The Giving Tree at Harvard Law School: Extending Our Services

BY LAM HO

Turkeys and pumpkins have ushered in December, and so the winter cold and final exams are quickly approaching. But here are some facts that will hopefully spread a bit of warmth and cheer to counter the oncoming stress. Despite Harvard Law School’s reputation as a corporate factory, two-thirds of HLS students now participate in a clinical program during their legal education. Summer Public Interest Funding has just been increased. In order to graduate, HLS students have to complete at least 40 hours of pro bono work; the Class of 2006 provided almost 240,000 pro bono hours. And today marks the beginning of another example of the public interest spirit that is a part of the Harvard experience.

The second annual Giving Tree at Harvard Law School will begin this afternoon. Presented by the Dean of Students Office and HLCentral, the HLS Giving Tree will raise gifts for the children of clients served by law students in our clinical and pro bono programs. It is coordinated by 2Ls Lam Ho and Emily Broad, HLCentral Director of Community Service.

A project intended to unite the HLS community in serving the less fortunate during the holiday period, the HLS Giving Tree was established last year by Section 2 1Ls Alexander Boni-Saenz, Lam Ho, and by Kami Kruckenberg and Cassie David ’07. The Giving Tree Project was founded by Lam Ho at Brown University in 1998 and Oxford University in 2002; this year there will also be a Giving Tree at Kirkland House, Harvard College. Since 1998, the Giving Trees have raised over 7000 gifts for disadvantaged children. Last year, the HLS Giving Tree raised about 250 gifts for homeless children at Project Hope in Dorchester; the goal this year is to double that number.

The centerpiece of the project, the “tree,” a non-denominational representation of giving, stands in the lobby of the Hark. It is adorned with ornaments that are made by Harvard Law School students and list descriptions of suggested gifts. Students, faculty, and staff are asked to pick up one or more ornaments from the tree, purchase and gift wrap the gifts listed on them, and return the gifts to the Giving Tree between November 30th and December 19th. Money can also be donated in the Dean of Students Office, and all donations will be used to purchase additional gifts.

Changes have been made to further integrate the Giving Tree into the Harvard Law School community. As previously mentioned, the Giving Tree will be an extension of the services HLS students are already providing to low-income families. That is, in addition to handling eviction or divorce cases for these families, the Giving Tree allows us to also contribute to their holiday celebrations and needs. Students involved with clinical and pro bono programs have collected “wishlists” for the children of their low-income clients. The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau is organizing an ornament-making party, and the Law School Council is holding a kick-off happy hour in the Hark Pub. Some 1L sections and student organizations have “sponsored” families by committing to filling their wishlists. The project is being co-sponsored and co-organized by the Law School Council and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. SPIN (Student Public Interest Network), the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, the Office of Public Interest Advising, LAMBDA, CHALSA, and APALSA are also co-sponsoring the project.

Finally, the Giving Tree at Harvard Law School has been generously supported by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP.

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