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Harvard Law School Opens LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic

Harvard Law School launched a new clinic, the School announced this week.
Harvard Law School launched a new clinic, the School announced this week. By Allison G. Lee
By Kelsey J. Griffin, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Law School launched its new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic Tuesday to work directly on legal issues affecting BGLTQ individuals, according to a Law School press release.

The clinic will start its pilot program this semester and offer projects which aim to advance BGLTQ rights at the local and national levels. Students will advocate for legislative change, work on impact litigation, and assist BGLTQ clients — particularly underrepresented groups and individuals — in need of legal services.

Four students will help staff the clinic this semester, according to its founding director, Alexander L. Chen.

In the release, Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 wrote that the clinic was a chance for students to work within “an important and rapidly developing field.”

“The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic will give our students a wonderful opportunity to address vital legal issues in an important and rapidly developing field, to provide first-rate legal representation to the LGBTQ+ community, to develop practice skills and substantive knowledge at the very highest levels, and to make a positive difference in the world,” Manning wrote.

Chen, the founding director and a graduate of the Law School, will also teach a course on gender identity in the law at HLS, where he will cover topics including sex-segregated spaces, health care access, and non-binary and intersex identities.

Chen co-founded Queer Trans People of Color at HLS while at the Law School and worked as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He also served as a member of the litigation team in the transgender military ban cases Doe v. Trump and Stockman v. Trump and co-founded the National Trans Bar Association.

He noted in an interview Wednesday that the Law School’s creation of the clinic follows a push from students for more BGLTQ opportunities, as well as growing diversity in the student body.

“I think for a long time, students here have felt that the Law School should be providing more curricular opportunities and course offerings for that focus on sort of LGBTQ-related legal issues, especially as more and more people who identify as LGBTQ go to law school,” Chen said.

Chen said that the goal of the clinic was to introduce students to the legal issues facing BGLTQ individuals and to teach strategies for effective advocacy in underrepresented populations.

“The hope is that the students will get an opportunity to get a sense of the issues that particularly affect underrepresented people within the LGBT community, and the goal of the clinic is to focus on the areas of legal advocacy that really disproportionately affect marginalized and underrepresented individuals within the LGBTQ community,” he said.

The Law School currently offers 44 different legal clinics and practice opportunities for students — more than any other law school in the world. These clinics aim to translate the lessons learned in classrooms into real legal practice.

“I think that, often times, law students can find it overwhelming to be studying law in such an abstract way,” Chen said. “They can find it difficult to translate their own lived experiences to understanding how they could go out in the world and become attorneys.”

“Every single student who is at the school could go out and do amazing things that really help people,” he added.

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

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