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Harvard Law Students Fight Evictions

I know that law students in legal clinics all around the country provide critical legal services every day. But this story from The Harvard Crimson stood out for me because of the extra effort it describes by two third-year students at Harvard Law School, Nicholas J. Hartigan and David E. Haller.

It has to do with a sad byproduct of the foreclosure crisis -- renters forced out of their homes as their landlords fail to make mortgage payments. The banks that end up as owners of these homes have developed a scheme to sidestep the legal process of eviction by offering low-income tenants "cash for keys" -- payments of as much as $3,000 in exchange for agreements to vacate.

Working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Hartigan and Haller were already representing tenants in eviction cases when they began to realize fewer than half these cases make it to court. Along with Anthony B. Borich, also a third-year law student, they started a project called No One Leaves and began canvassing different Boston neighborhoods, knocking on doors of foreclosed homes and urging tenants to stay put.

It is tough but rewarding work, they say. "It’s an exhausting effort that we’re putting in, but I think everybody feels very strongly about it," Hartigan tells the Crimson. "You can legitimately change people’s lives, and take a really bad situation and do something that can really be beneficial." It is worthy of note that law students perform a valuable service by representing low-income clients who come into their legal clinics. It is even more noteworthy, perhaps, when the students leave the clinics and take their legal advice to the streets.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 12, 2008 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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