Julia Hildreth, Mark Samburg Share Pro Bono Award

Two graduating students who each contributed more than 2,500 hours of free legal services while at Harvard Law School will share this year’s Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award, while the Class of 2010 surpassed the HLS record for pro bono hours, performing a total of 329,934 hours, an average of 553 hours per student.

“We are really proud of the Class of 2010, and of our students’ commitment to giving back to the community through donating their legal services,” said Lisa Dealy, Assistant Dean for the HLS Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Many students accrue pro bono hours through participating in the HLS Clinical program, through which they handle real cases in a variety of areas while under the mentorship of clinical faculty and instructors. Others work on discrete pro bono projects during spring break or the school year.

Julia Hildreth ’10 [photo left], who next year will be working for the New Hampshire Public Defender Office, is one of this year’s honorees for pro bono service. She has for the past two years been a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, which provides free civil legal services to low-income clients. She was also co-chair of the Tenant Advocacy Project, a student practice organization that helps low- and moderate-income tenants facing eviction and other legal problems, and was co-chair of Project No One Leaves, which has had enormous success in fighting Boston’s foreclosure crisis through representing low-income clients against banks and by sending students door to door each week throughout Boston to inform tenants and homeowners of their legal rights. Hildreth has also been a Kids in the Court volunteer, teaching middle-school children about the American legal system. During her summers, she worked at Children’s Rights in New York, a national advocacy group working to reform the child welfare systems, and at Bronx Defenders, which represents criminal defendants.

Hildreth shares this year’s pro bono award with Mark Samburg ’10 [photo right], who was a board member of the Harvard Defenders, a student practice organization that provides free legal services to low-income defendants facing show-cause hearings in Massachusetts courts, and which is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. He participated in a number of HLS Clinics, including the Criminal Justice Institute in which students handle misdemeanor and felony cases in local court, and the Death Penalty Clinic, working with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. Samburg was also a pro bono researcher for Professor Carol Steiker on a capital defense case, pro bono researcher for Professor Jim Greiner on the issue of racial composition of jury venires, and he started the pro bono research project arm of the Harvard Journal on Legislation. He spent his summers at the New Haven Public Defender and the Public Defender Service of District of Columbia.

“Julia and Mark are truly deserving of this award,” said Lee Meredith Branson, Assistant Director of the HLS Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Not only have they demonstrated an unselfish commitment to those in need of legal services, but they have also done so with enthusiasm and humility. They are extraordinary examples of how our talented Harvard Law students can bring what they are learning in the classroom and in the courtroom to make a positive impact on an individual client and on an entire community through our Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.”

Branson added that Hildreth “is totally selfless and doesn’t sleep!” and that Samburg “is positive and enthusiastic, yet down to earth.”

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award is granted each year in honor of Professor Andrew Kaufman, who was instrumental in creating the Pro Bono Service Program at HLS.  The J.D. student in the graduating class who performs the highest number of pro bono service hours receives the award and a $500 honorarium.  The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs annually determines the winner based on records of total completed pro bono hours submitted by students. Harvard Law students are required to perform at least 40 hours of pro bono service in order to graduate. Every year since the requirement was instituted, the total number of class pro bono hours and the average number of hours per student have increased.

Among the Class of 2010, 105 students performed more than 1,000 hours of pro bono service each during their three years. Only 23 students performed the minimum of 40 hours. Seventy-five percent of the class took at least one clinical course, and 59 percent spent at least one summer in public interest work.

In addition to the HLS in-house clinics in more than 28 areas of the law, as well as externships and independent clinical projects, students can choose from a wide variety of other pro bono projects. For example, this year, the the HLS TaxHelp student group, led by Kevin Korzeniewski ’10, filed 160 returns for low-income and elderly Cambridge residents, obtaining total Federal refunds of $229,660 and total state refunds of $48,862.

Seventeen members of the Class of 2010 traveled to New Orleans over spring breaks to work with the New Orleans Public Defender office. In the Mississippi Delta Project, pro bono students and students from several HLS clinics have worked on a variety of economic development and other projects to improve the health and well-being of residents of the Delta, one of the poorest regions in the nation, including drafting and advocating for legislation to help farmers markets. The bill was signed into law by the Governor of Mississippi in April, leading to negotiation training on transportation issues, and providing a legal workshop for aspiring small business owners.