Clinical Projects

At Harvard Law School, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) offers clinical opportunities related to law and international development, which allow current law students to get hands-on experience in the field while earning clinical credit. These projects often take place during the Winter Term (January) so as to allow students to work on site with the different organizations. LIDS has organized a partnership with several organizations to offer clinical projects, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an innovative U.S. government development agency and the Integrity Vice Presidency of the World Bank.

Past clinical projects include:

LIDS-IRRAD Rural Legal Aid Clinical in India (January 2013)

LIDS and OCP worked with The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) in India to to offer a January term placements for 1-2 students. The project looked into the rural legal aid camp model implemented by IRRAD. Specifically, students (1) analyzed the issues being presented at legal aid camps, (2) interviewed the field staff and law students and faculty who have been involved in the camps; (3) researched available legal aid practice tools and legal reference materials on rural poverty law issues in Haryana, India and (4) prepared legal screening and practice materials useful for assisting villagers with whom IRRAD works.

LIDS-World Bank Law & Development Independent Clinical Program (January 2012)

LIDS and OCP carried out a partnership with the Special Litigation Unit (SLU) of the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) of the World Bank, an independent branch responsible for investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in Bank-financed projects. Through this partnership, OCP offered one HLS JD, and one LLM, student the opportunity to gain practical, substantive experience applying their legal skills in an international development context during the January 2012 winter term. These students assisted the SLU’s ongoing work on investigating and taking action against corruption.

LIDS-MCC Law & Development Independent Clinical Program (2010-2011)

In 2010, LIDS and OCP began an exciting new partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency focused on poverty alleviation in the developing world.  Through this partnership, eight upper-year HLS students had the opportunity to gain practical, substantive experience applying their legal skills in an international development context. These students, working in two teams, assisted MCC’s ongoing work on healthcare decentralization and land regularization in Lesotho through work conducted both remotely from Cambridge during the fall and spring semesters and during a winter-term project in Lesotho, a developing country in southern Africa. Each project is described below. Also, you may click here to see a video of Lesotho National Television covering LIDS.

Project 1:  Dispute Resolution During Land Regularization Process

One component of MCC’s and MCA’s ongoing work in Lesotho is a program of systematic “regularization” of 55,000 informally settled land parcels in urban and peri-urban settlements, a process through which households receive formal documentation of their rights to the land they occupy. These informal settlements are typically long-standing residential areas informally occupied and built up by citizens who have had difficulty accessing land allocations through the existing formal procedures. As part of a pilot phase of the regularization program, in which 5,000 land parcels in these settlements are currently being regularized, the MCC is assisting with adjudication of claims to land and the resolution of disputes, such as boundary disputes and inheritance and marital property disputes, which arise during the process. To date, a relatively small number of disputes have arisen in conjunction with the land regularization program.

There are also an unknown number of land-related disputes within Lesotho’s court system.  At present, there is little information available about the number or nature of land disputes that have escalated to the courts and whether such disputes could be more effectively and efficiently resolved outside the courts through alternative dispute resolution processes, including the mediation processes that are part of the regularization program as well as the court-annexed mediation program that MCC is working to develop as part of its efforts to strengthen the judiciary in Lesotho.

Four HLS students – Alastair Green ’11, Anne Healy ’12, Joshua Herlands ’11, and Christine Rizk ’11 – worked with the MCC to analyze the land disputes that have arisen during the pilot phase of the regularization program, evaluate the efficacy of the dispute resolution processes, and identify the types of land-related disputes escalating to the courts and how such cases could be resolved instead through alternative dispute resolution.

To conduct this research, the students conducted several interviews with local stakeholders, including field staff engaged in mediating these disputes, land surveyors, and the head of the Land Administration Authority. The team also spent several days observing mediators and talking with people involved in land disputes in the areas where the regularization program is being implemented. To better understand the court disputes, the team also spent several days spread between three courts in Lesotho’s capital, reviewing close to 2,000 case files. After their three weeks in Lesotho in January, the students returned to Cambridge where they prepared their 50-page report for MCC summarizing their findings and recommendations. Because the regularization program was in a pilot phase during the students’ visit, their recommendations will influence the second phase of the regularization activities, to start later this year, when the project scales-up to 55,000 parcels.

Project 2:  Decentralization of Healthcare Services

Burdened by an increasingly high incidence of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, constrained financial and human resources, and a population spread across remote terrain, Lesotho faces significant challenges in the provision of healthcare services, despite its small population of only two million people. In line with international best practices in improving health care service delivery, the Lesotho Ministry of Health has, with MCC’s support, embarked on a process of decentralizing health care services in the context of a government-wide decentralization effort.

MCC asked that the four students on the health team – Eliza Golden ’11, Hrishi Hari ’11, James Small ’11, and Lisa Taylor ’11 – identify the legal and policy challenges associated with implementing decentralization of the health system in Lesotho. To make the most of their time in Lesotho, the team prepared extensively before winter term, conducting a review of the literature on decentralization of health services, including case studies about decentralization experiences in other countries. Once in Lesotho, the team reviewed local laws and policy documents, and held numerous meetings with donors, government officials, and implementing partners involved in the decentralization effort.

Through this research and these candid discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, the students were able to identify five themes that would eventually form the backbone of the team’s extensive 40-page report and recommendations to the MCC: 1) legal and policy frameworks for decentralization; (2) coordination between relevant government ministries implementing decentralization; (3) operations and relationships within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; (4) human resources challenges; and (5) local government capacity.