Community Development and Economic Justice Clinic
LW.10172 / LW.11977
No prerequisites or co-requisites.
The focus of this clinicis the provision of legal services to grassroots community organizations that engage in a variety of community development, economic justice and social justice efforts. Students in the clinic will have exposure to community groups and learn ways that lawyers can support their work. The clinic will work primarily with organizations that are organizing low-income communities in New York City around the issues of workers’ rights, housing and consumer protection. Students perform their fieldwork with attorneys from the Community Development Project (CDP) of the Urban Justice Center, and provide legal services to CDP’s clients throughout New York City. As part of the fieldwork, students will work on litigation cases as well as research and policy projects that help support and strengthen grassroots organizations’ organizing and advocacy efforts. Students may also work on transactional cases in which they offer legal advice and assistance to grassroots organizations in a variety of areas, such as incorporating an organization, drafting corporate governance documents, or applying for tax exempt status.
CDP provides legal, technical and capacity building, and research and policy assistance to organizations engaged in a wide range of community development efforts throughout New York City. CDP’s work is informed by the belief that real and lasting change in low-income, urban neighborhoods is rooted in the empowerment of grassroots community organizations. CDP’s transactional services include providing legal advice and assistance to organizations in a variety of legal areas. CDP’s litigation practice focuses on tenants’ rights, workers’ rights and consumers’ rights. CDP works with many organizations throughout New York City, such as the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, Mirabal Sisters, Fifth Avenue Committee, Chhaya, Communities for Safe Apartments (CASA), Mothers on the Move (MOM), CAAAV, the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS), the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), Domestic Workers United (DWU), and numerous tenants’ associations. More information about CDP’s work can be found on the Urban Justice Center website and the website of the Community Development Project.
The fieldwork for this clinic will be primarily or entirely conducted at CDP. Clinic students will have the opportunity to be involved in a litigation case as well as a legal research matter that supports the ongoing work of CDP and the organizations it supports. Students might also have the opportunity to represent organizations on transactional matters. The majority of the fieldwork will consist of litigation cases.
Students will participate in a litigation matter in one of CDP’s areas of practice: workers’ rights, housing and consumer justice. CDP uses litigation as a way to support grassroots organizing efforts in New York City. Litigation is developed in partnership with the organizations and usually arises out of issues facing their communities. The workers’ rights cases typically involve minimum wage and overtime violations, workplace discrimination, and retaliatory discharge. Plaintiffs in these cases could be workers in the restaurant, nail salon, garment, food distribution, and domestic industries. The tenants’ rights cases involve representing tenant associations organized by community-based organizations in litigation to combat landlord abandonment, to seek repairs to bring buildings into compliance with the housing code, and to combat harassment and retaliation by landlords. The consumer justice cases are varied, but often involve defending a client against an action by a creditor in court and representing clients on matters such as identity theft and unlawful debt collection abuse. Students’ litigation work will likely entail joining an existing team of lawyers working on an ongoing case, and will provide an opportunity to meet with clients, strategize with co-counsel, draft documents, and prepare for and observe depositions and court proceedings. In transactional matters, students will have the opportunity to counsel and work directly with organizational clients, in addition to experience drafting documents for a grassroots organization.
Students will work out of CDP’s offices. Direct interaction with the grassroots organizations’ staff and members will be an integral component of the fieldwork. Students are expected to spend at least ten hours a week at CDP’s offices.
The seminar will meet weekly on Tuesday from 4:00 – 5:50 p.m. Classes will be participatory in nature, and students will be expected to give presentations, discuss their fieldwork and engage in simulations intended to sharpen practical lawyering skills.
The seminar will probably cover the following topics: introduction to the work of grassroots community organizations; employment and labor laws affecting low-wage workers, including wage-hour violations; housing code enforcement; fair debt collection; the non-profit incorporation process; corporate governance of non-profit organizations, such as by-laws and boards of directors; the tax-exempt recognition process (501(c)(3) status; organizing and the legal issues commonly implicated (e.g. SLAPP litigation); and ethical issues arising from representation of grassroots community organizations and their members.
Students interested in applying for the clinic should submit the standard application, resume, and transcript online through CAMS. Selection of students is not based on interviews. However, Professors Galowitz and Hallett will meet with applicants in groups in order to provide a more complete description of the clinic and to answer questions. If you would like to attend a group meeting, please contact Michelle Williams, the clinic administrator, at (212) 998-6439 or by email after you submit your application to sign up for a time.
Students who wish to know more about the Community Development and Economic Justice Clinic may speak with the following students who are in the clinic this semester:
Elspeth Faiman Hans
Students should also feel free to contact the professors about the clinic. Professor Paula Galowitz can be reached at (212) 998-6441 or by email. Professor Hallett, an attorney with the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, can be reached at (646) 459-3003 or by email.
* 5 credits includes 3 clinical credits and 2 academic seminar credits.