Every summer, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs and the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising organize a series of lunch-time sessions for Harvard Law School interns to learn about the institution and emerging issues in the field of law. This year, students met with various speakers including Eloise Lawrence, Clinical Instructor who teaches in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB); Phil Torrey, Senior Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law who teaches in the Crimmigration Clinic and leads the Harvard Immigration Project; Janson Wu, HLS ’02, Executive Director of the Legal Advocates & Defenders for the GLBTQ Community (GLAD); Chris Pierce, Social Worker teaching students in two clinics and three Student Practice Organizations; as well as Jessica Soban, Dean of Admissions for Harvard Law School.
The following story is written by our own student intern, Courtney Timmins who is a rising senior at Boston College.
By Courtney Timmins
Intern, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs
While interning at Harvard Law School’s Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs this summer, I have been most fortunate to listen to and speak with various brilliant affiliates of Harvard Law School in an intimate, casual setting. The discussions have underscored how much work there is to be done in the world and how much progress there is to be made. Rather than allowing this to be daunting, however, these speakers act with relentlessness and passion, inspiring me to draw from the collective energy and look for a path to positive outcomes. Hearing them share their personal experiences has been more poignant and stirring than reading articles or watching news stories about groups of people who are defined in terms of their gender, race, age, sexuality, socioeconomic background, or countless other perfunctory modifiers. The speakers I’ve listened to care about the individual human beings and they serve as paragons who work fiercely and tirelessly to protect their fundamental rights.
Chris Pierce, an upbeat social worker (which, before meeting him, I would have thought to be an oxymoron) talked about how he maintains a positive outlook on life amid the daily struggles he hears from his clients. Janson Wu, in an informal Q & A session, shared various accomplishments and disappointments he’s experienced in his work at GLAD. He shared with us what one person can do to fight discrimination and improve equal rights policies in the world. Phil Torrey explained how he became involved with “crimmigration,” or criminalization and immigration, and how the two fields have become imprudently coupled over recent years. He shared his thoughts about teaching at HLS, working with the Harvard Immigration Project, and his work at the intersection of immigration and criminal law. Eloise Lawrence of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau shared the same fiery passion as other lecturers, hers stoked by issues of housing law and policy. Like many of her colleagues, Eloise has observed a problematic system that she now works actively to change.
Jessica Soban, HLS’ Chief Admissions Officer sat back and listened to students’ questions while sharing her expertise and candid opinions on law school, careers, and finding one’s role in the larger world. One might expect to feel intimidated after a talk with an admissions officer from one of the top law schools in the country. Instead, Jessica’s friendly, approachable nature and positive attitude left me feeling encouraged and driven. Her talk served as tacit reassurance that I should not and will not stop to achieve the education, career, and purpose as a contributing citizen, which I have always wanted and sought to cultivate long before I realized that going to law school was a perfect way to accomplish it.
These speakers demonstrated how much there is to learn in the field of law and how little of it I know right now. This was not discouraging but rather quite motivating, because I’ve realized the possibilities of making a positive difference through the study of law. Someday, I hope to become as informed, insightful, and devoted as the speakers. They conveyed how enchanting it is to breach the surface of both oneself and the world, to transcend one’s biased perspective and explore depths that lead to true knowledge and understanding of the greater context in which we live – the history from the past, the grounding of the present, and the hope for the future.