Please visit our new website at the following url: https://systemicjustice.org/.
Harvard Law School’s Systemic Justice Project and Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center Announce the Return of ‘The Justice Initiative’
After a wonderful pilot year, the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law have again joined forces to bring back “The Justice Initiative.” The Justice Initiative is 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. You can learn more about the origins of the Justice Initiative here.
This year will build on last year’s success. Last year’s Justice Initiative community comprised more than 50 lawyers law professors from around the country and more than 200 justice-oriented law students from more than 70 U.S. law schools. The Justice Initiative has several major elements. Three-hour Saturday Sessions featured a variety of inspiring scholars and lawyers, including K-Sue Park, Cheryl Harris, Khiara Bridges, Alec Karakatsanis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Saru Matambanadzo, Derecka Purnell, Bianca Tylek, Whitney Benns, Esme Caramello, Purvi Shah, Ruby-Beth Buitekant, and Cornel West. The Justice Initiative also included a formal mentoring and career advising for our students to ensure they have the guidance and support they need to become justice-oriented lawyers. One advising session, for instance, included a half-dozen public-interest advisors from law schools around the U.S. A third major element of the Justice Initiative was its community and praxis, with numerous opportunities for discussion and reflection as well as for organizing and activism (particularly in response to the attack on CRT).
For law students, lawyers, law professors, and organizers interested in learning more about this year’s Justice Initiative, you can watch the a video recording of the information session below:
Law students who want to participate in the Justice Initiative for 2020-2021 can apply at the following link: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b2YPgmFu8TaG6Y6.
Lawyers, law professors, and organizers can apply at the following url: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eX9uMdqcjBFPQpw.
Returning members from last year’s Justice Initiative should apply here: https://harvard.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dgJOaEF1ZzKqhTg.
Harvard Law School’s Systemic Justice Project and Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center Launch ‘The Justice Initiative’
This Saturday, October 3, 2020, the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law will launch a year-long pilot project called “The Justice Initiative” with the first of 10, three-hour programming sessions. Dozens of lawyers from around the country and more than 200 law students from more than fifty U.S. law schools are already scheduled to participate in Saturday’s online event.
The Justice Initiative is 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.
“This initiative is a match made in heaven,” said Justin Hansford, professor of law and director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law.
“Former Howard Law Vice Dean Charles Hamilton Houston, mentor to Thurgood Marshall, studied at Harvard Law School. He is the progenitor of Howard University School of Law’s legacy of creating lawyers who function as social engineers in society. We will seek to use law, organizing, and research to create social change. The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center is Howard University’s flagship institutional setting for the study and practice of civil rights, human rights, and racial justice law and advocacy. In many ways, this partnership brings us full circle.”
The new initiative is motivated by longstanding systemic problems recently laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic, the national reckoning with centuries of racism, a growing climate catastrophe, and a polarized population on the eve of a critical presidential election. Saturday’s program will involve panelists and advisors who will help law students better contribute to systemic change. Organizers ultimately hope to create a national network of lawyers and law students who share a commitment to social justice.
Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law and Director of the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School, calls the collaboration an “unprecedented and, we hope, a valuable contribution to the collection efforts underway to reimagine and remake unjust systems.”
The Systemic Justice Project, a Harvard Law School-based program created in 2014, has been, explains Hanson, “devoted to understanding the complex and overlapping causes of systemic problems (from racial injustice and economic inequality to climate change and political corruption), theorizing strategies for challenging and addressing those problems, and facilitating collaborations among law students, lawyers, organizers, and activists to help advance those strategies.” Hanson continued: “Working with Justin Hansford and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University to create a still larger community around the shared goal of advancing systemic justice represents the most exciting and promising opportunity we have had to fulfill that mission. This work has never been more urgent.”
Enumale M. Agada, a 2017 graduate of Harvard Law School, has helped organize and build the Justice Initiative and described the importance of the new collaboration this way: “In a time when many of us are questioning and challenging our society’s deeply embedded systems and institutions, there is a shared sense among the Initiative’s organizers that now is the time to do the same with legal education. Lawyers, and by extension legal education, play a pivotal role in shaping our society and can either be catalysts for change or impediments to it. Our hope is that the Justice Initiative will help encourage this generation of law students to view their role in society as that of changemakers and social engineers and foster a legal education system that better prepares law students to take up these mantles.”
On Saturday and at future sessions, 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 not central to the traditional or core law school curricula, such as critical race theory, and that introduce and examine different types of systemic lawyering, and other justice-related essentials (e.g., organizing, storytelling, and self-care). In addition, there will be a retreat, career advice, and other opportunities for law students interested in pursuing systemic-lawyering careers.
Any law student or lawyer committed to helping build a justice-centered community is welcome to participate in The Justice Initiative. Interested students must attend roughly 10 three-hour online Saturday programming sessions. Participation is free and all materials will be provided. Because space is limited, registration is required. Interested students can learn more by watching recent informational sessions here and here.
Lawyers and law professors who would like to learn more can watch a video of the informational webinar here. A shorter video summarizing a variety of ways that lawyers can be involved is available here. And lawyers and law professors can register to participate here.
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.
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: email@example.com.
How Can You Apply To Participate?
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 teaching, conferences, 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.
- Systemic Justice Project
- People’s Parity Project
- Justice Catalyst
- COVID–19 Rapid Response + Systems Summer Institute
- Join the COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute call for fellows
- Systemic Lawyering in Times of Crisis Webinar Series
- Op-Ed: How the COVID-19 pandemic has created dire legal problems for the poor, by Lincoln Caplan
- Coronavirus blew up summer internships, forcing students and employers to get creative, by Lauren Lumpkin