UPDATED: June 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Last month, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau student attorney Carolina Kupferman ’11 secured a $250,000 judgement for her client in a divorce case. Kupferman was the first in her class of second-year law students to take a case to trial after joining the bureau last fall.
Jean Strout, who was a third-year student at the time, also contributed to the case as a co-cousel and mentor.
The judgment awarded the client 60 percent of her ex-husband’s 401(k) from their marriage, 50 percent of the money from their joint bank account, 50 percent of the equity from their house, and what Kupferman called a favorable visitation arrangement. The decision on the case was received last month, after two days of trial last fall and a nearly three-month wait for the judge’s decision.
Kupferman’s client, who allegedly suffered two decades of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband before walking away from her marriage, was left with little to her name and two children to take care of. Quickly after she left, she said her husband moved thousands of dollars from their joint bank account and transferred the deed of their house to his mother’s trust, calling her claim to a piece of the house into question.
Kupferman was assigned the case in the fall, after it was handled by a student who recently graduated. After only a few weeks at the bureau, the case received a trial date and Kupferman found herself before a judge in October.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Kupferman, who added that she was anxious to argue against a professional attorney who had been practicing family law for some time.
However, Stephanie E. Goldenhersh, a senior clinical instructor at the bureau who advised Kupferman, praised the law student for her preparation and commitment.
“She certainly was up to the task,” Goldenhersh said, adding that Kupferman spent many late nights poring over the case and preparing for the trial. “We built trial notebooks, we discussed strategy, we reviewed documents for the court, we spent hours with the client.”
“For all other classes, if you don’t give enough time you’re hurting yourself...but the whole time you know you’re not doing this for you, you’re doing it for the client,” Kupferman said.
Recently, Kupferman and her legal team received notice of an appeal, but Kupferman has vowed to fight it on behalf of her client. Additionally, Kupferman is in the process of filing documents to push the client’s ex-husband to pay the judgment, which he has failed to do thus far.
The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau is a volunteer organization made up of Law School students who offer free legal services to low-income individuals under the guidance of clinical instructors.
—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.