Leadership role in legal aid sharpens student’s sense of purpose
It took Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez several years and nearly 10,000 miles, on a journey that included several cities around the world, to find his calling in his hometown.
The son of political refugees from the former Soviet Union and Spain, Spivakovsky-Gonzalez, J.D. ’17, was born in Boston but grew up in Spain and Canada. He studied economics at the University of California at Berkeley, completed a master’s in development studies at the University of Cambridge in England, and went to work as a research economist in Washington, D.C.
It was after his stints in Cambridge and Washington that he experienced “the dissonance” of studying poverty and inequality in wealthy institutions, and the limits to making a direct impact on people’s lives as a researcher.
Yearning for a career that resolved that discord, he applied to Harvard Law School. When he was accepted, it felt like a homecoming of sorts. The first house he lived in was three blocks from the Law School.
But the real epiphany came while working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, one of the School’s clinical programs and the oldest student-run organization in the United States. The bureau provides free civil legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney. It was there that he found his passion.
“We help people who are often forgotten and live different lives from what we often see either in Washington, D.C., or the Law School,” said Spivakovsky-Gonzalez on a recent morning near Harvard Yard.
Entering his second semester as the bureau’s president, he plans to become a public-interest lawyer. As a student attorney with the bureau, he has represented East Boston residents facing eviction in Boston Housing Court, and helped veterans apply for benefits at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain. Both experiences left deep marks on him.
“Before, I felt a little bit removed from a lot of the populations that are most affected by the decisions and policies that are made in Washington,” he said. “Here, I can help people more directly.”