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Community Lawyering

The Shriver Center's Community Lawyering training program teaches that community lawyering is a "process through which advocates contribute their legal knowledge and skills to support initiatives that are identified by the community and enhance the community’s power." It is a powerful tool in the advocate's toolbox. This collection highlights some articles on community lawyering from the deep Clearinghouse Review archive.

Making the Case for Community Lawyering

By Taylor Healy & Aja G. Taylor

Bread for the City’s legal clinic hired an organizer to work alongside attorneys in its Community Lawyering Project to ensure that the legal work was responsive to community needs. The Community Lawyering Project and its clients have won campaigns, built community capacity, and furthered antiracism work. The model has proved so successful that Bread for the City has added four organizers to a newly created advocacy department that works with the Community Lawyering Project on a client-led affordable housing campaign.

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Seizing the Power of Public Participation

By Richard A. Marcantonio & Samuel P. Tepperman-Gelfant

Public engagement at the local level can yield real change—but only if local residents come together in a meaningful way to influence agency decision making. Community lawyers worked with two coalitions in the San Francisco Bay area to leverage local agencies’ public-participation requirements in such a way that the coalitions built community power and secured tangible wins. Those coalitions developed a shared policy agenda, tackled the structure of the public-participation process itself, and integrated “inside” and “outside” strategies.

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Supporting Local Communities Through Community Lawyering

By Ellen Hemley

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law now offers another vehicle to support legal aid and public interest advocates in this critical area—an intensive three-day training to develop advocates’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to practice as community lawyers.  

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Race-Conscious Community Lawyering

Practicing Outside the Box

By Tammi Wong

When developing a race-conscious practice while working with nonwhite client communities, attorneys should consider adopting a community-laywering approach to their advocacy. Through collaboration, attorneys can help diverse population groups build their own resources and capacities to advance their own interests in a self-directed manner. A recent project with the Hmong community in California illustrates how community lawyering can be the best way for an advocate to provide legal assistance in a culturally competent manner.

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Combating the Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse Track Through Community Lawyering

By Monique L. Dixon

Because America's schools are relying more and more on a law-and-order approach to school discipline, mostly students of color are being pushed off an academic track to a future in the juvenile justice system—the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track. Community education and legal advocacy can redirect the law enforcement trend by exposing racial disparities and proposing school-reform and community-based alternatives to school systems.

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The Power of Working with Community Organizations

The Illinois FamilyCare Campaign—Effective Results Through Collaboration

By John Bouman

In 2002 the Illinois legislature passed FamilyCare, a program that offers health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of working parents in low-income families, many of whom recently left public assistance. The campaign for FamilyCare was led by an unusual and symbiotic alliance between the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty law and United Power for Action and Justice, a Chicago-area community organization. The allies brought different but complementary world views and skills that proved to be an effective combination offering lessons for future collaboration of lawyers and policy advocates with community organizers.

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Community Justice Lawyering and Community Economic Development Practice

By Penda D. Hair

Lawyers and community groups working in creative partnerships to advance racial justice should collaborate with community economic development activists to achieve economic justice for marginalized communities. This unified approach solves problems of exclusionary practices, discrimination, and economic injustice.

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Community Lawyering—Why Now?

By Ross Dolloff & Marc Potvin

Lawyers' ability to exercise unilateral power on behalf of low income clients through judicial enforcement of rights is diminishing. Examples of community lawyering in northeastern Massachusetts demonstrate that an alternative approach can create substantial and lasting benefits in low-income communities.

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The Power-One Campaign

Immigrant Worker Empowerment Through Law and Organizing

By Cynthia Mark & Evonne Yang

A spontaneous work stoppage by a group of immigrant factory workers facing layoff grew into a campaign that not only won employer concession on some of the workers' immediate complaints but also brought federal and state funding commitments for English classes, skills training, and other services for the dislocated workers. The collaboration among legal services, a community-based organization, and organized labor helped the workers achieve concrete immediate benefits and knowledge and skills that will prepare them for a better future.

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