Systemic Justice Project

The Justice Initiative – Frequently Asked Questions


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 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

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. 

Other Questions

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 or for more information. 

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

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:

COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute

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A collaboration between People’s Parity Project (PPP), the Systemic Justice Project (SJP), and the Justice Catalyst (JC) announces a COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute, which will engage law students in full-time (or part-time) summer legal fellowships, working with legal and law-related organizations on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis. While working on urgent projects, fellows will also participate in additional programming, described below. 

Fellows will conduct research, write memos or reports, produce “know your rights” materials, and otherwise assist with projects aimed at ensuring the most vulnerable members of our society obtain the support they need and meet the legal challenges they face in this public health and economic crisis.

Specific projects will continue to develop in response to the current crisis and the needs of partner organizations. Sample projects could include:

  • identifying state-level legal barriers to instituting vote-by-mail for the November election;
  • assessing the authority of governors to free individuals held in detention in public health crises;
  • supporting individuals applying for unemployment insurance;
  • identifying means of holding individuals accountable for marketing sham cures for COVID-19;
  • supporting advocacy efforts for states to provide unhoused people with either temporary or permanent access to housing.

Fellows will receive three tiers of supervision/mentorship:

  1. the program’s coordinating and supervising team composed of members of PPP/SJP/JC; 
  2. the lawyers and members of partner organizations who provide projects and with whom fellows will work directly; and
  3. volunteer attorneys, who will devote a fixed number of hours per week supervising specific students/teams.

In most cases the host organization will be People’s Parity Project but specific placements may vary. The coordinating team will include Molly Coleman, Jacob Lipton, and Jon Hanson.

The additional programming will be led by the Systemic Justice Project, and is designed to build community and provide participants a chance to share lessons, learn about different kinds of justice-oriented lawyering, compare different theories of change, examine deeper systemic problems revealed by the pandemic, and consider what opportunities the crisis might create for advancing long-term systemic change. It will include workshops with community organizers, social activists, justice-oriented lawyers, clinical faculty, and podium faculty from a variety of organizations and institutions. 

If you are a law student potentially interested in participating either as a part time volunteer or a full time fellow, a lawyer potentially interested in providing pro bono supervision, or an individual or organization potentially interested in proposing projects, please complete this form: 

If you have a specific project to propose, please submit it here. Projects could be for an individual student or a team of students, and can vary in length and time commitment: 

We have secured limited funding to support this work, and also intend to qualify for summer public interest funding from law schools where possible.

Please distribute this message widely to organizations, lawyers, and students!

If you have any questions, please contact and 

Molly Coleman
Jacob Lipton
Jon Hanson


Reflections on Real Talk: An Introduction

Real Talk LogoIn fall 2015 the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP), in collaboration with the Systemic Justice Project (SJP), launched a joint initiative for Harvard Law School (HLS) students called Real Talk – a series of small group facilitated dialogues and curated events on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The initiative developed from a shared interest of HNMCP and SJP to promote dialogue among HLS students on how legal education can, at times, unwittingly silence student voices and experiences, especially as these experiences relate to identity and personal narrative.

Real Talk is an initial effort to provide a forum for HLS students to learn with and from each other— encouraging genuine conversation around challenging issues, emotions, and narratives that relate to the law, legal systems, and legal education; a forum that promotes an inclusivity and openness that can often become stymied in traditional law school classrooms; and a forum that promotes respect, understanding, curiosity about the other, and a willingness to be “raggedy” even in our deepest moments of difference and dissent. For HNMCP, Real Talk represents the first manifestation of what we hope will be a new, larger dialogue and facilitation initiative.  For SJP, Real Talk is part of a general commitment to encouraging conversations about diversity and inclusion in legal education and, more generally, about systemic problems in society.

The pilot program brought together a small number of HLS student participants, trained student facilitators, and faculty advisors in an innovative experiment of facilitated dialogue and open engagement. We were fortunate to recruit four student facilitators who have extensive facilitation training and experience, each having taken the HLS Lawyer as Facilitator and the HLS Negotiation Workshop. These facilitators led small groups of six participants (composed of first and third year law students) in four dialogue sessions throughout the fall semester. These dialogues were bolstered by several events – Fighting Debtor’s Prison in Ferguson,[1] After Ferguson, Baltimore, New York: Strategies for Systemic Change,[2] and On the Battlefield of Merit: the History of Harvard Law School[3] – that served as the basis for two of the dialogue sessions.

The first round of Real Talk was met with decisive gratitude. Participant feedback indicated that the program provided a much-needed environment to express their experiences and perspectives, listen to the stories and views of others, and to share and receive a sense of empathetic understanding. In talking with students throughout the initiative, we developed an even deeper appreciation for how important spaces for authenticity, reflection, vulnerability, and conflictedness are in higher education and legal training.

We also were reminded that creating those fora is typically fraught and complex. Our preparation and review sessions with facilitators highlighted many challenges to creating open dialogue. What is the role of neutrality in facilitating dialogue on equity and inclusion? What might be the role of power and privilege in dialogue facilitation? What impact does the facilitator’s identity have on discussion and how does a facilitator manage them? How does participant composition across identity, background, and status affect the dialogue experience and what are the implications (if any) for convening such groups? We gathered that there is great value in deeper and more nuanced facilitation training at HLS, as well as a great need for HLS students to receive training on engaging in dialogue as a participant. And, as with most worthy experiences, we were pleased to have left with as many questions as “answers.”

Now, we have invited the facilitators from Real Talk – Ariel Eckblad ‘16, Deanna Parrish ’16, Carson Wheet ‘16, and Lindsey Whyte ‘16 – to share their reflections through a series of blog posts. We will publish one blog post from a different facilitator each week. Their posts touch on the themes mentioned above, as well as others, providing an inside look into their experiences, lessons, and questions from Real Talk. We hope that you enjoy these pieces, and that you will join us as we seek to dig more deeply into this important work.

By Robert C. Bordone, Jon Hanson, Jacob Lipton, and Sam W. Straus

[1] A panel discussion with Thomas Harvey, Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders and Alec Karakatsanis ’08, Co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law.
[2] A panel discussion with Thomas Harvey, Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders, Chiraag Bains ’08: Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division, Marbre Stahly-Butts: Center for Popular Democracy, and Alec Karakatsanis’08, Co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law.
[3] A lecture and discussion with Dan Coquillette, Charles Warren Visiting Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School.


#HLSUntaped @ The Record


From Harvard Law Record, a collection of recent editorials and essays about race and racism:

Dan Coquillette on the History of HLS


The Systemic Justice Project is thrilled to be co-sponsoring Dan Coquillette’s talk tomorrow (Tuesday):

Based on his extensive research (and just-published and forthcoming books) on the history of Harvard Law School, Professor Coquillette will provide a candid discussion of the historic strengths and liabilities of Harvard Law School, focusing particularly on shifting definitions of “merit” and exclusion.

Non-non-pizza lunch provided. Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at 12pm in WCC 2004.

This event is co-sponsored by the Systemic Justice Project, the Law & Social Change Program of Study, the Velociraptorts, the Office of Public Interest Advising, the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program, Real Talk, Student For Inclusion, and the American Constitution Society.