by Grace Yuh
Sejal Singh ’20 is the 2020 recipient of the David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. She was recognized for her work on the Project on Predatory Student Lending with the Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center, as well as her exemplary contributions to public-interest endeavors at Harvard Law School.
Named in honor of David Grossman ’88, the award reflects the dedication of the late HLS clinical professor in addressing the legal needs of low-income communities. Each year, a student is recognized for their advocacy in important issue areas, for providing excellent legal services through client representation, and striving for crucial policy reform. In addition, the student is recognized for demonstrated thoughtfulness and compassion in their work as they put theory into practice.
Singh’s belief that education is a fundamental right and her passion for making sure that every student has the opportunity to learn is what inspired her, she says, to attend law school and join the Project on Predatory Student Lending. At the project, Singh represented student loan borrowers who have experienced predatory lending in connection with for-profit schools. In remote collaboration with Office of the Attorney General of Maryland, she helped to write an application to the federal government to discharge the debt of thousands of affected students. Chris Madaio, an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division who leads Maryland’s work on for-profit schools, praised Singh’s commitment and the character of her work.
“The strong quality of Sejal’s work product far exceeded her experience and was something I would have expected from a seasoned attorney who had been practicing for years,” he said. “Her research and factual analysis was a benefit to my office and to the people of Maryland.”
Additionally, Singh fostered a strong sense of innovation and partnership within her team and those around her through her creativity and deep understanding of the power of grassroots organizing.
“Sejal embodies David Grossman’s indefatigable drive toward a fair legal system and his compassion toward the individuals affected by its current injustices” said Toby Merrill ’11, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending. “At every stage, she brought great ideas about the substance of the claims and the organization of the materials, as well as energy and outrage at the mistreatment of the students.”
Outside her clinical work, Singh is a co-founder of the People’s Parity Project, described on its website as a “nationwide network of law students and new attorneys organizing to unrig the legal system and build a justice system that values people over profits.” Through the project, she and other HLS students have challenged the use of forced arbitration clauses in law firm employment contracts as they inhibit the enforcement of vital consumer and worker’s rights. Singh has traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend congressional hearings and has worked with other leading advocates on these issues. For this work, Paul Bland ’86, director of Public Justice, called Singh “a powerful and edgy voice for a fairer justice system.”
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh has led the PPP in organizing law students to support public-interest lawyers who are serving those most directly effected by the pandemic. This has involved matching students to lawyers, working with the Harvard Labor & Worklife Program to release a 50-state survey of unemployment programs and building state-wide hotlines.
While at HLS, Singh participated in the Health Law and Policy Clinic and the HLS Immigration Project. She was also co-editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and a research assistant for the Clean Slate Project. She spent her 1L summer with Legal Aid at Work and her 2L summer at the New York Civil Liberties Union.
After graduation, Singh will join Public Citizen Litigation Group as a Justice Catalyst Fellow, where she plans to focus on addressing corporate capture of agencies, building worker power, and fighting for a just recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would be an understatement to say she will change the world—she already has,” said Merrill.