Community Group Advocacy & Social Change Lawyering Clinic
The Community Group Advocacy and Social Change Lawyering Clinic is designed for students considering a career in social change lawyering and interested in learning how to work as effective partners with activist community groups pressing for social change. The Clinic focuses on the range of skills and persuasive strategies that social change lawyers utilize— including grassroots lobbying, legislative drafting, community organizing/mobilizing, community legal education, media campaigns, and/or organizing public hearings. Students work in teams and are placed with Bay Area social justice lawyers or community groups to work on a defined project affecting lower-income, working-class, of-color, and other marginalized communities. Collectively, the projects introduce students to the broad range of approaches to making social change and to working as partners with community activists and groups, rather than simply navigating the legal system on their behalf.
Who Might Be Interested?
- Students considering a career in social change lawyering or advocacy and interested in learning about non-litigation approaches to making social change.
- Students interested in working with community groups and activists.
- Students interested in politics, government, and policy advocacy.
There are four hours of regularly scheduled seminar time per week. Discussions integrate extensive readings on different approaches to making social change (including framing, a variety of approaches to community organizing/mobilizing, community legal education, and grassroots lobbying) and their application to students’ fieldwork projects.
Substantive legal areas vary each semester, as the emphasis is on assembling an array of projects with diverse approaches to pursuing social change.
- Students worked with Legal Services for Children and a coalition of Central Valley parents, students, and advocates to discuss how to limit or shape police presence and activities on public school campuses.
- Students worked with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights to inform prisoners and their families of how to take advantage of recent legislation eliminating mandatory sentence enhancements.
- A team of students worked with National Nurses United/California Nurses Association to develop community education presentations on how proposals for universal health care coverage would impact racial disparities in health care access and outcomes.
- Students worked with a statewide coalition of domestic workers’ organizations to lay the groundwork for passage of a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights;
- Students worked with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to design and organize a public hearing on “The Human Rights Impact of the War on Drugs” on San Francisco residents and communities;
- Students worked with Legal Services for Children to advise an East Bay continuation high school on how to augment or replace traditional school discipline measures with restorative justice principles and practices;
- Students worked with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and a coalition of prisoner activists and their families to publicize and seek to end California’s extensive use of long-term (often indefinite) isolation in solitary confinement cells in prisons that are already maximum-security facilities.
- Students worked with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Central Valley grassroots immigration groups to develop written and audio materials to advise immigrants and services providers about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
- Students worked with a statewide tenants’ organization and tenants in Merced, California, to draft and lobby for a just cause for eviction ordinance to prevent banks from evicting rent-paying tenants from rental housing simply because their landlord lost the property through foreclosure.
The Clinic is taught by Ascanio Piomelli, advisor to the Social Justice Lawyering Concentration, and an analyst and proponent of what has variously been labeled as a “democratic,” “collaborative,” or “rebellious” approach to social change lawyering.