Three Graduating LSC Students Honored for Their Pro Bono Work
With their law school careers drawing to a close during the difficult and indescribable challenge of a global pandemic, three LSC students were honored at Commencement for their tenacious efforts on behalf of their clients.
Sarah Cayer, of the Housing Clinic; Chrysonthia Horne, of the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic; and Sejal Singh, of the Project on Predatory Student Lending were each lauded not just for their academic and professional accomplishments, but for their deep dedication to the clients they serve and to the cause of justice.
Cayer and Horne were among six students honored by the Harvard Law School Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs for their outstanding pro bono and clinical work; Singh received the David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award.
These three students represent LSC at its best—a dedication to learning, self-improvement, and using innovative, high-quality legal practice to meet the needs of their clients and communities. These students give us great hope for the future of public interest law.
Sarah Cayer, Housing Clinic
Sarah Cayer was nominated by LSC Housing Clinic attorney Gary Allen, who described how she exemplified the pro bono public spirit despite the public health emergency that “completely changed the scope and trajectory of her clinical experience.” As the spring semester shifted to remote learning, like many of her classmates, Cayer remained engaged and connected, and was energized to address the rising needs resulting from the coronavirus crisis.
Even after the governor declared a state of emergency, and while the law school was still formulating remote work policies for students, Cayer pressed her supervisor to go to Housing Court to provide advice and services to unrepresented tenants being threatened with eviction. At the very last eviction session before Housing Court closed, Cayer appeared with her supervisor in front of a Housing Court judge and successfully argued a motion to dismiss on behalf of one of the Housing Clinic’s clients. After the courts closed their doors, Sarah continued to respond to community-referred phone calls and drafted a number of posts online to answer questions posted on the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s bulletin board.
During her law school career, Cayer had multiple clinical placements in addition to her work at LSC, was involved with several student practice organizations, and had three summer public interest jobs. The theme that connected all these experiences? Cayer’s dedication to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services to communities in need—whether a family facing eviction, an incarcerated individual in need of legal help, or consumers seeking legal recourse. Allen described Cayer as an advocate with “inexhaustible potential,” one who will no doubt be doing important work in the public interest for a long time to come. Read more about Cayer in Harvard Law Today.
Chrysonthia Horne, Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic
Chrysonthia Horne, who was a student in LSC’s Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic during her second and third years in law school, is described by her clinical instructors as an exceptional student and a zealous advocate for vulnerable veteran clients. In nominating Horne for this award, Clinical Instructors Betsy Gwin and Dana Montalto highlighted Horne’s “top-tier legal skills, humility, and generosity,” and how she built strong, trusting relationships with her veteran clients, many of whom were survivors of sexual assault or who suffered other trauma during their time in the military.
Gwin and Montalto described Horne’s work in a particularly challenging case, where the client was a post-9/11 Army veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress due to military sexual trauma. Since being abruptly separated from the military a few years prior, the veteran had been struggling with homelessness, substance abuse relapses, and mental health issues; at times, she was difficult to get in touch with.
Horne was persistent in her efforts to keep in contact with the client and gather the information she needed to move the case forward, and responsive to the client’s needs as the case progressed. Horne deftly navigated competing obligations to prove her client’s case and protect her client’s well-being.
Horne’s representation of this veteran in a hearing before the Department of Veterans Affairs required her to prepare the veteran to testify before an agency adjudicator about the sexual trauma she experienced—a task that threatened to re-traumatize the veteran by making her relive the event. Horne identified this tension and took measures to conscientiously and adequately prepare the client, to minimize the harm to the extent possible, and to elicit the client’s testimony in a trauma-sensitive way.
The strength of Horne’s relationship with her client was clear to everyone in the hearing room, and the client herself said that it was Horne who got her through it. And just a few weeks later, that careful preparation bore fruit when VA granted the veteran access to benefits that it had previously denied. Read more about Horne in Harvard Law Today.
Sejal Singh, Project on Predatory Student Lending – David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award
Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill describes Sejal Singh as a force of nature, and an enthusiastic clinical student who brought great ideas and important legal and human questions to her shared learning with clinical classmates.
As a clinical student at LSC, Singh represented former students of predatory for-profit colleges in their efforts to discharge unfair and unaffordable student loan debt. Merrill describes Singh as “immediately at ease with clients—and clients with her—even when talking through emotionally difficult and financially complex problems…And she was always careful to make sure that her proposed course of action was the very best one available to her clients.”
In addition to her work at LSC on behalf of defrauded students, Singh is a cofounder of the People’s Parity Project, a nationwide network of law students dedicated to ending the use of coercive contracts and other legal practices—like forced arbitration, non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete clauses—that harm consumer and workers’ rights. Singh is tireless in her work towards a fairer legal system for all, embodying the late Dave Grossman, for whom the award is named. Said Merrill, “She is the lawyer I want all of my clients to have, and the advocate I want on all important issues.”
Read more about Singh in Harvard Law Today.