Gabrielle Grossman ’24 and Alexandra Kersley ’24 are the recipients of the 2024 Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) Awards. The awards are presented annually to students from each law school for outstanding clinical coursework and contributions to the clinical community. Students are selected by full-time clinical faculty at each law school who are members of CLEA.

Gabrielle Grossman ’24

Gabrielle Grossman ’24 is honored with the 2024 CLEA Outstanding Clinical Externship Student Award in recognition of her extraordinary commitment to the Child Advocacy Clinic, where she has completed four semesters of externship placements across three organizations. As a Fellow of the Youth Advocacy & Policy Lab (Y-Lab), Grossman leveraged each externship and Fellow experience into a comprehensive education and developed a sophisticated understanding of the youth advocacy landscape.

“My experiences with the Child Advocacy Clinic have far and away been the highlight of my time at Harvard Law,” says Grossman. “It changed my life and helped me discover my passion for working with kids and centering the autonomy of young people. This award is a testament to the hard work that Crisanne Hazen and Mike Gregory put into making youth advocacy clinical opportunities at Harvard such a wonderful experience.”

The Child Advocacy Clinic offers students the opportunity to work with external organizations on substantive topics related to youth advocacy including child welfare, education, and juvenile justice. Grossman has taken full advantage of these opportunities, completing externships with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Children’s Rights, and the Juvenile Law Center. Each opportunity was a new educational experience: in client representation, impact litigation, and juvenile legal system reform, respectively.

“Each of the three agencies at which Gabby has externed has a substantive focus on one of three different child-facing systems, and each agency employs a different primary advocacy strategy,” says Crisanne Hazen, lecturer on law and director of the clinic. “The result of this constellation of placements is that Gabby has embraced the spirit of the Y-Lab mission: to understand in a deep and holistic way the complexities of working in the youth advocacy field.”

“I’ve learned so much from my peers within Y-Lab, from Crisanne and Mike’s wonderful guidance, and from all my supervisors at my clinical placements at Pine Tree, Children’s Rights and the Juvenile Law Center,” Grossman reflects. “With each internship or even individual young person I worked with, I learned that the obstacles my clients faced were multi-faceted, and therefore required a holistic response. I always wanted to gain more experience, to look for more perspectives from which I could approach my advocacy for young people. I’ve been lucky enough to do direct services, policy work, and impact litigation involving the three major child-facing systems: education law, foster care, and the juvenile legal system. I’m so grateful to the clinic for helping me find my passion and getting to work with young people who teach me so much about how to be a better and more creative advocate every day.”

Hazen commends Grossman’s determined spirit and positive attitude as integral to her talent as a student attorney: “She is a compassionate and empathetic advocate, earning the trust of her clients and her supervisors to handle the great weight of the work before her.”

As a Y-Lab Fellow, Grossman has made a mark on the child advocacy field at HLS: She has mentored students interested in youth rights, completed a capstone writing project, and served as a teaching fellow for the Art of Social Change course. Grossman also spent a summer interning with the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice. After graduation, she will be clerking in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and she hopes to do litigation in pursuit of youth education rights in the future. 

Alexandra Kersley ’24

Alexandra Kersley ’24 is the recipient of the 2024 CLEA Outstanding Clinical Student Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRCP). Over the course of four semesters in the clinics, Kersley has represented clients on a diverse array of humanitarian protections and procedures, while displaying “remarkable legal instincts.”

“My clinical experience has been the most meaningful part of my time at HLS, and I am incredibly grateful to the amazing instructors in the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic and the Crimmigration Clinic,” says Kersley. “When I came to law school, I knew that I wanted to use my legal education for something that mattered. I can’t think of anything that could matter more than fighting alongside clients for the right to live their lives free from detention, and here in the United States.”

In the fall of 2022, Kersley hit the ground running in the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic, working on client representation, district court FOIA litigation, appellate litigation, and pre-litigation work to build community partnerships. “With all of these cases, she had to contend with learning complicated new areas of law, while at the same time balancing client crises and needs, and she did so flawlessly,” says Sabi Ardalan, clinical professor of law and director of HIRCP.

Her work continued in the spring when Kersley joined the Crimmigration Clinic, for which she would earn the Dean’s Scholar Prize. Kersley worked on an affirmative litigation project concerning access to counsel and detention conditions at a local immigration detention facility, helping to secure the release of several individuals and taking care to ease their transitions back home. In her second semester in the clinic, she represented a client with significant mental and physical disabilities, constructing a thorough bond packet, drafting an affidavit, and orally advocating for the client’s release. “The work was incredibly challenging, but Aly was undeterred and passionate about zealously and ethically representing our client,” says assistant clinical professor law and clinic director Phil Torrey.

“When I think back on the most memorable moments in the clinic, it’s tempting to focus on the wins,” Kersley reflects. “And I am very grateful for the wins we’ve had — nothing will beat getting to pick up a client from immigration detention after he won asylum! But the immigration system is profoundly harmful, and this work is full of losses. One of the biggest things I’ve learned, or begun to learn, from instructors, clients, and students over the past two years is how to keep fighting through those losses. The clinical community has been an incredible support system for me, and I can only hope that wherever I land in the future I will find a community that is as passionate, kind, and brilliant as this one.”

This spring, Kersley served as a teaching fellow for both clinics, pursuing new initiatives including developing “clinical student families” — a space for advanced students to meet with new students during the semester to talk about their clinic experience, course selection, and summer work. She also successfully helped two detained clients secure humanitarian protection in the United States.

Kersley participated in the student practice organizations HLS Immigration Project and Harvard Defenders, and she was a member of the Harvard Law Review. She spent her 1L summer working at Al Otro Lado, a legal and humanitarian support organization for refugees, deportees, and other migrants in the U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico, and her 2L summer working at the public interest firm Miner, Barnhill & Galland in Chicago, IL. This January, she completed an independent clinical project at the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After graduation, Kersley looks forward to clerking on the New York Court of Appeals for Chief Judge Rowan Wilson.

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