Cross-Clinical Collaboration: HIRC visits Charles Darwin University in Australia

Sabi Ardalan (left) and Jeswynn Yogaratnam from Charles Darwin University

Sabi Ardalan (left) and Jeswynn Yogaratnam from Charles Darwin University

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

This past August, HIRC’s Sabi Ardalan traveled to Australia to help Charles Darwin University (CDU) in Australia’s Northern Territory set up their own clinical program.  Jeswynn Yogaratnam, a law lecturer at CDU, initiated the plan for an immigration and refugee law clinic in hopes of training a new generation of humanitarian lawyers while addressing increasing demand for legal services as rising numbers of asylum seekers in the territory face detention and deportation.

Sabi met Jeswynn last November when he came to Boston to meet with clinic staff and students at Harvard and GBLS to learn about the clinic.

During her trip this August, Sabi led a two-day workshop at the Charles Darwin University School of Law with law faculty and community partners to discuss the evolving role of clinical legal education in the US and Australia and set the groundwork for a clinical program at CDU.  During her time there, Sabi also spoke at the Northern Territory’s Law Society about the current challenges of the US asylum system as record numbers of people arrive at the US Border and adjudicators place increasing emphasis on credibility and corroborating evidence.

CDU hopes to officially launch their immigration and refugee clinical program at the beginning of next year.

For more information on HIRC’s collaboration with Charles Darwin University visit ABC News.

‘Our justice system has become inaccessible to millions of poor people,’ says Dean Martha Minow

Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School  Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard University News Office

Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School
Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard University News Office

Via HLS News

“Our justice system has become inaccessible to millions of poor people and so every day, we violate the ‘equal justice under law’ motto engraved on the front of the grand United States Supreme Court.”

That is the message shared by Harvard Law School Dean and Vice Chair of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors Martha Minow in a recent opinion piece in the Boston Globe. In media interviews and in testimony before state boards, Minow has been outlining the challenges faced by civil legal servicesand the critical need to expand access to justice.

In an Oct. 23 op-ed for the Boston Globe, “We must ensure everyone has access to equal justice,” Minow highlights the crisis in access to justice stating that although poverty levels have increased, federal contributions toward nonprofit organizations have decreased significantly over the past 20 years: “In Massachusetts, nearly 1 million people qualify for legal aid services. Despite steady funding from the Legislature, and the excellent donation of services and money by lawyers in the Commonwealth, the 15 legal aid organizations supported by Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation must turn away some 64 percent of those eligible for help.”

These findings are based on a recently released report by the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, where Minow has served as a member for more than 18 months. The report,Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts,” indicates that an annual $30 million in new state funding is required to help bridge the gap between existing resources and what is needed to provide appropriate civil legal aid to all who are eligible.

On Oct. 6, at a public hearing on the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, at the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Minow testified on the need to improve access to justice for low-income legal aid clients.

In her testimony, Minow said helping the disadvantaged aids the population as a whole: “Americans who cannot afford legal help routinely forfeit basic rights. Neither the facts of their situation nor governing law are to blame. Lack of legal assistance is the problem. When people forfeit their rights simply because they cannot afford legal help, we all suffer.”

Minow was also recently profiled in LawDragon and the Harvard Gazette, “My life was gong to have to deal with issues of social injustice.”

Established by Congress in 1974, the Legal Services Corporation is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 statistics on poverty, 63.6 million people were eligible for LSC-funded services. LSC-funded programs helped approximately 1.8 million people in 2013. The clients served are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level threshold, an income of $29,813 a year for a family of four.

Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981, where her courses include civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, nonprofit organizations, and the public law workshop. An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict.

Besides her many scholarly articles published in journals of law, history, and philosophy, her books include In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Constitutional Landmark (2010); Government by Contract (co-edited, 2009); Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference (co-edited, 2008); Breaking the Cycles of Hatred: Memory, Law and Repair(edited by Nancy Rosenblum with commentary by other authors, 2003); Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good (2002), and others.

Learning about Holistic Representation

Mo Devine, Clinical Instructor at Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and Donna Harati '15

Mo Devine, Clinical Instructor at Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and Donna Harati ’15

Via the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Donna Harati ‘15 had the unique opportunity to represent a client in both her divorce and Social Security disability benefits cases. The two cases were closely interrelated – the domestic violence that Jane* had suffered throughout her marriage led to mental illness and a suicide attempt which left Jane physically disabled.

When Jane first became a client of the Bureau, she was ashamed of her suicide attempt. She was reluctant to discuss her depression and PTSD and often minimized her symptoms to her medical providers. Donna worked closely with Jane to prepare her for the difficult, but necessary, discussion of her physical and mental disabilities at the Social Security hearing. Through the encouragement of Donna and clinical instructor Maureen (“Mo”) Devine, Jane began regular visits to a therapist and a psychiatrist. Jane learned to share openly with these professionals, recognizing the importance for both her case and her health.

Jane said, “When I first went to HLAB, I was depressed. I met Donna, and she made me feel like we were friends or family, so I started changing and feeling more comfortable.”

In December 2013, Donna not only won monthly disability benefits for her client going forward but also benefits dating back to the onset of Jane’s disability in 2012. Jane finalized her divorce and was awarded full legal and physical custody of her two children.

“Representing Jane with respect to both her divorce and her SSDI benefits deepened Donna’s understanding of Jane’s life,” said Mo, “That understanding enhanced the representation experience for both student and client.  Donna also had the satisfaction of knowing her work made a difference in Jane’s life now and into the future.”

Jane believes that this year represents a fresh start for her and is now excited to share her story. She visited the Advanced Clinical Practice class to take part in a discussion of client experiences through the Bureau. Annie Lee ’14 was inspired by the class discussion with Jane.

“When Jane told us that she is about to graduate from college and get her degree, we were all thrilled and applauded her accomplishment” said Annie. “It was wonderful to hear from Jane about how life improved after her HLAB representation.  I found it humbling that what my colleagues and I do can alter a person’s life trajectory.”

“Working with Jane was a privilege. I am constantly in awe of our clients and all that they overcome,” said Donna.

*name changed to protect confidentiality

The Road Next Travelled

Michael Haroz, Director at Goulston & Storrs

Michael Haroz, Director at Goulston & Storrs

By: Michael Haroz, HLS ’ 70 
Director at Goulston & Storrs  

On the way to a meeting with human rights activists on a rural road in Croatia after the Balkan Wars, the driver of our car asked if I wanted to take a detour to see a very old church. I enthusiastically said yes. As we disembarked from the car, I heard him comment that he was pretty sure landmines from the recent war had been cleared from the area. Somehow I could not get the words “pretty sure” out of my mind. For a moment it even made me less sure about the wisdom of accepting the invitation that had brought me from my corner office at a major Boston law firm to a recent war zone after 35 years of corporate practice.

The invitations go by different names with each inviting someone to leap. Some are called “second acts”, “the next phase” or “encore”. But all are directed at retired or near retired boomers that are not ready to slip into the night quietly or fade away. You are invited to take the “retire” out of retirement and replace it with “engage”, as in engagement in giving back to the community. For me it was a redo of an earlier phase. For other boomers it may be finally getting to giving back.

Several years ago I accepted an invitation from the International Senior Lawyers Project to do volunteer work with human rights organizations. I stepped down from a busy private law firm practice to engage in international pro bono legal work. For almost a decade, I have worked with groups in Croatia, Kenya, The Czech Republic, South Africa and Burma. I have learned important lessons in that process that may be helpful to fellow boomers contemplating moving to encore community service.

I had started my legal career as a public interest lawyer and then spent 35 years as a corporate lawyer. College grads are commonly advised to follow their passions. That is what I did when I decided to enter law school in 1967. My passion was not a love of the law but a sense that the law could and should be used to advance human rights. The civil rights and antiwar issues of the ‘60”s spawned the passion.

My present encore phase is a circling back. I want again to use law to build justice. I had kept my early passion alive by doing my share of pro bono work and kept it smoldering. The spark came with the invitation to go to Croatia. That relit the passion I had felt as a 20 year old. It was the same thing I had learned in 1967, which is to find and follow your passion. I was lucky perhaps to have an old flame to go to but the lesson learned is more general. An encore needs a reason to be produced. Passion about something gives you that reason. It does not have to be the same passion you once had. It can be entirely new or a diluted version of the past. But you need passion for the next act to get older bones and brains moving and cranking when age begins to suggest it is time to stop. Find and follow your passion is the first lesson.

The second lesson came from fear. It was the fear that many overachievers have. The fear of failure and the fear that I did not know anything that could be useful or relevant outside my specialty. I had handled finance transactions involving 100 plus million dollars loans. There were not many human rights involved in those transactions and initially I doubted my ability to really be useful in a different setting. But my recent experience has shown me that my past experience was relevant. As a corporate lawyer I did learn the importance of getting things done, not letting trees obscure the forest (or to forget that forests are composed of trees), being prompt and responsive, maintaining an ethic of service, digging for facts, and forming judgments. It turns out that I did know a lot that is relevant and useful. It is a matter of looking at what I had learned as a set of general attributes, experiences, attitudes and skills. So the second lesson is have no fear, you know more than you think.

But as much as I knew, I needed to learn new things and attitudes. Some were obvious like learning newer substantive law concepts that are very much a part of modern human rights advocacy and never existed 30 years ago. Others were not so obvious. As a commercial lawyer everything had to be done the day before today. There was a fast pace and tangible conclusions that built in immediate accountability. It was inherent in the work and satisfying to accomplish something tangible. Not so with human rights work. Seeking justice for persons with disabilities or helping displaced small farmers in Burma regain their land are not short-term efforts. In completing a business transaction, I could feel like the master of a universe. In working on human rights issues, I have learned (again perhaps) that the fruits of my labor may not ripen for many years, if at all. In that is the third lesson. You need to learn and unlearn. You may be an old dog but you can and will need to learn new tricks. You will also have to leave behind old habits and expectations as you move from one world to another.

My “next phase” has been eased by my past. I have recycled more than invented. Public interest work still happens in settings that are not different than what I experienced in the 1970’s. The offices are still mostly shabby and located in 4th floor walk up buildings in poor areas. Office coffee still sits and bakes in grungy coffee pots. Even so, it has been like returning home. And, I will add, safely so, as my Croatian driver was right. That detour area was clear and I was soon back on the road to the next stop on a 35-year, variable but consistent effort to use law to promote justice.

Harvard Portrait: Deborah Anker

Deborah Anker is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. Photograph by Stu Rosner

Deborah Anker is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. Photograph by Stu Rosner

Via the Harvard Magazine

“THIS IS MY CAUSE,” thought Deborah Anker, M.A.T. ’70, LL.M. ’84, upon her first encounter with immigration law. A second-generation American whose Jewish grandparents crossed the Atlantic to escape the Holocaust, she got her start at a Boston-based refugee-assistance organization, where she worked for a few years after earning her law degree. Her family history sparked her passion for the subfield of asylum law, on which she later wrote the treatise that made her one of the discipline’s most prominent scholars. The clinical professor of law notes that she inherited her deep sense of social justice from her parents, both public servants with progressive values. “I have grown up with a tremendous passion about civil rights,” she recalls, adding that even her family was not progressive enough for her rebellious spirit. When Anker joined the Law School faculty in the mid 1980s, she notes, immigration “wasn’t even considered an area of law.” In addition to teaching the first full immigration-law course offered at the school, in 1984 she co-founded the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, an initiative that engages students in the direct representation of asylum applicants. “The best doctrine is shaped by the experience of representing clients,” explains Anker, whose career has unfolded at the intersection of scholarship and practice. “I was born into a community that had just suffered so much,” she says of her choice not to pursue a “happier” field. Coming into close contact with the sadness of her clients has been for her a cathartic experience. During three decades of lawyering, Anker has witnessed “the resiliency of the human spirit” in her clients, which she says has been profoundly transformative.

Congratulations to the Pro Bono Honor Roll Students

L-R: Katherine Soltis, J.D. ’15; Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Hon. Ralph D. Gants; and Jocelyn Keider, J.D. ’15

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs offers its heartfelt congratulations to the 15 Harvard Law students honored for their commitment to pro bono work at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2014 Adams Pro Bono Publico Award Ceremony. We are proud to have you represent Harvard Law School! 

Gregory Baltz, J.D. ’15
Ellyn Gendler, J.D. ’15
Donna Harati, J.D. ’15
Jocelyn Keider, J.D. ’15
Fan Li, J.D. ’15
Rebecca Moses, J.D. ’15
Sara Murphy, J.D. ’16
Maria A. Parra-Orlandoni, J.D. ’15
Francesca Procaccini, J.D. ’15
Andres Rapoport, J.D. ’15
Colin Taylor Ross, J.D. ’16
Amanda Savage, J.D. ’15
David Smith
Katherine Soltis, J.D. ’15
Menglu Wang, J.D. ’15

Interview with Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award Winner Mira Edmonds

In celebration of the National Pro Bono Week, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs interviewed past winners of the HLS Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award who were chosen for their excellence and extraordinary contributions to the public good. Mira Edmonds, HLS ’07, is a Visiting Associate Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington University Law School. At HLS, she completed 2,114 hours of pro bono work with the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB). Please read the interview with Mira below. 

Mira Edmonds, Visiting Associate Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington University Law School

Mira Edmonds, HLS ’07, Visiting Associate Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington University Law School

OCP: Why did you choose to study law and what sparked your interest in pro bono work?
Edmonds: I decided to study law because it seemed like many of the people I admired as social change agents were lawyers and the practice of law seemed like one of the best ways to fight for justice. I can’t exactly say what sparked my interest in pro bono work since that is redundant with my interest in law. It never occurred to me that I would work for a client who could afford to pay me. I was only ever interested in representing people who would not be able to pay me because they would be the ones who would most need my services.

OCP: What were your biggest learning experiences at HLS?
Edmonds: I was fortunate to have extraordinary mentors and teachers both during my summer internships and during my two years as a student-attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. I probably learned the most from my mistakes — things I did which still make me blush, but which my clinical supervisors helped me to reflect upon and learn from. Above all, my clinical experience, which is where I did most of my pro bono hours, taught me how to be self-reflective about my practice, so that no experience went wasted.  In any situation, whether I performed well or performed poorly, I was asked to reflect on how I could have done better.

OCP: What do you find most challenging and satisfying about pro bono work?
Edmonds: Working with clients! Working with clients is so often the most challenging part of pro bono work, particularly in the work I have chosen to do, because so many of them have had really rotten luck in life and consequently assume that the system is going to give them yet another raw deal, and unfortunately, I am often seen as part of that system. But the opportunity to improve a client’s life by some modest modicum, or even to help them to turn it around in some cases, is so satisfying.

OCP: Did your involvement with pro bono work influence or change you long terms goals?
Edmonds: I wouldn’t say my pro bono work changed my long term goals, so much as fortifying them. I came into law school wanting to do public interest work with every ounce of my being, and yet the pressure to go to a firm is so strong that even I participated in on-campus interviewing. The availability of summer funding from HLS enabled me to turn down the firm offers I received and spend my second summer at a public defender office instead, which is the field I entered upon graduation. I certainly could not have imagined that career, or been prepared for it, without that summer experience. And my experience at HLAB was so influential that I am now doing a clinical teaching fellowship through which I hope to teach and mentor and inspire a new generation of law students the way my clinical instructors at the Bureau did for me.