Protecting democracy by combating inequality is the task of social justice lawyers. The practice of democracy mandates inclusion of the diverse populations of this nation into the social order. Social justice lawyers seek to give material meaning to democratic ideals in the daily lives of individuals and communities that are marginalized, subordinated, and underrepresented. Currently, not enough lawyers serve the disenfranchised and not enough lawyers emerge from disenfranchised communities. Hence, the disenfranchised continue to be denied access to legal resources, to the detriment of democracy.
Legal educators must begin to think about how to institutionalize consciousness about social justice as part of the canon of legal education and to promote the idea that a professional is one dedicated to public service and the provision of justice. The creation of centers and institutes in social justice law can help accomplish this goal.
This article discusses the institutional values necessary for building a successful center, emphasizing communication and inclusion. It also addresses key components of a successful social justice program, including a curriculum that coordinates theory with practice in the traditional classroom and clinical settings; faculty scholarship and related social justice practice; involvement of students, student groups, and staff; an intellectual climate that promotes extracurricular events and work with other centers of specialization within the law school and university; and alumni/community relations and fundraising. The article makes suggestions for how to implement each element.
55 J. Legal Educ. 252