer advocates as they take on powerful opponents and navigate a challenging legal system,” says Julia Devanthery, one of the lawyers at LSC who represents low income clients on housing issues.

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A Call to Dialogue After Charlottesville

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

As someone working in the field of dispute resolution and committed to the importance of dialogue, I find it difficult to know where to go with the events in Charlottesville. There were actual neo-Nazis in Charlottesville participating in a rally in which someone was killed. The wrongness of white supremacist ideology is certainly not subject to discussion, so what would dialogue even entail? The violent rally and the beliefs expressed by its participants call for simple condemnation.

We must remember that this is not an isolated incident. The racism on display in Charlottesville has been with us all along, and the claims about American identity and heritage made by the far right are currently at the heart of our politics. The extremists carrying weapons and openly advocating white supremacy are distractions—albeit important, dangerous distractions—from the deeper issues running through American history that will continue to poison our politics in the absence of genuine dialogue. Can dialogue about our history accomplish anything? As a dispute resolution practitioner with a previous background as a historian, I remain hopeful, even if recent events give reason for cynicism.

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HIRC student Brianna Rennix (JD ’18) publishes “At the Border” in Current Affairs Magazine

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Photo from the article "At the Border", written by Brianna Rennix JD '18

Via Current Affairs Magazine article “At the Border”

For the past two summers, HIRC student Brianna Rennix (JD ’18) has traveled to Texas to represent mothers and children struggling to obtain humanitarian protection. As a part of the CARA Pro Bono Project, Brianna worked alongside immigration lawyers to provide free legal aid to women and children at family detention centers. Read about her experience in Current Affairs Magazine:

“When women and children first began appearing at the border in significant numbers, during Obama’s presidency, they were detained and processed in a highly clandestine manner. Women, along with their children, were locked up without access to legal counsel. Exhausted, traumatized, terrified, most of them were rapidly deported without any substantive opportunity to appeal the decision to a judge. The purpose of this high-speed deportation mill was to get people out the country as quickly and unpleasantly as possible, in the hopes that rumors of this poor reception would deter future border-crossers.

Then some immigration lawyers got wind of the situation and decided to set up permanent shop right next to the family detention centers. Since the lawyers got involved, rates of positive credible fear determinations have gone up exponentially, indicating that a lot of the people who were deported under the earlier system almost certainly had viable asylum claims.” Continue reading

Upcoming Clinic Application Deadlines

Please note the upcoming clinic application deadlines:

Making Rights Real: The Ghana Project Clinic – Application Deadline Extended to August 25, 2017

Government Lawyer: Semester in Washington Clinic – Applications Due By August 25, 2017

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers Fall 2017

Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers is a non-credit class that offers HLS students the opportunity to learn Spanish language skills in a legal context, emphasizing language most commonly used in civil and criminal legal services practice. The class will strengthen existing Spanish speaking and comprehension abilities and teach Spanish legal vocabulary to students involved in public interest legal practice. The class will introduce students to general legal Spanish vocabulary (e.g. immigration, human rights, legal aid, etc.). Students will work to develop stronger attorney-client relations by improving communication with Spanish-speaking clients.


To Apply: Email with the following information by 5 PM on Wednesday, August 30:

  • Name
  • Year (1L, 2L, 3L, LL.M.)
  • If applicable, name of the clinic or SPO you will be working with in the spring and any clinic or SPO you have previously worked with.
  • At least one paragraph, in Spanish, describing your general interests and your focus in law sch
  • Bullet points (also in Spanish) that list past or current experiences you’ve had speaking Spanish or working with Spanish-speaking client

Students will be contacted by September 1 with the results of their application. Students who are accepted will receive more information about the class schedule and location. Classes will be held weekly. The first class will meet the week of September 11 and the last class will meet the week of November 13.

In Crimmigration Clinic victory, Supreme Judicial Court rules state law enforcement lacks ‘detainer’ authority

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Emmanuel Huybrechts via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Emmanuel Huybrechts via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, in a victory for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program’s Crimmigration Clinic, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a significant ruling on the question of whether Massachusetts police can detain and arrest someone for a U.S. immigration violation.

The court ruled in the case of Lunn v. Commonwealth that the Commonwealth’s law enforcement officers do not have the authority to arrest and detain an individual solely pursuant to a Detainer–a request from federal immigration authorities that a person placed under arrest by local authorities be further detained if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) believes the person may be deportable. The court arrived at the ruling based on the fact that there is no state statutory law or common law authorizing such an arrest.

In March, HIRC’s Crimmigration Clinic filed an amicus brief in Lunn v. Commonwealththat discussed the lack of legislative authorization for Massachusetts law enforcement officers and courts to arrest and detain an individual solely pursuant to an ICE Detainer. Specifically, the brief analyzed other civil arrest and detention authority under Massachusetts law and noted that procedural protections in those instances are absent when someone is held pursuant to an ICE detainer.

Crimmigration Clinic Supervisor and Lecturer on Law Phil Torrey, who is also HIRC’s managing attorney, and supervising attorney for the Harvard Immigration Project, filed the brief with Mark C. Fleming ’97, a partner at WilmerHale and vice-chair of the firm’s appellate and Supreme Court litigation practice.

Following the court’s decision, Torrey said, “In this landmark decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recognized what advocates have been saying for years — there is no legal authority for Massachusetts law enforcement officer to detain someone solely pursuant to an ICE detainer. It is unlawful.”

Five HLS students helped write the brief: Tess Hellgren ’18, Emma Rekart ’17, Madelyn Finucane ’19, Harleen Gambhir ’19, and Alexander Milvae ’19. Hellgren and Rekart described the case and the brief, from which parts of the decision were drawn, on the HLS Clinical and Pro Bono Programs blog.

The decision, is the first ruling by a state’s high court on the question of whether state or local authorities can detain individuals based solely on a request by federal immigration authorities.

For additional coverage, visit

The New York Times: Court Officers Can’t Hold People Solely Under ICE Detainers, Massachusetts Justices Rule

WBUR“Mass. High Court Rules Local Authorities Can’t Detain People Solely On ICE Detainers”

It’s Time For Congress To Join The Fight Against Food Waste

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Originally published on on July 26, 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.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

This week, I am excited to join a group of advocates and chefs from Food Policy Action, the National Resource Defense CouncilReFed, and the James Beard Foundation in Washington, D.C. to put food waste on the plates of Congress.

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Department of Agriculture announced a national goal to halve food waste by 2030, but these agencies and Congress have not yet adopted policies to help us meet this ambitious goal. We are now approaching a critical opportunity to implement such policy change: the U.S. Farm Bill, expected to pass in 2018. This legislation shapes our food and agriculture system, covering everything from rural broadband to food assistance programs—yet the last Farm Bill, enacted in 2014, didn’t put a single dollar towards food waste reduction efforts.

Along with other food waste advocates, we have been working tirelessly to change that. Food waste is a drain on our economy and our environment, and reducing this waste has demonstrated triple bottom-line results: sending healthy, wholesome food to those in need, reducing the negative environmental impacts of food waste, and creating jobs and economic activity. These are the types of solutions our communities and our businesses want to see from Congress.

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Banning the Bomb: Reflections on the UN Negotiations for the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty

Via International Human Rights Clinic

photo of two students at UN

Carina Bentata Gryting and Alice Osman in the UN General Assembly Hall where the negotiations opened in March 2017.

By Carina Bentata Gryting JD ’18, Molly Doggett JD ’17, Lan Mei JD ’17, and Alice Osman LLM ’17

Signing up for the International Human Rights Clinic in spring 2017, we could not have imagined that it would lead us to the United Nations and global negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. With Bonnie Docherty and Anna Crowe as our clinical supervisors, we worked alongside London-based organization Article 36 as well as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition at the conference. We had the unique opportunity to not only witness, but also actually participate in, norm-building at the international level.

It was at times difficult to explain to those not involved in the negotiations why the ban treaty was an important or even a sensible cause. Many people questioned the impact of a treaty being boycotted by the nuclear-armed states and their allies. For those of us participating in the negotiations, however, the purpose behind the treaty was complex but clear.

Nuclear weapons should no longer be the only weapon of mass destruction not prohibited by international law. A categorical ban on nuclear weapons would increase the stigma surrounding the weapons and ramp up pressure on nuclear states to work towards eliminating their arsenals. Moreover, a strong humanitarian motivation drove the treaty. Prior conferences on the impact of nuclear weapons had led many countries to declare the catastrophic effect of nuclear weapons incompatible with any legal or practical purpose. Countries like the Marshall Islands, Algeria, and Kazakhstan suffered from years of testing and their populations have experienced decades-long harm. Victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as Hibakusha, along with their children and grandchildren, still deal with the health and environmental consequences of atomic bombs today. Survivors of this use and testing offered compelling testimony for why nuclear weapons should be banned.

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Harvard Mediation Program Welcomes New Clinical Instructor

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

Catherine Mondell, Clinical Instructor, Harvard Mediation Program

Catherine Mondell, Clinical Instructor, Harvard Mediation Program

The Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) of Harvard Law School is pleased to announce the addition of a new team member. Catherine Mondell recently joined the staff as Clinical Instructor for the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP), a student practice organization under the auspices of HNMCP.

Cathy will supervise clinical students in the Harvard Mediation Program and work with HMP’s mediators, court liaisons and staff to support continued excellence in the mediation services HMP provides to the community. Alongside her work with HMP, Cathy maintains a private practice which focuses on mediation and arbitration services for complex commercial cases, is an active member of multiple organizations in the Boston area that support and promote dispute resolution alternatives, and has coached and taught mediation and negotiation skills to groups through the Harvard Negotiation Institute at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard, and to graduate students at other area schools.

“The Harvard Mediation Program has a strong commitment to training new mediators, a long-standing track record of providing opportunities for application of mediation skills, and a rich legacy of service to the community,” says Cathy. “I am thrilled to be joining such a fantastic team, and look forward to working with the clinical students as they experience all that the Mediation Program has to offer.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and former Partner at Ropes & Gray, Cathy spent the first 18 years of her legal career successfully litigating business, insurance and securities cases. Throughout that period, she worked with her clients to identify and deploy a wide range of dispute resolution tools, including mediation, arbitration, targeted litigation and structured settlement discussions. As of 2015, Cathy has focused exclusively on work as a mediator, neutral and educator.

“Cathy’s passion for mediation, her keen perspectives as a former litigator and now full-time ADR professional combined with the sensibilities that complement her work, provide a powerful example which students and others in the Mediation Program can learn from and aspire to themselves. It’s exciting to have her on board,” says Maureen (Mo) Griffin, Program Manager at the Harvard Mediation Program.

The Harvard Mediation Program’s (HMP) mission is to enhance the experiences of Harvard Law School students and other members of HMP by providing diverse opportunities to learn, practice, and teach mediation, and to serve the community by promoting effective mediation services.

This mission is accomplished by student board members elected to fulfill a variety of roles, community members, and HMP’s liaisons, who supervise new mediators and provide a constant presence in and connection to the courts that HMP serves.HMP is guided by experienced and dedicated staff members and the Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program.

The Clinic hires human rights advocates Yee Htun and Salma Waheedi as clinical instructors

Via International Human Rights Clinic

We are thrilled to announce that the Human Rights Program has hired Yee Htun and Salma Waheedi as clinical instructors in our International Human Rights Clinic.

For the past year, Yee and Salma have worked with us as clinical advocacy fellows, supervising projects on everything from land rights and telecommunications policies in Myanmar to torture in Iraq. They also share a strong focus on gender justice.

For Yee, that focus comes from a personal place. She’s spent most of her career as an attorney working on women’s rights, often with refugee and migrant communities. Yee herself was born in Myanmar and immigrated to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee.

“Women’s rights for me is not an abstract concept but a cause to which I have dedicated most of my life’s work to,” said Yee. “Whether it is coordinating and launching the first ever global campaign with Nobel Peace Laureates to stop sexual violence in conflict or offering legal counsel to women’s organizations seeking to enact a prevention of violence against women law, I have done it out of the belief that only when we give power to women and girls do we advance the human rights for all.”

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The Leading Music Law Schools of 2017

Via Billboard

Behind the success of every artist — from the industry mainstays and chart-toppers to rising stars — is a lawyer fielding the deals and disputes that are a constant part of today’s ever-evolving music business. With the rise of new business models and the growing dependence on brand licensing and streaming, attorneys are more important than ever. The scope of their legal expertise is also wider, moving beyond issues of contract law to questions of intellectual property in the digital age and social justice in entertainment.

At which law schools do the top music counselors gain expertise? These 12 stand out as the alma maters of the majority of music’s most accomplished litigators.

Harvard Law School

City: Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 1,771
Tuition and fees: $66,142 per year

Alumni who represent music artists will be on the bill for a two-day arts festival in September celebrating Harvard Law’s bicentennial year. The fest will include performances by clients represented by the school’s long-running Recording Artists Project, a legal-services clinic through which students provide pro bono legal services for Boston-area musicians. RAP and the Committee on Sports & Entertainment Law complement such courses as a new music and digital media class, which under Professor Christopher Bavitz explores music and the way legal principles manifest themselves in practice in the music industry.

Alumnus: Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel, Spotify

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Apply Today for the 2018 HLS Semester in Washington Program!

Deadline: August 25, 2017

Apply Now

The program is an extraordinary opportunity to work at the intersection of government, policy, and practice while pursuing your particular interests. Clinic participants spend the spring semester (or winter & spring semesters) living in Washington and working as legal interns in federal offices in the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial Branches. The placements, in offices where lawyers provide legal advice and assistance on policy, legislative, or regulatory matters, are developed collaboratively between the students and the Program Director to match to the students’ interests.

Previous placements have included the White House Counsel’s Office, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights, Criminal, and Environmental Divisions, the Department of Defense’s Office of General Counsel, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Senate Judiciary, Armed Services and Energy Committees, and many more.

To learn more about the program, take a look at the clinic’s blog, where you can find information on the course portion of the program and much more.

If you have any questions or want to discuss how the clinic might help further your goals, you can email the Clinic Director, Jonathan Wroblewski, at or give him a call at 202-514-4730. He’d love to hear from you!

The initial application deadline for the Clinic is August 25, 2017Apply today through the online application process!

LSC’s Project on Predatory Student Lending and Public Citizen Sue to Stop Education Department’s Illegal Regulatory Delay

Via Legal Services Center

The U.S. Department of Education broke the law when it announced a delay of a rule designed to protect students defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges and career training programs, two borrowers said in a lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The borrowers are represented by Public Citizen and the Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

The lawsuit was brought by Meaghan Bauer and Stephano Del Rose, former students of the for-profit New England Institute of Art (NEIA) in Brookline, Mass. They allege that NEIA, which is owned by Education Management Corporation (EDMC), engaged in unfair and deceptive practices against them and other students that left them with a useless education, few job prospects and a mountain of debt. The students intend to bring suit against the school for its conduct in court, on behalf of a class. They also have asserted a federal right to have the Education Department cancel loans that the students obtained to attend the school based on the school’s unlawful conduct. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the Department’s delay of the rule, and would allow the rule to take effect for all borrowers.

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Fueling Our Work to Reduce Food Waste: A Workshop in Maryland

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic 

Once you start working on food waste issues, you start to see it everywhere—from your bleary-eyed 7 a.m. breakfast at your hotel’s buffet to the conference spread of delicious, healthy salads and wraps. Where is all this leftover food going to go? You wonder, recalling the logistical barriers you’ve been researching for weeks. How can we keep it from going to waste?

Food Law and Policy Clinic

At Recovering Food in the Chesapeake Region: Policies, Resources and Innovations, a day-long conference we co-hosted with our partners at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future(CLF) in Silver Spring, Maryland, we clearly had some dedicated advocates in the audience. I say this not just because they asked thoughtful, in-depth questions about food waste reduction and recycling policies, nor because they presented their own clear and effective strategies and success stories of getting food waste policies off the ground. I say this because our 40-some attendees completely cleared the buffet table at the end of the day. Not a single cookie or vegan BLT wrap was left.

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Veterans Legal Clinic Files Class Action Against Massachusetts Treasury on Behalf of Veterans with Bad-Paper Discharges

Via Veterans Legal Clinic

Jeffrey Machado, one of the lead plaintiffs, while serving in Afghanistan.

Jeffrey Machado, one of the lead plaintiffs, while serving in Afghanistan.

On June 29, the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School filed a class action lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of Army combat veteran Jeffrey Machado and an estimated 4,000 veterans from Massachusetts who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere since 9/11 but are considered to be undeserving of the state’s $1000 Welcome Home Bonus given to servicemembers when they are honorably discharged from the military.

The lead plaintiffs in this suit are two former Soldiers from Massachusetts who deployed to Afghanistan, honorably completed their enlistments, re-enlisted so that they could continue serving their country, and then later left the military with a bad-paper discharge assigned to their final enlistment periods.  Both are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to their deployments and experienced family and health issues that contributed to the conduct that led to the bad-paper discharges.

The Massachusetts Legislature created the Welcome Home Bonus in 2005, continuing a long tradition of providing benefits to returning servicemembers from Massachusetts. However, the Massachusetts State Treasury, which is charged with administering the Bonus program, recently decided that the two veteran plaintiffs were not eligible for the Welcome Home Bonus because their final enlistment periods ended with bad-paper discharges, despite the fact that their prior enlistments during which they had deployed had ended with honorable discharges.

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