News & Knowledge

Harvard Law Today Profiles Barbara Buell in a Reflective Look at Harvard's First Clinical Education Program

Harvard Law Today recently chronicled the formation of The Community Legal Assistance Office, or CLAO, that helped transform the lives of many future lawyers and judges. Barbara Buell was featured in the Harvard Law Today article

With support from a grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity, Harvard Law School opened a neighborhood law office in East Cambridge in 1966. This was at a time when clinical education did not exist at the university. The Community Legal Assistance Office, or CLAO, became a full-service law office assisting low-income residents with criminal as well as civil legal issues, while providing invaluable training for law students.

Several years later, Barbara, then a law student at Northeastern Law, became involved with CLAO. She described her first case on behalf of a woman seeking a divorce as “terrifying.” But her supervisor quickly showed her the ropes, and the following week Barbara was before the court representing the woman.

By the end of her affiliation with CLAO, Barbara had handled more than 200 criminal matters before the Third District Court in Cambridge, including two six-person jury trials. She had also helped train other law students. “It was thanks to CLAO that I was ready to practice and realized how much fun the law could be,” she told the publication.

One measure of the influential role that the CLAO has had upon legal education is the fact that Harvard Law School now maintains 40 clinics and student practice organizations. Many other law schools have opened similar clinics as well.

Interestingly, both the CLAO and her own law school experience did not mark the end of Barbara’s formal education. To enhance her interest in health law, she later earned a Masters of Public Health at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

Barbara is currently managing partner at Smith Dugan Buell & Rufo LLP, concentrating in healthcare law. She still maintains close connections with many CLAO alumni.