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The Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School has partnered with Howard University School of Law to launch a year-long initiative exploring the role lawyers can play in creating social change.
Called the Justice Initiative, the project aims to bring together law students, faculty, legal professionals, and activists to advise students interested in justice-oriented careers. It features a series of presentations and panel discussions, as well as a retreat.
Enumale M. Agada, a Harvard Law School graduate who helped organize the initiative, said in a press release that the program has launched in a moment when many Americans are challenging both inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and centuries of systemic racism.
“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,” she said.
Systemic Justice Project Director Jon D. Hanson said the success of a virtual summer program created in partnership with the People’s Parity Project and Justice Catalyst in response to the pandemic also inspired the endeavor. Zoom meetings made it possible for several hundred law students and lawyers who otherwise might never meet to participate in the Justice Initiative.
“This combination of what's needed and what's possible makes this a pretty special time and more or less the Justice Initiative is a response to that combination of felt urgencies and opportunities,” he said.
Hanson explained the program will consist of three-hour sessions held on Saturdays. These meetings will introduce legal theories, such as feminist theory and critical race theory, that are not often highlighted in law school curricula. Later sessions will then apply these theories to cases law schools often cover.
The initiative will include opportunities, such a career forum, during which students can learn how to find fellowships and get involved in social justice work.
Justin Hansford — director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law — described the partnership between the two schools as a “match made in heaven” in a press release. He noted Howard Law’s legacy of teaching students to be both lawyers and “social engineers” began with Charles Hamilton Houston — a Harvard Law graduate and former Howard Law dean. Houston served as a special counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1930s and dedicated his career to fighting racial discrimination.
“We will seek to use law, organizing, and research to create social change,” Hansford said in the press release. “In many ways, this partnership brings us full circle.”
—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.
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