December 06, 2010
For three years prior to enrolling at Harvard Law School, Anne Healy '12 worked in the field of international development in East Africa, feeding her interest in governance issues and institutions. Today, she’s the co-president of the Harvard Law and International Development Society (known as LIDS), a home for students interested in working at the cutting edge of issues in law and development.
Building off the traditional student practice organization model at HLS, LIDS members have engaged in projects through pro-bono work and research for a wide range of partner organizations, from major microfinance organizations like Kiva, to NGOs such as Brazil’s Agência de Notícias dos Direitos da Infância (ANDI - News Agency for Children's Rights) to a justice ministry in a foreign government.
Members of LIDS work in teams, providing legal and policy analysis on issues as varied as land rights, arbitration, criminal justice reform, and models for providing legal assistance, at the request of the partner organization. The ultimate goal is to provide partner organizations with a useful work product and expose students to the many ways in which they can use their law degree in the field of international development.
Healy says her interest in development work was fostered and strengthened not just by the nature of the work she was doing in East Africa, but because while working and living there she was able to see things through “a different lens.”
Last spring, she and team of five students wrapped up a final report and formal proposals with recommendations for the Liberian Ministry of Justice, a project which began when the Ministry approached LIDS about helping to evaluate their current statutory framework for probation and whether it is adequate to move forward with implementation of a system that has been planned for some time.
“In Liberia, the justice sector is not tremendously functional,” Healy says. “There is a low level of capacity in all respects—in the courts, in law enforcement, in all formal aspects of institutions.”
Healy and the team members found that governance issues and implementation also presented challenges. They conducted comparative country research, focusing on other Anglophone countries in Africa; particularly Ghana, but also Kenya and Tanzania. They learned that the presence of a statutory framework alone is no indication of legal stability. Says Healy: “Legal frameworks have had a lot of work done on them in the past 20 years, but that does not mean that the system is functional in practice, at all.”
Photo: The Law and International Development Society Executive Board:
Back row (L-R): Jason Gelbort '13, Ermal Frasheri S.J.D. '12, Nick Renzler '12
Second to back row (L-R): Rachel Crouch '12, Anne Healy '12, Taz Shahabuddin '12, Alastair Green '11
Second to front row (L-R): Nina Catalano '12, Lisa Taylor '11, Eliza Golden '11
Front row (L-R): Catherine Kim '12, Emily Inouye '11, Amreeta Mathai '12, Tinbet Tecle '12
Healy, who is pursuing a joint degree at the Harvard Kennedy School, also plans to cross-register for social enterprise classes at Harvard Business School. She stresses the interdisciplinary approach fostered at LIDS.
“Given how multidisciplinary law and development are inherently, we have really tried to mainstream multidisciplinary work and collaboration into our project work,” Healy says. Recent projects have involved not only HLS and KSG students but also HBS, Fletcher and Sloan students with complementary skill sets and backgrounds like finance and field experience.
This fall, LIDS gained approximately 200 new members from HLS, Fletcher and other schools in the area; there are currently 70 students working on projects such as the evaluation of land rights in Afghanistan, and a report for the Institute for Liberty and Democracy focusing on the comparative experience of governments throughout the world—including Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Sweden/Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Mali/Niger and India—in promoting political and economic participation of indigenous peoples.
This year, collaborating with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. government development agency, and the HLS Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, LIDS has developed two independent clinical project opportunities for eight upper class students, including Healy; one project deals with land and property rights and the other with health. In addition to research and the development of a report and recommendations, the projects involve three weeks of fieldwork in Lesotho for HLS academic credit.
Healy and the rest of the LIDS Executive Board have big plans for the future, which include partnering with law firms for funding, offering more opportunities, like the Lesotho projects, for students to get hands-on experience in the field, and working with the HLS administration to deepen school’s engagement with law and development.
- Erica Sheftman