Lawyering for Social Justice

This week we had the privilege of speaking with Michael Stanley, a professional community organizer with Manhattan Together and South Bronx Churches Sponsoring Committee (SBC), and Ray Lopez, the Director of Environmental Health Services of the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA), on the topic of pro bono lawyering for social justice in collaboration with community organizers.  Manhattan Together, SBC, and LSA are nonprofit organizations and members of Metro IAF, a network of multi-faith organizations that draw on the power of person-to-person organizing to transform communities and build the local power necessary to create change on local and national levels.

Following my experience assisting immigrant families at the border, I have shared the story, the urgent challenges, and the need for change with many audiences. I have presented the same PowerPoint of my experience enough times that it’s now possible for me to click through the slides and images, words flowing easily, despite the devastating reality of the problem which is that families seeking asylum are freezing cold and hungry, held in cages and separated to disastrous effect. Over the past several months, I have at times felt numb to the injustice. But not last week.

Last week, for the second year in a row, Proskauer launched a series of Lawyering for Social Justice Workshops at John Jay College in Manhattan. The audience of mostly prelaw students are highly motivated and engaged. The students eagerly raised their hands with questions before I even got into a rhythm with the slides. Our lively conversation not only addressed recent changes in policy but included a broader discussion of immigration and how it fits into American ideals. Many of the students are either immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans.  Many are also the first in their families to attend college.

This past month, Proskauer launched a series of Lawyering for Social Justice Workshops at John Jay College in Manhattan.  Attended mostly by pre-law students, the workshops explore specific examples of how lawyers in private practice can make a critical difference in society.  We discussed challenges within our criminal justice system, and highlighted the pressing need for representation in certain civil matters, such as immigration, family, and housing court proceedings, where there is much at stake but no right to counsel for those who cannot afford a lawyer.  We also discussed the role of impact litigation and reviewed specific cases brought recently by Proskauer.  Finally, we explored various volunteer efforts, especially those involving education.