Over the past year, we have been working hard to identify ways for our corps of volunteers to offer assistance to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. There is much work to be done and it will evolve over time. Read about our work last year.
To get involved, please fill out this form to indicate your interest and to be notified as we develop new opportunities.
Independent Clinical Winter Term 2019
The Harvard Law School (HLS) Winter Term 2019 runs Monday, January 7, through Friday, January, 25, 2019. Students work full-time those three weeks at regular office hours and earn clinical credit. Only 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLMs are eligible to apply. Students on F1 visas are not eligible to apply for domestic independent clinicals.
Several organizations in Puerto Rico are interested in hosting and supervising one or more HLS students during winter term. You may apply to one or two placements by October 30th, 2018. Submit a statement of interest and a resume combined into one PDF for each application by email to Lee Mestre (email@example.com) in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Each organization will review the applications and select one to three students. If you are selected, you will then work with the supervising attorney to complete a full independent clinical application and submit a domestic funding application to OCP. Funding is not guaranteed.
Please review the placement opportunities and the prerequisites for each.
Winter Term 2019 Independent Clinical Placements in Puerto Rico as of 10/24/2018
American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico
The mission of the ACLU is to fight against the violations of civil liberties guaranteed by our legal system. We fight against such violations wherever and whenever necessary. The majority of our clients are ordinary citizens who have suffered injustices and have decided to defend themselves. The ACLU also actively works through local chapters, striving to ensure that the constitutional guarantees and statutes that guarantee the civil rights of the citizenry are not merely a “parchment barrier” against the oppression and tyranny of the majority.
Work will be legal research and writing and may be tangentially related to the hurricane. The ACLU of Puerto Rico is currently focused on reproductive freedom legislation advocacy and continued fighting to stop new amendments to the Civil Code, changes that are directed at taking back women’s and LGBTTIQ rights. Students may also work on prison and police reform issues, litigation, including police section 1983 civil rights act cases, as well as religious freedom cases.
Spanish proficiency or other requirements
Spanish preferred but not required.
Union Plaza, 416 Ave. Ponce de León, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918
Autonomous Municipality of Ponce – Legal Services Office
Most residents of low income and rural communities confronted problems with their FEMA claims after Hurricane Maria due to not owning title to their homes or the land upon which they are built. As part of low income and/or rural communities, most of these citizens have lived in their homes for over 10 years and having title and total ownership of said properties would open the doors to proper services in future disasters.
As part of the Municipality of Ponce reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Maria’s debacle, we’re developing a pilot project in which we’ll provide property title to indigent and low income families that reside on Municipal land. These efforts require that we evaluate the families that apply for this help; that we properly identify the Municipality as the clean title holder and owner of said real property; and providing any other legal and administrative services required in completing that process.
The lawyers participating in this project would be providing one-on-one administrative help and limited legal counsel (unless they are well versed in Puerto Rican Civil Law) at our offices and public workshops that we may move to each community. They’ll also be working along our personnel within the Legal Services and/or Housing Departments with projects that might develop under actual and future federal funding.
Communities to be Served
Communities in which the Municipality is owner and acquires title ownership of the land to give property title to low income, non-property owner residents who have lived at those locations for a determined amount of time.
- Spanish speaking and writing is a MUST.
- To have some knowledge of Puerto Rico Civil Rights Law is preferred but not required.
- Available for attending people directly and on-site legal counseling and administrative legal services.
Legal Services Office – Municipality of Ponce. On-site community services as the administration determines.
Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
ALPR is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting access to justice by providing free legal education and legal services to low- and moderate-income individuals and communities. Our work is grounded on four areas:
- coalition building strategies among the access to justice community and non-legal partners;
- the development of a strong pro bono culture among volunteer attorneys and law students; and
- providing direct legal services from a social impact advocacy perspective. We focus on complex legal issues such as the right to adequate housing and disaster recovery as well as access to disaster related federal assistance, land title issues and advocacy around CDBG-DR funding.
Students will be collaborating in community meetings, legal brigades and/or research regarding housing rights and access to justice in low income communities. Their assistance will consist of participating actively in legal check-ups (intake) and collaborating in the organization of legal brigades outside San Juan and community meetings on-site. Research can be part of the work product depending if we are working on strategic litigation or have specific legal concerns by that time. This will require knowledge of Puerto Rican & Federal Law regarding housing as well as clinical experience in legal check-ups or interviews preferably with low income families or communities. For the Puerto Rican Law aspects, we will be providing a training for two days before their on-site legal work.
We encourage collaborations guided by principles such as effectiveness, sensibility, and sustainability. We require people interested in collaborating with this initiative to comply with the following criteria:
- Fluent conversational Spanish
- Interest on social impact advocacy / community lawyering
- Legal intake experience
- Capacity to work in groups
- Legal research experience
Additional abilities that will be assessed are:
- Experience in disaster relief initiatives
- Experience in Puerto Rico legal framework
- Legal areas of interest
- Sign language proficiency
Specific Work Location
Our office will be available for all meetings with students. However, mostly of their participation will be in different communities throughout the island. Therefore, they will need transportation.
1606 Ponce de León Avenue, Julio Bogoricin Building, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Department of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) is responsible for implementing and supervising the execution of Puerto Rico’s public policy on economic development in the various entrepreneurial sectors of manufacture, commerce, tourism, and services. In addition, the Department is responsible for promoting a stable and sustainable private sector that considers the globalization of today’s economy. The Department is committed to the implementation of strategies that foster investment, create jobs and improve the quality of life on the island.
- Legal assistance to executives of the Department of Economic Development in matters such as (i) tax incentives; (ii) immigration law, tourism; (iii) opportunity zones; (iv) cryptocurrency regulations, among others.
- Legal assistance to the Director of the Office of Tax Exemptions, in matters such as (i) redaction of tax exemptions decrees; (ii) eligibility reports; (iii) file revision; (iv) creation of metrics and presentations; (v) summary of applicable acts, among others.
Spanish proficiency or other requirements
Students must be fluent in Spanish and English.
355 Roosevelt Ave, San Juan, PR 00918
Transparency and Accountability in Disaster Recovery Funds for Environmental Protection
Espacios Abiertos is a non-profit organization that seeks to create and strengthen civic participation mechanisms so that people in Puerto Rico can directly influence the decisions that affect them. Following the devastation caused by Hurricane María, Espacios Abiertos is advocating that hurricane recovery investment must prioritize disaster resilience in Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable communities. Students will conduct desk research and meet with key stakeholders from environmental and community-based organizations to:
- Assess the breadth, adequacy and efficacy of existing Public Involvement and Participation components of the 2015 settlements between federal and local authorities for violations of the terms and conditions of Discharge Elimination System Permits and the Clean Water Act.
- Become acquainted with and compare historical problems to those caused in 2017, after Hurricane Maria, regarding both the flooding of coastal areas of San Juan and the discharges of contaminated stormwater into San Juan´s estuarine areas surrounded by low-income communities.
- Determine overlapping goals and investment items presented in the 2015 settlements and the 2018 Economic and Disaster Recovery Plan for Puerto Rico.
- Produce recommendations to conduct systemic advocacy work concerning the right to access information, public participation in decision making processes and monitoring efforts to make sure that recovery investment be adequate, responsive and secures future hurricane readiness.
Spanish or other requirements
Spanish proficiency is highly recommended, not required.
Banco Popular Building, Old San Juan, P.R., 00901
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico
The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico was created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) of 2016. The Board consists of seven members appointed by the President of the United States and one ex officio member designated by the Governor of Puerto Rico. The Board is tasked with working with the people and Government of Puerto Rico to create the necessary foundation for economic growth and to restore opportunity to the people of Puerto Rico.
One student may work with the lawyer that oversees the legislative acts per PROMESA. Another student would work with the General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel (some of this work may be remote as they are located in New York).
Spanish or other requirements
Students would have some background and/or interest in bankruptcy law, legislation, and/or tax law. Spanish is not a requirement; students would be required to sign NDAs.
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Law School Legal Assistance Clinic
Students represent clients under the direct supervision of a full-time member of the Pontifical Catholic University Law School faculty Legal Assistance Clinic and/ or an external supervisor in those cases that students work in an external clinic or a private law firm associate to our Legal Assistance Clinic. Students engage in the practice of law, which enables them to reflect on the interaction between practice and theory and on the role of the lawyer in our society. Students observe civil and criminal trials. The clinic also teaches lawyering skills like interviewing clients, advise and represent them, investigating and analyzing facts, conducting legal research, drafting memos, lawsuits, and contracts.
Students work in various legal settings including the experience and the satisfaction of functioning as a professional representing a low-income client. While providing legal representation to clients as part of our own “law firm” or private law firm, students make a real impact on the lives of their clients while also examining the role and professional responsibility of all lawyers through the first-hand experience.
Each student will represent several clients with the legal problems in different substantive areas, which may include, but are not limited to, the following: Civil law, Family law, Criminal law, Torts, and Consumer law.
- Civil Procedure course
- Criminal Procedure course
- Proficiency in Spanish
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
Legal Assistance Clinic
2250 Boulevard Luis A Ferré Aguayo
Ponce, PR 00717-9997
The Interamerican Law School Clinics
Clínica de Asistencia Legal de la Universidad Interamericana/Oficina Legal de la Comunidad
The clinic is an integral part of the curriculum of the Faculty of Law of the InterAmerican University. The students offer legal advice services with a professor who directs the process. The Clinic has a consortium with the Community Legal Office, Inc. which allows it to offer more free legal representation to people with limited resources.
Types of cases
Civil cases in courts of Puerto Rico, Criminal Actions in Cases of Minors, Sworn statements. Areas: Bayamon County, Caguas County, Carolina County, San Juan County, Trujillo Alto County
- One project would be looking at human rights violations under international law in the Hurricane response (or lack thereof). Spanish is preferred, but not necessary.
- A second would look at alternative energy process, including micro-grids, compared with the one remaining coal plant in PR. Spanish is preferred, but not necessary.
- The last is direct-service oriented, helping with land title issues, insurance, and FEMA appeals. This student needs Spanish fluency.
San Juan, may assist with coordinating housing
In March 2018, OCP arranged for 31 students to travel to Puerto Rico over spring break to do legal work with Ayuda Legal Hurácan Maria (Hurricane Maria Legal Assistance) and Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la Justicia, and humanitarian work with the Christian Community Center in Camito.
We are organizing another spring break trip in March 2019 with applications due in December. Indicate your interest on the online form and we will follow-up with an email when the application is available.
All HLS students are eligible to apply.
Remote Pro Bono Projects (being done in Massachusetts)
Students have already assisted the National Consumer Law Center on translation for student loan relief documentation and Massachusetts Advocates for Children on research related to public education for evacuees in Massachusetts.
As other legal research projects come into focus, we will reach out to students who express an interest in “Remote Legal Research” via the online form. If you are interested in assisting families who have evacuated from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts, Springfield, Lawrence, and Holyoke, please check “Direct Assistance and Workshops for Resettlement in Boston” on the online form.
For questions please contact:
Prof. Andrew Crespo
Haley Adams ’20, Student Coordinator
Dara Jackson-Garrett ’20, Student Coordinator
Kevin Patumwat ’19, Student Coordinator
Natalie Trigo Reyes ’19, Student Coordinator
Lee Mestre, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs