Utah Bar Journal, pp. 31-35, May 2004
6 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 10, 2010
This article tells the story of Community Lawyering in action at the Boulders Apartments located in Provo, Utah. Community Lawyering at Brigham Young University Law School provides law students with a clinical opportunity to practice collaborative justice among low-income residents.
We do this by focusing our attention on the untapped promise of the poor themselves to assert themselves as problem solvers. We prove to those with little or no access to justice that they hold the key to that door through joint-gain negotiation among themselves and with community agencies and public officials, not only with those who are already involved but other interested stakeholders as well. As much as experts – e.g., pro bono attorneys, public interest lawyers and ADR specialists – try to help by opening that door with respect to legal matters addressed in isolation from the larger context of privation, we impress upon those who live “24/7” with all the interrelated hardships of poverty that they must learn what more they can do for themselves to tackle the full range of their challenges. To this end, Community Lawyering acts as a catalyst for Boulders residents to find their group voice in public settings, making presentations on who they are, what struggles they face living in poverty, and how they would propose to take new steps and tell new stories.
Early on in the 2003-2004 academic year, while law students and I were interviewing Boulders residents and working with them to form grassroots advocacy groups that would address a range of legal and extra-legal concerns, the residents started grumbling that there were too few public options for transportation to needed services and grocery stores. Then matters went from bad to worse: the bus company announced that the bus line that made a stop fairly close to their residential complex was being removed for lack of ridership. As an impending negotiation with the bus company, we saw several possibilities.
Keywords: Public interest law, clinical legal education, community improvement, poverty law, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, Boulders Apartments, negotiation
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