Student Perspectives – Working with Clients

The following post was written by Mary Triick, a current 3L HLS student who worked with HIRC for multiple semesters. She writes here about the value of working with asylum-seekers at the Clinic:

I started working with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at the beginning of my second year of law school.  As I sat down at my first meeting, with my first client, I knew the experience would teach me much about the law of asylum and even some practical skills; however, I had no idea of the true breath of the education my clients would provide me.

My clients reminded me why I decided to become a lawyer.  So much of what we do here in law school is apply abstract legal concepts to the lives of people who only ever appear to us as words on a page.  At HIRC I had the opportunity to move past the abstractions, to interact directly with individuals who not only had real legal needs, but who had needs that I and my supervisors could help them with.  At law school we often considered the big picture implications of issues such as torture, globalization, the laws of war, and the rights and privileges of citizenship. The clinic, however, allowed me to reorient myself and engage with these issues as they are brought to bear on a single person.  I was able to clearly see how—as a lawyer—I can make the world better for the one person, standing right in front of me.

My clients reminded me why the law is important.  The life experiences of the individuals who seek HIRC’s services in the asylum process are often case studies in what happens when the rule of law breaks down.  The individuals I assisted had fled countries when their governments declined to provide them with the most basic protections of law—protections we are lucky enough to take for granted in America.  The promise of the protection of American asylum law, and the struggles our clients endured as a result of the failure of laws and governments in their home countries, make it abundantly clear to me that laws are important because laws save lives.

My clients reminded me to keep my life in perspective.  At times I have found law school to be insular and isolating.  Working with my clients was a constant reminder that we all should count our blessings everyday.  It is easy to forget how fortunate we all are when we are constantly surrounded by those who have been equally as fortunate.  My clients’ has survived the most unfortunate human experiences, such as torture, detention, and separation from their families. Their strength and perseverance serve as testaments to the enduring nature of human fortitude and courage.

Read about one of HIRC’s clients and their experience seeking asylum and working with student attorneys at the Clinic in the Harvard Gazette article from this fall.