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Harvard Law School’s Systemic Justice Project and Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center Announce the Return of ‘The Justice Initiative’
After a wonderful pilot year, the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law have again joined forces to bring back “The Justice Initiative.” The Justice Initiative is a community of social justice-oriented law students, lawyers, law-school faculty, legal organizations, organizers, and activists devoted to thinking creatively about the role lawyers can play in reimagining, dismantling, and remaking unjust systems, working to repair longstanding injustices, assisting law students hoping to pursue justice-oriented careers, and providing opportunities for further study, engagement, advising, organizing, and collaboration among its members. You can learn more about the origins of the Justice Initiative here.
This year will build on last year’s success. Last year’s Justice Initiative community comprised more than 50 lawyers law professors from around the country and more than 200 justice-oriented law students from more than 70 U.S. law schools. The Justice Initiative has several major elements. Three-hour Saturday Sessions featured a variety of inspiring scholars and lawyers, including K-Sue Park, Cheryl Harris, Khiara Bridges, Alec Karakatsanis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Saru Matambanadzo, Derecka Purnell, Bianca Tylek, Whitney Benns, Esme Caramello, Purvi Shah, Ruby-Beth Buitekant, and Cornel West. The Justice Initiative also included a formal mentoring and career advising for our students to ensure they have the guidance and support they need to become justice-oriented lawyers. One advising session, for instance, included a half-dozen public-interest advisors from law schools around the U.S. A third major element of the Justice Initiative was its community and praxis, with numerous opportunities for discussion and reflection as well as for organizing and activism (particularly in response to the attack on CRT).
For law students, lawyers, law professors, and organizers interested in learning more about this year’s Justice Initiative, you can watch the a video recording of the information session below:
Law students who want to participate in the Justice Initiative for 2020-2021 can apply at the following link: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b2YPgmFu8TaG6Y6.
Lawyers, law professors, and organizers can apply at the following url: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eX9uMdqcjBFPQpw.
Returning members from last year’s Justice Initiative should apply here: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dgJOaEF1ZzKqhTg.
Harvard Law School’s Systemic Justice Project and Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center Launch ‘The Justice Initiative’
This Saturday, October 3, 2020, the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law will launch a year-long pilot project called “The Justice Initiative” with the first of 10, three-hour programming sessions. Dozens of lawyers from around the country and more than 200 law students from more than fifty U.S. law schools are already scheduled to participate in Saturday’s online event.
The Justice Initiative is a community of social justice-oriented law students, lawyers, law-school faculty, legal organizations, organizers, and activists devoted to thinking creatively about the role lawyers can play in reimagining, dismantling, and remaking unjust systems, working to repair longstanding injustices, assisting law students hoping to pursue justice-oriented careers, and providing opportunities for further study, engagement, advising, organizing, and collaboration among its members.
“This initiative is a match made in heaven,” said Justin Hansford, professor of law and director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law.
“Former Howard Law Vice Dean Charles Hamilton Houston, mentor to Thurgood Marshall, studied at Harvard Law School. He is the progenitor of Howard University School of Law’s legacy of creating lawyers who function as social engineers in society. We will seek to use law, organizing, and research to create social change. The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center is Howard University’s flagship institutional setting for the study and practice of civil rights, human rights, and racial justice law and advocacy. In many ways, this partnership brings us full circle.”
The new initiative is motivated by longstanding systemic problems recently laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic, the national reckoning with centuries of racism, a growing climate catastrophe, and a polarized population on the eve of a critical presidential election. Saturday’s program will involve panelists and advisors who will help law students better contribute to systemic change. Organizers ultimately hope to create a national network of lawyers and law students who share a commitment to social justice.
Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law and Director of the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School, calls the collaboration an “unprecedented and, we hope, a valuable contribution to the collection efforts underway to reimagine and remake unjust systems.”
The Systemic Justice Project, a Harvard Law School-based program created in 2014, has been, explains Hanson, “devoted to understanding the complex and overlapping causes of systemic problems (from racial injustice and economic inequality to climate change and political corruption), theorizing strategies for challenging and addressing those problems, and facilitating collaborations among law students, lawyers, organizers, and activists to help advance those strategies.” Hanson continued: “Working with Justin Hansford and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University to create a still larger community around the shared goal of advancing systemic justice represents the most exciting and promising opportunity we have had to fulfill that mission. This work has never been more urgent.”
Enumale M. Agada, a 2017 graduate of Harvard Law School, has helped organize and build the Justice Initiative and described the importance of the new collaboration this way: “In a time when many of us are questioning and challenging our society’s deeply embedded systems and institutions, there is a shared sense among the Initiative’s organizers that now is the time to do the same with legal education. Lawyers, and by extension legal education, play a pivotal role in shaping our society and can either be catalysts for change or impediments to it. Our hope is that the Justice Initiative will help encourage this generation of law students to view their role in society as that of changemakers and social engineers and foster a legal education system that better prepares law students to take up these mantles.”
On Saturday and at future sessions, The Justice Initiative will bring together justice-oriented systemic lawyers, law professors, and law students to provide presentations, panel discussions, and other forms of interactive programming designed to cover elements of legal education and legal theory that are not central to the traditional or core law school curricula, such as critical race theory, and that introduce and examine different types of systemic lawyering, and other justice-related essentials (e.g., organizing, storytelling, and self-care). In addition, there will be a retreat, career advice, and other opportunities for law students interested in pursuing systemic-lawyering careers.
Any law student or lawyer committed to helping build a justice-centered community is welcome to participate in The Justice Initiative. Interested students must attend roughly 10 three-hour online Saturday programming sessions. Participation is free and all materials will be provided. Because space is limited, registration is required. Interested students can learn more by watching recent informational sessions here and here.
Lawyers and law professors who would like to learn more can watch a video of the informational webinar here. A shorter video summarizing a variety of ways that lawyers can be involved is available here. And lawyers and law professors can register to participate here.
Who is the Justice Initiative for?
What is the selection process like? What type of community is the Justice Initiative trying to build?
The application process is meant for us to learn something more about you, the applicants, so as to ensure that the commitment we make to each other over the course of the year will be meaningful and rewarding. Applicants are not being evaluated on their resumes, grades, or “accomplishments.” Rather, we are trying to build a community that is committed to justice.
Is the Justice Initiative open to first-year law students?
Yes! The Justice Initiative is open to all law students and lawyers.
Is the Justice Initiative only for JD students, or can LLM/MSL students participate as well?
All law students, lawyers, law professors, and organizers can participate in the Justice Initiative.
Is the Justice Initiative only for law students, or can legal practitioners and law faculty join?
Lawyers, law professors, and people working “in the law” broadly defined are all welcome and encouraged to join the Justice Initiative. Watch the information session for lawyers and law professors here. Lawyers can register for the Justice Initiative here.
Is the Justice Initiative open to law students/practitioners/faculty/people outside of the United States?
The Justice Initiative is primarily intended for participants from within the United States so as to ensure a shared familiarity with laws, legal educational traditions, and systemic injustices. Nonetheless, law students and lawyers from outside of the U.S. who are eager to participate and willing to commit to the Justice Initiative should apply.
I missed the introductory student webinar – where can I find a recording?
How does the Justice Initiative fit into my university?
Will students get academic credit for their involvement with the Justice Initiative?
No. The Justice Initiative is not a course. Rather, the primary focus will be on creating a community, learning from students, faculty, and practitioners alike, and developing a lasting movement for justice. Faculty members of individual law schools interested in exploring the possibility of offering a for-credit reading group or seminar at their law school are encouraged to reach out to us at email@example.com. The Justice Initiative will likely lead to opportunities for students to fulfill some pro bono requirements at some law schools or to make connections that could lead to possible external or independent clinics.
I am in the process of starting/expanding an aligned space on my campus. Is there any way for us to connect?
Absolutely! Be sure to fill out an application for the Justice Initiative (and encourage any groupmates of yours to do the same), as a central component of this community will be the creation of a cross-campus and country-wide network of like-minded law students dedicated to structural transformation. If you have more specific questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I get started with the Justice Initiative?
Students, to get started, should just apply! Applications are open until 12:00 p.m ET. on October 1, but because we are working on a rolling, limited basis, we encourage you to submit your application as early as possible.
Lawyers and law school professors can register for the Justice Initiative here.
For students, is there an intermediate participation option? What do I do if I can’t make every session?
We believe that one of the most meaningful features of the Justice Initiative will be the time commitment that ensures its participants truly learn, grow, and bond together. Accordingly, for students, there will be no middle participation option. That being said, please communicate potential conflicts to us, as our Saturday Session schedule will take into account our members’ availability.
Will the Justice Initiative continue next year?
The Justice Initiative is a pilot program. Depending upon the success of the pilot, we hope the Justice Initiative will continue and become a mainstay of legal education and the legal landscape.
I have a disability and require certain accommodations. Will the Justice Initiative work with me to make sure the programming is accessible?
Yes. The Justice Initiative is an inclusive community, and we welcome participants of all
identities and backgrounds. If you would like specific accommodations or would like to talk through what kinds of accommodations might be necessary based on our programming and materials, we are here to support you. Please email 2020JusticeInitiative@gmail.com or email@example.com for more information.
The Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University Law School are collaborating to help create a year-long pilot project called “The Justice Initiative.”
What Is the Justice Initiative?
A community of social-justice-oriented law students, lawyers, law-school faculty, legal organizations, organizers, and activists devoted to thinking creatively about the role lawyers can play in reimagining, dismantling, and remaking unjust systems, working to repair longstanding injustices, assisting law students hoping to pursue justice-oriented careers, and providing opportunities for further study, engagement, advising, organizing, and collaboration among its members.
There’s nothing new about the systemic problems laid bare by recent crises. This is, however, a pivotal historical moment. In the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning with centuries of systemic racism, a growing climate catastrophe, a polarized population on the eve of a critical presidential election, now is the time to mobilize for justice. Now is the time to examine society’s deeply embedded power dynamics, deconstruct the structures that produce and reproduce inequalities, and join the movements to rebuild a more just and equitable society.
What Do We Offer Law Students?
The Justice Initiative will bring together justice-oriented systemic lawyers, law professors, and law students to provide presentations, panel discussions, and other forms of interactive programming designed to cover elements of legal education and legal theory that are generally not included in traditional law school curricula (e.g., critical race theory, critiques of legal education, systemic lawyering) with an eye toward various justice-oriented movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and climate justice) and justice-related topics (e.g., organizing, rigged politics, and self-care in the midst of a movement). There will also be a retreat, career advice, and other opportunities for law students interested in pursuing systemic-lawyering careers.
What is Required?
All that is required for law students to participate in the Justice Initiative is a commitment to help build this justice-centered community and to attend roughly ten 3-hour online Saturday programming sessions online between October 3 and April 10. Participation in the Justice Initiative is free and all materials will be provided. Space is limited, so some application or registration process may be used to select among applicants.
What Else Is Offered?
The Justice Initiative will provide opportunities for participation in reading and discussion groups. We hope to encourage and facilitate office hours with law-school faculty and legal practitioners as well as advising and mentoring sessions between law students and justice-oriented legal practitioners. There will also be resources for students and other participants interested in learning about or coordinating actions at other Institutions. Those offerings will be optional.
How Can You Learn More?
An informational webinar for law students was held on September 12. Interested students can learn more by watching session here.
An informational webinar for lawyers and law professors was held on September 19. Lawyers who would like to learn more can watch that video here.
For those lawyers who already know they want to participate but want to learn about the variety of ways to be involved, here is a shorter video containing just that information.
See our FAQ post here.
Please email any questions or suggestions that you might have at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Can You Apply To Participate?
Please see below for an information session about the newly announced Systemic Lawyering Corps.
More information, and a link to the application form, with priority deadline tomorrow, May 28th, is available here: https://systemicjusticeblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/the-covid-19-rapid-response-systems-summer-institute-announces-the-systemic-lawyering-corps/
This week’s webinar (Wednesday, May 27, at 3:00 pm EST) will provide general information about the newly announced Systemic Lawyering Corps.
Join us at: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.
Learn more details about Systemic Lawyering Corps here.
You can find a list of previous sessions and links to videos here.
For information about the COVID-19 Rapid Reaction/Systems Summer Institute, go here.
Click here to join the webinar via Zoom: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.