Home Posts tagged Ariel Clemmer
40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Director, Center for Social Justice, Western New England University School of Law; Age 39

From her early career, teaching elementary school in New York City’s Spanish Harlem with Teach for America, Ariel Clemmer has been passionate about changing lives.

“That was an amazing experience,” she recalled. “I was working with a community-based school, meaning most students lived next to the school in project housing. It was a small environment, and I was an outsider coming in, trying to shake up the system a little bit. That’s been true of most of my positions.”

While studying law, her initial plans were to be a public defender. In fact, immediately after graduation, she joined Bronx Defenders, representing low-income clients charged with crimes.

“From there, my career has taken kind of a winding path, but the common thread has been to help people and try to make the world a better place,” said Clemmer, whose passion for pro bono work saw her named one of the top 30 pro bono attorneys of 2014 by Legal Services of New York City.

What has stayed with her from her experiences in NYC was a burden for people who are struggling, especially those victimized by systemic inequities. She brought that passion to her recent role as pro bono director at the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and then to her current position, as director of the Center for Social Justice at Western New England University School of Law.

“Our mission is to advance justice through research, education, advocacy, innovation, and public engagement,” she said, and the center does so through initiatives like a sealing and expungement program to address harm caused to people of color by the war on drugs, a consumer-debt initiative to defend consumers facing wrongful credit-card collection actions, and a gender-affirming identification project that offers pro bono legal services to individuals who need help with gender-affirming name changes, birth-certificate amendments, and more.

“It’s an exciting time to be working in social justice and living out this mission through our programming,” Clemmer said. “I’ve always had the sense that the world would be a better place if everyone was allowed the same opportunities and treated equally, regardless of what makes them different. So many times in my life, I’ve seen that’s just not the case.

“When racial injustice happens, or other types of limitations are put on people because of disabilities or gender status or sexual orientation, it bothers me,” she added. “That’s why the work I do now is so meaningful. It enables me, every day, to work toward something better.”


— Joseph Bednar

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University announced that attorney Ariel Clemmer has been selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as an “Excellence in the Law” pro bono lawyer. Clemmer is the director of the Center for Social Justice at Western New England University School of Law and an adjunct faculty member.

“The Western New England University School of Law community was delighted to learn of Ariel Clemmer being recognized by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for her path breaking work and unwavering commitment to access to justice,” said School of Law Dean Sudha Setty. “We appreciate these attributes as central to her work as director of the Center for Social Justice, where she is engaging students, faculty, and the greater community in essential social and economic justice work.”

Each year, at the Excellence in the Law event, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly celebrates up and coming lawyers and honorees for excellence in pro bono, legal journalism, ADR, marketing, firm administration and paralegal work. This year’s honorees were recognized at the “Excellence in the Law” reception last month, which was held virtually to comply with current social distancing requirements.

Dedicating her career to making a difference in the lives of others, Clemmer said she was “very touched by the receipt of this honor and grateful to be able to continue working with students, faculty, and others toward access to justice for all” in her new role as director of the Center for Social Justice at WNE School of Law, where she started this past March.

Clemmer obtained her B.A. summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Richmond in 2005, after which she worked as an elementary school teacher with Teach for America in New York City’s Spanish Harlem neighborhood. Clemmer received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2010, where she was a member of the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and the Harvard Defenders.

After graduation, Clemmer started her career as a public defender at the Bronx Defenders, representing low-income clients charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes. She then worked for the firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, defending clients against security class actions and other complex financial matters, while continuing to develop her pro bono practice litigating matrimonial, civil, and criminal cases. In 2014, Clemmer was selected by the partners at Weil, Gotshal & Manges to participate in a pro bono externship at Legal Services of New York City (LSNYC). Her excellent work there resulted in her being named one of the “Top 30 Pro Bono Attorneys of 2014” by LSNYC.

Most recently, Clemmer was the pro bono director at the Hampden County Bar Association where she managed all aspects of the organization’s pro bono activity, including directing the award-winning, nationally recognized Hampden County Legal Clinic. While there, Clemmer added new pro bono opportunities based on gaps in access to justice that she found in Hampden County, and greatly increased volunteer participation, which served more than 2,000 clients last year, an unprecedented increase under her leadership. She continues to serve as the lead attorney in charge of the Lawyer for the Day Consumer Debt Initiative, a pro bono project serving self-represented litigants who are defending credit card collection actions filed by debt buyers in the Springfield District Court Small Claims session. The project uses volunteer attorneys, non-attorneys, and students to provide brief legal advice, negotiate with opposing counsel, draft settlement arrangements, and appearances on behalf of consumers at hearings and trials.

“The program has been tremendously successful,” said Clemmer. “We have had a positive outcome of 95% of our cased to date, and saved consumers almost $200,000 in the last year while also informing them of their rights and empowering them to navigate other financial situations in the future.”

“I knew I wanted to be a public interest lawyer from day one,” said Clemmer to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. “I care deeply about justice for all and wanted have dedicate my career to empowering the most underserved and vulnerable members of our society.”