Paul L. Caron

Saturday, April 4, 2020

During COVID-19 Pandemic, Harvard Law School's 46 Clinics Continue To Virtually Serve Clients

Harvard Crimson, During COVID-19 Pandemic, Harvard Law School Continues Clinics Virtually:

CoronavirusDespite leaving campus in mid-March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard Law School students will continue to serve Boston residents in need of free legal services online.

Students in the Law School’s clinical programs gain practical experience by working as pro bono attorneys for clients in the Boston area. The Law School offers 46 clinics and student practice organizations covering a wide range of legal specialties, including health, taxes, immigration, and BGLTQ advocacy.

The clinics offer students the opportunity to interview clients, take depositions, and try cases in court — activities that typically occur in-person rather than thousands of miles away.

Still, the clinics are providing their services virtually using video conference platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype.

Housing Law Clinic Director Maureen E. McDonagh said her clinic stores case documents in an online database so students can access files from anywhere and easily work from home.

“Students are still working on the cases they were working on when they left,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “They’re still connected to their clients.”

Update:  Boston Globe, The Pandemic Poses Significant Access-to-Justice Obstacles. A Cambridge Technologist Is Developing Solutions:

In the age of the coronavirus, like nearly every other segment of local life, the state’s court system now features additional pandemic-related obstacles to addressing such a problem.

Local legal technologist Quinten Steenhuis thinks your phone can help. Or, more specifically, apps that he is developing for your phone.

Steenhuis, who is a clinical fellow at Suffolk University’s Legal Innovation & Technology Lab, has launched a project aimed at making about 30 court forms dealing with housing and family law issues available to the public online through a series of apps in a few weeks time. Such development would normally take months, or even years, according Steenhuis, but the pandemic has acted as an accelerant for online access to such documents.

With the COVID-19 crisis raging on, the state’s courts are closed except for emergency hearings that cannot be resolved virtually. That means for many matters, access to the justice system has been curtailed. ...

Steenhuis envisions people being able to apply for a restraining order in a situation involving domestic violence through the apps. Other forms he hopes to make available are fee waivers, and ones that pertain to custody and guardianship issues. The apps would be aimed at Massachusetts courts, but Steenhuis thought the technology developed could be used as a model elsewhere.

For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.

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This is a good post, and I'll add that our 10 Pepperdine clinics continue without missing a beat for clients, as well as every other school's I know. I'm very proud of the clinical community and its scrappy, ethical commitment to clients and teaching.

Posted by: Baker | Apr 4, 2020 10:35:09 AM