STUDENT CHAPTER ORGANIZING
Most law schools have students attending who are interested in the National Lawyers Guild. It is an easy group to organize because there are rooms and bulletin boards readily available. If not, most law school administrators are at least familiar with Guild's mission. Listed below are some ideas to help law students develop student chapters with assistance/cooperation from their local lawyer/legal worker chapter. There are other helpful resources available in the National Office, like the Chapter Action Manual. Please contact the membership coordinator at the National Office (NO).
Organizing a New Chapter:
* Schedule time during first year orientation to talk about the Guild.
* Schedule an organizing meeting announced in advance, have lawyers present to discuss the Guild's projects and show the videotape "Justice is a Constant Struggle" (available from the NO).
* Identify a leadership committee of students and seek out assistance or supervision from a local or regional NLG member/chapter.
* Make sure you are in constant touch with at least one local or regional chapter member.
* Help train new students to build a second line leadership so that when the old contacts graduate the chapter doesn't have to start from scratch.
* The most important thing is to forge links between the local lawyer/legal worker and student chapters. One way of doing this is to start a mentor program. The idea behind this program is to strengthen the bonds between lawyers/legal workers and law students. A mentor program can vary from having lunch with your mentor once a month to "job shadowing" your mentor.
* Put together a calendar with concrete activities identified.
Activities for Student Chapters:
* Brown bag lunches with guest speakers or local Guild lawyers discussing topics of interest.
* Sponsoring or co-sponsoring of well known speakers on law school campuses.
*Identifying on-campus issues important to students (i.e. affirmative action, legal clinics, loan forgiveness) and organize around those issues.
* Working with Guild lawyers on specific projects. (i.e. legal research political demonstration)
* Potluck parties and other "fun" activities. (Some chapters use a Fall party as the major fundraiser for the year.
* Law student conferences with other local law schools. (i.e. People's Lawyers Conference)
* Joining strikers on picket lines or legal observing at progressive demonstrations.
* Organizing informational sessions to provide legal advice for the general public.
* Providing legal assistance for the other-abled or for juveniles, for immigrants or for battered women, etc.
* Providing legal assistance for incarcerated individuals, in the areas of immigration, appeals and anti-death penalty, in particular.
* Organizing "alternative legal practice" fairs and working with placement offices to provide information about job opportunities for particular attorneys or organizations.
* Organizing petition drives.
* Organizing informational tables in school lobbies.
* Send a delegate to the local lawyer/legal worker meetings so that students can stay in tune with lawyer/legal worker chapter activities.
The key to a student chapter of the Guild is to remember their interest wanes with due dates for papers and other writing assignments and exams. The most committed student will be "out of touch" for at least two months out of every school year, not including the summer recess. Plan with this in mind.
Law students are the future of the Guild, our future. Organize and Mobilize!
The National Lawyers Guild as a Resource for Public Interest Law Students
by Peter D. Schneider
While many law schools have public interest law foundations, clinics, and other, in-school resources for students committed to public interest law, few of these resources provide the opportunity for students to work with practicing public interest lawyers. One organization that makes such connections possible is the National Lawyers Guild, a national public interest bar association that has served for many as a bridge between law school and a public interest career. The Guild's unique role as a meeting place for a wide range of public interest activists makes it an invaluable career resource [or public interest-minded law students.
The National Lawyers Guild is a national organization of lawyers, legal workers, and law students working "in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be more sacrcd than property interests:" The Guild was founded in 1937, long before the term "public interest law" came into currency, as a racially integrated, progressive alternative to the then-segregated and conservative American Bar Association.
The Guild has a proud history of legal support for progressive issues and movements, beginning with its support for the New Deal and the labor movement. And continuing as the lead organization in the legal battle against anti-Communist witchhunts, the first organization to send lawyers to the South in support of the civil rights movement, and the First national organization to devote itself to the legal issues of persons with HIV/AIDS.
Among the Guild's current projects are the Sugar Law Center for Economic Justice in Detroit, which focuses on litigation opposing plant closings and layoffs, and the National Immigration Project in Boston, which provides backup and litigation support for practitioners throughout the country working in defense of the rights of immigrants.
Among the ways the Guild can serve as a career planning resource are the following:
Each summer the Guild funds approximately 15 law students to work in projects with designated public interest and advocacy organizations across the country. These projects offer students the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of legal and geographic settings. Recent projects have sent students to work with organizations representing farmworkers in Michigan and rural Virginia, assist the community economic development efforts of a Tennessee legal services office, fight plant closings in Michigan, and represent immigrants seeking political asylum in Seattle, Arizona, and Texas. The Guild's Summer Projects Directory, describing the projects and containing application materials, is sent to every law school career services office in December or January. The application deadline is February 14.
The Guild also sponsors special year round projects involving law students. Most notable is the Guild's ongoing political asylum project, in which law students from around the country travel to Miami for one-week periods to help refugees prepare political asylum applications.
Networking and Mentoring. The Guild can serve as a valuable networking resource for students looking for opportunities to practice public interest law. Students are welcome to get involved in local chapter projects, where they can work jointly with practitioners and gain valuable exposure along with substantive law experience.
National and Regional Meetings.
The Guild's annual national convention and regional conferences feature numerous panels and workshops on a wide range of public interest law topics. These meetings provide further opportunities for net-working with other law students and with practitioners in the many practice areas represented in the Guild's membership.
x Referral Directory. The Guild publishes an annual referral directory listing its full membership and providing additional information, including addresses, phone numbers, and areas of specialization for members who pay for a listing. This directory is an invaluable resource for students seeking to locate public interest law practitioners, especially those in private or solo practice.
The Guild is unique in its function as a bridge between law school and practice, and between public and private practice. Its membership includes lawyers working in legal services and public defender offices, public interest organizations, government, and private practice, as well as judges and members of law school faculty and administrative staff (not to mention a number of law school public interest career advisors). Guild members have national experience in immigration law, police misconduct, criminal defense, labor law, and civil rights litigation. The Guild's long history of support Car lawyers pursuing public interest law from a private practice setting is especially valuable in this day of limited entry-level opportunities at traditional public interest organizations.
Many law schools have active NLG chapters, and the Guild will help students organize a chapter at any school that does not have one. Interested students can also contact their local chapters; chapter sponsored panels and workshops are open to students, and local Guild members will often help organize law school programs on virtually any topic if there is sufficient interest.
To obtain local contact information or information about national activities, students and law school career services offices can contact the Guild's national office at 126 University Place, Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10003,
(212) 6272656, fax (212) 627-2404, e-mail email@example.com
December 1996, NALP Bulletin
Peter D. Schneider is Assistant Director of Career Planning and Placement at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. This article was submitted on behalf of the NALP Public Service Committee.
National Lawyers Guild
Volunteer Immigration Project
For the past five years, the National Lawyers Guild has sent law student, legal worker and attorney volunteers to agencies in southern Florida to work with asylum seekers, primarily from Haiti. Two years ago we expanded the project to include agencies in New Mexico and Texas that work with immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. All these agencies are at the front line in the fight for immigrants' rights, and volunteers will employ advocacy skills in a context quite different from a clinic or classroom.
Severe funding cuts have reduced the staff at immigration legal service agencies, while attacks on immigrants' rights are intensifying. Flexibility, self-direction and motivation are essential qualities for all volunteers. Volunteers must commit to at least a full week of work at a participating agency and must consult with the National Immigration Project of the Guild to ensure they are trained before they leave. Applicants fluent in Creole or Spanish will be given preference.
The number of volunteer slots is limited by the agencies' scarce resources and the timing of law student breaks. Although no money is available for travel expenses, many students receive financial support from their schools or local NLG chapters. Inexpensive housing may be available.
For more information on volunteer opportunities and training, contact Gail Pendleton at the National Immigration Project: (617) 227-9727 (phone); (617) 227-5495 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail) or
Michael Ray in Miami at (305) 377-9000 (phone); email@example.com
As noted above, all participants must contact the National Immigration Project to ensure they are trained before they go. Michael Ray will help students find housing and place volunteers in summer internships. Please fill out the form below if you would like to volunteer.
VOLUNTEER IMMIGRATION PROJECT
City State zip
Dates available (from date/month to date/month):
Return this form to: National Immigration Project, 14 Beacon St., Ste. 602, Boston, MA 02108.