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 | Leave a 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
Jillian Wagman, a 2L, spent her 1L summer as an intern with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The Chambers is responsible for prosecuting individuals responsible for the genocide in Cambodia.
The Chambers allowed Jillian to explore her interest in international criminal prosecution. She was responsible for conducting factual analyses. Her day-to-day work centered on analyzing witness statements and isolating information based on the charges that needed to be proven against an unnamed defendant.
She was assigned to a single attorney when she first arrived. The fact that she was on a long-term project meant that she could conduct a lot of her work independently. However, that was not necessarily the norm for all divisions or interns. Other interns had strictly legal projects, so tended to work more closely with their attorneys on a daily basis. Regardless, all of the interns experienced a collegial work environment and great mentorship.
Jillian valued the accessibility of the attorneys at the chambers. Each attorney hosted a happy hour for the interns: Some would host them at home while others used them as an opportunity to explore the city. The events served as a special “thank you” for their (unpaid) work.
The internship program is relatively big. Jillian estimates that there were 50 interns spread across the various offices. Many of them were international students, although there were several students from various US law schools.
She went to Cambodia using a grant from the Summer Public Interest Funding program as well as the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship. The Extraordinary Chambers is one of the pre-approved placement organizations for the Chayes Fellowship. Both sources of funding allowed her to go to Cambodia without taking additional loans.
Jillian is still interested in international criminal prosecution, but hopes to use her 2L summer to explore something different. She is hoping for a more client-focused project to get exposure to another side of the practice of international human rights law.
Written by 1L OPIA Section Rep Lesedi Mbatha
After 2L year, Greg Baltz (a current 3L) spent his summer with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP) in Florence, Arizona. FIRRP is a non-profit organization with its central office serving adult non-citizens detained in Florence and Eloy, AZ as well as two offices serving unaccompanied minors held in shelters in Phoenix and Tucson. Greg worked in FIRRP’s Florence office, where six attorneys as well as two legal assistants and a social service coordinator serve approximately 2,500 non-citizens, almost eight percent of the overall detained population in the United States. These men and women are detained in five separate immigration detention facilities run by the federal government, Pinal County, and private contractors like the Corrections Corporation of America in the towns of Florence and Eloy, Arizona. FIRRP strives to ensure that detained individuals have access to counsel, understand their rights under immigration law, and are treated fairly and humanely by the judicial system. Because the need in the area is so great and the attorneys are so few, FIRRP has created a triage system involving “Know Your Rights” presentations, short consultations with current detainees to determine which detainees may qualify for immigration relief, and follow-up meetings to help prepare their cases. Most of FIRRP’s work focuses on giving detainees targeted assistance to enable them to represent themselves. FIRRP cases span the gamut of removal defense, including asylum applications, U and T Visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and cancellation of removal for both lawful permanent residents and undocumented individuals.
While at FIRRP, Greg’s day-today activities involved visiting detention centers two to three times a week, giving “Know Your Rights” presentations in Spanish, and interviewing non-citizens to gauge the organization’s ability to help them. He met with the detainees who were receiving assistance from FIRRP to help them gather evidence and prepare their cases for court. He also researched immigration issues and country conditions and contacted detainees’ families to gather further evidence in support of the detainees’ cases. Greg also drafted motions and briefs to present to the court. He represented a Somali refugee before an immigration judge both in a bond hearing, where he secured the refugee’s release from detention, as well in a merits hearing, where his client was granted lawful permanent residency or a “green card.” He gained experience researching and writing immigration law, preparing openings as well as a direct examination.
Applying to the organization.
Greg was familiar with FIRRP before coming to Harvard. In September of his 2L year, he submitted an application including a cover letter, resume, and writing sample. Greg finalized his 10-week placement in December, after deciding to spend the remaining four weeks of his summer working at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project in New York, NY.
Things to consider.
Students interested in pursuing this type of work should consider what kind of substantive work they want to do over the summer. Greg’s work was legal-services oriented, involved regular client contact inside detention facilities, and required fluency in Spanish. Greg has found that his knowledge of the immigration system has been helpful in the community lawyering and housing work he engaged in with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston, MA. Working with FIRRP allows law students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the basics of immigration law, to get direct exposure to clients and the bureaucracy of the immigration detention system, and to appear in court. Overall, Greg would recommend an internship at FIRRP to anyone interested in seeing the inner workings of the immigration system, spending significant time in detention centers and in the heart of anti-immigrant animus in the U.S., working with individuals in removal proceedings, and learning from an excited, smart, and passionate team of attorneys.
Written by 1L OPIA Section Rep Marin Tollefson
December 10, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Brett Stark (HLS, class of 2012) and an organization he recently co-founded, Terra Firma, were highlighted in the Atlantic this month. The article spotlights work being done through medical-legal partnerships and how essential their work can be for different communities.
Last summer, Melanie Botho Emmen worked at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in Rome. IDLO is an intergovernmental organization with a mandate to promote the rule of law around the world and expand access to justice to the most vulnerable. In addition to promoting the rule of law through programs such as training judges and prosecutors and providing toolkits on best practices, IDLO is involved in sustainable development by working in the realm of environmental law and land rights.
Melanie worked in the research department of IDLO. Her primary task was working on a UNICEF project on children’s access to justice in Eastern Europe, which involved researching and drafting case studies for incorporation into the report. However, her supervisor was more than happy to accommodate her other interests and allowed her to work remotely with IDLO’s office in the Hague on health issues. Melanie spent a significant amount of her time working on IDLO’s health program, developing a report on strategies to deal with counterfeit drugs in West Africa to present to the president of IDLO. Melanie identified clear and open communication between herself and her supervisor as key to making her summer a success. She was able to convey her interests as well as understand the needs of the IDLO research department; working together, she and her supervisor were able to satisfy both demands. If she could do anything differently, she would have started mapping out a work plan with her supervisor prior to her arrival in Rome.
Melanie really enjoyed her time at IDLO. Her colleagues were extremely knowledgeable and friendly and her boss allowed her the freedom to set her own schedule to a large extent, in addition to letting her work in her interest area. She appreciated getting constant feedback on her work, which helped refine her research and writing skills. In addition, she really enjoyed being in Rome. The work schedule at IDLO allowed her to leave the office at 5:30pm each day and gave her a lot of free time to explore the city. Melanie got a fellowship from the Ford Foundation, which connected her with IDLO. IDLO takes interns outside of the Ford Fellowship, though Melanie recommends reaching out to both the Human Rights department and the head of the department with which students are interested in working.
For 1Ls interested in working abroad, Melanie recommends talking to students who have worked abroad and with speakers and panelists at the many lunch events on campus. Although networking might seem intimidating, Melanie says that people are more than willing to help you get in touch with other people, so just go say hi if you’re interested in what someone does. Also, Melanie noted that a lot of international organizations look for summer interns in March or April, so don’t worry about the job search too early!
Written by OPIA 1L Section Rep Purun Cheong
October 10, 2014 | 1 Comment
Some wonderful news for two alums of Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Fellows Program.
Mary Bonauto Director of the Civil Rights Project for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and a 2004-2005 Wasserstein Fellow, and Jonathan Rapping, President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise, a 2009-2010 Wasserstein Fellow have become MacArthur Fellows!