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A 'once in a lifetime' summer interning at Harvard Law School

This article appears in: Law, Learning abroad
Paul Larder completed his internship at Harvard Law School.

Each year, one high-achieving Law student from CDU is selected to travel to Harvard Law School and work as as a legal intern at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

Paul Larder is one of the students who went on this four-week, life-changing trip. It was an exceptional opportunity to develop his migration law knowledge and skills, while working and studying at one of the most elite law schools in the world. Here's his story. 

Why did you apply for the internship at Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic?

I’ve always had a strong interest in refugee law and international law, which developed when I was working in social policy and through my academic experience at CDU.

The prospect of interning at Harvard Law School was too good to ignore; to be able to develop a solid understanding of US immigration law, to work first hand within a clinic which does such good work for the most vulnerable people – it was the chance of a lifetime!   

It was a huge honour to be chosen to represent CDU at Harvard, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which I will be grateful of for the rest of my life.


What did you do when you first arrived in Boston? Do you remember your first day at the Clinic?

I stayed in an AirBNB in Cambridge. Cambridge is an expensive place to live, but for me, staying here made the most sense - it was just a ten minute walk from my bedroom to Harvard Law School, and a five minute walk to the shops, bus and train stations.

I was very excited on my first day. I'd arrived in Boston the day earlier, and I spent the day exploring the campus. I was introduced to all the professors, staff and fellow interns I'd be working with at the clinic. After a whirlwind day of setting up my student email, getting access to the computer systems, and acquiring my campus ID, it all started to kick in! That afternoon I was given my first list of projects, which ranged from casework, administration and policy projects. 

CDU student Paul Larder in front a big sign in Boston USA

Tell us about the projects you worked on.

I worked on many great projects and attended many client interviews and court sessions during my time at Harvard.

My most interesting – and one of the most emotional – client interviews, was held in the basement of a local restaurant, where an asylum seeker told us his harrowing story of how he came to be in the United States.

Among other projects, I also researched whether it would be safe for a client who'd just received asylum in the US to return to her country of origin to visit family. My research deduced that it wasn't safe, and thus she was advised not to take the risk.

Attending a Sanctuary City Steering Committee was a highlight. I listened to city officials, interested organisations and government agencies discuss how better to assist 'at risk' people in the community.

A particular highlight of the internship was visiting the Immigration Court and getting to meet and chat with the Judge, who was incredibly 'human-focused' in her approach. It was very inspiring.  

Harvard Law School

What are your top tips and hints for future law interns?

  • Be prepared and be organised: There is a substantial amount of work and a short time to do it in. I found that the best way to manage the projects was to break each task down with its individual requirements and create a checklist on the computer.
  • Keep a notebook: You are going to need to learn a lot very quickly. Write everything down, so you can refer back to it. You are also going to need to record a number of passwords, login details and phone numbers, so having them all at your disposal in this book will help.
  • Get familiar with the law: I didn't know a substantive amount about US law. There were some excellent resources provided by the professors prior to the placement. This gave a great overview of immigration law, however that law is complex with many parts: case law and legislation and multiple departments. There isn’t time to be taught what different things are. You are going to need to research it yourself.  The connections and networks you make on this program will last a lifetime.
  • Give gifts: The staff at Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic do an amazing job getting CDU students involved in this program. It’s important to show your appreciation. I shopped for a number of souvenirs before I left Australia; they were Australian specific and went down very well at the end of the internship. You will receive a gift at the end of your internship as well, so it is nice to be able to return that favour. I also bought some small Australian memorabilia for my fellow interns. The connections and networks you make on this program will last a lifetime, but in addition to that, chances are that you'll make some great friends throughout the internship as well. 
  • Socialise: Get to know your fellow interns! They are great people from interesting and diverse backgrounds, who are interested in refugee and immigration law, just like you. Talk, be social, and learn about each other’s backgrounds, cultures, interests and lives. Enjoy lunch together in Harvard Square, and have the occasional beer down at Cambridge Common or John Harvard’s pub. Being personal definitely enhances the experience!
  • Enjoy your time: It’s not all work, no play, and while there you should make the most of it. Boston itself is an absolutely stunning city, so go downtown – the Freedom Trail is a great way to see the city and learn its history at the same time. Make sure to go and see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park, it’s fantastic fun. 
Boston skyline

Close to Boston, there are many fantastic towns and cities worth visiting. In one weekend, I managed to visit Salem (home of the Salem witch trails!) on the Saturday, and Providence, Rhode Island on the Sunday. Providence was a simply gorgeous city and steeped in its own fascinating history. A visit to another Ivy League school, Brown University, is definitely a must while in Providence. On my second weekend I trekked down to New York City and spent the weekend in Manhattan sightseeing, and managed to catch Chicago on Broadway. I would definitely recommend a weekend trip to the ‘Big Apple’ if you haven’t been!

Any last words? 

As someone with a long-time passion for social equality, it was inspiring for me to be surrounded by such progressive thinking.

What stood out for me is how much passion for social justice and equality drives the staff at Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic to do what they do every single day. As someone with a long-time passion for social equality, it was inspiring for me to be surrounded by such progressive thinking.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Laws or the many study abroad opportunities CDU offers its students. 

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