(Boston, 4/9/15) New England Law | Boston: Katherine Charles ’15 is this year’s recipient of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association’s (MBLA) Honorable Reginald Lindsay Public Service Award. Charles has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to public service through activities and internships that have benefitted the campus community and the public at large. She was honored at the MBLA’s annual gala on April 8, 2015.
The MBLA award seeks to support the development of law students of color who, like Judge Lindsay, have overcome adversity to use their outstanding academic ability and skills in public service. Judge Lindsay grew up in the segregated South during the pre-civil rights era. He surmounted numerous obstacles, including use of a wheelchair as a result of an illness, on his way to his 1993 appointment as the second African American on the federal bench in Massachusetts. He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from New England Law in 2003.
The New York native was nominated for the award by Professor Davalene Cooper, Professor Natashia Tidwell, and Hon. Charles E. Walker, Jr., lecturer on law. In her nomination letter, Professor Tidwell said, “Katherine's commitment to public service has infused her law school career, but her eagerness to serve existed long before she arrived in Boston.”
As an undergraduate, Charles, a first-generation Haitian-American, organized fundraisers and collaborated with health professionals as founder of the Hope for Haiti Relief Project. She also helped plan, coordinate, and conduct comprehensive community service activities for diverse urban clients of low socioeconomic status in metro New York through Women of Excellence, Strength, and Tenacity, Incorporated (WEST, Inc.), which she continues to serve as a board member.
A 2011 college internship with the Sex Crimes/ Special Victims Bureau of the District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY, highlighted the potential benefits of a legal career, and she enrolled at New England Law | Boston the following year.
“My focus for law school was premised on continuing the public work I performed previously in New York,” said Charles. “As a law student, I had clients at a women’s homeless shelter and provided legal assistance to indigent persons at a legal services agency. New England Law afforded me the opportunity to transition from a social advocate to an activist and legal professional.”
During summer 2013, she served as a legal intern for the National Urban League and volunteered as a legal intern/district representative for a New York state senator. In spring 2014, Charles served as a legal intern, Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 Certified, at Greater Boston Legal Services’s (GBLS) Housing Unit through New England Law’s Lawyering Process Clinic.
In summer and fall 2014, Charles served as principal consultant, regulatory analyst for a New York firm, and was a legal intern with the Rockland County (NY) District Attorney’s Office. She is currently a Business Practice Credit legal extern with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in Boston, and anticipates greater future involvement with the securities field.
In her online New England Law public service student profile, Charles explains how the clinical program and other experiential opportunities enabled her to earn Public Service Transcript Notation Program designation and “develop skills that are paramount to success in my legal career.”
Her contributions to the New England Law community have included serving as president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), through which she prioritized its Community Service Initiative. Students volunteered their skills and knowledge in a range of settings, including a Boston high school, the Center for Church and Prison, NAACP-Boston chapter (where she worked with President Michael Curry '05), Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, and the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, among others.
One of many law school highlights was a meeting she and BLSA peers had with Wayne A. Budd ’81 (honorary), ’89 (honorary), New England Law trustee and senior counsel, Goodwin Procter LLP. “He generously gave us advice, and it was a wonderful experience,” said Charles.
Looking back on her soon-to-be-completed law student days, she is thankful for the clinical program guidance of Professor Russell Engler, her Criminal Procedure course with Professor David Siegel, collaborations with Professor Tidwell and Professor Caryn Mitchell-Munevar on BLSA and the Charles Hamilton Houston Enrichment Program (CHHEP), and Professor Robert Coulthard of the Bar Examination Preparation Program, among other influential faculty and staff.
Postgraduation, Charles will assume new duties as an assistant district attorney in the Office of the Bronx District Attorney. “It’s a dream come true,” she says. “I am leaving New England Law | Boston with a strong sense of fulfillment and satisfaction as it prepared me for a legal career in public service.”