“THE JUSTICE INITIATIVE”

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.

Why Now?

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: 2020justiceinitiative@gmail.com.

How Can You Apply To Participate?

Students who attended the informational webinar or watched the video can apply to participate in the 2020 Justice Initiative here: https://tinyurl.com/jistudentapplication.

Lawyers and law professors can register to participate here: https://tinyurl.com/jiregistration.

The Justice Initiative – Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

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 and lawyers 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? 

You can watch the informational webinar for students here! And the informational webinar for lawyers and law professors is here

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 2020justiceinitiative@gmail.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 2020justiceinitiative@gmail.com.

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.

The Systemic Lawyering Corps — INFORMATIONAL WEBINAR: MAY 27!

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.

The COVID-19 Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute Announces the Systemic Lawyering Corps

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The Systemic Justice Project, the People’s Parity Project, and Justice Catalyst are thrilled to announce the Systemic Justice Corp, the second major initiative of the COVID–19 Legal Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute. The Corps is intended for justice-oriented law students, incoming law students, and 2020 law graduates who would like to devote a portion of their summer to studying the systemic roots of our social problems and the ways that lawyers can help to advance transformative change.

Join the Systemic Lawyering Corps!

Would you like to devote a portion of your summer to thinking critically and creatively about the role that lawyers can play in dismantling and re-imagining unjust systems and helping to repair longstanding injustices? The Systemic Lawyering Corps provides current law students, incoming law students, and 2020 law-school graduates with robust academic programming and skills training to help you engage intellectually and practically with these critical questions. 

The COVID–19 Legal Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute (a joint venture of the People’s Parity Project, the Systemic Justice Project, and Justice Catalyst) is rolling out its second major initiative (to complement the People’s Justice Fellowship).

The Institute is now accepting applications for the Systemic Lawyering Corps.

From June 2 to July 24, the Systemic Lawyering Corps will support current law students and 2020 law-school graduates interested in learning about the causes of injustice, theories of advancing justice, and ways that lawyers can help un-rig our systems. Much of the programming will be based upon the Harvard Law School courses, Systemic Justice and the Justice Lab, which are devoted to delineating the many interwoven sources of our most profound social problems–from climate change to racial inequalities–and to considering various theories of, and opportunities for, producing change, transformation, and repair. As Corps Members scrutinize assumptions around the neutrality and justness of our laws and legal system, they will also reflect on the different roles lawyers can play in transforming those systems and supporting transformative change movements. In addition, Corps Members may also be offered the option to assist with relatively discrete, part-time projects with the Institute’s partner organizations.

Remotely, Corps Members will attend various programming elements (lectures, panels, presentations, discussions, and so on), participate in several trainings, and work in teams to complete a variety of assignments to be shared within the Institute and, in some cases, with the wider public online. Corps Members will spend an average of eleven hours per week in Systemic Lawyering Corps-related work; additional time may be spent on part-time volunteer work with Institute partner organizations, when available.

Programming is tentatively scheduled for the following times:

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays (12:00 p.m  –  1:00 p.m. ET)
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays (5:00 p.m.  –  6:30 p.m. ET)

There are a limited number of spots available in the inaugural class of the Systemic Lawyering Corps. Applications received by Thursday, May 28th will receive priority consideration; accepted applicants will be notified by Saturday, May 30th. Systemic Lawyering Corps Programming will begin the first week of June.

People’s Justice Fellows, who make up the other major component of the Institute’s work, will participate in some joint programming with Corps Members. They will also be given the option to separately apply to become Systemic Lawyering Corps Members.

We recognize the brevity of the application window; in order to accommodate as many potential applicants as possible, we have made the application and the process of submission quite simple. You can complete the application here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at systemssummerinstitute@gmail.com.

We look forward to reviewing your application!

SJP Embarks on Joint Venture to Support Law Students, Legal Organizations, and Communities Most Impacted by COVID-19 Crisis

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The Systemic Justice Project, the People’s Parity Project, and Justice Catalyst expect to bring over 100 law student fellows into the first-of-its-kind COVID–19 Legal Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute.

On June 1, the People’s Parity Project, the Systemic Justice Project, and Justice Catalyst will launch the COVID–19 Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute, a first-of-its kind fellowship to bring hundreds of law students together with more than 50 legal organizations to assist the communities most devastated by the public-health crisis. Over 100 law students will join the Institute as full-time People’s Justice Fellows, who will work to provide support to legal organizations from around the country and participate in Institute programming aimed at helping to build the next generation of social justice-oriented lawyers.

Public interest legal organizations researching urgent policy reforms and providing direct services to indigent, marginalized, and otherwise vulnerable clients and communities face unprecedented need during the  COVID–19 crisis. Decades of decisions by policymakers and judges have created rigged systems in which low-income workers, people of color, and other marginalized groups are the most at-risk in times of crisis; the systemic theft from these communities means that they now lack the resources—legal and otherwise—to protect themselves in the face of a global health and economic crisis. At the same time, many law students across the country have lost their summer internships as many legal employers have been forced to cancel or scale back their summer plans to provide full-time employment, supervision, and mentorship to aspiring lawyers.

The Systems Summer Institute is bridging that gap by putting those law students to work on COVID-response projects that serve the public good. The Institute—through its more than 100 full-time Fellows—will support organizations advocating for unemployment insurance applicants, developing policy recommendations for safe and fair elections under social distancing conditions, studying the racialized impacts of the pandemic, and more. Through this work, the Institute will play a crucial role in the national response to the current exigencies and in shaping longer-term responses to deeper systemic injustices highlighted by the crisis.

The three organizations partnering to build the Institute have each made a unique mark on the legal landscape in recent years. The People’s Parity Project, a non-profit founded in 2018, has successfully organized law students and new lawyers in the effort to demystify and dismantle coercive legal tools in order to create a legal system that works for all; in 2019, the organization was named one of Law360’s “legal lions,” and has since been identified as one of the key players in the burgeoning law student labor movement. The Systemic Justice Project, a Harvard Law School-based policy innovation collaboration, serves to identify injustice, design solutions, promote awareness, and advocate reforms to policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public, all with the aim of identifying and addressing common and systemic sources of injustice. The Systemic Justice Project carries out its mission through cutting edge teachingconferences, and collaborations with justice-oriented lawyers, academics, advocates, and activists. Justice Catalyst activates path-breaking approaches to social justice lawyering that have real-world impact and improve the lives of those denied access to justice. Justice Catalyst takes on social justice issues that fall between the cracks of traditional advocacy models, and applies a cross-disciplinary approach to the law. Justice Catalyst also administers a fellowship program to support new attorneys in innovative public interest work at non-profit organizations. Together, the three organizations aim to create lasting change within the legal profession, ultimately resulting in a legal system that works for workers, consumers, and all of the millions of people  who have too often been left out and left behind.

“COVID–19 may have been unavoidable, but the systemic policy and legal failures we are seeing throughout the U.S. were not,” said People’s Parity Project National Organizing Director, Molly Coleman. “It is unacceptable for low-income workers, people of color, and otherwise marginalized groups to be left behind in a crisis, and we will not allow these disparities to persist as we build what comes next in this country. Through the Institute, we aim to provide both short-term and long-term capacity for building more just systems, and we think it is a powerful message that hundreds of law students from across the country are excited to join in this effort.”

Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Systemic Justice Project, noted the importance of the legal profession’s involvement in the current moment. “Our existing legal structures are built to ensure that the brunt of any crisis falls hardest on certain disadvantaged and marginalized groups. The Institute is bringing together a remarkable cohort of committed law students who will not only work hard to meet urgent law-related needs posed by the crisis, but also think creatively and critically about the role that lawyers can play in helping to remake unjust systems going forward.” In that way,” Hanson added, “the Institute hopes to promote a future in which the legal profession and the law primarily advance justice and not the interests of the powerful.”

“The Institute is a response to multiple critical needs,” explained Jacob Lipton, Systemic Justice Project Co-Director and Fellowships Director at Justice Catalyst. “Justice-oriented law students and legal organizations are both hurting right now. Most importantly, the communities served by those legal organizations are hurting. Through the People’s Justice Fellowship, we aim to serve as a coordinating body, uniting students eager to do systemic work with organizations in need of exactly that energy and added capacity in order to serve the most vulnerable communities in this crisis.”

Interested in supporting our work? We are committed to making sure all of our fellows are compensated for their work, and we’re providing additional support for students who have financial needs to be able to do this work. Donate to support our Summer Institute Hardship Fund, which provides direct financial assistance to summer fellows experiencing financial hardship.

Learn more:

Systemic Lawyering Webinar #8 – Focus on Domestic Violence

Join this week’s “Systemic Lawyering in Times of Crisis” Webinar at:  https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.  

This week’s session, Tuesday May 12 at 12pm EST, focuses on domestic violence and features the following panelists:

  • Stephanie Davidson, UCLA Law School
  • Christine Perumal, Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project
  • Jessica Spector, Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project

The series features systemically oriented lawyers and activists in fields most affected by our latest crisis. Each session examines the special challenges posed by the crisis, the pressing needs, the new opportunities, and the more general lessons for lawyers, law students, and others committed to promoting systemic change.

For more details about the series, including links to videos of previous sessions, see https://systemicjusticeblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/systemic-lawyering-webinar-series/

Click here to join the webinars via Zoom: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.

Systemic Lawyering Webinar #7 – Information Session

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This week’s webinar (Tuesday, May 5, at 12pm EST) will provide general information about the COVID-19 Rapid Response & Systems Summer Institute.

For lawyers and organizations looking for help from law students during this time of crisis, join us on Tuesday as we describe our summer plans and answer any questions regarding, among other things, how to make proposals and what sort of law-related assistance we can provide.

Join this week’s “Systemic Lawyering in Times of Crisis” Webinar at:  https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.  

For more details about the series, including links to videos of previous sessions, see https://systemicjusticeblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/systemic-lawyering-webinar-series/

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 webinars via Zoom: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/770662864.

Video: Systemic Lawyering in Times of Crisis – (6th Installment – Economic Inequities)

Here’s the video for the sixth session, held on April 28th, focusing on economic inequities. The discussion was moderated by:

The Panelists were:

The Systemic Lawyering in Times of Crisis series of zoom webinars is hosted by the Systemic Justice Project on on Tuesdays from 12-1pm EST.

Click here for more information about the webinar series.

Call for Projects!

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TL;DR: If you have any ideas for what motivated law students could work on this summer, please let us know on this form. And please distribute this as widely as possible!

Law students across the country are eager to work on pressing problems created or highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, many organizations and legal practitioners on the front lines of the crisis need assistance urgently, but may not be in a position to take on summer fellows. Through The COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute, we are committed to bridging the gap between those students and those organizations. Having received hundreds of fellowship applications from students in the last few days, we are now seeking project partner organizations and lawyers in need of assistance. Here is some basic information about our program.

Fellows will work individually or on teams on a variety of project types, including:

  • Direct client work (e.g., law-related work, such as staffing a helpline or assisting individuals with unemployment insurance forms)
  • Legal research/writing
  • Advocacy efforts

We hope that many of our project partners will be able to work closely with our fellows, providing initial instruction and some amount of supervision, feedback, and mentorship as the projects evolve. We understand that some partner organizations will be unable to engage on all of those levels, so we will have structures to supplement as needed: please don’t let limited supervision capacity prevent you from reaching out to us. Although the pandemic is a driving force behind this effort, the projects themselves need not be virus-related. 

If you have a specific project to propose, please submit it on this form.

If you are uncertain about whether your potential project would be a good fit or is adequately developed, please send us a line here. We are eager to hear even vague ideas and to workshop them with you. 

Please email jlipton@law.harvard.edu and molly@peoplesparity.org with any questions. 

On this Tuesday (05/05) at 12:00 pm ET, we are hosting a Zoom webinar to describe the program in more detail and to answer questions from interested lawyers/organizations. You can join the webinar at this link. The video from the webinar will also be made available for those who cannot join. 

If you are a lawyer potentially interested in volunteering any amount of time to provide supervision and mentorship, please let us know here. We will work with you to find opportunities that match your availability and any conflicts concerns.

Regardless, we ask that you please distribute this as broadly as possible within your networks, to help us connect as many law students wanting to help with as many organizations in need of help as possible. 

Thank you!
The COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute Organizing Committee