By Mia Matos

Harvard Law School provides unparalleled opportunities to study law with extraordinary colleagues in a rigorous, vibrant, and collaborative environment. Traditionally, law school students only get to delve into hands-on experience in their second and third years; yet Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) can be many HLS students’ chance to get involved in hands-on legal work while being supervised by a practicing attorney as early as their first year. SPOs are cherished by HLS students, as an opportunity to explore their own passions from human rights to the arts, and much more. Students in SPOs leave their local and international communities with meaningful impacts, all while gaining legal experience and making lifelong friends. Here’s what students had to say about some of their SPO experiences this year. 

Harvard Immigration Project (HIP)

“I liked the mission-driven work, the collegiality of the team, and the emphasis on reaching clear deliverables. The policy team in particular enjoyed wide latitude to take on a variety of initiatives.” – Joshua Metzger, JD ‘24

“I love the flexibility of being able to design policy projects and pursue them vigorously. It gives 1Ls a sense of agency to be involved in something organic and student led. At the same time, I love that that work flow is complemented with more structured work from the clinic.” – Bennett Stehr, JD ‘24

Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project (HLEP)

“This was an amazing way to get exposure to transactional law practice areas in the 1L year where I might not have otherwise.” – Theo Zych, JD ‘25

“Working with so many interesting start-ups and helping them navigate legal issues is a very rewarding experience.” – Logan Fahrenkopf, JD ‘24

Harvard Defenders

“Defenders is an incredible community, and an unparalleled opportunity to gain experience representing clients. The built-in support systems mean that we provide great representation, and that students are able to learn an enormous amount while doing it!” – Alexandra Kersley, JD ‘24

There is no better exposure and experience than directly representing clients in show cause hearings. I love how Defenders centers clients and dedicates every action towards achieving that goal. – Kamille Bernard, JD ‘24

HLS Negotiators 

I helped develop a negotiation workshop for refugees with a non-profit organization…I enjoyed working with Oladeji and being able to create something that will hopefully make a difference in people’s lives.” – Madeline Dorfman, JD ‘24

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP)

“I really liked being able to dive into work that was serving people so early in my law school experience through both impact litigation cases and direct representation. I feel like I’ve accidentally become a PREA expert and it’s so exciting to have fallen into this path.” – Jessenia Class, JD ‘25

“The ability to connect individually with clients. I’ve been able to get to know several PLAP clients well over the past three years, and being someone who is there to fight for them – or even just to listen to and believe in them – is incredibly rewarding.” – Mattie Haag, JD ‘23

“PLAP has taught me so much of what I know about being a lawyer. It has been the honor of a lifetime getting to fight for so many clients the past three years, even when often all I could do was be in my client’s corner and let them know that they were not alone.”  – Stephanie Perez, JD ‘23

Mississippi Delta Project (MDP)

“MDP is an opportunity to connect with real project partners and beneficiaries of pro bono legal work. Our policy analysis serves an important purpose for those on the ground hoping to deliver water pollution control and clean drinking water solutions to communities in Mississippi.” – Delaney King, JD ‘23

“​​I liked that the project we worked on had tangible impacts on communities’ access to water, and more broadly, that it was focused on environmental justice, a field I hope to pursue.” – Grant Pace, JD ‘25

Tenant Advocacy Project

“The best part of TAP is being able to make a difference for the community that we are part of as Harvard students and Cambridge residents. It is so important to realize how the law operates in the real world – very differently than how it looks in the appellate cases that we read for law school!” – Michelle Berger, JD ‘24

“What I like the most about TAP is the people. Everyone I met is so friendly, willing to help, and passionate about their work.” – Nina Zhao, JD ‘25

“I enjoyed representing a client directly and helping her win something tangible…My supervising attorney was a pleasure to work with. He gave me lots of independence and agency over the work, but also gave helpful and specific feedback at every step. He simultaneously helped me realize what I didn’t know while remaining confident in my abilities.” – John Fry, JD ‘25

Recording Artists Project (RAP)

“The clients! They are talented, dedicated, and friendly people who are always a pleasure to work with…RAP is one of the best ways to get practical experience in the entertainment industry. You won’t regret joining.” – Saskya Toussaint, JD ‘23

Filed in: Pro Bono

Tags: Class of 2023, Class of 2024, Class of 2025, Harvard Defenders, Harvard Immigration Project, Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project, Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, HLS Negotiators, Mississippi Delta Project, Recording Artists Project, Tenant Advocacy Project

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