Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Independent Clinical Program

Cravath Fellows pursue law projects around the world

Via Harvard Law Today

During Winter Term, students traveled to nine countries to do clinical work and research

Headshot of student

Credit: Lorin Granger

Niku Jafarnia ’19 spent Winter Term in Amman, Jordan, undertaking an independent clinical with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Her commitment to working with refugees and asylum seekers began in college, when she drew on her Iranian heritage and her fluency in Farsi as an intake volunteer. A semester abroad, and later a Fulbright grant, took her to Turkey, where she lived in a city with a large Iranian and Afghan LGBTI refugee community. “I started teaching them English classes and tried to support them along their journey. I essentially chose to come to law school to be a better advocate for these communities.”

At HLS, Jafarnia became deeply involved in work arising from the executive orders banning travelers from Muslim countries from entering the U.S., gathering a group of classmates to protest at Logan Airport, returning the next week to assist affected travelers and working with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic on its amicus briefs to the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court. Her Winter Term clinical in Jordan afforded her an opportunity to explore the full effects of the ban, well before the people affected try to enter the U.S. For the two years before the ban, “the U.S. was taking in significantly more refugees than any other place in the world. At the end of the day, even though many more spots have opened up in other countries, it’s just not enough to make up for the decrease in U.S. spots,” she explains.

Working at IRAP allowed her to refine the client intake skills she has been building through the chance to interview clients during her time there. Additionally, drawing on her earlier experience in Turkey, she researched and drafted a memo describing the ways in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has failed to meet its own standards. IRAP also set up meetings for its interns with a wide range of important actors, from UNHCR and UNICEF to smaller NGOs working on the ground. “It was an amazing opportunity to get an in-depth look as to what issues refugees are facing daily—from a basic, housing-and-needs level, to a policy level in Jordan.”

Traveling to Jordan gave Jafarnia a chance to address these issues from a new comparative lens. “Each country presents a unique set of challenges for refugees”; she notes; Jordan hosts a significant number of refugees, but does not offer employment for them, and is almost entirely landlocked, which makes it more difficult for refugees to leave.

“My hope for the future is to start my own organization, giving refugees legal assistance but also empowering refugees with legal backgrounds to be doing this work themselves,” she explains. “I think countries have to work significantly harder at giving refugees work opportunities. Once you let people in, they need to be given the opportunity to create a life for themselves. There’s an image of people who have been displaced as burdens on the system, when in fact they’re not given the opportunity to be self-sustaining.” Her Winter Term work in Jordan has confirmed for her that this is a change that has to happen very soon.

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Defending the Indigent in Hawaii

By Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18

Photo of Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18 in front of Federal Public Defender building sign in Honolulu

Cameron Pritchett, J.D. ’18

During winter term, I spent three fantastic weeks at the Federal Public Defender in Honolulu, Hawaii, through HLS’s Independent Clinical Program. Having spent both my 1L and 2L summers at law firms, this was my first opportunity to see a public interest setting.

Client Contact

At HLS, I have been fortunate to take classes with some of the most brilliant legal minds in the country. But due to inherent limitations, a classroom setting can only accomplish so much. The Defenders immediately put me to work doing something I am familiar with: legal research and writing. However, this time, I saw my research make a tangible impact on someone’s life. Since federal defenders carry a lighter case load than do most state defenders, there is more time to thoroughly research legal issues during plea negotiations and in preparation for trial. For example, one of my projects involved drafting a motion in limine to suppress a piece of evidence the government plans to introduce in an upcoming trial. I had the chance to not only conduct research, but also see how the findings influenced the team’s trial strategy.

Value of Competent Defense

Working with Defenders also affected my view of the criminal justice system overall. In the federal system, to say that defendants have an uphill battle is an understatement. My criminal procedure class, under the instruction of Professor Paul Butler, explored many of the inequities in criminal law. But it was still shocking for me to see how these things developed in reality. Whether it is Miranda warnings, searches and seizures, coerced confessions, and a number of other topics, prosecutors have an advantage.

Accordingly, the constitutional right to attorney representation is a bedrock part of our legal system. The Defenders supply counsel to individuals immediately after they are arrested and booked. As defendants speak with pre-trial services regarding basic facts about their background, the Defenders are there to ensure the person’s right against self incrimination. Similarly, it is the Defenders filing motions to secure a defendant’s release pending trial and it is them arguing to continue sentencing for an additional week so that one person had a few more days with his family. In Honolulu, I observed passionate individuals who were unanimously intelligent, dedicated, and professional. And they had to take on some of the most challenging cases one could imagine.

This opportunity has opened my eyes to an entirely different setting where effective lawyering happens. I am still unsure about my career path, but this J-term has certainly piqued my interest in a career as a defense lawyer.

Constitutional Implementation in Kenya

By Rachel Corrigan, Berkeley Law Exchange Student

Rachel Corrigan, Berkeley Law Exchange Student

I spent this January Term in Nairobi, Kenya, working for the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC). The KLRC is a statutory commission that was established in 1982 through the enactment of the Law Reform Commission Act. The mandate of the Commission is to “keep under review all the law of Kenya to ensure its systematic development and reform.” Among other things, the KLRC drafts legislation, reviews existing laws, holds stakeholder consultations, and provides recommendations for the alignment of statutes with the 2010 Kenyan Constitution.

During this January Term, I undertook a project researching and analyzing practical barriers to implementation of Article 27(8) of the 2010 Constitution, which articulates the “two-thirds gender rule.” Article 27(8) requires that “the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” However, as I discovered throughout my research, the Kenyan Parliament has not succeeded in passing legislation enacting the two-thirds gender rule. Despite multiple bills focused on redesigning the composition of legislative bodies and electoral processes, Kenya has still not implemented the two-thirds gender rule, and most governing bodies are still over two-thirds male.

My project was to find out why this was, and provide recommendations for effectively implementing the two-thirds gender principle. In my research, I learned a great deal about Kenyan electoral processes, constitutional provisions, and comparative law. I also had the opportunity to attend meetings with a former MP and Cabinet Secretary, and with a member of the National Gender and Equality Commission to ask questions about the development of Article 27(8) and remaining barriers to implementation.  Eventually, I was able to produce a comprehensive memo analyzing the issues facing implementation of gender quotas and provide recommendations for Kenya.

My experience at the KLRC was one of the best experiences I have had in law school. I was surprised by how much responsibility and freedom I was given to conduct research and develop concrete recommendations. I also learned a great deal about international and comparative law. I hope other students are able to have as wonderful a clinic placement as I had!


International Arbitration in Hong Kong

By Hayley Evans, J.D. ’19

I spent this January term interning at the International Arbitration Centre in Hong Kong (HKIAC). The Centre provides crucial dispute resolution services—arbitration, mediation, adjudication, and domain names disputes resolution—to a variety of domestic and international clients. HKIAC provides services for dispute types ranging from corporate and finance to maritime, construction, and international trade. A non-profit organization, HKIAC is the third most preferred and used arbitral institution worldwide and the most favored arbitral institution outside of Europe. Established in 1985 in an effort to provide dispute resolution services in Asia, HKIAC has a track record of handling matters involving parties from a large number of jurisdictions; in 2016, HKIAC saw parties from thirty-nine different jurisdictions. The top nationalities of these parties were (by number of cases): Hong Kong, Mainland China, British Virgin Islands, Singapore, and the United States.

Hayley Evans, J.D. ’19

While at HKIAC, I undertook legal research on various topics in the field of international dispute settlement. One of my favorite projects I helped with was conducting research on the quantification of damages in international arbitration for the ICCA/ASIL Task Force on Damages. The Task Force intends to promote consistency and rigor in the quantification of damages in international arbitration, and I assisted with research for an online tool promoting that end. While awards of monetary damages are the most natural forms that remedies tend to take in international commercial and investment arbitration, there are also a variety of equitable remedies that can be used as well. These remedies might include provisions like specific performance and disgorgement of profits. Based on the work that I did at HKIAC for Secretary-General Sarah Grimmer, I actually have the opportunity to continue doing research for the Task Force remotely this semester.

Interning for HKIAC was a wonderful experience. Not only did it provide me with an on-the-ground introduction to the work of an arbitral tribunal, but it also allowed me to work with many talented interns, attorneys, and staff. While there, I learned about interesting procedural issues like consolidation, joinder, and translation of documents, as well as exciting substantive matters like enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and state sovereign immunity. I would definitely recommend an internship at HKIAC to other law students interested in international arbitration.

Gaining a global perspective on securities regulation

By Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19

Photo of Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19 standing infront of ASIC sign

Elizabeth Ferrie, J.D. ’19

This January, I interned at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in Sydney, Australia. I was fortunate to have dedicated supervisors and mentors that provided me with a broad range of experiences to enhance my knowledge of international capital markets.

My 3 weeks at the ASIC were a great learning opportunity and instilled in me the importance of a global business perspective. Indeed, most of my assignments involved an intricate understanding of global market structures and coordination with foreign securities regulators in investigations. I performed research and drafted memos on a variety of cases tackling market manipulation. Having taken a Securities Regulation course in the fall provided useful background knowledge since there are many fundamental commonalities in the approaches taken by securities regulators in both the U.S. and Australia. For example, I noticed striking similarities between U.S. and Australian securities laws while helping advise senior attorneys about ASIC’s disclosure obligations to a third party under the Freedom of Information Act. 

I have a strong interest in international law and business, especially as it relates to the Asia-Pacific region. Previously, I spent my 1L summer at a corporate law firm in Seoul, South Korea and I will be working at a corporate law firm in NYC for my 2L summer. However, this was my first experience performing legal work for a government organization and it was incredibly meaningful to gain experience outside of the private sector in a foreign jurisdiction.

For the 15-page paper requirement that accompanies the independent clinical project, I will be writing a paper comparing the approaches of securities regulators around the world in regards to cryptocurrency regulation under the supervision of Professor Kathryn Spier. It is an emerging area and there is notable variation in the approaches of different countries in classifying and regulating cryptocurrencies. I am excited to gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating topic.

Advocating for those without a voice

By Kate Barnekow, J.D. ’19

Kate Barnekow, J.D. ’19

I came to law school because I wanted to help those whose voices are often not represented in the legal system. As a longtime supporter of the animal protection movement, I was thrilled as a 1L to discover HLS’s Animal Law and Policy Program and, subsequently, learn about all of the ways we can help animals—who are still considered property in the eyes of the law—through the legal system. Once I committed myself to a career in animal law, and particularly after a summer spent working with an animal rights organization, I was eager to continue learning from attorneys in the field. Because HLS does not currently have a dedicated animal law clinic, I was excited to learn that I could work for an existing animal protection organization for clinical credit during the academic year through the Independent Clinical Program.

I have been working with the legal team at Compassion Over Killing (COK), a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization that focuses on cruelty to farmed animals used in agriculture. Last semester, I worked on a wide range of projects, researching state criminal law and pending federal legislation, conducting factual research, and helping to brainstorm new approaches to ensure the safety and welfare of farmed animals, as well as the workers who come into contact with them. One of the issues my work touched on was an ill-conceived policy proposal to raise line speeds to levels that present unprecedented and unacceptable risks to both animal welfare and worker safety.

As many law students will tell you, the work you do in law school on a daily basis is often not representative of what you will do after graduation—or of the reason you came to law school in the first place. For those reasons, my time working with COK was invaluable. It has further honed my research and writing skills, as well as introduced me to a wide range of field-specific laws and regulations and ways of thinking about the law, all while allowing me to put into practice the reason I came to law school: to work for the protection of those without a voice in the legal system.

Harvard Law students travel across the world in pursuit of clinical work

This winter term, over a hundred students have traveled to 62 cities across the world to pursue clinical projects with governmental agencies, legal services organizations, non-profit organizations and the judiciary.

Students can engage in clinical work with outside organizations through HLS’s Independent Clinical Program and Externship Clinics.  Through the Independent Clinical Program students have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and design a placement that will meet their individualized learning goals. This semester, students have designed a wide range of projects focusing on issues such as community economic development,  domestic violence, international human rights, consumer rights, and voting rights located in 26 states across the US and 22 countries worldwide.

Through Externship Clinics, students can also participate in on-site clinical work at hundreds of organizations across the United States. This semester they’re working with the Attorney General Offices in California, Iowa, New York, and Ohio; organizations such as the Office of the Federal Public Defender (Sacramento, CA), The Capital Appeals Project (New Orleans, LA), American Civil Liberties Union (Durham, NC); and private entities such as the Kraft Group (Foxborough, MA),  Nashville Predators (Nashville, TN), and the National Football League and Brooklyn Nets (New York, NY). These experiences are further enriched in the classroom through discussions and reflections.

United States Countries Worldwide
Ann Arbor, MI Las Vegas, NV Abuja, Nigeria
Atlanta, GA Los Angeles, CA Amman, Jordan
Auburn Hills, MI Marietta, GA Astana, Kazakhstan
Austin, TX Milwaukee, WI Bangkok, Thailand
Beaumont, TX Minneapolis, MN Beirut, Lebanon
Berkeley, CA Nashville, TN Bogotá, Colombia
Boston, MA New Haven, CT Cape Town, South Africa
Cambridge, MA New Orleans, LA Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Camden, NJ New York , NY Guangdon, China
Carrollton, OH Philadelphia, PA Haag, Netherlands
Chicago, IL Portland, ME Harare, Zimbabwe
Columbus, OH Providence, RI Hong Kong
Denver, CO Sacramento, CA London, UK
Des Moines, IA San Francisco, CA Nairobi, Kenya
Durham, NC Santa Ana, CA New Delhi, India
Flagstaff, AZ Seattle, WA Ontario, Canada
Foxborough, MA Shreveport, LA Seoul, South Korea
Grand Rapids, MI St. Louis, MO Stockholm, Sweden
Honolulu, HI Tacoma, WA Sydney, Australia
Houston, TX Washington DC Arusha, Tanzania
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tunis, Tunisia

Interning at the Federal Public Defender Office

By Veronica Saltzman J.D. ’19

Portrait photo of Veronica Saltzman J.D. '19

Veronica Saltzman J.D. ’19

This semester, I interned at the Federal Public Defender Office for the District of Massachusetts. Going into this internship, I hoped to get an in depth look at the criminal justice system at the federal level. Since I will be interning at a state public defender office over winter term, I wanted the chance to compare federal and state systems.

On the first day of my internship, I immediately felt welcomed by the office. My supervising attorney introduced me to every attorney in the office and made sure I was given an assignment immediately. My first assignment (and several other assignments later in the semester) involved researching how certain judges sentenced defendants pleading guilty to particular charges. In some cases, my research involved sentencing in firearms cases; in others, I delved into financial fraud cases. The purpose of these assignments was to present information to clients trying to decide whether to accept a more definite plea deal from the prosecutor, or opt for an open plea deal and leave sentencing to the judge. Working with the attorneys on these projects, I started to understand how difficult it is for an attorney to convince a client to accept what are often lengthy sentences to avoid the uncertainty of judicial sentencing. In addition to research on sentencing, some of my other assignments included writing a letter to a prosecutor requesting pretrial diversion for a client and crafting a memo on habeas law to advice an attorney on whether our client could submit an amended habeas petition. In particular, the habeas memo forced me to learn an entirely new area of law and improved my researching and writing skills as I sorted through complex legal issues.

The most exciting part of my internship was working down the street from the federal courthouse. My supervising attorney constantly encouraged me attend court proceedings. Early in the semester, I visited one of our clients in lockup with an attorney before attending his pretrial release hearing. As the semester went on, I also attended several sentencings. At one, I witnessed the court deport a woman my age and saw ICE agents take her away. At another sentencing involving sex trafficking, I observed intense victim impact statements and an emotional allocution. Finally, I got the chance to attend oral argument at the First Circuit and see a variety of strategies in appellate advocacy.

My internship at the Federal Public Defender Office increased my knowledge of federal criminal law and procedure immensely. I appreciated the opportunity to work with fantastic attorneys and gain experience by working on important tasks and witnessing intense moments during the criminal justice process.

Student Honors Program at the SEC: An inside look at a government agency


Monica Kwok, J.D. ’18

By Monica Kwok, J.D. ’18

This fall, I worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through the Student Honors Program. The program is specifically designed to familiarize students with the regulation of securities markets by providing them the opportunity to work directly on projects that uphold the SEC’s mission. Through agency wide meetings and broadcasts, I became acquainted with the Commission’s various divisions and their functions. Though I worked specifically within the Enforcement Division, it was fascinating to learn about the different responsibilities of the Corporation Finance, Economic and Risk Analysis, Investment Management, and Trading and Markets divisions.

Over the course of my time at the SEC, I was staffed on various legal research and writing projects. The Enforcement Division is unique in that it investigates and litigates securities laws violations, such as fraud. My placement made it possible for me to survey crucial components of the process, including attending investigative testimonies and participating in Commission wide meetings. These key opportunities gave me insight into how the Commission’s attorneys and forensic accountants advance legal arguments and evidence for an enforcement action. My work ranged broadly from researching legal standards to help narrow investigations to gathering and analyzing information pertaining to tips and referrals.

I was also fortunate enough to work directly with several fantastic attorneys, all of whom provided excellent guidance and professional mentorship.  It was incredible to learn about their unique career trajectories, as they each hailed from vastly different fields of law.

This experience has transformed the ways in which I think about current events, particularly in the financial regulation space. With my remaining time at Harvard Law School, I hope to further explore the intersection of regulatory policies and proceedings and corporate criminality through related coursework and research projects.

New Markets Lab – Independent Clinical Program – January 2017

The New Markets Lab will supervise an independent clinical project in January 2017 to offer students an opportunity to see firsthand the impact that the commercial legal and regulatory environment can have on development and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.  The independent clinical project will take place in Tanzania, where the New Markets Lab is working with partners on the ground, including the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, among others. The program will expose students to the role of government, business, and international institutions in interacting with and shaping the enabling environment for business and trade to encourage agricultural development at the grassroots level.

This winter term independent clinical placement will involve applying the substance of the required reading group in consultations with agribusinesses, local organizations and institutions, and public sector and civil society representatives to better understand how legal and regulatory needs and challenges are dealt with in the market.  Students will assess how these needs could possibly be addressed and how local institutions could be strengthened moving forward.

As part of the program, students are required to produce a 15 page paper that conforms to the independent clinical program guidelines and is supervised by a Faculty Sponsor.


Students interested in applying should fill out the Independent Clinical Application by November 1, 2016.

When filling the application, students should list the Placement Organization as the New Markets Lab and the Supervising Attorney as Katrin Kuhlmann.  There is no need to describe the details of the project as they have been provided above.  Students should, however, upload  a statement of interest for the project, instead of a project proposal, and any relevant experience they have in the field.


This project is being funded through the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, and therefore there is no need to submit a funding application. It is anticipated that students who are selected for the program will have their transportation and housing costs covered.

Please feel free to email Ms. Kuhlmann if you have questions about the project and/or are trying to decide whether to apply.  She can be reached at  kkuhlmann at  or by telephone on 202-263-3524.

My winter term at the Utah Transit Authority

By William Organek, J.D. ’16

William Organek, J.D. ’16

I was very fortunate to work for the Utah Transit Authority over the Winter 2016 term. Transit issues have fascinated me for years, after seeing how improved transit can spur economic development, reinvigorate underutilized neighborhoods, and redefine people’s interactions with each other and their city. I was looking forward to helping the UTA expand transit service as part of its role in the Mountain Accord, an innovative cross-jurisdictional plan to preserve and improve the nature and tourist industry of the region. Yet, since the UTA only has a small legal department within an organization with a wide mandate, I also had the opportunity to work on legal issues related to employment regulations and civil litigation.

The most surprising, and gratifying, part of my experience was the level of trust and responsibility given to me by my supervisors. Shortly after arriving, I was helping craft language for legislation which will be submitted to Congress in connection with the Mountain Accord, as well as writing the first draft of a motion to dismiss a civil claim against the UTA.

This experience, putting my legal writing skills to use in a litigation and policy setting, was one of my most valuable in law school and I could not more strongly recommend working for the UTA.

Learning from an Israeli Immigration Law Clinic

By Nathan MacKenzie, J.D. ’17

Nathan MacKenzie, J.D. '17 pictured (first one from the right), with a team of lawyers and client at the Supreme Court in Israel

Nathan MacKenzie, J.D. ’17 pictured (first one from the right), with a team of lawyers and client at the Supreme Court in Israel

Sometimes the best way to better understand your own world is to visit another. Doing so gives you a different frame of reference, an alternative against which you can challenge your perspective and your preconceived notions. As a student of immigration policy here in the U.S., I found that spending January term working in an Israeli immigration clinic in Tel Aviv challenged many of my own ideas on citizenship, society, and immigration. I had the opportunity to work as a student attorney for the Clinic for Migrant’s Rights at the College of Law and Business, where I assisted with client intake interviews for asylum seekers, met with organizations and government officials involved in the immigration debate in Israel, and conducted international and comparative research for upcoming impact litigation cases. In order to gain some additional perspective, I spent my weekends traveling to the Holot detention center for immigrants, the holy sites in Jerusalem, and the West Bank. What I learned from all of these work and travel experiences left me with a picture of an immigration system very different from our own, both in its philosophical aims and its technical administration.

Israel considers itself a “Jewish Democratic State,” but there is a big debate raging about what exactly that means. What should take priority, being Jewish, or being a liberal democracy? What should the demographics of Israeli society look like moving forward? These questions illicit fierce and seemingly irreconcilable responses from various factions. This divide has led to system of laws that is a mash-up of western democratic principles, old Jewish law, and protectionist policies. For example, though the government is elected democratically and several human rights are protected in Basic Laws, buses do not run on Saturday (Shabbat) and Jews cannot marry non-Jews.

These competing concepts have an enormous impact in Israel’s immigration policy. Unlike the U.S., Israel’s immigration policy only really allows people of Jewish ancestry to attain residency and citizenship. Known as the Law of Return or “making aliyah,” Jewish people worldwide can come to Israel and apply for citizenship. There are very few opportunities for other people to achieve permanent residence in Israel, even through the asylum process.

Approximately 46,000 asylum seekers live in Israel, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan. They arrived by crossing the Sinai from Egypt (before Israel constructed a massive wall on the border) and many spent months in Bedouin torture camps there before their families could pay high ransoms to secure their release. Though the government will not deport people to either Sudan or Eritrea because of human rights concerns in those countries, it has been loath to grant refugee status and asylum to non-Jewish immigrants and has been engaging in a campaign to coerce these individuals to “voluntarily” leave to a third party country (Rwanda or Uganda) through detention in the infamous Holot facility and over burdensome administrative procedures.

While working at the clinic, I had the opportunity to use the interviewing skills I learned at the Harvard Immigration & Refugee Clinic (HIRC) to conduct an intake interview and then produced a legal memo on the new client’s case. Additionally, I conducted research for several cases, including a major impact litigation case that will be going before the Israeli Supreme Court next month. Though I was only there for a few weeks, I felt like I was able to perform meaningful work that helped my hosts with their large caseloads. Perhaps just as importantly, this experience gave me the opportunity to learn about Israel and its immigration system, which in turn has allowed me to reflect upon the aims and administration of our own system here in the U.S.

Mental Health: Aspirations and Reality in India

By Ariel Simms, J.D. ’16 

This Winter Term, I had the opportunity to work with the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy (Centre), a nonprofit disability rights organization based in Pune, India. The Centre is dedicated to ensuring implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a United Nations treaty that has been signed and ratified by many countries, but unfortunately, not by the United States. The treaty requires that all persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities, be treated with respect, dignity, and on an equal basis with others.

My interest in working with people with disabilities came from my experience working as a Mental Health Counselor in a locked, psychiatric unit of a hospital. For two years, I counseled patients with serious mental illness under a paradigm of substitute decision-making. As a professional, this paradigm was extremely frustrating, as it considered only the putative “best interests” of the patient, without actually consulting the patient regarding his or her own preferences. Rather than making decisions for the patients on our unit, I wanted to help our patients make their own decisions, including treatment decisions, envisioning the role of service providers as helpful aides in decision-making, rather than as substitute decision-makers. Such a paradigm is called supported decision-making and is mandated in human rights law by the CRPD. My professional experience as a counselor led me to come to law school to become an advocate on behalf of those with mental illness, as well as to empower those living with mental disabilities to advocate for themselves.

Having no prior experience with Indian domestic law, I began my clinical work at the Centre with background research, including India’s existing mental health law and a new Mental Health Care Bill introduced in Parliament in 2013. It was this new bill that, if passed, would bring essential tenets of the CRPD into the Indian mental health care context. India though, like many countries that have ratified international human rights treaties, has a gap between what international law mandates and the realities of its domestic laws.

I assisted the Centre with a project around supported decision-making for persons with mental disabilities. In India, there are several barriers that keep caregivers and service providers from implementing supported decision-making, including: a lack of awareness about the CRPD and human rights obligations, a lack of understanding about what supported decision-making is, cultural norms and mores of power among service providers and caregivers, and persistent stigma surrounding mental illness. Although impossible to address any of these barriers sufficiently in three weeks, I had the unique opportunity to address at least some of them by drafting two separate guides on supported decision-making: one for caregivers and family members, and one for service providers. In order to create the most helpful guides, I also became more familiar with the realities of mental health care on the ground through extensive discussion with my colleagues at the Centre, in-person interviews with local psychiatrists, and in-person and group interviews with Indian caregivers.

From these conversations, I was able to gather that many service providers and caregivers have never heard of the CRPD or even think about human rights in their day-to-day lives. Many presume that the service user cannot ever make his or her own decision, so just make the decision for that person instead. In addition to substitute decision-making, service providers and caregivers also regularly engage in more serious human rights violations, including: practices of covert medication (e.g., hiding medication in the service user’s food or drink without his or her knowledge), giving informed consent on behalf of the service user, not seeking any informed consent for treatment (including for electroconvulsive therapy), taking away the person’s property, taking away the person’s liberty, and various other violations. On top of these, some families would just place their family member into one of India’s infamous mental hospitals and then just move on with their own lives.

My experience in India really brought home the gap between what law says we should do, and the realities of enforcing those laws on the ground, especially on a topic as stigmatized and oft swept-under-the-rug as mental illness. Human rights law in particular is often cast as aspirational, rather than as something that can immediately be recognized and enforced. Despite these challenges, I think this clinical experience helped me begin to bridge this gap between aspiration and reality in India, moving closer to the ultimate goal that all those living with disabilities will be able to lead lives characterized by dignity, equality, and autonomy.

I would like to sincerely thank and commend all the wonderful advocates at the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy who work hard every day to advance disability rights in India and who not only helped me with my project, but also with navigating a new country, and so much more. Special thanks to Dr. Soumitra Pathare, Professor Jaya Sagade, and Professor Michael Stein for their supervision and support throughout this project. I would also thank the Harvard Project on Disability, the Office of International Legal Studies, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP for their recommendations and financial support.

Addressing homelessness in Hawaii

By Marissa Florio, J.D. ’16 

Marissa Florio, J.D. '16

Marissa Florio, J.D. ’16

I spent this January term interning at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, a public interest law firm in Honolulu that focuses on policy reform related to local and state concerns. One such concern is the great homelessness problem in the state of Hawaii: Hawaii has the highest per capita homelessness rate in America. I spent my internship researching shallow rent subsidies as a potential partial solution to the state homelessness crisis. Rent subsidies have been shown to be one of the most effective ways of reducing homelessness. Most rent subsidy programs in place in the United States offer “deep” subsidies and are extremely expensive (e.g. Section 8). In order to reach the greatest amount of people, a more shallow subsidy program has been introduced in several municipalities. The appeal of these shallower subsidies, which offer lower amounts, is that they can reach more families with less money and that they can target a different audience: the working poor, rather than the homeless.

Notably, the federal government, through HUD, funded shallow rent subsidy programs nationwide for three years through their Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP). HPRP was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and dispersed $1.5 billion in federal grants to shallow rent subsidy programs across the United States to combat the effects of the economic depression in the United States from 2009 to 2012. HPRP effectively prevented homelessness in a period of economic downturn. In the period from 2009 to 2011, homelessness decreased by 1% in the United States.

Over the course of my three weeks at Hawaii Appleseed, I explored what shallow subsidy programs exist in other states, compiling information on the number of participants reached, the eligibility requirements for each program, amount of each subsidy, length of each subsidy, funding sources, and any available information on the efficacy of each program. I then used these programs as models to design a recommended program to potentially implement in the state, taking into account best practices and the unique needs in Hawaii. My research and proposal will be used this legislative session to help spark debate and action on the funding and implementation of a shallow rent subsidy program.

Winter term in Italy: drawing lessons from the U.S. military proceedings

By Clara Spera, J.D. ’17 

This January, I went to Naples, Italy to work with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, specifically with the Victims’ Legal Counsel program. The Victims’ Legal Counsel provides lawyers to victims of sexual assault in the Navy, to help victims in a variety of ways, including guiding them through all the procedural hurdles of reporting an assault, advocating for their rights during court-martial (or other administrative) proceedings, and helping to file requests for expedited transfers. Each branch of the military has now implemented a victims’ counsel program—the creation of these programs was mandated by Congress—but each branch has done it a little bit differently. My focus was on the Navy, but it was fascinating to learn about the differences across branches.

In my role, I helped the Victims’ Legal Counsel for the Europe-Africa-Southwest Asia (EURAFSWA) region, Lieutenant-Commander Jonathan Freimann, HLS J.D. ’01,  with various research assignments mainly concerning victims’ rights under the Military Rules of Evidence. The military court-martial proceedings are essentially akin to federal criminal trials: a guilty verdict is a federal criminal verdict that can carry with it prison federal time and, in the case of sex offenses, registration on a sex offender registry. While my paper topic engages in a comparative analysis of on-campus adjudicatory procedures and the military justice system, it’s important not to diminish the severity and implications of a military court-martial.

Aside from my legal research assignments, the most exciting part of my time in Naples was meeting with people involved in the military justice system, from civilians working with Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program, members of Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS… it’s not just a show!), JAGs working in the defense counsel office, JAGs working as military prosecutors, the JAG in charge of overseeing the legal operations of the base where I was stationed, and a Navy judge. Each person I spoke with had a different take on the Victims’ Legal Counsel program. Though there is general and strong support for the implementation of the program, there are certainly some concerns, many of which mirror the kinds of due process concerns that have been voiced regarding recent reforms of on-campus procedures.

Now that I am back on campus, I am excited to further explore the intersection of on-campus sexual assault policies and proceedings with the military justice system. Something I hadn’t quite realized before this independent clinical placement is that the profile of offenders and victims in both spaces are similar: young adults under 25, many whom are away from home for the first time, closely-knit social and work environments, enclosed physical spaces. In the past half-decade, both the military and college campuses have come under heightened public and congressional scrutiny for the mishandling of sexual assault complaints. I am excited to research how this increased scrutiny has affected both spaces and to see if there are lessons that can be learned and borrowed from one environment to the other.

HLS Students Pursue Clinical Projects Around the World

where in the world

United States  International 
Arlington, VA
Atlanta, GA
Asheville, NC
Austin, TX
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL
Dallas, TX
Daytona Beach, FL
Detroit, MI
Des Moines, IA
Durham, NC
Florence, AZ
Gainesville, FL
Honolulu, HI
Houston, TX
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL
Minneapolis, MN
Montgomery, AL
Nashville, TN
New York, NY
New Orleans, LA
Newport News, VA
Newton, MA
Oakland, CA
Pittsburgh, PA
Providence, RI
Richmond, VA
Sacramento, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
Santa Fe, NM
Salt Lake City, UT
Springfield, MA
St. Louis, MO
St. Joseph, MO
Washington, DC
West Palm Beach, FL
Amman, Jordan
Bangalore, India
Capetown, South Africa
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Gurgaon, India
Hong Kong
Istanbul, Turkey
Lima, Peru
Melbourne, Australia
Mexico City, Mexico
Montreal, Canada
Naples, Italy
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Pune, India
Tel Aviv, Israel

This winter term, 130 students are travelling to 55 cities across the world to pursue clinical projects with a wide range of governmental agencies, non-profits and other organizations. Within the United States, students will be engaging in clinical work with placements such as the Attorney General Offices in California, Iowa and Virginia; organizations such as the Equal Justice Center (Montgomery, AL), World Bank (Washington, DC), American Civil Liberties Union (Honolulu, HI), and private entities such as the Brooklyn Nets and the National Football League.

Students can engage in clinical work with outside organizations through two avenues.  Students are given the opportunity to design custom and individualized clinical placements, in collaboration with their HLS faculty sponsor and on-site supervisors, through the Independent Clinical Program. This semester, these independent clinical students have designed a broad range of placements focusing on issues ranging from cyber-crime and public land management to issues related to the legal aspects of speeding the process of scientific discovery to health treatments.  Through the Externship Program, students can also participate in Externship Courses where students are able to take a course with our Externship faculty who have expertise in a particular area of the law like sports or criminal justice and engage in on-site clinical work at organizations in the field.

Gender Equality, Human Rights, and Women Agricultural Entrepreneurs in Tanzania

VICOBA PhotoBy Lauren Blodgett, J.D. ’16 

The advancement of gender equality and women’s rights is currently at the forefront of international discourse. Just last month, delegations from across the world gathered at the United Nations in New York City to participate in a “Commission on the Status of Women.” This group examined the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as it celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Beijing Declaration, adopted by 189 countries, is an initiative to promote the empowerment of women worldwide. However, despite collaborations like the Beijing Declaration, various human rights treaties, and endless efforts by women’s rights advocates, in 2015, there is still no country in the world that enjoys complete equality for women.

While issues of gender equality cut across many spheres of life, they are particularly visible in the workplace, especially in developing countries. According to the International Labor Organization, gender discrimination is the most prevalent form of inequality in the workplace worldwide. Because of this sweeping problem, I decided to utilize our clinical study in Tanzania to explore the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs on the ground and to examine these challenges in the context of human rights law and international trade. My goal was to identify solutions for empowering women entrepreneurs in Tanzania by combining knowledge of the laws and feedback from women regarding the obstacles they face.

After spending over a week in Tanzania and having over a dozen meetings with individuals and organizations, the commonalities in the challenges voiced to us fell into three categories: lack of capacity, no enforcement of rights, and cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality. It quickly became clear that the domestic laws and human rights treaties that purported to empower women were not effective in practice. Therefore, I found that operating outside of the prescribed legal protections and utilizing innovative grassroots solutions was the most successful method available. Such solutions include creating women-women networks, implementing programs that expose women to new markets, and offering training to help women entrepreneurs build the skills necessary for a prosperous business.

We were fortunate to witness a few of these solutions in action while in Tanzania. For example, we saw the power of women-women networks when we met with Vicoba, a microfinance organization that seeks to ensure that entrepreneurs have access to capital. The group has over 400,000 members, 88% of which are women. Vicoba represents a great example of women helping each other when the systems in place fail to help them.

One of the biggest lessons I received from this clinical experience is that lawyers cannot always rely on the law to create change. An important part of our legal education at Harvard Law School is being able to identify gaps where the law is failing and finding ways to help others through collaboration and innovation.

Making a positive difference in Rwanda

harvard_law_school_shield3By Wossen Ayele, J.D. ’16

During the January term, I worked at the Strategic Investments Unit (SIU) of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) based in Kigali, Rwanda. The SIU is responsible for negotiating private-public partnerships with investors on behalf of the government and sits in the RDB, a government agency designed to increase economic development, in part, by facilitating international investment.

For the past few years, I have explored my interest in the investment space in East Africa. Last spring, while taking an international investment law course, I began to explore clinical opportunities in the region. I chose to do clinical work in Rwanda because of the generally positive mood surrounding the country’s ambitious plan for economic development. I wanted to understand how Rwanda approaches foreign investment as a part of this development effort.

When I arrived at the SIU in early January, I was immediately given a list of active work assignments from which I could choose. At the time, the SIU was working on a number of projects in different sectors, from energy to financial investments. I worked with a team of financial experts and legal experts tasked with evaluating investment proposals and negotiating the terms of investment for approved projects. That meant digging into the business cases for investments (accompanied with financial models and workplans) and teasing out their assumptions, risks and potential value. For these proposals, I provided evaluative feedback for the heads of the unit and other stakeholders (e.g. staff of relevant ministries) as well as clarification questions, which were forwarded to the investors. This was a very rich experience because I saw not only how the process works from a micro perspective, but also how the SIU’s work operates as part of RDB’s larger strategy.

While working in the SIU, I worked closely with one of the attorneys in drafting project documents for use in the negotiation process. Specifically, I worked on revising the current power purchase agreement documents that will be used in negotiating future power generation projects. These will form the basis for negotiations and, hopefully, will allow the government of Rwanda to attain fair terms as the country pushes to provide electricity to its rural population.

Through my clinical experience, I have made significant improvement in my contract drafting skills, both conceptually and technically. I now have a much better understanding of how different clauses allocate risk among parties and how the different documents in a project interact. Beyond the hard legal skills I have gained, my clinical experience was both insightful and rewarding. Through this work, I got an up close look at how governments (the Rwandan government as well as generally) approach investment. I was able to make meaningful contributions to projects that have the potential to be tremendously positive for the people of Rwanda. This has been a wonderful experience that will inform my future work in the investment space in East Africa, as a lawyer as well as an investment professional.

Students Pursue Clinical Projects Around the World

where in the world

45This winter term, approximately 132 Harvard Law School students are traveling to over 47 cities and countries across the world to pursue clinical projects that range from working with the Girls Court in Hawaii, analyzing documents with the Judicial Reform Foundation in Taiwan, to developing case studies for the Arts Law Center in Australia.

Within United States, students are traveling to 31 cities to practice with government offices such as the Attorney General Office of California, Kentucky, Maine and Maryland; and organizations such as the Equal Justice Center, Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana, and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Capital Punishment Project. Through the Independent Clinical Program students are representing clients and dedicating their skills to meet the legal needs of the community.

Learn more about the Independent Clinical Program here.