LSC Hosts the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series on Veterans Treatment Courts

Judge Robert RussellOn November 9th, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School will host the third annual Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Speakers Series featuring Judge Robert Russell, founder of the nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court. Judge Russell’s lecture begins at 12pm in Ames Courtroom, in which he will reflect on his founding of the Court in Buffalo, NY, and the future of the Veterans Treatment Court movement across the nation. The event will commence with opening remarks by our honored guest, retired Executive Director of DAV National Services and Legislation, David Gorman and with brief introductions by Daniel Nagin, the Faculty Director of LSC and the Veterans Legal Clinic and Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education. A boxed lunch will be served at this time, for those who register here.

Following the lecture, Judge Russell will join a discussion panel alongside our three other distinguished guests:  Judge Eleanor Sinnott (Boston Municipal Court), Judge Mary Hogan Sullivan (Dedham District Court), and Major Evan Seamone (USAR, Professor at Mississippi College School of Law) to discuss the challenges and opportunities of veterans treatment  courts going forward.  The panel discussion will be moderated by Betsy Gwin, Clinical Instructor and DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow, of LSC’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

For more information and to register, please visit


Fourth Annual People’s Law School Community Legal Education Event on April 16th

The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School presents

The People’s Law School: Community Legal Education Workshops
Saturday, April 16th, 2016 from 1:00pm – 5:00pm

Peoples Law School at LSC

The People’s Law School is intended to educate and empower community members around every-day legal issues. You are welcome to attend up to three workshops.  Workshops include a presentation and question and answer segment. Legal topics that will be covered include:

  • Disability Law
  • Housing Law
  • Family Law
  • Consumer Law
  • Veterans Law
  • Employment Law
  • Tax Law

For a detailed schedule of workshops, please click here: 2016 Peoples Law School Schedule.

This is a Free Event Open to the Public, Registration Not Required – For More Information call 617-522-3003 or email .

Clinic students present legal workshops for veterans

LSC clinic student, Carys Johnson, presents to veterans about estate planning

LSC clinic student, Carys Johnson, presents to veterans about estate planning

On Monday, November 9, 2015, the Legal Services Center opened its doors to veterans from our community to serve dinner and provide a series of legal workshops on a range of topics relevant to veterans.  Twelve Harvard Law students from the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic presented legal information and tips to attendees about estate planning, Ch. 115 state veterans benefits, VA benefits, and Social Security benefits.  Approximately 30 local veterans and family members attended the event.

Rebecca Rattner, a second-year student in the clinic, worked with her fellow students to present about benefits available to veterans at the state level.

“I thought it was a really useful activity to engage the community and provide them with information about their rights and practical suggestions for how to advocate for themselves,”

Ms. Rattner said.

Staff from Boston and Bedford VA healthcare facilities helped to coordinate the event.

Peoples Law School at LSCThe event was part of a series of community legal education events known as the Peoples Law School, through which LSC staff and students periodically present legal workshops to community members.  The next Peoples Law School event will be held in Spring 2016.  For more details, you can contact us by email.


Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Delivers 2015 DAV Lecture


U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus HLS '75

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
HLS ’75

On Thursday, October 22, 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, delivered the 2015 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture at Harvard Law School. The event was cohosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Harvard Law School’s Armed Forces Association.

Secretary Mabus highlighted our duty to care for servicemembers and veterans and to ensure that they receive the recognition and benefits that they so richly deserve. In particular, he noted that because many more of those wounded in action are surviving now than in the past, “They are going to need more rehab, more things, more systems, more help.” The Secretary praised DAV, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, the Veterans Legal Clinic, and other veterans organizations for their work toward guaranteeing fairness and equity for all those who have served. The Secretary closed his speech by reciting the famous quote that those who serve their country “gave us their tomorrows, so we could have our todays,” to which he added that, for veterans, “we owe them their todays.”

Secretary Mabus’ speech also addressed a wide array of topics relating to servicemembers and veterans. The topics ranged from discharge upgrades for those separated under the now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to expanding opportunities for women in the Navy and Marine Corps. He repeatedly talked about bridging the transition from servicemember to veteran. He acknowledged that the process of reintegration into civilian life is not always smooth and discussed his Department’s policies and initiatives that seek to ease that transition. Following his remarks, Secretary Mabus answered a variety of questions from the audience, which included many active duty servicemembers, veterans, community leaders, students, and others.

2015 DAV Speaker Series Announcement

The Secretary was introduced by Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dean Minow praised the Secretary, who is a graduate of Harvard Law School, for his remarkable accomplishments and his long career of public service.Secretary Mabus answered a variety of questions from the audience, which included many active duty servicemembers, veterans, community leaders, students, and others.

Commenting after the speech, Daniel Nagin, Director of the Legal Services Center, stated, “Secretary Mabus is an extraordinary public servant and champion of our servicemembers and veterans. We are honored to host him as the 2015 DAV Distinguished Lecturer at the Law School, and deeply grateful to DAV for its sponsorship of this important speaker series.  Secretary Mabus’ powerful message about the duty we owe disabled veterans is one we must collectively heed.”

Secretary Mabus is the 75th United States Secretary of the Navy and leads America’s Navy and Marine Corps.  As Secretary of the Navy, he is responsible for conducting the affairs of the Department of the Navy, including recruiting, organizing, equipping, training and mobilizing. Secretary Mabus is responsible for an annual budget in excess of $170 billion and leadership of almost 900,000 people.  Before his appointment, he held a variety of leadership positions. From 1988 to 1992, he served as Governor of Mississippi, the youngest elected to that office in more than 150 years.  He was Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996 and later was Chairman and CEO of a manufacturing company.  Secretary Mabus is a native of Ackerman, Mississippi, and received a Bachelor’s Degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Mississippi, a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University, and a Law Degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. After Johns Hopkins, Secretary Mabus served in the Navy as an officer aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock.

Supported by a generous grant from the Disabled America Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust, the DAV Distinguished Lecture Series provides an annual forum at the world’s most renowned university and law school for public servants and thought leaders to speak on issues of importance to the nation’s veterans. The series recognizes leading figures in the veterans’ community, raises awareness about the needs of veterans, sparks discussion about the public policies that most impact veterans, particularly those with service-connected disabilities, and serves as a call to action for veterans and non-veterans alike to help ensure the nation honors its commitments to those who have served.  The inaugural DAV Distinguished Lecture was delivered in 2014 by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.

Further coverage of the event was published by the Harvard Crimson and Harvard Law Today.


LSC Volunteers at Stand Down Event for Veterans

On Friday, August 28, 2015, attorneys and volunteers from the Legal Services Center participated in Massachusetts Stand Down 2015 and provided free legal assistance to scores of homeless and at-risk veterans.

Stand Down, organized by the New England Center for Homeless Vets, is a day-long event that provides an opportunity for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to connect with service providers. In addition to legal assistance, services included housing and job assistance, clothing provision, medical and dental care, haircuts, and free meals. The event was held in tents set up by the Massachusetts National Guard in the parking lot of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103 in Dorchester.

“I came away with an overriding sense of gratitude that we were given the chance to meet directly with veterans in need and provide immediate assistance,” said Julie McCormack, Director of the Disability Litigation & Benefits Advocacy Project at LSC. “Some veterans came to the tent in real crisis, and Stand Down created an opportunity for us to be there in the right place at the right time.”

From L-R: Julie McCormack, Robert Proctor, Chris Melendez, Kristin Antolini, Tammy Kolz Griffin, Dana Montalto, Maureen McDonagh, Julia Devanthery, Roger Bertling, Betsy Gwin, Keith Fogg, Dehlia Umunna, Nnena Odim, and Daniel Nagin. (Not pictured: Lisa Bernt)

From L-R: Julie McCormack, Robert Proctor, Chris Melendez, Kristin Antolini, Tammy Kolz Griffin, Dana Montalto, Maureen McDonagh, Julia Devanthery, Roger Bertling, Betsy Gwin, Keith Fogg, Dehlia Umunna, Nnena Odim, and Daniel Nagin. (Not pictured: Lisa Bernt)

LSC staffed the legal assistance tent for half the day, providing pro bono legal consultations to nearly 50 veterans. Ten attorneys from across LSC’s clinics and practice areas participated, advising veterans in the areas of VA and disability benefits, SNAP and other public benefits, tax controversies, housing law, family law, estate planning, and consumer law. LSC also recruited volunteer attorneys from the Fair Employment Project, the Northeast Justice Center, and Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute to provide advice on employment law, family law, and criminal law matters.

Volunteering at Stand Down is just one example of outreach by LSC to meet the legal needs of our community. LSC also sponsors the People’s Law School, where attorneys and law students provide free legal education to community members. The next People’s Law School event will be held in November 2015 and will focus on the needs of veterans.

Legal Services Center Launches Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership

BBA Representing Veterans Training

Dana Montalto, Daniel Nagin, Dr. Sandy Dixon, Betsy Gwin, and Major Susan Lynch present to attorneys about representing less-than-honorably discharged veterans.

On Tuesday, June 2, the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center launched the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Through the program, the clinic will refer cases, offer trainings, and provide ongoing support to local attorneys who agree to provide pro bono representation to veterans discharged less-than-honorably in petitions to upgrade their discharge statuses. Having a less-than-honorable discharge can prevent a former servicemember from accessing care and treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs and impede efforts toward stable employment, education, and housing.

The Partnership kicked off with a half-day training at the Boston Bar Association, where attorneys learned about military law and culture, the review boards, and service-related medical diagnoses and treatment, among other topics. In addition to Veterans Legal Clinic attorneys Daniel Nagin, Betsy Gwin, and Dana Montalto, presenters included Susan Lynch, an attorney and Major in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves, and Dr. Sandra Dixon, a core faculty member of William James College who teaches about trauma and meeting the needs of returning veterans. In attendance were more than two dozen attorneys, including solo practitioners, public-interest lawyers, and members of some of Boston’s leading law firms.

Hundreds of thousands of servicemembers were separated with less-than-fully-Honorable discharges in the past decades, including more than 200,000 in the Post-9/11 Era. Despite the availability of a legal remedy and a demand for legal assistance, very few attorneys offer representation to former servicemembers before the records correction boards and even fewer provide pro bono representation to low-income veterans. The mission of the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership is to close that gap by providing attorneys interested in assisting those who have worn the uniform with the skills and resources necessary to represent them.

Attorneys who are interested in joining the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership should contact Dana Montalto at dmontalto[at]

LSC Presents: The 3rd Annual People’s Law School: Community Education Workshops

The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School

The 3rd Annual
People’s Law School:
Community Education Workshops

Saturday, March 28th 2015
1:00pm – 5:00pm
122 Boylston Street
Jamaica Plain, MA. 02130
(Directly next to the Stony Brook MBTA station on the Orange Line)

This is a Free Event
Appointment Required for Income Tax Filings
For More Information Call 617-522-3003

The Legal Services Center is a neighborhood law office that serves the legal needs of the community. We provide attorneys and legal assistance to financially eligible clients in civil matters.  The People’s Law School is intended to educate and empower community members around everyday legal issues. You are welcome to attend up to three workshops.  Workshops include a presentation and question answer segment. 

Consumer Protection Workshop 

1:00pm – Loan Modifications and Avoiding Foreclosure in Massachusetts

2:20pm – Individual Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

Employment Workshop 

1:00pm – Basic Employment Rights in Massachusetts

Family Workshop 

1:00pm – Custody & Child Support

2:20pm – When DCF enters your family’s life – What are your rights? How to proceed? 51A Report

3:40pm – Custody & Child Support

Housing Workshop 

1:00pm – Basic Tenant Rights in Massachusetts

Predatory Student Lending Workshop 

1:00pm – Dealing with Defaulted Student Loans

2:20pm – Disability Discharge of Student Loans

Small Claims Workshop 

1:00pm – How to file or defend a Small Claims lawsuit

3:40pm – How to file or defend a Small Claims lawsuit
Social Security Workshop 

1:00pm – Winning your Social Security or SSI Disability Case

2:20pm – Winning your Social Security or SSI Disability Case

3:40pm – Resolving Overpayments of SSA Benefits due to Earnings, Marital Status, etc…
The Community Enterprise Project of the Harvard Transactional Law Clinic Workshop 

2:20pm – Legal tips for small business owners and people who want to start a business
Veterans Workshop 

1:00pm – Estate Planning for Veterans and their Family Members

(Wills, Trusts, Healthcare Directives, Powers of Attorney, Probate Court) 

2:20pm – VA disability benefits

3:40pm – Discharge Upgrades

3:40pm – Legal tips for Veterans who are small business owners or want to start a business

(Offered by the Veterans Enterprise Initiative, an alliance of the Veterans Legal Clinic and 

The Community Enterprise Project of the Harvard Transactional Law Clinics)

Creating Community: A Social Justice Artwork Project

Through a unique collaboration, the Legal Services Center was the site of an art dedication on February 26th titled Creating Community:  A Social Justice Artwork Project.  The artists and guests of honor at the event were more than 50 sixth-graders from the Helen Y. David Leadership Academy in Dorchester, along with their teachers and the school’s executive director.  The children’s artworks—which speak to issues of community and justice and include paintings, drawings, collages, and masks—will be on permanent display in the Center’s library.   Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and 3L Blake Strode, a Skadden Fellowship award winner and alum of the Center’s Post-Foreclosure Clinic, were the featured speakers at the art dedication, which the children kicked off with moving descriptions of what inspired their art. Click here for more about the event, including photographs of some of the artworks.


To see snapshots of the neighborhoods we serve, continue to the Our Community page.

The Legal Services Center takes People’s Law School on the road in service to veterans


LSC’s Julie McCormack (Dis-Lit) and Dana Montalto (Vet) with VA Bedford Compensated Work Therapy staff Will Hatley and Mary Lee Losordo after their presentation on November 5th.

The now annual Legal Services Center (LSC) People’s Law School of community legal education workshops facilitated by LSC staff and clinical law students has proven to be hugely popular, attended by almost 200 people over the past 2 years.  And so popular that Will Hatley, Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program Coordinator at the Bedford Veterans Administration (VA) proposed that LSC take the program on the road, bringing workshops specifically tailored to the needs of the veterans served through the CWT program directly to them on-site at the Bedford VA.  Julie McCormack, senior clinical instructor and director of the Disability Litigation Clinic at LSC, enthusiastically accepted the challenge and recruited not only LSC instructors and clinical students in presenting workshops, but also reached out to recruit presenters in areas not served by LSC.  She and her LSC colleagues were ultimately joined by instructors and law students from the Tenant Advocacy Project and Prisoner Legal Assistance Project student practice organizations and the Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic.

Over the course of several weeks and 5 workshops, veterans and their case managers at the Bedford VA were advised of their legal rights and the process by which these rights could be exercised in several key areas of direct impact.  On October 29th, Toby Merrill and her student Alison Sher ‘15 from the LSC’s Project on Predatory Student Lending presented first on credit issues including bankruptcy and predatory student loans, many of which are specifically marketed to veterans.  Toby and Ali discussed the means by which these unfair loans can be challenged, discharged or otherwise eliminated.

On November 5th, Julie McCormack presented on Social Security disability programs, other programs for low-income and/or disabled veterans and their families, and the financial implications in these programs of wages and other forms of income and how to respond.  Dana Montalto of LSC’s Veteran’s Legal Clinic presented on Discharge Upgrades, the benefits of upgrading and the process by which an upgrade can be requested.  Julie also met with veterans privately, responding to individual questions and providing advice and follow-up in their individual cases.

va peoples law school fam law clinic

LSC’s Nnena Odim and Stephanie Davidson with Family Law clinical students Isabel Klosterman ’16 and Mara Ludmer ’15 after their presentation on November 12th.

On November 12th, Nnena Odim and Stephanie Davidson of LSC’s Family Law Clinic, their clinical students Isabel Klosterman ’16 and Mara Ludmer ’15, and Tamara Kolz Griffin of the Estate Planning Project of LSC’s Veteran’s Legal Clinic, and her student, Hillary Preston ’15, presented on family law and probate court issues, including divorce, child custody and child support, separations, restraining orders, conservatorships, guardianships and probating estates.  Tamara Kolz Griffin and her clinical students, Amanda Klopp ’16 and Carolyn Ruiz ’16, from the Estate Planning Project of the Veteran’s Legal Clinic followed up on November 13th with a workshop specifically dealing with wills, trusts and other estate planning tools helpful to veterans and their families, and met one-on-one with several prospective clients on their individual cases.

Finally, on November 19th, the Hon. John Cratsley (ret.) of HLS’s Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic and David Hanyok ’15 (with HLS’s Prison Legal Assistance Project) presented on criminal record sealing and other issues.  Both handled a variety of questions from veterans as well as program staff and met one-on-one with veterans interested in discussing their record sealing options, providing forms for obtaining a CORI, for fee waivers, and for applying to seal a record. They also answered numerous questions which sometimes raised other criminal justice issues of concern to veterans.  Their session was followed by Marcia Peters of HLS’s Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) and Zoe Brennan-Krohn ‘15 (of both TAP and LSC’s Disability Litigation Clinic) who presented on the process to appeal public housing denials based solely on having a criminal record.  They took on similar challenging questions.

Each of the workshops were attended by 30 to 50 veterans and case managers.  The attendees participated eagerly with questions and personal observations, sharing knowledge and experiences.  Will Hatley generously recognized each of the presenters with personal certificates of appreciation.  He and many of the attendees urged that the workshops be repeated and even expanded in the spring, pointing to the obvious need for this kind of community legal education among folks facing complex legal, social and personal challenges as they transition from military service to civilian life.  And although taking the time from clinical teaching and providing services to current clients and students presents resource and other constraints, LSC and their partners are more than willing to try to answer the call.