Joseph Michalakes ’16 is the winner of the Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award. He was chosen for exemplifying a pro bono public spirit and demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services in low-income communities. The award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman, who has been instrumental in creating and supporting the Pro Bono Program at Harvard Law School.
During his time at the law school, Michalakes has contributed over 2,000 pro bono hours by working with two Student Practice Organizations (Harvard Immigration Project and Project No One Leaves), in addition to being a clinic student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB).
During his 1L summer, he was the Cleary Gottlieb Fellow at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and Greater Boston Legal Services working on direct representation of non-citizens applying for U.S. asylum and related protections, and on appellate and policy advocacy at the local, national and international levels. He spent his 2L summer at the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project.
At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Michalakes has represented numerous clients in various areas of practice including wage and hour and housing cases. He has engaged in every aspect of litigation: he has drafted court documents, conducted negotiations, written settlement agreements, argued motions, and represented clients at trial. He was lead counsel on a hotly contested bench trial, which he won.
His excellent work and advocacy has made an incredible impact on the community and has ensured that many tenants were able to maintain their housing. “Joseph helped transform a weekly tenant’s meeting in East Boston into a significant source of cases and an opportunity for HLAB students to engage in community lawyering as a means to fight displacement from gentrification,” said Clinical Instructor Patricio Rossio who supervised and was one of the clinicians who nominated him for the award. In addition, Michalakes has supported his fellows at HLAB, always being the first to volunteer to help on a case. “Whatever is asked of him, Joseph does it with enthusiasm and his contributions are always appreciated by his fellow students,” said Rossi.
“I am honored to receive this award, and very grateful to OCP for providing students with such a wide variety of opportunities to do meaningful clinical work,” Michalakes said. “I am also especially grateful to the fantastic clinical faculty I’ve been lucky enough to interact with and learn from during my time at HLS, and who have been unbelievable mentors and models for what lawyering should be.”
“Joey is beloved by all who have the pleasure of working with him,” said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean of the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “His tireless work ethic combined with his humility make him an extraordinary advocate. We could not be more pleased that he has won the award.”
After graduation, Michalakes plans to pursue a career in public interest, including continuing to help communities at risk here in Massachusetts. He will remain in Boston next year to work at Greater Boston Legal Services, a venture funded by the David A. Grossman Fellowship for Social Justice, which he won. Michalakes will also teach the Spanish for Public Interest Lawyers course at HLS, a non-credit course for clinic and Student Practice Organization students.