Derek Manners ’16 is the winner of the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for his/her outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.
Manners was nominated by Maine’s former Attorney General and Lecturer on Law James E. Tierney who taught him in the Government Lawyer: State Attorney General Clinic, an externship clinic offering students the opportunity to do legal work at various AG offices around the country. Over the course of his three years at Harvard Law, Manners has logged more than a thousand pro bono hours in service to the community and he excelled as a clinical law student.
He began his fall 2014 semester with a placement with the State Attorney General in Connecticut and continued his work through the winter and spring semesters in 2015 as well as the spring semester in 2016. During this time, he worked on a number of subprime mortgage cases. His supervisor reported that Derek played a “critical role” in understanding and organizing vast amounts of data needed to bring a case against a large investment bank. During that time, he also delved into the details of the cases and participated in national conference calls.
“Derek interned with my office for multiple semesters and, in short order, proved himself to be extremely capable and hard-working,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen ’80. “He assisted with a large and important investigation, and his contributions were integral to our efforts. He developed very strong and positive relationships with my investigative team, and quickly grasped the legal issues at play in the case. I am grateful to him for his service and he is deeply deserving of this recognition from the CLEA.”
Manners’s direct supervisor in Hartford said: “Derek has three strengths you do not often see in a student: great intelligence, humility and an insatiable work ethic.”
Manners, who is legally blind, traveled to his clinical placement every week by taking a bus from Boston to Hartford and staying overnight in a hotel. “While I have never had a student willing to make such a weekly trip to fulfill a clinic assignment,” said Tierney, “what impressed me with Derek’s work was the maturity of judgment. Although still a student, he truly served the cause of justice.”
“Derek impressed us all with his selfless devotion to his clinical work,” said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Managing a busy clinical placement in another state while balancing other law school courses and activities is impressive – to do so for three semesters is extraordinary.”
On news of receiving this award, Manners stated: “I thoroughly enjoyed my clinical experiences. It was by far the most enjoyable part of my law school career. The work we did was important and allowed me to develop my skills as an attorney. I’m truly honored to have that effort recognized.”
In the winter of 2015, he also completed an independent clinical placement with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) in Baltimore, during which he worked on a self-advocacy toolkit designed to help students having difficulty with testing. Prior to starting clinical work, he also completed a summer internship in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense.