This summer, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) will be publishing profiles of HLS alumni who participated in clinics and student practice organizations. This is the first in the series.
OCP: What interested you the most in coming to Harvard Law?
AB: I was born and raised in Dorchester, one of Boston’s grittiest neighborhoods. Even though Harvard Square is only a couple of train stops away, when you’re surrounded by poverty and violence, a place like Harvard seems like a completely different world. One of the reasons I decided to go to Harvard Law was because I wanted to join the Harvard Defenders and have the opportunity to represent members of my community starting in the fall of my first semester.
OCP: What stands out from your time at HLS?
AB: Some of my fondest memories of my time at HLS are the opportunities I had to represent Boston residents in criminal matters as a member of both the Harvard Defenders and the Criminal Justice Institute. Being able to walk into Dorchester and Roxbury District Court not as a defendant but as an advocate for my people was a truly humbling experience.
OCP: What was your experience at CJI and Harvard Defenders? Are there any memorable moments that stand out to you the most?
AB: Being a student attorney in the Criminal Justice Institute, I had the privilege to represent several young people in juvenile court. By far, the most rewarding aspect of representing those young people was helping them get their cases dismissed and giving them a clean slate. Having the ability to get second chances for young people from my neighborhood has probably been one of my proudest achievements. I’m still in touch with most of them and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the future.
OCP: What new skills and/or knowledge did you gain?
I took a course on negotiation at HLS and being a student attorney allowed me to apply some of those skills in my dealings with prosecutors and judges. Although some of the skills I learned in the classroom served me well, often times I had to rely on my street smarts to secure favorable outcomes for my clients. The most valuable skill I developed in my clinical work was learning when to apply my legal training and when to trust my gut instincts.
OCP: What advice would you give to students who will be starting clinical work in the fall or considering a clinic in the future?
AB: Approach your task with curiosity. I learned far more from clinical work than I did in the classroom and I believe that was a product of approaching every case with an open mind.