Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) are a great way to get involved in hands-on legal work while being supervised by a practicing attorney beginning your first year as a student at HLS. Whether you’re interested in human rights, the arts, housing rights, dismantling mass incarceration, or more, there is an SPO for you. Students in SPOs work on issues on local and international scales, all while gaining legal experience and making lifelong friends. Here’s what students had to say about last year’s SPO experiences.  

Harvard Defenders 

“I liked the community and the work – Defenders provided a progressive, radical, and supportive space for individuals interested in public interest work. The community doesn’t flinch away from difficult discussions regarding ethical issues implicated by public defense work. The workload is reasonable and team members are always supportive and understanding.” – Tala Alfoqaha, JD ‘24 

“I love the work that Defenders does, and it has shaped my idea of what I want to do in my legal career. The amount of care that I sense from my fellow Defenders inspires me, and there is a true sense of community and dedication in this SPO.” Angeni Wang, JD ‘24 

“I enjoyed the community most. I also enjoyed the ideology behind the organization. For example, in my weekly group, we were reminded to “speak as if the client is in the room,” which cultivated a culture of respecting the client.” – Serena Hughley, JD ‘23 

Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project (HLEP) 

“The HLEP community is a really positive part of being involved with the organization. It is made up of many enthusiastic and passionate students who are interested in helping start up organizations succeed.” – Rachel Brocklehurst, JD ‘23 

“I liked the fact that this experience allowed me to interact with real world startups and understand the concern from the ground. It has allowed me to apply the skills I learnt into practice, and I enjoyed seeing how the work product was truly helpful to our client!” – Kan Jie Marcus, LLM ‘22 

Harvard Mediation Program (HMP) 

“What I loved about HMP, and will sorely miss, is the experience of creating an inviting, warm environment in which people were able to express themselves, listen to each other, attempt to understand each other, and cooperate to devise a solution of their choosing. The experience of carving out space within the legal system to center the desires of people, rather than formalities imposed by the law, is what I will continue to cherish about mediation. I highly recommend HMP to all students with even a scintilla of curiosity about alternative dispute resolution.” David Dapaah-Afriyie, JD ‘22 

“I loved having an impact in the community by participating in court mediations as well as by helping train the newest class of mediators.” – Laura Hipple, JD ‘23 

“The mediation program is great because it teaches active listening skills and interest-based facilitation techniques to help empower individuals to resolve their own problems.” – Kate Strickland, JD ‘24 

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) 

“PLAP is a very welcoming organization. It was great to feel a part of a team that is so passionate and dedicated to its work. I felt like when I reached out for mentorship or advice on a case, there were always people willing to help and assist. The supervising attorney is knowledgable, caring, and a great role model.” Kristi Tanaka, JD ‘24 

“I felt empowered to work directly with clients and manage cases, and that personal connection to the work was a critical counterweight in a year that felt otherwise removed from personal impact in favor of academic theory.” Shaun Kleber, JD ‘24 

“I love PLAP and the unique experience it gives students, even as 1Ls, to work directly with individuals involved in the criminal legal system. This year, I especially enjoyed taking on disciplinary ticket cases, through which I was able to work with other PLAPers to prepare my case and to supervise their cases, improve greatly at drafting memos and communicating with clients, and work on my oral advocacy skills.” – Mattie Haag, JD ‘23 

HLS Advocates for Human Rights (Advocates) 

“It was great to work with other people who were passionate about human rights and to have a chance to do meaningful work during my first year of law school.” – Ava Kazerouni, JD ‘24 

“I really enjoyed working in a team environment. Our work was very collaborative, as we were always producing a joint product.” Justin Walker, JD ‘24 

HLS Immigration Project (HIP) 

“I liked that I was working on a project with tangible results, and I felt like I was learning more about what lawyers actually do than I was in any classes. 1L classes felt very disconnected from the reasons I came to law school, so I loved being able to put the skills I’m learning to use.” Mira Lerner, JD ‘24 

“Working with a passionate group of people on issues that affect immigrants in the Boston community and beyond was incredibly rewarding.” – Stacey Menjivar, JD ‘22 

“The work was really enriching, the research gave me the opportunity to delve into a topic I had little knowledge of, but I was able to really exercise skills I learned in law school.” Afrah Tahir, JD ‘24 

HLS Mississippi Delta Project (MDP) 

“I greatly enjoyed learning to conduct legal research from a policy advocacy perspective, as well as a client advocacy perspective.” Jackson Neagli, JD ‘23

“I particularly enjoyed working on the Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund Application project, with engineers who are experts on the technical issue. Working together with the team members is also a great experience because they encourage me to participate more and get more involved in the project as the semester goes.” – Mengying Xu, JD ‘23

HLS Negotiators 

“I really enjoyed teaching others interest-based negotiation because I think it’s a very valuable approach to negotiations in any realm of law.” – Kathryn Strickland, JD ‘24 

“Our project was to develop a training for a different SPO on campus. As part of that, we had to come up with a negotiation simulation that was topical to the SPO’s practice area. It was pretty fun getting to write up a scenario.” – William Ebeler, JD ‘24

Project No One Leaves (PNOL) 

“I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with members of the greater Boston community and offer them a hopeful message amidst a challenging housing situation.” – Anne DeLong, JD ‘24 

“Being able to go into the community and talk to actual residents improved my eviction defense work in HLAB immensely. Seeing buildings with problematic landlords in person and getting to know a wider range of tenants helped me recognize patterns in my cases and support my clients better. It also helped in bringing in cases.” – Isa Badia Bellinger, JD ‘23 

“I enjoyed getting to know communities and organizers in the area and especially appreciated being able to share information that could empower residents to address their housing challenges.” – Danisa Schiff, JD ‘23 

Recording Artists Project (RAP) 

“What I liked the most about my RAP work experience was the opportunity to leverage my team’s collective legal skills to aid our client in an affordable manner and thereby help him advance towards his goal of supporting other artists.” – David Dapaah-Afriyie, JD ‘22 

“I really enjoyed the subject matter of this SPO. I’ve always had a passion for music, and this clinic was crucial to helping me understand the business side of the music industry. I was blown away by the talent and creativity of the independent artists I got to work with throughout the year in RAP.” – Brandon Lewis, JD ‘24 

“I liked working on the team. We met every week and went over the issues and worked together to draft a memo. This was a new experience for me. I had written similar memos by myself, but it was great to see how others would work on the project. I also enjoyed the subject matter; it was interesting to learn about a new area of the law.” – Daniel Sweeney, JD ‘23 

Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP)  

“Everyone in the TAP office is extremely kind and cares deeply about housing justice. I also found it so rewarding to develop relationships with clients.” – Michelle Berger, JD ‘24 

“I very much valued the chance to work with fellow students who care about issues of housing justice, and to work closely with my client in preparing for their hearing.” – Kaitlynn Milvert, JD ‘22 

“I enjoyed my client case work and felt supported and empowered in TAP to advocate for my client. I also appreciated having a space to advocate for systemic change through TAP’s policy committee: to address the root causes of many of the barriers that our clients face.” – Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, JD ‘24 

Filed in: Clinical Student Voices

Tags: Harvard Defenders, Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, Harvard Mediation Program, Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, HLS Negotiators, Mississippi Delta Project, Project No One Leaves, Recording Artists Project, Student Practice Organization, Tenant Advocacy Project

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