Liability Concerns Bar Student Organizations’ Practice of Law

On March 21, the Dean of Students office e-mailed the leaders of student organizations clarifying that student organizations may not practice law, according to Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Lisa Dealy.

According to the guidelines formulated by the Dean of Students office, “student [practice] organizations that are not approved shall not under any circumstances engage in the practice of law in any form.”

“We are working with existing organizations to identify ways that they can continue to operate within the policy,” Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove said, “But we assume some projects will necessarily go away.”

According to Dealy, student organizations not formally recognized as Student Practice Organizations (SPOs) should not represent themselves as Harvard organizations that practice law because they don’t have internal attorney supervision. “The reason for this is that in order to practice law, you must be licensed and have malpractice insurance coverage.” Dealy said, “Students are not licensed and do not have malpractice [insurance]—clinics and SPOs provide that coverage through their supervising attorneys. Working as a group under the Harvard name with assorted outside attorneys does not always provide that coverage, which leaves students personally exposed to liability.”

According to Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project President Daniel Doktori, ’13, HLEP, which is not a recognized SPO, was affected by the policy. According to an April 3 e-mail Doktori sent to HLEP members, HLEP “will not be able to continue pursuing the legal research element (the practice element) of the organization next year under the same structure currently employed.” The e-mail also said that HLEP was working with the administration to continue its work with real world clients.

According to Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove, the administration does not plan on recognizing any current student organizations as SPOs.

Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review Elects New Editors

Editors-in-Chief of CRCL (from left to right) Bill O'Neil, Josh Freiman, and Jason Lee.

Josh Freiman, ’13, Jason Lee, ’13, and Bill O’Neil, ’13, were elected Editors-in-Chief of the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

“The founders of CR-CL conceived of the journal as an instrument of change—a forum that would make new and innovative legal arguments and transform the status quo.” Freiman, Lee, and O’Neil said in a joint statement, “We are making several changes to further those goals.  For instance, one goal for the next volume is to complement the legal scholarship featured in our journal by fostering a greater diversity of voices.  We are seeking articles not just from legal academics, but from practitioners, advocates, and others with unique perspectives on the American legal system.”

Freiman is from The Woodlands, TX and graduated from the University of Texas in 2008. Before law school, he worked as a proofreader at the Texas Capitol and interned as an investigator with the Orleans Public Defenders. After graduation, he wants to become a public-interest lawyer, working on criminal justice and civil rights issues.

Lee is from the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from Stanford University. After college,  he moved to Los Angeles and worked in entertainment marketing for four years.  In 2008, he was involved with the “No On Proposition 8” campaign. Lee’s student note, “Lost in Transition: The Challenges of Remedying Transgender Employment Discrimination Under Title VII,” will be published this summer in the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. Jason hopes to move to Washington D.C. after graduation and work in appellate and or administrative law. His long-term goal is to someday be appointed to the federal bench.

O’Neil is from Charleston, WV and graduated from Brown University in 2010. Bill did not take off any time after his undergraduate education, although he spent his summers in college working as a paralegal in a small West Virginia plaintiffs’ firm. He plans to pursue a private-sector career in New York City after graduation with a focus on litigation.