Six from Harvard Law School awarded Skadden Fellowships

Since Daniel Saver ’12 got the phone call from the Skadden Foundation he’s been ecstatic. He’s received funding to work at the Community Legal Services Center, in East Palo Alto, Calif., in a project of his own devising representing low-income, limited-English-proficient tenants facing eviction and illegal rents.

“I’m fortunate enough to have enjoyed many privileges in my life,” said Saver, “including the chance to get a great legal education. I feel even more fortunate to have opportunity to leverage what I’ve learned in support of the community of East Palo Alto.”

Saver and five others from Harvard law School recently were chosen by the Skadden Foundation to receive two-year fellowships to support their work in public service. This year’s recipients include current students Haben Girma ’13, Hunter Landerholm ’13, Adam Meyers ’13 and Mara Sacks ’13, and recent graduates Robert Hodgson ’12 and Saver.

The fellowships, which provide a salary and benefits, were established in 1988 by the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in recognition of the need for greater funding for graduating law students who want to devote their professional life to helping the poor, elderly, homeless and disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. Applicants create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff.

“There are so many people who are suffering the effects of our challenging economy, yet nonprofits and legal services organizations do not have the budget to meet the demand for existing fundamental legal services,” said Alexa Shabecoff, assistant dean for public service in the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at HLS. “I am so happy that thanks to the generosity of the Skadden Foundation truly fabulous law students and judicial law clerks, including six exceptional and wonderful Harvard students and alumni, will be able to deploy their amazing talents to aid communities and clients that desperately need the help.”

As in past years, this year’s crop of fellows spent a good deal of their time at HLS working in clinics or student practice organizations. In addition to the Tenant Advocacy Project and the Prison Legal Assistance Project, student practice organizations, this year’s fellows worked in nine clinics.

“It’s so gratifying to see the students who have passed through our clinical and pro bono programs achieve goals they’ve set out to achieve,” said Lisa Dealy, assistant dean, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “They worked extremely hard when they were here, and we knew they would emerge better, more compassionate lawyers for it.”

HLS 2013 Skadden Fellows and their Projects

Haben Girma, who worked with the Cyberlaw and Disability, Veterans and Estate Planning clinics at HLS, will be working for Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, Calif. Her work will involve helping to improve education for students with disabilities by litigating high-impact cases to compel schools to provide accessible instructional materials, and by empowering students to become self-advocates through the creation and distribution of guides for blind and other print-disabled students.

Robert Hodgson will work for the New York Civil Liberties Union doing impact litigation, community education and advocacy on behalf of LGBT students in rural, impoverished regions of New York State who are experiencing harassment in schools. He will also work to enforce New York State’s newly passed Dignity for All Students Act, which went into effect July 1, 2012, and establishes a student’s right to be free from harassment based on sexual orientation/gender identity and a school’s responsibility to train staff to prevent bullying. At HLS, Hodgson worked with the Tenant Advocacy Project, represented indigent clients in civil matters through Harvard Law School’s Legal Aid Bureau, and performed over 2,000 hours of pro bono work during his time at HLS.

Hunter Landerholm, who worked with HLS’s Predatory Lending, Housing Law, and Transactional Law clinics, will work at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County representing working poor families facing foreclosure. His work will emphasize enforcement of California’s newly enacted Homeowner Bill of Rights.

Adam Meyers will work in Brooklyn, N.Y. with the Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation representing low-income, rent-regulated tenants in Williamsburg-Greenpoint facing illegal displacement through landlord abuse and city-imposed vacate orders. At HLS, Meyers represented indigent clients in civil matters through Harvard Law School’s Legal Aid Bureau.

Mara Sacks will represent fathers in neglect, abuse and termination of parental rights proceedings through the Bronx Defenders. She will also promote responsible parenting through “know your rights as fathers” training programs to prevent the unnecessary disruption of the father-child relationship and reduce dependence on foster care. At HLS, Sacks did clinical work at Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic. She is co-executive director this year of the Prison Legal Assistance Project.

Daniel Saver, who worked at Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic, will be working at Community Legal Services, in East Palo Alto, Calif., representing low-income, limited-English-proficient tenants facing eviction and illegal rents. He will collaborate with community organizations to educate renters about their rights and available administrative remedies under a rent stabilization and eviction for just cause ordinance recently passed by the city.

The 2013 class of Skadden Fellows brings to 677 the number of academically outstanding law school graduates and judicial clerks the firm has funded to work full-time for legal and advocacy organizations. For more information about the Skadden Fellowships, visit the Skadden Foundation’s website.