A Closer Look: Clinical Education at Harvard Law School

TABITHA COHEN: I think that
the law can be a great tool to achieve social justice. And I’ve definitely found
that my clinical work at HLS has proven that. JIMMY MCENTEE: It’s tough to
explain in words how amazing it felt to basically be pursuing
my dream of working in sports and seeing what it
was like firsthand. HA RYONG: The clinics
really gave me a holistic and
practical understanding of what it means
to be a true child advocate working on
behalf of children and upholding their rights. DANIEL NAGIN: The best
way to master a skill isn’t just to talk
about the skill and to read about the skill
and to think about the skill, but it’s actually to
practice the skill and have to do so in a
real situation involving a real client with real stakes. It is in that
crucible that students will learn the most
about what it takes to be an outstanding lawyer. And they’ll also learn
about themselves. HA RYONG: I came
with the purpose of wanting to further pursue
studies in children’s rights and child protection. I continuously came
across instances where legal frameworks existed,
but the rights and protections that I so believed that
children were entitled to were being violated nonstop. And I couldn’t really
understand why. The Human Rights Clinic and
the Child Advocacy Clinic, in my opinion, really
complemented each other well, because I wanted to
not only understand international human rights
and children’s rights but also the domestic system. If it wasn’t for the
Child Advocacy Clinic, I would not have been
able to really explain my understanding of
what the system here looks like, especially
Massachusetts, but also sort of generally
within the United States when it comes to the different
systems that work on children. DENISE GHARTEY: I worked
in eviction prevention and homelessness prevention. And I really enjoyed that work. And I thought that if I could
educate myself and learn a lot about it,
then I could also help people facilitate and
navigate that system easier. I had sent clients to H Lab. I knew they did
really great work, and they were
generally taking cases that a lot of other legal aid
and pro bono service providers were not able to provide. So I knew that H Lab would be
a place I wanted to come even before I came to law school. JIMMY MCENTEE: What I
think separates Harvard’s clinical opportunities
from other law schools is the sheer number of
clinical opportunities available to students. During my law
school experience, I worked my 2L J term
at the legal office for National Football League. I worked 3L J term in the
baseball operations department at the Minnesota Twins. I’ve been able to try
different types of law, see what litigation is like, see
what transaction work is like, see what IP work is like. WENDY JACOBS: It was
really important to me to provide students
with an experience that they won’t get
during law school unless they’re in
the clinic and they won’t get for several years
after law school either. And that is to really
learn what it’s like to practice law
and really experience working with other
professionals, whether the others are
clients or experts in a field that touches on their projects
or government officials or other decision makers. ESME CARAMELLO: Students
have had a dedicated clinical instructor
who has been matched with them who is
really focused on, who is this student
as a professional? What are their strengths? How can we bring those out? What are their weaknesses? What are the things
that they love to do? What are the things that
they find challenging? And could the things
they find challenging become things that
they love to do with the right sort of support? KENDRA ALBERT:
Sometimes students come in with a very particular
idea of who they want to be or what they want to do. But when a student
comes to me and says, I can’t do work for
this client, because I’m not technical enough. Or I can’t do work
for this client, because I’ve never
taken copyright. For me, those are
opportunities to push students to challenge themselves. I’ve had students show
up in my office and be like, I just really
think I’m not getting x. And them I’m like,
well, all right. Let me email my
fellow clinicians. Let’s go find you some x, right? Let’s go figure out some way for
you to get more client contact. Let’s go figure out
some way for you to get more experience working
on briefs or litigation. DENISE GHARTEY: Your
clinical instructor is always in the court with you. So just in case you get
nervous or just in case you don’t know how to
answer the question, they know everything
about the case as well, and they’re standing
right there. TABITHA COHEN: They
care very, very deeply both about their students and
our clients, and it shows. And they very much
lead by example. They also tell us, you are
this person’s attorney. And you’re the one
who’s going to be during the oral arguments. You’re the one who’s going to
be cross examining the officers. You’re the one who’s going
to be filing and drafting the motions. NADIA FARJOOD: One
of my favorite cases that I was able to work
on was with a young girl from Brazil who came to the
US to live with her godmother because she was
abused, abandoned, and neglected by her parents. I think one of the most
exciting aspects of that case for me is working
with a young person with so much passion
who wanted to be in this country, who
wanted to flee a very violent part of the world. Being able to file a
motion for special findings with a legal memorandum and
to go into the Suffolk family and probate court and to argue
a motion in front of a judge. And I learned so
much up to that point in terms of
organizing a case file and writing an affidavit that
was true to her experience, being able to go to that
court and argue something with my client by my
side answering questions, and to be able to get that
order of special findings and then to pass
that on to a partner organization that ended up
helping her process her I360. And now she’s a resident
of this country. It’s just been a really exciting
and meaningful experience for me as a student attorney. And it was a huge team
effort and something I was incredibly proud of. NATALIE TRIGO REYES: In the wake
of Hurricane Maria in September of last year, Professor Andrew
Crespo from here from the law school reached out to me
and we started this project to support Puerto Rico. It’s been very emotional for me,
because I’m from Puerto Rico. And the hurricane really
devastated the island on many levels. It’s estimated $90
billion of damages. 18 of us will be working on
legal assistance type of FEMA work, FEMA claims,
and insurance claims, maybe issues with contractors
and other types of issues. It’s really been
a labor of love. OCP really brought amazing
institutional knowledge and experience, including
experience working Katrina and Katrina recovery efforts. TABITHA COHEN: Our
clients are facing some of the most oppressive,
opaque, racist, classist, convoluted systems that
exist, particularly through the Immigration
and Refugee Clinic, through the Criminal
Justice Institute, through the Prison Legal
Assistance Project. Our clients are fighting
an uphill battle every day. Through the Prison Legal
Assistance Project, I had the opportunity to handle
an impact litigation case. The case went up to the
Supreme Judicial Court. And so, I was able to
argue before the justices on this prisoners’ rights
and disability rights issue. We won the case. And it now set precedent for
all of Massachusetts’ prisoners. And now, the Americans
with Disabilities Act applies to parole hearings,
and my client is always talking about how happy he is. And I’m able to tell him,
you helped so many people in Massachusetts. It’s because of you that
now all of these people are able to cite to your
case in their parole hearings and say that they can’t be
discriminated against because of their disability. HA RYONG: It was
fascinating when we took the trips
to, for example, Myanmar with the
Human Rights Clinic. There were HLS alumni that
were already working there with different organizations. And some we worked with
directly on our projects. And others provided us
with a better understanding of the local context
that really informed the work we were doing. And It was empowering to see
other HLS graduates, especially those who had taken the same
clinics that I have working in the field and to see
that, oh, that’s what I may be doing going forward as well. JIMMY MCENTEE: I can
think of 10 teams right now that have
in-house lawyers that are graduates of this law school
and specifically graduates of the sports law program
here at HLS in recent years. It’s one of the reasons why the
program is growing so quickly is because when students
start leaving the law school after a few
years, they make their way to leagues and teams. They feel kind of a desire
to repay Harvard and Harvard students, because
they know how much they got out of the experience. ESME CARAMELLO: It can be hard
to feel part of the Harvard Law School alumni community
because it’s so vast and so having these smaller
communities these shared experiences create
these natural bridges that I’ve seen help people both
professionally and personally NATALIE TRIGO REYES:
Finding a group of students who share your values
and your interests is just really wonderful. NIMAT LAWAL: I’ve been blessed
to meet some of my best friends on this campus
through Defenders. SETH HOEDL: I found that
the clinic was really my home with the law
school like nowhere else. TABITHA COHEN: I think that that
has really shaped my law school experience as well to have these
communities through my clinics. And I’ve developed some
of the closest friendships that I have in law
school through them. And it’s been really great.

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