January 28, 2016 | Leave a Comment
Genzie Bonadies, a class of 2013 alumna, discusses her path to her current position, and how some of the lessons she has learned, early on, have really opened up her way of thinking of what it means to practice public interest law.
Genzie Bonadies’13, is an Associate Counsel for the Legal Mobilization Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where she works specifically with the Voting Rights Project and the Educational Opportunities Project. She has a broad array of job responsibilities across these substantive areas, engaging in civil litigation, policy work, and community-education efforts. To name just three focuses of her job over this past year: she has drafted legal briefs related to vote dilution, discrimination in higher education, and appropriate remedies; she has designed and facilitated trainings for parents on how to advocate for their children’s educational needs; and she has collaborated with several state and national coalitions to advance voting reforms such as promoting online voter registration and better language access.
Bonadies reflects on her work at the Lawyers’ Committee
Bonadies’s work in voting and education has taught her the power of well-designed and well-coordinated advocacy efforts to change administrative practices, observing “you can make pretty substantial change through cooperation with the administration and with election officials.” Bonadies has been most surprised by her newfound affinity for impact litigation work. Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Bonadies felt most drawn to direct services work because her time at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) showed her direct services could greatly lift both individuals and communities and, in contrast, she had fewer clear, tangible examples of how litigation could be effectively used as a tool for social change. Over the past year, Bonadies has witnessed firsthand how well-crafted litigation can likewise result in significant advancements for community-based interests. For example, she has seen how replacing discriminatory electoral schemes with more equitable systems can result in significantly greater success for minority candidates seeking public office. She likewise has learned that she has a much stronger interest in legal writing now that it involves causes she energetically supports, drawing a contrast with many of her writing assignments in law school which bore no connection to social causes she supports.
How did Bonadies find her way to the Lawyers’ Committee?
Bonadies reflected that her path to the Lawyers’ Committee has not been a direct one. Bonadies drew her initial inspiration to attend law school from her work as an AmeriCorps teacher in Phoenix, where she recognized that students were facing barriers that she could not solve through her work in the classroom. Her students’ parents frequently asked her legal questions that she could not answer, and it became clear that “the instability that their parents were facing had very tangible effects on my students’ ability to learn.” Prompted by these experiences, Bonadies arrived at HLS intending to study education law. However, Bonadies soon found herself most interested in community-based lawyering and this interest led her to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). Although HLAB did not focus on education law per say, Bonadies quickly discovered direct services required educational tools and resources to better orient indigent communities to the legal systems that structure their lives. HLAB also provided invaluable training in litigation, providing ample opportunity for oral arguments, depositions, and negotiations. Building on her work at HLAB, Bonadies developed a post-graduate fellowship focused on housing and employment law through the Public Service Venture Fund. Based at Centro Legal de la Raza (“Centro Legal”) in Oakland, California, Bonadies learned critical skills from Centro Legal’s experienced attorneys and the organization’s tiered service model which included clinics, limited-scope services, and direct representation. Moreover, Bonadies’s fellowship enabled her to continue her interest in education by strengthening Centro Legal’s partnerships with local schools to better inform students and their parents of their legal rights and available remedies.
Bonadies greatly enjoyed her work at Centro Legal, but her personal life presented a geographic challenge. She had always envisioned working where she grew up: California’s East Bay. But her partner was a Navy JAG who was assigned to work in Washington, D.C. Bonadies ultimately decided to relocate to be closer to her partner. Her first instinct was to look search for an organization that could replicate Centro Legal, but she quickly learned that duplicating experiences would not be feasible since each location presents its own network of public service organizations. She decided to embrace D.C.’s array of options for public service attorneys, and broadened the scope of her search accordingly to include more positions involving policy and coalition-based work. As part of this process, she set up informational interviews with D.C. attorneys, including several who she met through her supervisors at Centro Legal. Bonadies emphasized the importance of those interviews, which “connected me to the right buzzwords, the right issues driving each organization, the right people to talk to.” When she heard about the job at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, she saw an opportunity to combine her long-standing interest in education with an interest in voting rights she had developed in law school as a research assistant for Professor Lani Guinier.
Conscious that this job was quite different from her legal services background, Bonadies spent a significant amount of time writing and re-writing her cover letter. This careful drafting process helped her articulate the connections between voting rights and her past work. The application and interview process also resulted in a shift of her understanding of her own expertise. “To an organization’s eyes, I’m just a new attorney,” she said. “While I felt as if I was really specialized in something one year out of law school, I now think they had a different viewpoint: they saw me as a young attorney who needed training in any subject matter, but who had potential.” Affirming the transferability of her skills in housing and employment law, the Lawyers’ Committee offered Bonadies the position and she gladly accepted.
Speaking about a year into this work, Bonadies noted that the new environment required some adjustment and entailed “a very steep learning curve.” Fortunately, her new job has also presented her with talented and generous mentors. Along the way, she has developed additional skills and interests, including the new-found appreciation for impact litigation work mentioned above. Overall, she explained, “one of the best, most empowering lessons I have learned is that I can change locations and change subject areas. It’s freeing to know that I can pivot towards new practices when needed or desired.”
Written by Erin Kelley, OPIA Summer Fellow 2015
January 27, 2016 | 1 Comment
Opportunities to pursue international work and study are integral parts of Harvard Law School’s identity. Students can pursue numerous avenues to study international law, and explore it more deeply by doing an internship during the summer, or spending a semester abroad. Read about Peter Nash Stavros, a 3L, who spent this past fall semester at the University of Geneva and also spent his past two summers working abroad. Peter offers a glimpse into how one can build up international credentials and explore a wide array of work types while doing so.
Two Summers Abroad: The ICC and UNICEF Jordan Country Office
Peter Nash Stavros, a 3L, spent his recent fall semester at the University of Geneva and also spent the past two summers abroad. He worked at the Investigations Division at the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court during his 1L summer and the Children Protection Section of UNICEF’s Jordan Country Office during his 2L summer. During his time at HLS, Peter has also worked for UNHCR in D.C. and Earthjustice in San Francisco. These experiences combined have helped him narrow his field of interest to international refugee and migration law in the MENA region.
What type of work did you do at the ICC and UNICEF, and how would you compare the two experiences?
At the ICC, my work involved the systemization of facts into analysis and coherent legal arguments intended to support the Prosecutorial Division. The ICC was a great experience, but going back, I would have split my time between the Prosecutorial and Investigations divisions. At UNICEF, I investigated human rights violations and documented related protection concerns. Most of my time was spent in the field conducting interviews at Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps. Being around a passionate and diverse group of people both times was incredibly rewarding.
How did you go about securing these positions?
The application for my ICC internship was due in early November, so I started the process in the beginning of the fall semester. I recommend speaking with Professor Alex Whiting, the expert on international criminal law. UNICEF was trickier. I utilized HELIOS and Google to obtain the contact information of specific individuals working in organizations based in the MENA region. During Christmas break, I began sending out concise e-mails with an updated resume, making it clear that I was seeking an unpaid position. This was helpful because conscientious recipients often forward your e-mail to their colleagues, and your resume can reach an office that needs you. Given the importance of networking, I recommend speaking to professors and offices like OPIA and the International Legal Studies, as well as Wasserstein Fellows and upper year students who can connect you to employers and other helpful contacts. I secured both of these positions around mid-February.
As a recipient of the Chayes and Human Rights Program fellowships, can you shed some light on how fellowship application deadlines fit into the job search timeline?
Students interested in public interest work will often need to reconcile separate timelines. There is one unified application for both the Chayes and HRP fellowships. In both years, I submitted this application well before securing a job, and I kept the staff at the ILS informed of my job search process.
Do you have any additional advice?
Be mindful of the international timeline. Many organizations will not begin looking at applications until January, and you will continue to receive interview invitations and job offers well into the spring. I recommend that you stay patient and not panic, as if you end up committing to a domestic job that you aren’t very interested in, you may miss out on some amazing opportunities. Also note that the following attributes are generally valued in international public interest work – language skills, substantive travel experience, related professional experience, and a commitment to public interest.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Rep Ha Ryong Jung (Michael)
Do you know any/are you a motivated undergrad looking to gain exposure to public interest law this summer? This is a GREAT opportunity for undergraduates to learn more about different areas of public interest legal work, take on a wide variety of projects to help support the office, and build on their research, writing and project management skills. The internship also consists of a lunch speaker series where local legal practitioners, faculty and staff come to HLS to discuss their career paths and the different areas of public interest law they might work in. OPIA is a small, close-knit office, so we also have a summer bbq at the Assistant Dean’s house, a community service outing, and other great experiences along the way. Come join us this summer!
The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School seeks between 4-5 undergraduates to work as Public Interest Fellows for the upcoming summer. The office, staffed by experienced attorneys, counsels hundreds of law students and alumni interested in pursuing public service work. The job offers great exposure to the legal profession, particularly for someone contemplating a career in public interest law. We are seeking students with a background or strong interest in public service as well as prior experience working in an office environment. Our summer fellows take part in a brown bag lunch series exploring several aspects of public interest law and have the opportunity to participate in community service activities.
Applications are being accepted and must be received by March 4th, 2016. Hiring will be done on a rolling basis so students are encouraged to submit their applications early.
Project assignments will likely include (but are not limited to) the following:
• Help revise public service career specialty guides, such as a human trafficking guide, and national security law guide.
• Organize panels and events, and assist with planning for visiting Fellows.
• Conduct interviews with current HLS students and alumni to highlight and spotlight their public interest experiences and career paths.
• Maintain our public interest job search database, posting job opportunities and cleaning up data.
• Assist with internet research projects and synthesizing of information for internal and/or external use.
• Perform general office duties, such as fielding phone calls and emails from alumni and employers, photocopying, data entry, website updates, and project and publication support.
Qualifications: Strong attention to detail, excellent organizational and writing skills are required, along with the ability to self-start on projects and prioritize effectively. Must be a team player. Enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a demonstrated interest in public service work are a must! Familiarity with Microsoft Office, PC computer platforms, and databases is extremely important. Knowledge of Word Press would be very helpful. The summer fellowships are paid positions: $12/hr, 35 hrs/week for ten weeks of work (more if the student’s schedule allows). Please include your GPA on your resume. Applicants are also encouraged to list all employment experience.
We do not hire first year students or students entering or enrolled in law school for summer internships. If we receive an outstanding application from a first year, we will encourage you to reapply for a subsequent summer. We will consider qualified rising juniors and the majority of our summer fellows have completed at least three years of their undergraduate programs.
To Apply: please send a resume and cover letter as soon possible, and no later than March 4th, 2016. Send materials to Micah Nemiroff at mnemiroff at law.harvard.edu.
January 15, 2016 | Leave a Comment
There are numerous pathways within the field of law, which can be daunting for many. Read below to learn how one alumna followed an unconventional. Not everything is linear.
When Stephanie Gendell ’98 arrived at law school, she knew she didn’t want to follow a conventional path. She wanted to help children and she had no desire to do litigation. “At the time,” she said, “both of those things were very unusual.” Since then, with the help of strong, positive mentors, she has pursued a highly successful career in and out of government. She has benefited from seeing government systems from the inside and learned that litigation and law change are not the only ways to have an impact. While in law school, Gendell pursued her interest in the child welfare system by working at an organization called Massachusetts Families for Kids. Her supervisor there was an “invaluable” resource, showing her what a law degree could do in the field of child advocacy and urging her to consider a position in government.
Though it was stressful to watch her fellow students secure their jobs months in advance while she continued her search, Gendell stuck with her mentor’s advice and applied for several positions at the Administration for Children Services (ACS) in New York City. Though she was initially committed to working in the policy department, she found herself accepting a position working under the Deputy General Counsel (and then General Counsel), Joseph Cardieri, in the legal unit. “I was almost surprised myself that I was doing anything involving the legal unit,” Gendell said, “but I felt like I had really connected with him in the interview. He was the person that I really wanted to work with.”
At ACS, where she eventually became chief of staff to the Executive Deputy Commissioner, Gendell put her law degree to work in nontraditional ways. She trained attorneys and caseworkers on the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, conducted court observation to see how resources and training could be improved, reviewed cases that w needed “fixing,” helped families where housing was the last barrier to reunification, and developed policies related to safety, permanency and well-being. As she saw “how very difficult it was to change the behavior of thousands of people working at ACS,” she learned that simply passing or amending a law does not automatically create change.
After 8 years, when a colleague from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) contacted her about an open position, Gendell took it. Gendell currently serves as the Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at CCC, and manages the policy work related to child welfare and juvenile justice. Speaking of the transition from the public sector to non-profit work, Gendell noted that “the skills are very similar.” She works with many of the same people and attends many of the same meetings, “just with a different hat.” Gendell also found her extensive experience in government to be an asset in the non-profit world. “Having worked in the agency gives you credibility,” she said, as well as a deeper understanding of the experiences and challenges of the people who work there.
In line with her unconventional legal career, Gendell’s current work consists largely of policy advocacy and community outreach. Months after securing positions for twenty-five additional family court judges, Gendell was still triumphant about the win. And while a recent bid to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York was unsuccessful, she intends to try again. Gendell also spends a great deal of time speaking with the press, testifying at city council hearings, attending coalition meetings, and organizing classes to educate the public on children’s issues.
While she does not go to court or write new laws, Gendell said that she has found other highly effective means of changing the system and that her legal background is very useful in her day-to-day work. “There are definitely times when the answer is to change the law or sue somebody,” Gendell said, “but there are a lot of other ways to make change.” Her legal training allows her to better understand complex statutes related to her work, as well as the flaws in the court system around which the CCC advocates. She would not have always described her law degree as valuable for advocacy, she said, “but over time I feel like I can appreciate it more.”
December 8, 2015 | 2 Comments
Jacqueline Berrien ’86, a leading civil rights lawyer and former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, died on Nov. 9, 2015. She was 53. Read more…
October 27, 2015 | 2 Comments
Amal Bass ’06, Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, knew when she enrolled at HLS that she would emerge a public interest lawyer, though she wasn’t sure in what form.
Arriving with interests in Latino civil rights, education law, and gender issues, she spent her 1L summer with the Women’s Law Project and her 2L summer with the Homeless Advocacy Project. These internships exposed her not only to different fields but also to contrasting types of work. She explored policy-based work at the Women’s Law Project, assisting with impact litigation and researching and writing on legal issues. “It was very interesting,” she says, “I got to see an issue I care about up close and work with lawyers doing something that mattered, something that mattered to people in a big way.” Her 2L summer focused on more client-based work, assisting homeless individuals.
Ultimately deciding to pursue policy-based work, Bass returned to the Women’s Law Project after graduation as a full-time staff attorney. The small size of the organization fosters a busy, dynamic atmosphere. In a typical day, Bass deals with issues related to pregnancy discrimination, sexual assault on college campuses, female athletic programs, and domestic violence. These issues may be addressed through impact litigation, administrative appeals, policy drafting, or public education.
In the seven years since she joined the Women’s Law Project, Bass has noted an increase in certain kinds of cases. One such trend is the surge in pregnancy discrimination cases; in a recession, pregnant women are often the first people to be laid off. Bass hopes that pending federal legislation, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, will help to remedy parts of this problem. At the present moment, however, she and her colleagues must work within an existing legal framework that often fails to protect women from these discriminatory practices. “The most frustrating part of my job is talking to young women who think that they have more rights than they do. They feel their employers should treat them better but there’s often not much recourse because the law just isn’t as good as we’d like it to be,” Bass laments.
These gaps in the law demonstrate a need for change, and the Women’s Law Project is working to create policy to fill the voids. Their efforts recently resulted in the passage of a law that will require public schools to report data on gender equity in their athletic programs, and the Law Project played a critical role in the FBI’s revision of its definition of rape in 2012. These are just two examples of the ways in which the Women’s Law Project is able to impact systems and institutions in a profound way. “Data is important, knowledge is important, and access is important. It’s slow, but we do have successes. And we often don’t have time to sit and congratulate ourselves because we’re already onto the next issue,” Bass remarks.
Bass offers encouragement to those interested in her line of work. “A lot of people look at public interest work and think that getting your first job is all about luck,” she says, “And there is an element of that, but there are things you can do to make yourself more likely to be lucky.” She advises gaining clinical experience and seeking out contacts in communities of interest.
She also notes that students should try not to be anxious choosing the “right” job out of law school. She describes Philadelphia’s public interest law community as fluid, frequently sharing information, initiatives, and even employees; the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Community Legal Services, Philadelphia Legal Aid, and Women Against Abuse are just some of the organizations that cooperate with the Women’s Law Project, and Bass knows of many public interest lawyers who have worked on a variety legal issues at more than one organization over the course of their careers. “Where our issues overlap, I haven’t felt a sense of territoriality. Anyone who can come to the table and contribute is welcome,” she remarks, “It’s a really nice community to be a part of.”
Written by an OPIA Summer Fellow
A summer in public interest: Immigration and Impact Litigation at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
October 27, 2015 | 2 Comments
Our spotlights on current and former students who interned in the public sector will shed light on the numerous opportunities available to HLS students during the summer. Read this and other OPIA blog posts to gain better insight into what a summer public interest internship can really look like.
Eva Bitran, 2L, spent her summer at the American Civil Liberties Union national headquarters in New York City working for the Immigrants’ Rights Project. Most of her day-to-day work involved research and writing in support of the organization’s impact litigation efforts. Eva’s assignments included general research on legal concepts as well as specific tasks for current cases. These diverse projects allowed her to gain “perspective on the higher-up practice of impact litigation,” including elaborating general legal theories, deciding whether to bring a specific suit, developing strategies for challenging a discriminatory law, and collaborating with allied organizations. Although Eva had not studied constitutional law before her internship, she was challenged to write a memo on a 14th Amendment issue and found that “you can just teach yourself anything.” “The cool thing about working for the ACLU,” she said, “is that you develop skills to actually advocate for changes in the law, beyond the predictive writing that you learn in LRW.”
Eva described her supervisors, a mix of junior and senior attorneys, as responsive to her interests and happy to assign projects relating to specific areas she requested. They were also willing to informally “engage with career advice.” Eva enjoyed the collegial environment of the office, even the large “laptop sweatshop” where interns from across the office’s various projects worked and socialized elbow-to-elbow. The office also held regular programming for interns, including inviting former ACLU attorneys to speak about their current work and career paths, as well as brown bag lunches with current senior staff.
Eva explained that this internship would not be ideal for a student hoping to gain extensive experience with client interaction, direct legal services, or court appearances. Interns at this large office did have to be proactive to seek out feedback and advice from busy attorneys.
Eva’s interest in immigration law stems from her family’s history. An immigrant herself, Eva grew up in Mexico and the United States and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008. Her family, Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain, made their way to Turkey and Chile before settling in Mexico in the 1970s. At HLS, Eva is on the board of the Harvard Immigration Project and leads its Community Training Team. She also participates in the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, conducts research on immigration law with Professor Deborah Anker, and serves as a member of the Board of Student Advisers. Eva is pursuing a joint doctoral degree in History, and plans to focus her dissertation on migration in North Africa. Eva will continue her work on immigrants’ rights at the Department of Justice in the Office of Human Rights and Special Prosecutions next summer, and ultimately hopes to practice immigration law and teach at a law school.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Lily Axelrod
March 9, 2015 | 1 Comment
Congratulations to Shannon Erwin (HLS, 2010), and Alana Greer (HLS, 2011), Harvard Law School’s next PSVF seed grant recipients!
Greer will use the seed grant for the Community Justice Project, a community lawyering organization based in Florida. Erwin will found the Muslim Justice League in Boston.
Read the full announcement at http://today.law.harvard.edu/public-serv….
February 19, 2015 | 4 Comments
2L Zack Bluestone spent last summer with the Office of the Chief Prosecutor (OCP) in the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions. Headed by Brigadier General Mark Martins (HLS ’90), the office is responsible for the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 and U.S.S. COLE attacks, as well as others accused of serious violations of the laws of war. OCP consists of approximately eighty employees; this includes civilians, Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps officers, and other servicewomen and men from all four branches of the military.
Zack spent about half of his time conducting research (e.g., comparing prosecutions in military commissions to those in federal courts, voir dire) and the other half on more narrow and novel legal questions (e.g., “matching specific facts to the elements that must be proven to convict a particular defendant”). Zack was also lucky enough to draft significant portions of responses to several pretrial motions from defense counsel.
Because Brigadier General Martins is committed to ensuring the fairness and legitimacy of the military tribunal process, internal discussion and debate were highly encouraged. As one of only a handful of student interns, Zack was frequently called upon to weigh in on these historically significant matters. For anyone interested in national security—or in the interplay between security and liberty more generally—the experience is without parallel.
Zack heard of this opportunity from one of his 1L professors. He submitted a cover letter and resume in November, interviewed by phone in early December, and was offered the position on the spot (pending a background investigation and security clearance). Because the timeline was so early in the year, Zack was able to begin his fall semester finals with a summer job already in hand.
Zack says that anyone considering the military JAG Corps should definitely consider applying, for there is no better way to interact with officers from all four military branches. Zack also thinks that the experience would be valuable for anyone who is interested in federal prosecution or government service more generally. He, himself, developed contacts within the office that helped him secure a federal appellate clerkship and a position for next summer.
All in all, Zack loved his time with the OCP. He says it was a great chance to get personally involved with an issue of extreme national and historical importance and a great way to develop strong professional relationships within the field. He plans to take more national security law courses next semester, and plans to build a career in the field after his clerkship.
Written by 1L OPIA Section Rep George Hageman
Last summer, Katherine Calle worked as an intern at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, a public interest organization in Washington, D.C. CCLP works with jurisdictions and facilities to improve the juvenile justice system across the country. CCLP’s work focuses on reducing unnecessary incarceration of youth without jeopardizing public safety, eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and improving conditions of confinement for youth in state and local facilities.
Katherine found her position through OPIA’s Wasserstein Fellow program. One of the attorneys, at CCLP, Jazon Szanyi, came to campus as a Wasserstein Fellow. Katherine learned about CCLP over lunch. A few months later, Katherine applied to be an intern at CCLP.
CCLP prioritizes giving their summer interns a good experience, and it shows. In fact, one of the attorneys even has a sign that says, “Have you thought about our interns today?” hanging on his office wall. At the beginning of the summer, each intern’s supervisor asked the interns what they wanted to get out of their time at CCLP and tried to assign them projects based on their interests.
Over the summer, Katherine learned about juvenile justice by researching case law, statutes, as and state, local, and federal policy. One of her projects applied these tools in the context of restorative justice. Restorative justice provides an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system to juveniles who have committed certain offenses. The restorative justice model focuses on repairing the harm done rather than punishment. One particular jurisdiction wanted to find a way to facilitate the sharing of juvenile contact information between schools and the restorative justice program. Katherine’s statutory research helped to find a way to make it easier for this sharing to take place so that more youth might be able to take advantage of the program. Hopefully, the jurisdiction will be able to implement these new procedures next year.
After graduation, Katherine will be clerking for the Honorable Alvin W. Thompson of the U.S. District of Connecticut and will then clerk for the Honorable Michael A. Chagares of the Third Circuit.
Written by 1L OPIA Section Rep Erika Johnson