By Lerae Kroon,
The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau’s dual mission of service and learning was exactly what I was looking for when I came to law school. I hope to provide civil legal services to low-income populations as a career, and after sitting in my 1L classes for a year I was ready to jump into the work. Because the Bureau is student run, I knew that I would not only get unparalleled litigation experience and mentorship from my clinical instructors, but also be able to take ownership over HLAB’s mission of community lawyering in the Greater Boston Community.
In my two years at HLAB I have represented clients as the lead attorney in housing, family, wage & hour, and benefits cases. During my first week I helped my client obtain a restraining order against her physically abusive husband. Since then I have prepared for trials, negotiated settlements, obtained a $90,000 judgment for a worker who had not been paid, and been in housing court more times than I can count. Throughout, I had complete control of all elements of my cases from intake to case closing, but was always able to turn to my clinical instructor for feedback, advice and support. The Bureau also offered me the experience of finding alternative ways to address the current shortage of legal services. I co-led a class that teaches pro-se litigants how to file for divorce, and I regularly assisted tenants through the Attorney for the Day program at Boston Housing Court.
The opportunity to do the work I care about, surrounded by both my clinical instructors and my fellow Bureau members was an incredible way to start my legal career. I gained skills in client counseling, negotiation, legal writing, and oral advocacy; perhaps more importantly I gained the confidence to be a zealous advocate for the population I plan to serve. As a member of HLAB’s board of directors I was able to better understand how to run a legal services organization and think critically about how to most effectively deliver legal services and to expand access to justice to the many low-income people in our community. HLAB celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, and I plan to do my best to carry on its rich history of innovation and service with me as I begin my career.