It’s one thing to generate a list of highly sought after internships and clerkships to help build up a resume and skill set. Cherina Clark’s CV is full of those, including her stints as an intern for Justice Hines of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (MA), and for the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, D.C.
It’s another thing to take on those clerkships and internships, a dual degree (JD/MBA), and still make time to: meet with first-generation law students on-on-one, week after week; train urban high school students; and help craft legislation to help people in a city 700 miles away.
Throughout law school, Clark has been doing trainings on “Street Law” with Boston Public School students, ages 13 to 17 — Miranda rights, Fourth Amendment/search and seizure, and how to interact with police. The idea is that a knowledgeable teenager is much more likely to react calmly and have a clearer idea when a police officer has wrongly crossed a legal boundary.
Clark, president of Suffolk Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) since 2015, says that the trainings, in addition to clarifying the high schoolers’ legal rights, provide students with role models. The teens have a chance to interact with successful BLSA members, often from similar backgrounds as themselves, and that relationship leads some to think to themselves, ‘Hey if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ ”
Clark also spearheads the BLSA Peer Mentor Tree Program. The idea is that if a first-generation student has several mentors — a 2L, a 3L and a few alums, multiple branches of support — someone in that group is going to click with the student. Together, one or more of those mentors stick with the student throughout their academic and legal career.
“A lot of first generation students — and I am one myself — don’t understand what law school is all about. I meet with my mentees every two weeks, and also am texting to see how they’re doing, making sure they have outlines, supplement books and contacts for resources, because I know someone did it for me.”
As a student teacher in the Marshall Brennan program, Clark taught inner-city teens Constitutional Law including legal arguments surrounding search and seizure, acts of protest (silent, artistic, and otherwise).
At the Supreme Judicial Court, her role was to look at 50 cases to offer her opinion as to which of the cases seemed to warrant appellate review.
Clark worked with the national office of the Black Law Students Association on draft legislation submitted to the State of Michigan to address the Flint water crisis. This effort was important to Clark and other members of BLSA because it affected the greater minority community.
“There is nothing like being able to use the tools I have learned while in law school to effectuate change and advocate for those who cannot or do not know how to do so. BLSA’s contribution to the Flint water Crisis was certainly one of those moments where I was able to be a voice for my community,” Clark said.
In 2014, Clark received the Governor’s Citation Award from then-Massachusetts’ Governor, Deval Patrick, for her work with the NAACP on amicus briefs for civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dean of Students Laura Ferrari credits Clark with rebuilding the law school’s diverse student orientation program. “The school is indebted to her for her systematic, humane, and practical approach for encouraging success in law school. Being a true supporter is hard — it takes time and energy, often when time is scarce and other obligations call. That’s Cherina. Tireless.”
Clark is one of 25 future lawyers honored in the National Jurist’s 2017 “Law Student of the Year” feature. Find more honorees here.