Chad Baker ’15 wins Kaufman Pro Bono Award

Chad Baker J.D. '15

Chad Baker J.D. ’15

Chad Baker ’15 received the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award for exemplifying the pro bono public spirit and demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services to disadvantaged communities. The award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Program at Harvard Law School.

During his time at HLS, Chad has been an inspiring leader. He has contributed thousands of pro bono hours by working with the Tenant Advocacy Project, Prison Legal Assistance Project, and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB).

Chad was an excellent Executive Director of HLAB, “not only because he ran the office with strength and compassion, but because he continued taking hard cases while doing it,” said Clinical Professor of Law Esme Caramello who supervised him. “He also played a crucial role in setting the tone in the community, keeping us all focused on HLAB’s anti-poverty mission and ensuring that everyone here was constantly looking critically at their work and asking whether they were serving the right goals in the right way. Chad was much more than a functionary; he was a leader whose dedication and vision inspired everyone here to do more work, better and more thoughtfully.”

Chad’s client work has also been extraordinary. His Clinical Instructor, Patricia Whiting said “Chad demonstrated research and writing skills that I can honestly categorize as exemplary. During his two years at the Bureau, Chad researched and drafted a wide variety of documents: from pleadings and correspondence to an opposition to the landlord’s motion for summary judgment on behalf of a disabled client being evicted from public housing.” Chad’s work made a significant impact in his client’s life and is only one example of his commitment to helping people.

“[He] has been the heart and soul of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau,” said Whiting. “He has done extraordinary work as a student attorney in all of our practice areas, and has quietly made the Bureau a better legal services organization as well as a richer community.”

As an example, Chad helped revitalize HLAB’s Social Security disability practice by recruiting students to take disability cases, creating and running a streamlined investigation and intake system, and developing an enormous and resource-rich internal wiki containing all of the materials a Bureau student could need to handle a first disability law case.

“I’m so honored to receive the Kaufman award,” said Chad. “I’ve been tremendously grateful for the ample student practice opportunities at HLS. Student practice organizations and HLAB gave me the chance to learn real lawyering skills from talented colleagues and supervisors while serving marginalized communities.”

Next year Chad is going to Chicago to work with Bureau alum and 2008 winner of Kaufman Pro Bono Award Lam Ho, in his new community lawyering startup, Community Activism Law Alliance.

Two Win 2015 Exemplary Clinical Student Award

Harvard Law School’s Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs recognizes two graduating students who exemplify putting theory into practice through clinical work. The honorees are Seth Hoedl ’15 and Seth Packrone ’15. They have demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects. In addition, both students are recognized for demonstrating thoughtfulness and compassion in their practice and for contributing to the clinical community at HLS in a meaningful way.

Seth Hoedl, J.D. ’15

Seth Hoedl (Clinical Award)

Credit: Lorin Granger

As a student in the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Seth Hoedl demonstrated exceptional skills and experience in tackling significant environmental problems. During his four semesters in the clinic, he examined whether a European nation was in violation of the Espoo Convention, developed a legal strategy to help the City of Boston provide energy resilience to its residents through microgrids, and identified new ways that universities and others can decrease and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

“In each project, Seth demonstrated a level of commitment, initiative, and ability far beyond a typical law student,” said Clinical Professor of Law Wendy Jacobs. “Seth has also contributed to the clinic through his self-reflection and team spirit. In particular, his self-assessments have always been thoughtful and considered. Both through these and through other conversations, Seth has suggested concrete ways that we can improve the clinic and the learning experience for all students.”

“I am originally trained as a physicist and I came to law school to bridge divides between scientists, engineers, lawyers and policymakers with regards to energy and climate change,” said Seth. The clinic enabled me to start building these bridges and help both engineers and lawyers overcome real world challenges before I even graduated. It far exceeded my expectations.”

Seth Packrone, J.D. ’15 

Seth Packrone (Clinical Award)

Credit: Lorin Granger

Seth Packrone spent several semesters in the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs working with the Child Advocacy Clinic, Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), Education Law Clinic, and Mississippi Delta Project. “Seth is the rare combination of hard work, integrity and compassion,” said Clinical Professor of Law Dehlia Umunna who supervised him in the Criminal Justice Institute.

Seth joined CJI in the fall of 2014 and worked on a variety of cases in juvenile and adult court. He represented several clients, including a 55 year old man with mental health and substance abuse issues. Seth visited this client at the jail, arranged for social services to aid with his transition back into the community, and successfully resolved all of his cases.

“Seth has received glowing compliments from judges, prosecutors, other defense counsel and his colleagues,” said Dehlia. “In addition to the brilliant job he did on his cases, he is a kind, helpful member of the clinical community. He is always eager to assist his colleagues with investigating, brainstorming, trial preparation and research. Although he had one of the highest case loads, he never murmured or complained. Seth represents the very best of what a clinical student should be.”

“My clinical work has been the most meaningful part of my time at HLS. I will always be thankful for my experiences working with such incredible clients, students, faculty, and staff and everything they taught me about the important work that public interest lawyers do,” said Seth. “I am truly honored by this award.”

Christopher Melendez ’15 Wins CLEA’s Outstanding Clinical Student Award

Dean Martha Minow (center left) and students who are part of Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic spoke with judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Christopher Melendez, J.D. ’15 (third from the right) with Dean Martha Minow (center left), judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and students who were part of Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

Congratulations to Christopher Melendez J.D. ’15, on winning the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

Chris was nominated by Clinical Professor of Law Daniel Nagin for his work with the Veterans Legal Clinic. Over the course of his three years at Harvard Law, Chris has logged hundreds of pro bono hours in service to the community and excelled as a clinical law student.

“I have had a fantastic experience working with the Veterans Legal Clinic,” said Chris. “Not only did I receive an immensely practical education, but I was also able to work with engaging clients and novel issues of law. Having left the Marine Corps to attend law school, the Veterans Legal Clinic also gave me the personal satisfaction of connecting with a broad community of Massachusetts veterans.”

Chris first joined the Clinic as a summer intern during his 1L year. He worked long hours crafting appellate briefs, representing clients, and interviewing new clients who contacted the Clinic. He then enrolled in the Veterans Legal Clinic as a 2L clinical student. During his first semester in the Clinic, along with student co-counsel, Chris briefed and argued a significant case before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The case involved a question of first impression regarding whether the Court’s own filing deadline for commencing an appeal from an adverse VA decision could be extended because of a veteran’s difficulties readjusting to civilian life following a combat deployment.

“Chris spent day after day preparing for the argument and worked seamlessly with his fellow students on the team to consider the case from every angle,” said Nagin. In a precedential decision, Ausmer v. Shinseki, 26 Vet.App. 392 (2013), the Court ruled in favor of the veteran and for the first time applied the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to the Court’s own filing deadline.  The decision not only allowed this individual veteran’s disability appeal to be heard on the merits, but protects the appellate rights of other veterans who have service-connected disabilities and experienced multiple deployments.

“Together with his fellow students on the team, it was Chris’ determination, creativity, smarts, and grit that helped bring justice to this veteran and many other veterans who will benefit from the Court’s decision,” said Dan Nagin.

“Arguing Ausmer v. Shinseki  was the highlight of my experience at HLS,” said Chris. “I met esteemed judges, set precedent and was able to see the case through to a successful remand to the VA. Because of this experience, I can head into professional life fully prepared to conduct veterans advocacy throughout the VA appeals process.”

“I am also leaving HLS with a deep sense of the problems—and achievements—of the VA as well as the place that intelligently directed advocacy can play in its reform.”

Chris’s contributions to the Clinic were not confined to a single case.  He returned to the Clinic as a continuing student and worked on countless veterans’ cases involving a range of legal issues. Among other things, he represented disabled veterans in estate planning matters, including drafting a sophisticated trust instrument to help protect the limited assets of one client facing serious health issues. Chris also helped mentor new clinic students. Even after completing his clinic semester, his dedication found new outlets. He helped the Clinic staff the legal assistance tent at Massachusetts Stand Down, a day-long summer event to link homeless and at-risk veterans to services. After graduation, Chris will join the Boston office of the international law firm Morgan Lewis.

Reflections from the Child Advocacy Clinic

Students in the Child Advocacy Clinic learn about a variety of substantive areas impacting the lives of children, particularly by focusing on child welfare (abuse and neglect, foster care, and adoption), education, and juvenile justice. Through a wide range of field placements with government agencies and organizations throughout the U.S. and other countries, students work on different types of projects such as drafting memoranda and briefs for litigation; developing legislative reform proposals; analyzing social science and psychological research; and providing strategic advice to start-ups. We asked students to share their thoughts about working with the Child Advocacy Clinic. Please read their reflections below.

Lydia Halpern, 3L
“The Child Advocacy Clinic was the perfect capstone to my law school career. Interning at the Middlesex Juvenile Court I was able to put three years of doctrinal knowledge in a wide variety of legal fields to use. Aside from the obvious—Civil Procedure, Evidence—I wrote memos and worked on cases involving Immigration Law, First Amendment Law, Constitutional Law, and Family Law. More so than any other job or clinical placement I’ve had during my time at Harvard Law, this clinic allowed me to put what I was learning in the classroom directly into practice. Spending 8 to 10 hours of every week in court gave me great insight into how the juvenile justice system actually works, and allowed me to connect with a wide variety of people who came from all over spectrum of the juvenile justice legal field.”

Faye Maison, 2L
“As a student in the Child Advocacy Clinic, I enjoyed the opportunity to have in depth discussions about everyone’s placements. Students in the CAP clinic worked at a variety of placements, but the placements were strikingly similar. It was amazing to see how interconnected the presentations were. We were constantly referring back to a comment or scenario someone brought up earlier in the semester that was still relevant to the current discussion. It showed how we can take on a variety of roles to combat and assist people in the same issue-area.”

Mark Hamlin, 2L
“Heading into my Child Advocacy Clinic placement site, a primary goal of mine was to find a way to continue to be involved in child advocacy after law school, even though I would almost certainly be heading into practice at a large law firm. The clinic more than met this goal. It not only showed me the diversity of backgrounds involved in the field of child advocacy, but the diversity of approaches and opportunities through which to become involved. I may not know specifically what my role will be in children’s advocacy post-law school, but I no longer am worried that by working at a large law firm I will be cutting myself off from this incredible community of advocates.

Beyond the realm of child advocacy, the clinic also offered me the most practical experience I have received in law school. My placement exposed me to brief and motion writing, witness interviewing and declaration preparation, client interaction, the dynamics of team collaboration and delegation, and the difficulty of actually getting your day in court. It was very refreshing to move away from the theory of law and towards practical application.”

Clinic student finds a meaningful experience in representing veterans

Kathleen Borschow, J.D. '15

Kathleen Borschow, J.D. ’15

By Kathleen Borschow, J.D. ’15

I wanted to be involved in clinical work as early into law school as possible, so I joined Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights my 1L fall year. I was assigned to the International Human Rights Clinic’s Right to Heal Project, which sought to bring attention to and seek justice for veterans suffering from the “invisible wounds of war.” It was my first experience working on veterans’ issues, and I was deeply troubled. When it was time to enroll in a clinic my 2L year, the Veterans Legal Clinic was an easy choice.

Under the supervision of Clinical Professor of Law Daniel Nagin and Clinical Fellow Betsy Gwin, students in the clinic get to work on various types of cases. I helped veterans seeking a discharge upgrade, which can be crucial for eligibility to receive medical and educational benefits as well as basic employment. I guided them through the challenges in navigating the vast VA bureaucracy: requesting and waiting for records from various entities, submitting claims to remote decision makers, understanding the sometimes complex procedural posture of their claims, and waiting months—or years—for a decision. I also assisted an unemployed veteran appealing termination of Massachusetts’ public assistance program for indigent and disabled veterans. Although we were unable to represent him, I advised him on how better to advocate for himself in a system that seems unsympathetic and unfair to unrepresented claimants.

I spent half of my semester working on an appeal brief to the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims challenging a denial of VA disability benefits for post-traumatic stress as a result of military sexual trauma. One in three military women is sexually assaulted, and one in five women veterans will develop post-traumatic stress (PTS) as a result of military sexual trauma and other traumatic experiences while in service. Few of these women can successfully access the VA healthcare system, disability benefits, or educational loans to receive the assistance they so desperately need to rebuild their lives post-service. This leads tens of thousands of women veterans into poverty and homelessness—many are single mothers, and suicide rates are staggering.

As is all too common in cases of military sexual trauma, our client had not sought treatment or applied for benefits until decades after her separation from the military during the Vietnam Era. Working with Dan, Betsy, and two other clinical students, we appealed the Board of Veterans Appeals’ decision denying her claim. Our brief was wholly successful: opposing counsel did not file an opposition brief and instead made our client an excellent settlement offer. After decades of neglect by an unfair system, with our help, our client finally attained a measure of justice—and an opportunity for income assistance—she so needs and deserves. It was unquestionably my most meaningful experience in law school.

Harvard Mediation Program Presents at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle

Front Row (L-R): Rachel Viscomi ‘01, Assistant Director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program; Prill Ellis, HMP Clinical Supervisor; Maureen (Mo) Griffin, HMP Program Manager Back Row (L-R): Sam Cortina ’15; Michael Moffit ‘94, Dean, University of Oregon School of Law; Nancy Welsh ’82, Professor of Law, Dickinson School of Law at Penn State; Erin Archerd ’08, Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution, Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University; Rishi Batra HLS ‘08, Assistant Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law; John Miller, ‘15.

Front Row (L-R): Rachel Viscomi ‘01, Assistant Director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program; Prill Ellis, HMP Clinical Supervisor; Maureen (Mo) Griffin, HMP Program Manager. Back Row (L-R): Sam Cortina ’15; Michael Moffit ‘94, Dean, University of Oregon School of Law; Nancy Welsh ’82, Professor of Law, Dickinson School of Law at Penn State; Erin Archerd ’08, Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution, Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University; Rishi Batra HLS ‘08, Assistant Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law; John Miller, ‘15.

By Sam Cortina, J.D. ‘15

As a student in the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP), this spring semester I participated in the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference in Seattle. It was one of the most enriching academic and professional experiences of my life.

John Miller, J.D. ’15 and I moved from our roles as students to teachers when we discussed our rich experiences with high-conflict mediations on the HMP panel: Beyond Small Claims; New Venues for Mediation Programs. We shared with the audience HMP’s success in recently developing a mediation program for Harassment Prevention Orders in and around greater Boston, and also discussed the incredible work that HMP students, staff, and professors have done over the past 34 years!

It was exceptional to meet so many HMP alumni and learn how the program changed their lives. I feel we made a genuine contribution to the alternative dispute resolution community, and I know our efforts will assimilate into different programs throughout the country in a way that makes people’s lives better. For that, I am incredibly proud to call myself a lifelong member of HMP, and to have attended and contributed to the ABA’s Spring Conference.

A clinic student confronts the challenges of family and domestic violence law

KBoulton_pic

Kathryn Boulton, J.D. ’15

By Kathryn Boulton, J.D. ’15

Prior to joining the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic, I had virtually no direct services experience to speak of. Much of my work in other courses and clinics had focused on broad, policy-based questions of an international character, e.g., how to promote legal abortion reform in Burma or the status of sexual and gender minorities under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Women’s rights and health have always been at the forefront of my interests, and indeed what led me to pursue a law degree.

The clinic provided an incredibly valuable contact and also challenged my expectations and skills. My cases primarily concerned divorce and all of the difficult questions that it poses: custody, child support, division of marital debts and assets, etc. In practice, these questions are not simply about the interpretation of a legal standard or figuring out the most logical way to divide up a particular asset. Rather, at an individual level, addressing these questions means gaining a truly intimate picture of a client’s life and goals: medical records, tax returns, outstanding loans owed to a family member, the reason for selecting a particular child daycare. At the same time that you are building this highly textured portrait of her life, you remain attentive to the bigger-picture questions: What does she envision moving forward? Where can she accept compromise? Where is her position non-negotiable? Her goals and the way she approaches litigation will be informed by the history of a complex (and often abusive) relationship. As her student attorney, it was my job to truly understand these experiences and priorities, and to represent them as zealously and ably as I could.

Although I intend to return to policy advocacy post-graduation, the Family and Domestic Violence Law Clinic has been an invaluable experience. It exposed me to new ways of thinking about the connection between the law and individual women’s experiences, and I will always be grateful for the way my clients opened their lives to me.