Harvard Legal Aid Bureau helping clients navigate law on their own

BY MATTHEW HUTCHINS

hlab

As the leadership of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau passes to a new generation, its programatic initiatives are continuing to build upon the ongoing needs of the economically disadvantaged in the Greater Boston area. The bureau has seen tremendous success in its tenants rights program, called “No One Leaves”, which has been duplicated by law schools throughout the area and altered the landscape of bank forclosures of multi-family housing properties. The program, which was founded by two former HLAB members who went on to receive Harvard’s Gary Bellows fellowship, has helped tenants understand the legal rights they possess in the face of bank programs offering “cash for keys.”

In addition to its foreclosure related advocacy, the HLAB members provide representation in areas like family law, domestic violence, wage and hours disputes, and receipt of benefits. “Forclosures generally have been in the public eye more, but as far as the resources of the organization, we remain evenly split between that and our other activities,” says HLAB incoming President Rachel Lauter ’11.

But the social strains caused by the economic downturn have created a particularly acute need for divorce related services among groups that cannot afford an attorney. A new monthly limited representation program will allow the HLAB’s advocates to help guide clients through the steps necessary to navigate the legal system on their own and get a divorce without an attorney’s help.

“We are always working with marginalized populations,” says Lauter. She has enjoyed the non-traditional lawyering experience provided by her work with the HLAB. “If you are interested in meeting diverse clients, this is a great opportunity, because it involves long-term engagement with those clients.”

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