Celebrating National Pro Bono Week at HLS

Harvard Law School celebrated National Pro Bono Week from Oct. 23 to Oct. 29, to honor the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their time to help people in their communities. The HLS celebration, which was organized by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, was marked by a week of ceremonies and panel discussions focused on the vital importance of pro bono work.

Nancy Kelly

Nancy Kelly

On Thursday, Senior Clinical Instructor and Co-Managing Director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic Nancy Kelly received the American Bar Association’s “Top Women of the Law” award, which recognizes women who are pioneers, educators, trailblazers, and role models. Prior to co-directing HIRC, Kelly worked as a fellow in the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program and as an adjunct professor of immigration and asylum law at Northeastern University School of Law. At HLS’ Human Rights Program, Kelly initiated the nationally and internationally prominent Women Refugees Project, a centerpiece of the clinic’s work. The event will take place at Boston’s Marriott Copley Place Hotel, on Thursday, October 27, at 5:30.

The Pro Bono Week initiative was launched by The American Bar Association to increase awareness of the growing need for pro bono services, and to highlight the positive impact that lawyers make in their communities across the United States and in the lives of the clients they serve.

Westfahl and Montgomery

Credit: Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Harvard Law School Professor of Practice Scott Westfahl (left) and John Montgomery, retired managing partner at Ropes & Gray

On Monday, Harvard Law School kicked off the week’s event with a discussion on the shortage of legal services for low-income individuals and communities. In an event titled “The Role of Big Law in Closing the Justice Gap,” panelists discussed the actual and ideal roles of private law firms in addressing the justice gap.

On Tuesday, the HLS Women’s Law Association hosted “Pro Bono: The Fight for Three Survivors of On-line Child Sex Trafficking,” with John Montgomery, a former managing partner of Ropes & Gray. Montgomery discussed his pro bono work on litigation against Backpage.com involving online sex trafficking of children, and shared his reflections on law firm pro bono from the perspective of a managing partner, including how and why the firm chooses to take on pro bono matters.

Child Sex Trafficking panel

Credit: Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs From the panel ‘Law Firm Pro Bono: The Fight for 3 Survivors of On-line Child Sex Trafficking.’ John Montgomery, retired managing partner at Ropes & Gray (right) shared his reflections on law firm pro bono while discussing the litigation against Backpage.com involving online sex trafficking of children.

LGBTQ Youth panel

Credit: Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs From left to right: Stefanie Rivera, director of Client Services, Sylvia Rivera Law Project; Kyle Rapiñan, attorney, Sylvia Rivera Law Project; and Lily Velona, advocacy director, Y2Y Harvard Square. Speakers discussed direct representation for low income transgender people and transgender people of color in a panel titled ‘Advocating for LGBTQ Youth: A Collective and Community-Driven Model.’

Education Equity panel

Credit: Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs From the panel ‘Education Equity: A Civil Rights Struggle.’ Helen Cantwell (partner) and Gregory Copeland (associate) of Debevoise & Plimpton discussed their pro bono work on the groundbreaking litigation regarding equitable funding for public schools in Connecticut in collaboration with Yale’s Education Adequacy Law Clinic. Brenda Shum, attorney, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law also discussed her organization’s work in the lawsuit. Clinical Professor of Law Michael Gregory moderated the panel.

Atlas:DIY panel

Credit: Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Atlas:DIY Executive Director Lauren Burke and Youth leaders Martina Carillo and Natasha Lee discussed their cutting-edge youth-led cooperative that provides a range of services, including legal services and information, as well as leadership development and education during a panel titled ‘Community Lawyering through a Youth-led Immigrant Cooperative.’


Other Pro Bono Week events included:

Advocating for LGBTQ Youth: A Collective and Community-Driven Model

Wednesday, October 26, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Lewis 214A

A discussion about LGBTQ youth advocacy with two leaders from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), Kyle Rapiñan and Stefanie Rivera. SRLP provides direct representation for low-income transgender people and transgender people of color in three main areas: survival and self-determination, immigrant rights, and prisoner justice. The event was co-sponsored by Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), HLS Lambda, and HLS Homelessness Coalition.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Pro Bono Publico Awards

Wednesday, October 26, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, MA 02108

The American Bar Association hosted a ceremony to honor law students receiving the Pro Bono Honor Roll recognition from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for their commitment to pro bono legal work.

Education Equity: A Civil Rights Struggle

Thursday, October 27, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Lewis 214A

Clinical Professor of Law Michael Gregory of the Education Law Clinic moderated a discussion about advocacy strategies for ensuring every young person receives a quality education, with Brenda Shum, an attorney and advocate with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and two attorneys from Debevoise & Plimpton: Partner Helen Cantwell and Associate Gregory Copeland. Cantwell and Copeland talked about their pro bono work on the groundbreaking litigation regarding equitable funding for public schools in collaboration with Yale’s Education Adequacy Law Clinic. The speakers also talked about how new attorneys can engage in critical pro bono litigation in the public interest through non-profits and private firms – highlighting opportunities for collaboration.

Top Women of the Law Ceremony

Thursday, October 27, 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm at Marriott Copley Place Hotel, 110 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

The American Bar Association will host the Top Women of the Law Ceremony to recognize the work of Nancy Kelly, senior clinical instructor and co-managing director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Community Lawyering through a Youth-led Immigrant Cooperative

Friday, October 28, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Lewis 214A

A discussion with co-founder of Atlas: DIY, attorney and Executive Director Lauren Burke, and two immigrant youth cooperative members Martina Carillo and Natasha Lee. The Atlas: DIY team discussed their cutting-edge Atlas: DIY model – a youth led-cooperative that provides a range of services including legal services and information as well as leadership development and education. The event was co-sponsored by the Harvard Immigration Project.