Thursday, January 14, 2010

Student Spotlight: Greg LeSaint ’11

HNMCP: Given the range of clinic options available at Harvard Law School, why did you choose the Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP)?

Greg LeSaint: As a 1L, I became greatly interested in the Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program mainly because I had come from a teaching career that had required a great deal of negotiation with students, family, other teachers, and school administrators. After completing the Negotiation Workshop last spring, I was excited to take a spot in the Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and put to use what I learned and experienced in the workshop. I think the hands-on, practical lawyering that I get to do in the clinic will be invaluable as I start my career next year.

HNMCP: What was it about that the Heirs’ project that attracted you? 

GL: I have a particular interest in estate issues so I jumped at the opportunity to mediate a family dispute over inherited land. Working with a family to help it resolve its issues and hopefully coming to an agreement that is beneficial for everyone is an incredibly rewarding way to study the law and the skill of mediation.

HNMPC: What have you found most challenging about the work?

GL: So far, the most challenging part of this project has been getting every stakeholder to the table to even attempt mediation. You must build a lot of trust with people before they will let you into their private world and allow you to help them create a solution. Beyond organizing the mediation, actually performing the mediation will be incredibly challenging. My partner, Ashwin Kaja ‘11, and I have had a good deal of training, but the task of mediating this dispute over several days seems pretty daunting. Mediation takes a great deal of energy and concentration to pull off effectively. We have spent our whole semester preparing this, but it’s still an organic process that you need to adjust with on the fly.

HNMCP: Have there been any unexpected rewards of the work?

GL: You cannot just expect people to simply divulge their problems to you so you can start helping them solve them. You have to build trust by listening to stories and asking questions that do not relate directly to the problem at hand. For me, the reward is hearing the stories of real people and getting a sense of how they got to where they are, and then gaining a real interest in their welfare. It’s rewarding to see such a personal element to the work that I’m doing. To help settle a real legal dispute while helping heal relationships requires a personal investment and deepens the experience of the work.

HNMCP: How do you think this experience will inform your future work?

GL: The great thing about the experiences in the clinic is that the skills involved are useful in just about any professional context. I plan on building a transactional practice in the early years of my career and I anticipate that having a breadth of negotiation and mediation skills will make me overall more effective throughout my career.

Greg LeSaint ’11 graduated from Xavier University in 2004 with a B.A. in English. Before coming to law school, he spent four years as a middle school and high school English teacher in New York City and Hawaii. During his 1L summer he worked in the Chicago Mayor’s Office Fellowship Program. Last summer he worked at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York, where he will return after graduation. Greg is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.

To read more about the project with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice/ Heirs’ Property Coalition, click here.