Ingrid Nava ’03
Associate General Counsel, Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, New York
Read My Story
Our co-op program provides students with countless public interest work opportunities, but for those who seek to participate in pro bono work beyond our program and school, here are some opportunities:
The Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration (CPIAC) launched NUSL Student Volunteers for Justice to connect students with meaningful opportunities to assist social justice organizations with urgent needs through pro bono and other volunteer assistance. The initiative connects law students with opportunities locally and nationally and across a range of social justice areas, including poverty law, immigration law, racial justice, disability justice, citizen reentry and many others. Student volunteers handle different responsibilities depending on the opportunity, from providing legal research and performing intake to assisting individuals at virtual or in-person clinics and other volunteer activities. To learn more, please contact Shannon Al-Wakeel, managing director of CPIAC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Integral to the Institute’s mission is a commitment to empowering clients and client communities so that they can articulate and advance their own legal strategies and resolutions---both in their individual cases and in advocating for changes in the legal system that will benefit all victims. We do this by making our faculty, staff and students available to support clients in a wide range of community based advocacy groups and institutions---offering basic abuse prevention services to individual clients, expedited referrals of community group members to cooperating lawyers for legal representation in more complex matters, assistance in securing institutional and financial support, and the opportunity to participate in collaborative research and demonstration grants.
The Higg-Lew Leaders is a mentorship program between students at Northeastern University School of Law and seventh and eighth graders who attend Higginson/Lewis School, located in Roxbury. The first hour of the mentorship program focuses on homework help, civics instruction and literacy skills through the discussion of current events relevant to the community. The second hour engages student talent in areas such as art, music, gardening, sports and cooking. A weekly career series exposes students to a diverse spectrum of professional possibilities and participants are also eligible to earn monthly field trips. Finally, a portion of the program is dedicated to connecting students to productive summer enrichment experiences and high schools.
Topics of discussion range from strict court cases to broader topics dealing with current events. During the past year, the Higg-Lew Leaders have held extensive discussions around the Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown cases and have collaborated with an ACLU staff attorney to host a street law clinic on stop and frisk issues.
In addition to building sustainable relationships amongst the mentors and mentees, the goal of Higg-Lew Leaders is to empower participants to become agents of change within their community. The Higg-Lew mentorship program was started by law students Gabrielle Pingue and Sarah Spofford and is supported by participation from members within the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Family Law and Juvenile Justice Society (FLJJS).
The International Refugee Assistance Project offers students experience in managing complex immigration cases, which impact the lives of refugees. The program connects law students with pro bono attorneys to take on urgent humanitarian cases of refugees from countries such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia around issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking and persecution of members within the LGBT community and individuals. IRAP operates at law school chapters around the country, with an annual conference and support mechanisms. Looking to expand to related advocacy and events.
Students can participate in the work of the Domestic Violence Institute (DVI) beginning in their first year of law school by volunteering for the Legal Assistance to Victims (LAV) project, a unique interdisciplinary collaboration with Casa Myrna, the largest domestic violence advocacy organization in Boston. Through funding from the US Department of Justice’s Office for Violence Against Women, the LAV project seeks to connect individuals impacted by domestic violence with legal services, at those places they may first turn to for help. DVI/LAV team members will be working in the community to provide direct advocacy and focused community education, with the goal of helping individuals identify options to move toward breaking the cycle of violence and increasing their capacity for self-determination
The National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer program trains law students to observe interactions between law enforcement officials and individuals participating in public demonstrations. The Legal Observer program was established in 1968 in New York City, in response to city-wide antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. This program is one component of a comprehensive system of legal support designed to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police and with the fewest possible consequences from the criminal justice system. Students are trained by lawyers to observe and document incidents such as arrests, use of force, denial of access to public spaces and any other behavior used by law enforcement officials to restrict demonstrators’ ability to express political views. This program teaches students how to provide neutral evaluations on the constitutionality of government conduct. The information gathered by Legal Observers is intended to be used in later court proceedings.
Project No One Leaves is an initiative supporting community organizing efforts around the movement for housing justice. Each week, law students around Boston canvass neighborhoods to inform homeowners and tenants about their rights and options — legal or otherwise — in the face of foreclosure and eviction. Project No One Leaves is in support of City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots organization that organizes tenants and home-owners facing foreclosure and is rooted in promoting tenant rights and preventing housing displacement. Northeastern University’s chapter of Project No One Leaves is facilitated through the National Lawyer’s Guild.
The Street Law Clinic Trainings teach law students to host interactive “know your rights” workshops within the community — these workshops help community members to assert their legal rights in real life situations. The following Street Law Clinic Trainings have been hosted over the past year:
The Landlord/Tenant Training teaches participants about state and local laws designed to protect tenants, which are often ignored or deliberately violated by landlords. This clinic teaches participants how to assert their rights around issues such as evictions, rent increases, health code violations and discrimination.
Stop and Search Training:
The Stop and Search Training focuses on Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Through this training, participants acquire a better understanding of their constitutional rights when they have been stopped by the police learn how to respond to police and discuss what they can do when their rights have been violated.
Workers’ Rights Training:
The Worker’s Rights Training gives a broad outline of the laws regarding workers’ rights and how to enforce their rights if their rights have been violated. Some of the topics of focus include safety and anti-discrimination laws, how to respond to unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment and discrimination. Participants also discuss the various resources that can be used to enforce the laws that protect their rights. Aside from substantive legal knowledge, law students in attendance are trained to host clinics within the community to equip community members with the knowledge to assert their rights in various situations.