New England Law aims to not only enable students to thrive during law school, but also in the often daunting start of their careers. We believe that it’s important to provide opportunities to help ease the transition for students. One of the programs that gives personalized support is the Charles Hamilton Houston Enrichment Program (CHHEP).
Established in 1990, CHHEP was named for first General Counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund and former Dean of Howard University School of Law, Charles Hamilton Houston. Dean Houston dedicated his life to the struggle for civil rights and racial equality as well as to the cultivation, training, and advancement of law students and legal practitioners of all races. The program seeks to provide a place of honesty and guidance to students seeking it, and enhance a student’s academic, professional and social experience of becoming a lawyer.
CHHEP’s directors are committed to growing the program’s offerings and reach, always seeking out additional ways to supplement and enrich the experiences of New England Law students. In 2017 CHHEP had the chance to partner with some of the Best Lawyers in America at prominent Boston intellectual property firm, Sunstein, LLP.
Sunstein and CHHEP collaborated to design a mentorship opportunity called the Perspectives in Law: CHHEP Law Firm Practicum. Students accepted into the practicum are mentored and guided by seasoned attorneys during a semester long program with Sunstein. Throughout the practicum, students have the opportunity to submerge themselves in law firm culture, cultivate a variety of legal skills in a specialized area of law, and begin to develop a professional identity. They learn trial preparation, how to prepare simple agreements, drafting trademark applications, as well as simple patent claims.
Perhaps most important of all, during their time with Sunstein students learn how to navigate barriers unique to students from marginalized communities. CHHEP recognizes that there is a structural lack of diversity in the legal profession, meaning that Black and other culturally diverse graduates entering the field face additional challenges. The practicum is a chance for students to gain real-world experience in a setting where they’re encouraged and don’t have to fear failure.
Sunstein’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal community and dedication to evolving as a practice has made them an ideal group of mentors. CHHEP Co-Director Natasha Varyani comments, “Many times, attorneys of their stature can lose sight of some of the more human aspects of practice, particularly for new attorneys. Their willingness to admit what they don’t know and make efforts to learn and grow are incredibly rare. The combination of intellect and heart that they bring to this program makes me very grateful to partner with them.”
Students in their 2L year and above who are interested in applying for the practicum or want to learn more about CHHEP can contact Professor Natasha Varyani or Professor Caryn Mitchell-Munevar.