During an event at Harvard Law School last year celebrating its 40 clinics and student practice organizations, Van Lanckton ’67 was delighted to hear about so many opportunities for students to work in the public interest today. But he also felt a sense of pride and nostalgia as he recalled the legal services experiment he and hundreds of other students had been part of more than 50 years earlier—at a time when clinical education did not exist at the school and change was in the air.
I joined the Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) the fall of my 1L year at a time when I knew very little about the criminal justice system. I knew, however, that PLAP provided important services to prisoners in Massachusetts, including representing them in disciplinary hearings and in their bids for parole.
The notice came in a white envelope, hand-delivered by a staffer at the project-based Section 8 development that my elderly grandparents lived in. From the outside, it looked like it could be a notice that they received on a weekly basis. However, this was a “Notice to Cease.” From what my immigrant Chinese family could tell, it meant eviction.
On Nov. 15, Harvard Law School’s Harvard Defenders hosted the 7th annual Litman Symposium. This year’s event, titled “Defining Justice: Building a more equitable criminal legal system,” featured a Q&A with keynote speakers Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Sarah Boyette ’10 and Simmi Kaur ’17, an attorney with the Bronx Defenders.
In August, students and faculty from the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program spent a week in Texas volunteering at the Karnes Detention Center, where they met with fathers and sons who had been forcibly separated from each other under President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. They offer their thoughts on this powerful and eye-opening experience.
With 29 clinics in a wide range of fields of law and policy, Harvard Law School students can develop skills in an experiential program that constantly adapts to their interests, as well as to new approaches and areas of the law. Here are four accounts from students using that opportunity to address pressing legal and social issues.