Community Advocacy Lab is a clinic focused on racial and economic justice, grounded in the needs of communities. Current students are working on:
- criminal justice reform including advocacy related to fines and fees, public defense, and police abolition;
- civil justice reform including family law, public housing conditions, workers’ rights, and consumer debt.
The clinic’s clients range from Harlem-based organizations to national advocacy campaigns.
Through client representation, classroom curriculum, and personal supervision, students in this clinic become lawyers who promote social justice as problem solvers, creative researchers, and strategic planners who can employ an expansive range of lawyering strategies beyond litigation to create a more just legal system.
In the Field
Representing community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies, clinic students develop and advance policy campaigns, design and evaluate legal services and access to justice programs, advocate to change court rules and systems, and draft legislation. Participants work closely with clients, experts, and community members to find innovative solutions to legal problems.
Recent Community Advocacy Lab clients and partners include the Juvenile Law Center, Zealous, the Red Hook and Harlem Community Justice Centers, LIFT, Law 4 Black Lives, BYP100, and the Fines & Fees Justice Center.
In the Classroom
Students consider the complexity of poverty, social justice, and racial justice across different areas of the law while developing a range of advocacy skills, including:
- Interviewing, research, and information gathering
- Problem solving, strategic analysis, and design thinking
- Policy and legislative advocacy
- Written and oral advocacy
- Working with diverse communities
- Project planning and management
- Media engagement
Clinic students have complete ownership and autonomy over their work. They are not interns or assistants who receive assignments. Rather, they are student attorneys who develop and implement all phases of client representation and advocacy. Students have regular supervision meetings with the clinic director and work with clients and colleagues during office hours. Seminars encourage skill development, address the theoretical and substantive bases of the clinic’s work, and provide opportunities for students to reflect on their work and development as lawyers.
Information for Clients and Partners
The Community Advocacy Lab works closely with non-profit, advocacy, and community organizations and government agencies each semester. We are continually discussing potential collaboration with organizations. If you are interested in working with us, contact Professor Colleen F. Shanahan at [email protected] for more information.
Information for Students
Students should apply through the experiential enrollment process. The course is open to JD and LL.M candidates, is 7 experiential credits (3 for seminar, 4 for fieldwork), and is approved for minor writing credit. There are no prerequisites. Prof. Shanahan is holding office hours during the experiential enrollment period for students interested in Community Advocacy Lab. Please schedule online at https://calendly.com/colleen-shanahan-cls/cal-clinic-enrollment-office-hours