Safety Net Project Student Linda Heeyoung Park ’21 Wins 2021 David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award

From Harvard Law Today:

Linda Heeyoung Park ’21 and Benjamin Antillon Fernandez ’21 are joint recipients of the 2021 David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. They were chosen this year from a wide range of nominations reflecting the impactful clinical work performed by members of the Class of 2021. Park is being recognized for her work with the Safety Net Project, part of the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic. Fernandez is being recognized for his work with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

The David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award recognizes a graduating student who embodies the pro bono spirit of the late Clinical Professor of Law David Grossman and exemplifies putting theory into practice. The winner has demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and/or undertaking group advocacy or policy reform projects. In keeping with the clinical teaching model, the student has been self-reflective and shown thoughtfulness and compassion in their practice and has contributed to the clinical community at HLS in a meaningful way.

Read Linda’s reflections about about her client work, written in her first semester as an LSC student.

Linda Heeyoung Park

Smiling woman with short brown hair wearing a scarf, a navy blue jacket, a beige shirt and blue jeans

Credit: Courtesy of Linda Park

For Linda Heeyoung Park, clinical work has been about putting her legal education into perspective.

“It has been the highlight of my law school experience. Clinic work really reminds me of why I came to law school, what I am learning in law school, and what I hope to do post-law school,” she said.

Over the course of several semesters, she provided direct legal representation to 9 clients appealing denials of disability benefits as a clinical student with the Safety Net Project, known as SNP. Park managed every aspect of these cases, including analyzing hundreds of pages of medical records, writing briefs, conducting direct and cross examinations and presenting oral arguments before administrative law judges of the Social Security Administration.

One case involved an Iraq War veteran. The presiding judge was so compelled by Park’s brief, her opening and her client’s responses on direct examination that she suspended the hearing and issued a bench decision approving his case, with retroactive benefits stretching back to 2012. This is a highly unusual occurrence, and allowed the client to avoid a lengthy and stressful period of uncertainty.

Julie McCormack, senior clinical instructor and director of SNP, commended Park for achieving the balance between empathy and effectiveness, avoiding “the paralysis of ‘over-caring’ and the detachment of ‘over-lawyering’.”

“One of the many privileges of my time at HLS is to have worked directly with Dave Grossman, and he would have appreciated Linda as much as I do,” she said.

“[I]n classes, we talk about ‘due process’ as a set of procedural rules to bring procedural justice,” Park said. “But talking with clients, I realized that due process entails so much more than just rules — it requires housing justice, free healthcare, transportation equity, and access to legal services. These things are rarely taught in classroom settings — at best, they are mentioned through student discussions. It was really eye opening and humbling to see my clients show me how the law plays out in the real world.”

While at SNP, Park co-created an entire curriculum for an immersive spring break service trip to assist victims of a social security disability fraud scheme in Appalachia and created an intentional community for the HLS students in SNP working with those individual clients from Kentucky. She also sought to address a deficit of medical experts to assist law students to understand the medical records crucial to their clients’ cases. On her own initiative, she recruited medical professionals for a Medical Advisory Board, which will launch this summer at the Legal Services Center.

During her time at HLS, Park participated in the Crimmgration Clinic and the Capital Punishment Clinic. In addition to her clinical work, Park was a member of the Board of Student Advisors as a teaching assistant for the First Year Legal Research and Writing course, an article editor for the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, and co-president of the Korean Association. She spent her summers with Orleans Public Defenders and Public Counsel in Los Angeles to challenge ICE directives.

Park graduates with a reminder of her passion and dedication to advocating for marginalized communities.

“I will always remember that I am standing on the shoulder of giants — and my giants are my clients,” she said. “They have taught me so much resilience, patience, and kindness that I am so humbled to learn from them.”

Following law school, Park plans on working at the intersection of civil rights and criminal justice. She will be clerking for Judge Catharine F. Easterly in the D.C. Court of Appeals, and then for Judge Neal E. Kravitz in the D.C. Superior Court.

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