Margaret Kettles ’18 is the winner of the Outstanding Clinical Student Award from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The award is presented annually to one student from each law school for outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community.

An exemplary clinical student and advocate for public interest law, Kettles served as the executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), a two-year clinic where students represent low-income clients in housing and/or family cases.

According to her supervisors at HLAB, Kettles’ hard work and deep understanding of the Bureau’s mission made her one of HLAB’s best executive directors. She showed consistent leadership on student staffing and performance-related issues, skillfully managing case assignments for 50 students and nine clinical faculty/instructors.

Kettles also worked on many individual cases and her dedication to clients has produced unparalleled results. She is currently negotiating a settlement worth approximately $200,000 for tenants who were forced to endure terrible conditions by an investor/landlord.

In their nomination, Kettles’ nominators noted Kettles’ “legendary” advocacy and her willingness to go above and beyond for people in need, even when they are not her clients. Recently, she learned of 24 individuals living in an illegal boarding house who were being “cleared out” or evicted by the building’s landlord. She quickly got HLAB’s community partners to canvass the building and she created three separate legal clinics to submit answers, motions and discovery requests. Her work resulted in the dismissal of all but one of the eviction cases.

In addition to her work at HLAB, Kettles volunteered as a student attorney with the Tenant Advocacy Project, representing clients in benefits termination, public housing eviction, and application denial hearings at housing authorities, and with Harvard Defenders, providing representation to low-income defendants in criminal show-cause hearings.

Kettles is at her core an incredible advocate for individuals and communities who have been treated unfairly and whose rights and humanity have been violated and ignored, said Clinical Instructor Eloise Lawrence. 

“I am very thankful to receive this award,” said Kettles. “My clinical work has been the highlight of my HLS experience. HLAB — in particular my Clinical Instructor Eloise Lawrence and our partner organization City Life/Vida Urbana — has taught me so much about community lawyering and using the law as a tool for social change. I look forward to carrying these lessons into my career as a public defender.”