Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

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Clinic and HRW Document Use of Incendiary Weapons by Coalition of Syrian Government and Russian Forces

Via International Human Rights Clinic

(Geneva, November 20, 2017) – Countries should respond to reports of new use of incendiary weapons in Syria by working to strengthen the international law governing these exceptionally cruel weapons, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 28-page report, “An Overdue Review: Addressing Incendiary Weapons in the Contemporary Context,” documents use of incendiary weapons by the coalition of Syrian government and Russian forces in 2017. It urges countries at a UN disarmament meeting, held in Geneva from November 22 to 24, 2017, to initiate a review of Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). This protocol, which regulates incendiary weapons, has failed to prevent their ongoing use, endangering civilians.

“Countries should react to the threat posed by incendiary weapons by closing the loopholes in outdated international law,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, which co-published the report. “Stronger law would mean stronger protections for civilians.”

Docherty, who is also senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch, presented the report’s findings at a side event at the United Nations in Geneva today.

Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. They can be designed for marking and signaling or to burn materiel, penetrate plate metal, or produce smokescreens. Incendiary weapons cause excruciating burns, disfigurement, and psychological trauma, and they start fires that destroy civilian objects and infrastructure.

For the first time in nearly four decades, countries that are parties to the 1980 treaty have devoted a specific session at their annual meeting to Protocol III. The meeting will also address fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots.”

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Phil Torrey’s article “Jennings v. Rodriguez and the Future of Immigration Detention” published in Harvard Latinx Law Review

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Managing Attorney of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Philip L. Torrey, recently published an article, Jennings v. Rodriguez and the Future of Immigration Detention”, in the Harvard Latinx Law Review. The article explores the possible implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision in the Jennings v. Rodriguez case.

Immigration detention will likely play a central role in the Trump administration’s efforts to increase deportations. Despite the President’s broad authority to detain, the U.S. Supreme Court will have an opportunity this term to limit that authority. In Jennings, the Court will consider both statutory and constitutional challenges to the government’s ability to detain certain individuals without providing them the opportunity to be released on bond. Not only does the Court’s decision in Jennings have the potential to restrict the government’s use of immigration detention, but it could simultaneously chip away at the plenary power doctrine, which traditionally accords Congress and the President broad authority to enact, administer, and enforce immigration law without judicial oversight.

Project on Predatory Student Lending’s Director of Litigation, Eileen Connor, selected for the 2017 “Rising Star” award from the National Consumer Law Center

Via Legal Services Center

The Project on Predatory Student Lending’s Director of Litigation, Eileen Connor, has been selected for the 2017 “Rising Star” award from the National Consumer Law Center for her significant contributions to consumer law. Eileen’s award comes as a result of her Second Circuit victory in the case Salazar v. King. Her clients were defrauded by the predatory practices of the now-defunct Wilfred Beauty Academy.

Wilfred, a for-profit chain of cosmetology and business trade schools, came under government investigation in the 1980s for the misuse of student aid funds and the falsification of loan applications. The result of the investigation was an overwhelming amount of evidence proving Wilfred’s fraud in certifying students’ eligibility for loans. In 1996, the Department of Education found that Wilfred’s fraudulent practices were widespread and recommended that all Wilfred students who were improperly enrolled receive a loan discharge, reimbursement for money they had paid, and a restoration of their credit. Despite its own recommendation, the Department continued to collect on these loans, including through involuntary collection methods such as seizing tax refunds and garnishing wages.

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Interested in Clinical Work for Spring 2018? It’s Not Too Late!

Clinics with Open Seats

The following spring clinics still have a few seats available! Please log in to Helios and navigate to the Add/Drop section to enroll in one of these clinics.  Open seats will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Child Advocacy Clinic

Community Enterprise Project
(by-application, please see description for more information)

Education Law Clinic

Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

Federal Tax Clinic

Food Law and Policy Clinic

Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic

Health Law and Policy Clinic

Housing Law Clinic

Please do not hesitate to contact our office ( with any questions.

Native leader, legal beacon

Via Harvard Gazette

Julian SpearChief-Morris is the first indigenous student to head Harvard Law School’s venerable Legal Aid Bureau

Portrait photo of Julian SpearChief-Morris

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Julian SpearChief-Morris is the first indigenous president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the country’s oldest student-run organization providing free legal services, in its 104 years.

Growing up in the mostly white city of Lethbridge in southern Alberta, Canada, Julian SpearChief-Morris often felt out of place.

With an African-American father from Los Angeles and a Canadian mother from the Blood reserve, one of the four indigenous nations that make up the Blackfoot Confederacy, SpearChief-Morris found it hard to feel completely at home either at the reserve or in the city where he was raised.

“It was pretty difficult, especially in high school, because there weren’t many people who looked like me, or came from a background like mine,” he recalled. “I often felt I didn’t fit in.”

But after graduating from a local college and coming to Harvard Law School(HLS), with its diverse student body, SpearChief-Morris felt right at home. And when he was admitted to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, one of the three honor societies at the School, he found a family. It’s a place that SpearChief-Morris has made his own.

In his last year at the School, SpearChief-Morris has left a mark in the storied history of the organization, which was founded in 1913 to provide legal services to low-income clients in the Boston area.

He is the first indigenous student to lead the bureau.

Like the Harvard Law Review and the Bureau of Student Advisers, the bureau is a highly selective organization that has featured among its members former first lady Michelle Obama, J.D. ’88, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ’78, J.D. ’82, and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch ’81, J.D. ’84, all of whom represented low-income clients before the courts.

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Clinical Legal Education beyond the Bicentennial

Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

A century ago, Harvard Law School’s centennial report offered a brief comment on the role of experiential learning: “Such experiments have been more successful in affording amusement than in substantial benefit to the participants. A fact trial now and then is well worth while, but only as a relief to the tedium of serious work.”

Today, at the law school’s bicentennial, clinics are firmly established within the law school. And yet, as traditional forms of legal education continue to account for roughly 90–95% of a typical law student’s credit load, it remains worth clarifying the role that clinics can play within a legal education and how the law school can use them to accomplish more ambitious goals in its third century.

Clinics are celebrated for giving students opportunities to do important public interest work. Indeed, one vital motivation for the first law school clinic, opened by John Bradway at Duke in 1931, was to provide legal aid in North Carolina, where existing resources could not meet the needs of the community. The wave of clinical expansion of the 1960s and 1970s, exemplified by the work of HLS’s own Gary Bellow, similarly emphasized the role of clinics in advancing justice. The need for such public interest work is no smaller today than it was in those earlier moments: basic legal services remain out of reach for many, and the very existence of the Legal Services Corporation is threatened. It is in this capacity that clinics star in the “HLS in the Community” event, to be held in April 2018.

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Clinic Releases Joint Report on Challenges and Significance of Documentation for Refugees in Nairobi

Via International Human Rights Clinic

The International Human Rights Clinic and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Kenya released a report today in Kenya detailing the challenges refugees in Nairobi face in obtaining the official documentation needed to secure their status and identity, as well as the significance of documentation to their daily lives. Most of the nearly half a million refugees in Kenya live in refugee camps, but approximately 64,000 live outside the camps, in Nairobi.

report coverThe report, “Recognising Nairobi’s Refugees,” highlights refugees’ experiences in Nairobi with registration and refugee status determination – processes that lead to documentation. The challenges refugees described included stalled or suspended processes; inconsistency in requirements and information; substantial delays in receiving documentation; and confusion about the next steps to take in a process. The report relies on interviews with more than 30 refugees living in Nairobi, as well as with representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and the Kenyan government’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat.

In interviews, refugees described the critical importance of documentation to establishing a sense of security in the lives, as well as to proving their identity in official and informal settings. Without documentation, many reported frustration, stress, and even a feeling of hopelessness. Refugees lacking documentation also reported problems with police, such as harassment, which in turn led them to restrict their movements.

In their joint report, the Clinic and NRC recommend that, among other things, the Government of Kenya should continue to register refugees living outside camps; recognize refugees’ right to freedom of movement within the country; produce and widely disseminate clear guidance on registration and refugee status determination procedures; and undertake measures, such as training of relevant officials, to ensure refugees can live without fear or restriction in the city.

Today’s report is part of the Clinic’s ongoing focus on legal identity and refugee documentation. In previous years, the Clinic has collaborated with NRC to examine the challenges and significance of documentation – such as birth certificates and ID cards – for Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

Is VA Wrongfully Excluding Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans from Needed Care

Via Veterans Legal Clinic

In a publication of the Penn State Law Review, Dana Montalto of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, along with colleague Bradford Adams of Swords to Plowshares, provides a legal history and analysis of how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines who is eligible for basic health care and support services – and who should be excluded.  Although the 1944 GI Bill of Rights makes clear that only those veterans who “engaged in severe or repeated misconduct without explanation” should be barred from receiving benefits, Montalto and Adams argue that the VA incorrectly interprets the law, thereby unfairly preventing hundreds of thousands of former service members from receiving needed benefits.

Since World War II, the VA has been required to provide veterans’ benefits to all service members who left under conditions classified as “other than dishonorable,” so that only those who received or should have received a “dishonorable discharge” should be barred.  Service members who engaged in less severe misconduct, who were experiencing mental illness, or who suffered from other hardships should still be eligible for benefits.  Montalto explains that the VA has improperly implemented Congress’s statutory standard, excluding former service members for minor disciplinary problems during service and failing to consider extenuating or mitigating circumstances.

Montalto and Adams propose that the VA adopt a more holistic approach when determining whether a veteran is eligible for benefits.  Some changes to the VA’s eligibility review procedure could include starting with a presumption of eligibility instead of ineligibility for former service members, including a consideration of positive or mitigating factors in each eligibility case, and providing access to basic healthcare while eligibility reviews are pending.

Read the entire article

For more information regarding the Veterans Legal Clinic’s advocacy on behalf of veterans with bad paper discharges, read the following publications:


Petition to amend regulations restricting eligibility for VA benefits based on conduct in service

Students help groups to pursue climate action

Via Harvard Gazette

Photo of students in Alaska

Photo by Caroline Lauer
Vik Bakshi (left), Caroline Lauer, and Yuan Zhang were part of a team of graduate students that traveled to Alaska to develop an innovative plan for reducing carbon emissions by preserving existing forest land.

How could preserving forests in Alaska or reducing nitrogen fertilizer runoff on farms in the Midwest help an organization interested in mitigating climate impact?

This was one of the questions posed to diverse teams of graduate students brought together as part of the new, multidisciplinary “Climate Solutions Living Lab” course launched by Harvard University last spring to help push forward the transition to a carbon-free future that supports planetary and human health.

Led by Wendy Jacobs, the Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and director of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, and developed in collaboration with the Harvard Office for Sustainability, the three-year research and teaching project was funded by the University as part of its living lab initiative to use the campus as a test bed for innovative sustainability solutions that can then be replicated across much broader levels.

“No single professional discipline can tackle climate change in isolation; collaboration is critical,” said Jacobs. “We designed this course to address real-world challenges faced by climate leaders who are interested in investing in off-site emissions-reduction projects that can be proven to deliver environmental and social benefit.”

The course’s outcomes are expected to offer Harvard clear strategies for how it can most effectively pursue high-quality, off-site emissions projects in the short term as part of the University’s longstanding commitment to modeling how organizations can dramatically reduce the climate impact of their operations. These same strategies, says Jacobs, can be implemented by other organizations.

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VA Secretary Shulkin Discusses Needs of Disabled Veterans During Visit to Harvard Law School & Veterans Legal Clinic

Via Veterans Legal Clinic

For the fourth year in a row, the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School gathered together veterans, veterans service organizations, government officials. community providers, veterans advocates and lawyers, and law students for an event focused on the needs of disabled veterans. On Thursday, November 2, 2017, Dr. David Shulkin, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, delivered the 2017 DAV Distinguished Speaker Lecture at Harvard Law School. The event was co-hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic and Harvard Law School’s Armed Forced Association.

Alan Bowers, former National Commander of DAV, introducing VA Secretary Shulkin at HLS

Introductory remarks were given by former National Commander of DAV, Alan Bowers, a disabled combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Mr. Bowers described the community’s shared goal to care for veterans who are injured or ill as a result of their military service. “May the work of Harvard Law, the DAV, and the VA keep the promises that we make to the men and women who enlist in our armed forces of the United States of America, past and present. Keep the promise.”

Secretary Shulkin spoke about the challenges facing the VA, the VA’s efforts to serve the current needs of veterans, and his approach to leading the second largest federal agency.  Among other topics, he discussed veteran suicide, the needs of veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, innovations in the delivery of healthcare for veterans, and benefits appeal system reform. Speaking about the 2014 VA healthcare waitlist crisis, Shulkin said, “Our success is the trust of the veterans we serve and we clearly lost that trust.” Describing his approach when he took over as Secretary, he explained, “The only way I know how to go about regaining that trust is by being open and transparent about problems and as you’re fixing problems letting people know.”

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The Intersection of Food, Health, and Science at the 5th Food is Medicine Symposium

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Emily Broad Leib from Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic; Robert Greenwald from the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation; Congressman Jim McGovern, the first recipient of the Food is Medicine Advocacy Champion Award; and David Waters of Community Servings.

Emily Broad Leib from Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic; Robert Greenwald from the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation; Congressman Jim McGovern, the first recipient of the Food is Medicine Advocacy Champion Award; and David Waters of Community Servings.

At Harvard Law School’s 5th Annual Food Is Medicine Symposium, one woman was especially prepared for the occasion: she wore scrubs adorned with fruits and vegetables and broccoli earrings. She, along with a captive audience of dozens of people, came to hear about how community groups, food banks, scientists, and policymakers are coming together to help low-income individuals with chronic diseases get access to healthy and medically appropriate food.

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School co-hosted the event with longtime partner Community Servings, a nonprofit nutrition program in Massachusetts. They brought together a fascinating and compelling roster of speakers that, despite their different backgrounds and organizations, all surprisingly touched on a similar theme: Food Is Medicine makes good business sense.

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Announcing CHLPI’s QHP Assessment Project for 2018

Via Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) has monitored trends in state Marketplaces for the past three years of open enrollment. CHLPI has been concerned by lower rates of coverage and higher cost-sharing for necessary HIV and HCV treatment regimens, particularly in the Silver Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) offered across the nation. This is alarming because Silver QHP are meant to be the most cost-effective plan for low- and moderate-income individuals. These failures to meet the needs of people living with HIV/HCV means that these individuals cannot fully realize the promises of the Affordable Care Act.

CHLPI is continuing this effort today with the start of open enrollment with a dual purpose. First, CHLPI, alongside sixteen state partners conducting plan assessments, hope that the information gathered can be useful as people living with HIV, Hepatitis C, and other chronic illnesses seek to enroll or renew their plans during the shortened Open Enrollment and select the plans that offer the best coverage and lowest cost-sharing for them. Second, CHLPI will hold insurers accountable for any discriminatory practices discovered, including inadequate coverage of HIV/HCV medications as well as disproportionately high cost-sharing imposed on HIV/HCV treatment regimens. CHLPI will work with its state partners to spur both state and federal regulators to action and hold insurers accountable for their discriminatory practices.

Beyond the Nobel Peace Prize

Via Harvard Gazette

Law School affiliates boost international treaty to ban nuclear weapons

Photo of Bonnie Docherty and students at the UN

Photo by Ralf Schlesenger
Two Harvard Law clinicians and four students took part in negotiating the treaty banning nuclear weapons as partners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which recently received the Nobel Peace Prize.

When a Norwegian committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its work behind a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, 3,500 miles away six people at Harvard cheered loudly.

They had reason to celebrate.

Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection, and clinical instructor Anna Crowe, who teach at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School (HLS), and four law students had taken part in the treaty negotiations spearheaded by ICAN, a Geneva-based international coalition of organizations from more than 100 countries.

Supported by 122 countries at the United Nations in July, the treaty is the first to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

For Docherty, who is also a senior researcher in the arms division of Human Rights Watch, last month’s Peace Prize brought attention to the treaty, reached amid increasing threats of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea.

“The negotiations were timely and urgent,” said Docherty. “It reminded the world of the need to take tangible steps for nuclear disarmament. The treaty banning nuclear weapons will make a real difference in the world.”

The agreement prohibits countries from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons, but it needs to be ratified by 50 states before it can become international law. Complicating matters is the fact that the treaty has been boycotted by the world’s nine nuclear powers: the U.S., Russia, Israel, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

Students Carina Bentata Gryting, J.D. ’18, Molly Doggett, J.D. ’17, Alice Osman LL.M. ’17, and Lan Mei, J.D. ’17 took part in the negotiations and advocated for the inclusion of Articles 6 and 7, which included provisions to assist victims of nuclear use or testing and remediate the environment harmed, in the text of the treaty.

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Spring 2018 Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic

Application Deadline: November 3 @ 5:00 pm

The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University invites you to apply to the Spring 2018 Public Education Policy Seminar and Practicum. This course brings together upper-level business, education, law and policy students from Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Yale and elsewhere.

Through seminars and consulting projects, CPRL students immerse themselves in theory and hands-on practice needed to spur transformational change in public education. Consulting projects with education and other public sector organizations give students the chance to work on interdisciplinary teams under the guidance of experienced former P-12 managers and consultants.

CPRL offers a limited number of tuition support awards of up to $20,000 for students who demonstrate exceptional merit and need and who are willing to commit to work three of the first five years after graduation in a full-time government or non-profit job supporting the P-12 education sector. CPRL offers substantial job-placement support.

Applications are due this Friday, November 3rd at 5:00PM! You can access the brief application here.

Email with any questions, or to speak with current CPRL students and alumni.

HIRC hosts “Women Refugees And Why Law Matters” event for HLS bicentennial

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

On October 27th, in honor of the bicentennial celebration of the Harvard Law School, HIRC led a conversation on gender asylum titled “Women Refugees And Why Law Matters.” The session, which was organized and moderated by HIRC’s Sabi Ardalan (HLS’02), brought together a diverse group of speakers who offered unique perspectives on the state of immigration law.

group shot for website

HIRC founder and director Deborah Anker (HLS ’84) started off the discussion, along with Nancy Kelly, co-director of HIRC at Greater Boston Legal Services. They provided a brief history of gender asylum law and the critical role HIRC played in developing this jurisprudence.

“Through direct representation, our clinic, along with others, has helped shape the thinking of decision-makers, changed the culture of legal institutions, and put pressure on higher level decision-makers,” said Anker, to a full room of HLS students and alumni.

Many of the speakers focused on the challenges immigrants face in the legal system. The Honorable Norman H. Stahl (HLS ‘55) spoke about his experience as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Marina Basseas (HLS ‘14), an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), detailed the backlog of 20,000 cases that USCIS is facing and how that affects those who are waiting to be granted asylum. Elizabeth Nehrling Sotiriou, from the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, spoke about the challenges facing children who are detained at the U.S./Mexico border, and Julina Guo (HLS ‘15), from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, shared her experience working with survivors of sex trafficking.

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Shulkin seeks to increase service and accountability at Veterans Affairs

Via Harvard Law Today

On Thursday, Nov. 2, Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will deliver the 2017 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture at Harvard Law School. This is the fourth annual event in the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series, which provides a forum for national leaders to address the critical issues facing our nation’s disabled veterans and to engage in conversation with the local community. The series is co-hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and the Harvard Law School Armed Forces Association.

In advance of his visit to the law school, Secretary Shulkin answered a few questions about the Department of Veterans Affairs and its service to veterans:

Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

A VA study found that 20 veterans commit suicide each day. What is the Department of Veterans Affairs doing to increase the availability of mental health services for all our veterans? And what is being done to increase the availability of these services for individuals who — due to PTSD or other mental health issues developed while in service — may have left the military with less than honorable discharges and are therefore may not be eligible for existing veterans benefits?

Nothing is more important to me than making sure that we don’t lose any veterans to suicide. Twenty veterans a day dying by suicide should be unacceptable to all of us. This is a national public health crisis and it requires solutions that not only VA will work on but all of government and other partnerships in the private sector, nonprofit organizations.

Within weeks of becoming Secretary, I authorized emergency mental health services for those who were less than honorably discharged. That  population of veterans is at very high risk for suicide. Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH (Other Than Honorable) administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care. During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

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My three years at the Tenant Advocacy Project

By Ming-Toy Taylor J.D. ’18

Photo of Ming-Toy Taylor J.D. '18

Ming-Toy Taylor J.D. ’18

I joined the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) as a 1L because the organization’s mission resonated deeply with me. For nearly 40 years, TAP has helped tenants and applicants navigate the bureaucracy of subsidized housing in the Greater Boston area. Having grown up in Throggs Neck Houses in the Bronx, I’ve experienced first-hand many of the challenges that TAP works to address. During high school and college, my experiences drew me to service-work related to homelessness. In college and after, I worked in underserved schools where many students dealt with housing insecurity. TAP would be my introduction to the role of the law in this space, and allow me to make an impact with my budding legal skills.

As a brand new TAP member, I learned about the administration and funding of subsidized housing programs in Massachusetts; the various legal obligations placed on housing agencies by federal and state laws; the agencies’ official and unspoken policies; and the rights and obligations of tenants. I represented a fictional tenant in a mock hearing to practice the skills that I would use on behalf of my future clients: oral and written advocacy, direct and cross-examination, opening and closing statements, and legal research.

My most important learning experience was with my first client. He had become homeless after being evicted from an apartment he shared with an abusive partner.  When he requested that his public housing application be treated as an emergency due to his homelessness, a housing agency denied this request. The reason? They did not consider him homeless; despite his living in shelters or on the streets for over a year, they focused on some nights spent on a friend’s couch to recover from flare-ups of a painful, chronic medical condition. Together, he and I rehearsed how he would present his disability during an administrative hearing and gathered supporting documents. I prepared to argue that he was entitled to a reasonable accommodation based on his disability before a hearing officer, and opposite a housing authority attorney. My client, even before he knew the agency would place him in an apartment in short order, left that meeting feeling heard and empowered. And I was captivated by the experience of collaborating and succeeding with my client.

What I love about TAP—and what made me come back 2L year and devote my 3L year to being one of its presidents—is how personal the experience is. When you help someone with housing you learn about their history, their family, their hopes for the future, their neighborhood, their doctors, their support networks and more. As you do that “getting to know”, you learn about your voice as an attorney-advocate, and as a person. My time at TAP has been characterized by continuous growth. I look forward to the new lessons it will teach me this year.

Fighting for human rights with HLS Advocates

By Thaya Uthayophas J.D. ’18

Group photo of HLS Advocates for Human Rights

Group photo of HLS Advocates for Human Rights

I came to Harvard Law School because I wanted to make a difference. As an international student from Thailand, however, I wasn’t originally sure how that would manifest. Should I make a lot of money in corporate law to help my family? Should I become part of legal academia, thinking of new philosophical frameworks that could change the way we think about the world? Or should I be an activist for my people back home in an effort to finally establish a permanent constitution and democratic Thailand?

These are all big dreams. And they are all valid in their own ways. As I’ve come to learn through working with Student Practice Organizations and the clinical programs, however, our dreams can be difficult to put into practice. But therein also lies the magic:  that no one’s dream can stand alone. What ultimately inspires me to pursue the dream of becoming a human rights lawyer is not so much the size of my dream or the grandeur of my narrative, but the people, the events, and the projects — the fact that we’re all doing it together as part of something larger, fighting for a seemingly impossible and ever-changing set of ideals that is human rights. And I learned all this by being part of the Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights.

The day-to-day work of an individual Advocates member (and any lawyer, really) borders more or less on the mundane. While it was exciting to see my own project draw fruition with our letter to the UN special rapporteurs on a human rights violation connected to a gold mine in Thailand, I think focusing on the victories misses the point. In order to get the UN letter drafted, my individual team members had to first learn about UN systems, read up on the many violations connected with the mine, and research individual special rapporteurs and the best ways to approach them. Then we had to come together and compile all this information in an accessible form for our partner organization Fortify Rights. It was all very time-consuming, and, at times, it felt like we had to trust our client to know what best to do with the information we provided them. The fact of the matter, however, was that we did trust them — this non-governmental organization more than 8000 miles away. We trusted that their work would eventually help local villagers who suffered from cyanide poisoning and violent attacks because we trusted them as part of the human rights movement, fighting together for a better world.

For this Fall term, Advocates leaves the same kinds of trust to organizations fighting for land rights in Liberia, advocating for waste pickers in Latin America, documenting human rights violations of asylum-seeking children in Israel, empowering mining-affected communities in Guinea, countering violent extremism in Tanzania, and holding people accountable for War crimes in Iraq. Our project leaders and members similarly know that it’s not about each of us making individual difference but all of us making differences as a team, and beyond. And it’s not just the project people who are cognizant of this fact. Our events team, for instance, has created a Human Rights Training Series, knowing that many students lack understanding about the fundamental building blocks of a different facet of international human rights. Our directors of organizing and direct action constantly seek out opportunities with other organizations on campus to make an impact on the ground.

As for me, as co-President, I’m little more than a facilitator, making sure things go along and confidentiality forms are filled out. It’s a good job. At the very least, I get to write and talk about all the wonderful things Advocates is doing as part of something larger that is human rights.


Staff Reflection: Remembering Someone I Never Knew

Via International Human Rights Clinic

By Bonnie Docherty

Carl Thorne-Thomsen with high school friend Linda Jones Docherty, mother of the author. Photo from the 1964 Lake Forest High School yearbook, courtesy of Linda Docherty.

Carl Thorne-Thomsen with high school friend Linda Jones Docherty, mother of the author. Photo from the 1964 Lake Forest High School yearbook, courtesy of Linda Docherty.

Although I never met Carl Thorne-Thomsen, I’ve known about him for as long as I can remember.

I distinctly recall driving down the road to my grandparents’ home in Lake Forest, IL, as my mother told me about her close high school friend who had died in Vietnam. Carl had opposed the war, she explained, but he felt it was unjust for him to be sheltered from the draft while others with less privilege were sent to fight in Southeast Asia. In a quiet act of protest, he withdrew from Harvard College during his junior year and was drafted in April 1967. Two months after arriving in Vietnam, and 50 years ago this week, he was killed in combat.

Although I was in elementary school at the time of this conversation, Carl’s decision to live—and die—by his principles made a vivid impression on me. Decades later, having spent most of my career on issues of armed conflict, I still find myself compelled. The 50th anniversary of his death motivated me to track down more information through archives and interviews and to write a Vita for Harvard Magazine’s September/October issue.

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Recording Artists Project: the foundation to my success at HLS

By Jennifer Mar J.D. ’18

Group photo of RAP students

Group photo of RAP students

My participation in the Recording Artists Project (RAP) has been my most important experience at Harvard law School. In fact, it was one of the reasons I came here in the first place. I had a fledgling interest in the music industry and RAP offered a hands-on opportunity to explore that interest while helping real industry clients. I have always felt music is a foundation of our culture and artists are accordingly vital stewards to protect. Moreover, it’s one of the only Student Practice Organizations at HLS with a practical focus on transactional legal training – hard to find in a law school classroom.

My first client was a musician seeking to release a multi-artist album on his newly founded label. My team and I drafted a form agreement that our client used to license the works from each of the album artists. My second semester at HLS we represented a band that was breaking up. Based on a pre-existing band agreement, we drafted a memo advising the members of their various rights with regards to their discography. Both semesters, I was a Team Leader where I acted as liaison between my team, the client and our supervising attorney. My responsibilities also included setting deadlines and discussing progress with our supervisor – it was a wonderful opportunity to practice client communication.

Portrait photo of Jennifer Mar J.D. '18

Jennifer Mar J.D. ’18

Through RAP I’ve gained skills and knowledge in three major areas: 1) entertainment/music industry norms; 2) transactional legal practice; and 3) project management. First, RAP trains its students in the complex business structures that make up the music industry and its key actors. Working with my clients showed me firsthand how different industry actors work together and how important their roles are; and furthermore how actors might take advantage of each other. Second, I learned how to read a contract and understand the relevance of “boiler plate terms” to real transactions – something which proved valuable in my 1L and 2L summers. Last, I gained practical skills related to project management including setting timelines, managing group dynamics, and client communication.

I expected RAP to be a fun way to learn about the music industry, get some transactional experience, and fulfill my pro bono hours. I was surprised that instead it became the foundation of my success at HLS. My second year I became the President of RAP – an invaluable lesson in leadership. RAP is the reason I secured my dream internship at Sony Music my 1L summer in New York City, and gave me the confidence to accept an offer to practice transactional entertainment law in Los Angeles after graduation. When my research paper on music copyright law won a UC Berkeley writing award this past Spring, I owed all my thanks to my RAP supervisor. More importantly, I have been surprised by the breadth of individuals RAP has helped, both directly through its clinical work and indirectly through its community work. Through activities like hosting the Boys and Girls Club of America on campus to organizing the Entertainment Law Symposium, I have had the privilege of making important lifelong connections. RAP is proof of the depth that work in entertainment law can offer.

Update on the 2018 Triennial 1201 Rule-Making

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Copyright Office has once again opened its triennial rulemaking proceedings for exemptions to the anti-circumvention clauses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). This will be the seventh iteration of the rulemaking proceedings for the Copyright Office since Congress enacted 17 U.S.C. § 1201 in 1998 to reinforce copyright protection against an envisioned increase in piracy due to technological advancement. The anti-circumvention law prohibits the use of technology to bypass technology protection measures (“TPM”) that copyright owners implement, such as encryption tools that prevent consumers from copying movies or songs off a disk or simple password systems for website content or software “locking” mechanisms that prevent copying. Unfortunately, the broad reach of 17 U.S.C. § 1201 also jeopardized many otherwise non-infringing and publicly-beneficial activities that may require circumventing TPMs.

St Jude Medical pacemaker in hand

An artificial pacemaker (serial number 1723182) from St. Jude Medical, with electrode. By Steven Fruitsmaak, via Wikimedia Commons.

In an effort to rescue circumvention for lawful purposes, Congress identified certain classes of permanent exemptions to the anti-circumvention law, allowing, for example, reverse engineering research and security testing to be valid reasons for circumventing technological protections measures. In addition to the permanent exemptions, Congress also created the triennial rulemaking mechanism which creates 3-year temporary exemptions as a catch-all to prevent the anti-circumvention law from prohibiting lawful practices.

For the upcoming 2018 rulemaking proceedings, the Cyberlaw Clinic has submitted an anti-circumvention exemption request on behalf of the Software Preservation Network (“SPN”) and a renewal request on behalf of a coalition of medical device patients and researchers (“Medical Device Coalition”) for the Copyright Office’s seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings for anti-circumvention exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). SPN seeks an exemption for libraries and archival institutions to circumvent technology protection mechanisms for the preservation of software for future research or usage. The Medical Device Coalition seeks a renewal for an exemption that the Cyberlaw Clinic successfully helped to secure in the 2015 rulemaking proceedings, which permits patients and security researchers to circumvent technological measures in medical devices to access output data. The SPN petition and medical device renewal request join 22 other new exemption petitions and 38 other exemption renewal requests submitted for the 2018 rulemaking proceedings.

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FLPC Releases Food Recovery in the District of Columbia: A Legal Guide

Via Food Law and Policy Clinic

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) releases Food Recovery in the District of Columbia: A Legal Guide. This guide addresses common legal questions that businesses, schools, and nonprofits often have about food donation in the District. It was commissioned by the DC Food Recovery Working Group, a group created to support food recovery efforts in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area.

This guide explains both federal and D.C. laws and regulations that impact food recovery, including:

  • tax incentives for food donation
  • liability protection for food donors
  • date labeling requirements for food packaging
  • food safety guidance for food donation
  • donation by K-12 schools.

By helping businesses, schools, and food recovery organizations to better understand and navigate these laws, this guide aims to encourage the growth of food donation and food recovery in Washington D.C.

Read Food Recovery in the District of Columbia: A Legal Guide.

Women refugees and why law matters

Via Harvard Law Today

In many ways, Jane’s life in Kenya was idyllic. She was an educated, confident professional woman with a flourishing career. She owned her own perfume business, and was four months into a prestigious new job in the banking sector. She was an active member of a close-knit church community, and she was raising a daughter she dearly loved, whom she had named “Angel” after her miraculous recovery from infant health problems.

There was only one problem in her life: her husband. In the privacy of their home, he had become increasingly violent and abusive.

When her husband deliberately burned their four-year-old daughter’s hand, and then brutally beat Jane and tried to strangle her, she realized that he was truly capable of killing her. She knew that he had powerful connections, and could find her anywhere in Kenya. Using a tourist visa she had obtained to visit her brother in the U.S. later in the year, she and her daughter quickly booked a flight to Boston, with no long-term plan.

After landing, Jane took her daughter directly to the Boston Children’s Hospital to have the dressing changed on her burned hand. There, a social worker put her in touch with Greater Boston Legal Services.

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Clinic alumna wins International ‘Outstanding Young Lawyer’ Award

Via The Gleaner

Photo of Malene Alleyne posing with her Outstanding Young Lawyer award

Malene Alleyne posing with her Outstanding Young Lawyer award

Jamaican human rights lawyer Malene Alleyne is the latest recipient of the prestigious Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year award from the International Bar Association (IBA).

The award was presented recently at an awards breakfast at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, Australia.

This award is presented annually to a young lawyer who has shown not only excellence in his/her work and achievements in his/her career to date but also a commitment to professional and ethical standards as well as a commitment to the larger community.

“I am honoured to take this award home to Jamaica,” said Malene. “This award highlights the important contributions that Caribbean lawyers have made and continue to make to the global community.”

Malene has had a stellar career as an academic and human rights lawyer. She earned an LLM from Harvard Law School, where she specialised in international human rights law, and a Master of Advanced Studies in International Relations with a specialisation in political science from the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva.

Malene received her law degree from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, and a Legal Education Certificate of Merit from the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica.

Before studying law, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Eckerd College.

Malene is a former associate at the Jamaican law firm Myers Fletcher and Gordon. She began her human rights career in 2013 when she joined the inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC.

At the commission, Malene reviewed human rights complaints against Organisation of American States members.

“I believe that respect for human rights is the cornerstone of democratic governance,” said Malene.

“Human rights must be mainstreamed through every aspect of government, business, and social life. This is the wish I have for Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world.”

In 2016, Malene decided to pursue an LLM at Harvard, but she maintained a close connection to human rights practice through her work with the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

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Harvard Law students honored for their pro bono service hours

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs offers its heartfelt congratulations to the 27 Harvard Law students who received a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Certificate in recognition of their pro bono work. The ceremony was held at the Adams Courthouse on October 18th and the students are listed on the SJC’s Pro Bono Honor Roll website.

The recognition is presented annually to law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government attorney offices, non-profit organizations, law school faculties, and law students who certify that, in the calendar year of 2016, they have contributed at least 50 hours of legal services without receiving pay or academic credit.

Pro Bono Honor Roll Students:

Katherine Ambrose JD ’18 Jyoti Jasrasaria JD ’18
Heather Artinian JD ’18 Mark Lee JD ’18
Katrina Braun JD ’18 Megan Lee JD ’18
Elizabeth Carter JD ’18 Zachary David Smith Lenox JD ’18
Gianna Ceophas JD ’18 Yaacov (Jake) Meiseles JD ’19
Emily Chan JD ’18 Melissa Mikail JD ’18
Cameron Clark JD ’18 Emil Natanson Nachman JD ’18
Alicia Daniel JD ’18 Madaline O’Neill JD ’19
Andrene Dabaghi JD ’17 Leah Juhyun Park JD ’18
Hayley Evans JD ’19 Charlotte Robbinson JD ’18
Nadia L. Farjood JD ’18 Jacob R. Steiner JD ’18
Aaron Francis JD ’17 Thaya Uthayophas JD ’18
Angie Geng JD ’18 Iris Won JD ’18
Claire Horan JD ’18


HIRC requests hearing on Canada’s treatment of refugees from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

On October 4, 2017, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) filed a request for a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to discuss the human rights situation of refugee claimants under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States.

Under the agreement, Canada bars refugee claimants attempting to enter the country from the United States at border ports of entry on the premise that the United States is a “safe” country for refugees, with certain limited exceptions. But as HIRC made clear in its hearing request sent to the Commission, “the United States is not a safe country of asylum for persons fleeing persecution and violence.”

In the nine months since President Donald Trump’s executive orders on interior and border enforcement took effect, human rights conditions for refugee claimants in the United States have deteriorated drastically. HIRC analyzed the effects of these orders in detail in a report issued in February 2017. Refugee claimants who are returned to the United States are now more likely to face prolonged and indefinite detention; expedited removal proceedings without due process; a more stringent credible fear interview process; increased and aggressive criminal prosecution for immigration-related crimes; and return to their home countries in violation of the obligation of non-refoulement under the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol to the Convention, as well as under domestic law incorporating those obligations.

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The Justice Gap

America’s unfulfilled promise of “equal justice under law”

Via Harvard Magazine

Almost a century ago, a young Boston lawyer named Reginald Heber Smith published a landmark book called Justice and the Poor. It was about how people struggling economically were faring in the American legal system and why American lawyers needed to provide them with free legal aid. He wrote, “Nothing rankles more in the human heart than the feeling of injustice.” At the time, there were only 41 legal-aid organizations in the country, with a total of about 60 lawyers. The Boston Legal Aid Society, founded in 1900, was one of them. As a student at Harvard Law School, Smith had spent his summers as a volunteer there. When he graduated in 1913, he became the leader of that four-lawyer office and instituted a “daily time sheet”—on which lawyers recorded the hours they spent on cases—as a tool for increasing efficiency in addressing the 2,000 or so cases the society had on behalf of clients.

Smith’s book recounted how American lawyers had devised a system of substantive law and legal procedure so convoluted that it denied access to justice to anyone who didn’t have a lawyer to navigate it. That system, he contended, had to be fixed by greatly multiplying the number of legal-aid societies. Smith wrote, “It must be possible for the humble to invoke the protection of the law, through proper proceedings in the courts, for any invasion of his rights by whomsoever attempted, or freedom and equality vanish into nothingness.” His goal was to give “reality to equality by making it a living thing.” He warned that “denial of justice is the short cut to anarchy.”

Portrait photo of Daniel Nagin

Daniel Nagin
Photograph by Jim Harrison

If the bar provided lawyers for free, the poor would have access to justice and society would benefit. Smith’s vision was of lawyers for the poor providing the full range of legal services that lawyers for the rich were expected to deliver. His book’s introduction summarized his view: “Class hostilities would diminish, the turbulent marketplace would return to stability, and the poor’s disposition toward righteous conflict would be diverted. Society would be cleansed of its anarchistic elements, and the confidence of poor people in lawyers and the legal system would be re-established.”

Smith’s vision has never been realized in the United States, but it haunts the debate about how best to serve the legal needs of poor and low-income Americans—and about whether we even know what works best to solve the problems of this group. Poverty’s effects on human health are well documented: lives tend to be sadder, harder, and shorter. But the effects on poor and low-income people’s lives of needing a lawyer and not having one are not well documented at all.

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Emmett Clinic Hosts Workshop on Citizen Science

Via Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

The Emmett Clinic released its Manual for Citizen Scientists Starting or Participating in Data Collection and Environmental Monitoring Projects in September, 2017. Building on this work, on October 13, 2017, the Clinic, together with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environmental Law Institute convened a workshop called “Citizen Science and Environmental Protection.”

The workshop brought together representatives from federal, state, and local governments; citizen science organizations; environmental organizations; community groups; and academia. The keynote speaker was Bob Perciasepe, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and former Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Participants discussed the role of citizen science in environmental monitoring and enforcement, case studies of successful projects, legal and practical barriers for citizen scientists, and strategies for promoting citizen science in the coming years.  Based in part on the ideas generated in this workshop, the Clinic will be developing new citizen science-related student projects for future semesters.

Massachusetts Considers Digital Right to Repair

By Alex Noonan J.D. ’19

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

On September 26, 2017, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure heard testimony on proposed digital “right to repair” bills H.143 and S.96. The two proposed bills would require manufacturers of digital devices to provide diagnostic, repair, and service information to independent technicians and owners of devices, information that is currently only available to technicians selected and authorized by the manufacturers. The bills would further require manufacturers allow independent technicians and owners to purchase replacement parts and service tools at a reasonable price. The bills by their terms relieve manufacturers of the obligation to reveal any trade secret; however, they do not address the practicality of providing service manuals and diagnostic information without exposing trade secrets, particularly for manufacturers who rely heavily on trade secret protection.

Massachusetts has tackled right to repair before. In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to pass right to repair legislation for motor vehicles. Rather than face future legislation from other states, auto manufacturers agreed to make the Massachusetts law their national standard.

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New Winter Term Course Offered by Clinical Faculty

Lawyering for Justice in the United States

This seminar will allow students who have participated in an HLS clinic or SPO to draw on their collective experiences to explore questions about lawyering for justice in the United States in 2018. The course will take a deep dive into the why and how of systemic change and the role of lawyers in supporting it. Students will have conversations with each other and with faculty from a wide variety of HLS clinical programs, engaging in deep, guided reflection on their own past or ongoing clinical work. Students and faculty together will explore contemporary problems through a structural lens and will practice creative problem-solving geared toward identifying and evaluating potential structural solutions.

This course is by-application.  Interested students must submit: a resume (detailing their relevant legal practice experience), a short explanation of their interest in justice in the United States, how the course fits into their goals for law school and beyond, and what they hope to gain from the course.

Applications are due by Wednesday, October 25.

Read Course Catalog description

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