University of Miami School of Law Course Description - Online System
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Spring 2017
LAW297  AW  LAW PRACTICE: SOCIAL IMPACT ADVOCACY

Course Description
This is the upper level section.

Despite a century or more of myriad legal reforms and related social changes, everyday headlines make plain that the constitutional commitment to “Equal Justice Under Law” remains illusory for many persons, and for some entire communities, living in the United States today. Current events also have made many people newly aware of the “systemic” nature of front-burner legal and social issues, which can range from equal pay for equal work to mass incarceration, voter suppression, student debt, climate adaptation, marriage equality, immigration justice, and many more modern topical controversies. Under these specific social circumstances, the pressing practical question for the legal profession has become: How can lawyers become more effective advocates of systemic reform to achieve equal justice in everyday life for all?

To tackle these and similar questions, this introductory three-credit course examines key systemic (or structural) reasons for persistent “access to justice gaps” while emphasizing experiential approaches to three “active” research tools that build on core legal skills to help close those gaps, and to help increasingly ameliorate social injustice in lived terms across U.S. society more generally; jointly, this expanded knowledge base and honed skill-set are designed to enable current and future lawyers to better “get at” the root causes of systemic (or institutional) injustice that typically underlie persistent social problems.

Using contemporary topics of special relevance to students, we survey and discuss key issues, concepts, terms, and arguments relating to law and justice as we work on individual and group projects linked to campus issues and/or community groups. The weekly readings provide a critical understanding of the complex yet crucial cross-connection between law practice, legal reform, systemic change, and social impact while the hands-on campus and community projects emphasize the individual development of three collaborative fact-finding practices: (1) community interviewing, (2) critical empiricism, and (3) public narrative. Together with core legal training, these advanced foundational ideas and skills are designed to set the stage for persuasive systemic analysis and advocacy in any socio-legal context. Consolidating this knowledge with while also practicing it, during the semester we continually study, discuss, learn, apply, reflect, and re-discuss our individual and group assignments, projects, and progress in order to incrementally develop a long-term capacity for critical thinking and “social impact advocacy” as legal professionals.

As the name itself underscores, this evolving approach to law and lawyering aims to understand—and to change—entrenched institutions, systems or structures as a remedial means to a particular, principled, and material end: a specific and concrete social impact that is enduring and measureable in everyday life.

With principled, measurable, and sustainable social progress as the constant bottom line, we also identify the historical legacies, cultural notions, unstated premises, prevailing norms, multifaceted processes, and conflicted dynamics that, in combination, oftentimes define the possibilities and limits of social change or progress in any given setting. Because these big-picture, background factors consequently constitute the problem-solving framework for most persistent social problems today, we additionally review the ten basic components of “multidimensional” action that are most associated with social impact advocacy: (1) Issue Campaigns and (2) Community Development Projects. These two complex types of organized action are geared specifically to making institutions or systems change for a targeted social impact, and therefore they usually incorporate traditional legal tactics and strategies, such as litigation or transactional planning. Yet these or similar multidimensional approaches to research, analysis, and action, which are intentionally tailored to a desired social impact, also necessarily rely on extra-legal sources of knowledge, awareness, cooperation, and persuasion for their practical impact or ultimate success.

Social impact advocacy necessarily puts a constant and pragmatic premium on integrative approaches to law practice, and on collaborative approaches to legal professionalism, because the ultimate persuasive force and actual social impact of multidimensional advocacy through complex actions depends, usually, on mutually-reinforcing alignments of legal expertise with multiple disciplines, diverse groups, and coalitional advocacy in concrete, complex contexts.

To help each student develop a more self-aware sense of professional identity and personal resilience, we consider throughout the semester a series of open-ended questions about the institutional and systemic relationship—if any—of law, lawyers, and lawyering to society, progress, and justice. Importantly, this cultivation of integrative practice and collaborative professionalism includes sustained critical attention to advanced knowledges, values, skills, and attitudes (KVSAs) generally recognized as essential for effective practice, and for synergistic teamwork, across multiple sources of social, situational, professional or inter-personal difference—any or all of which can seriously affect the dynamics of change and the prospects for progress. Upon completion of this introductory course, all students should possess a substantive, sophisticated, and self-critical understanding of the cross-disciplinary, multi-cultural, and inter-active KVSAs needed for high-impact social-change lawyering in varied practice settings; interested students should thereby also be well-prepared for follow-up courses in the Social Justice Concentration and, ultimately, to pursue various kinds of public interest careers successfully after graduation.


Course Schedule
Dates Day Time Room
01-17-2017 - 04-25-2017   WF  11:00 AM-12:20 PM A110

Course Frequency
Occasional course offering

Course Information

Credits: 3
Pass/Fail Option: No
Prerequisite:
Grading: Graded
Method of Evaluation: Because advance preparation, timeliness, consistent attendance, and thoughtful participation are important aspects of legal education and hallmarks of successful professionalism in law practice, course grades are based on three areas of individual and group performance: (1) weekly hands-on exercises, (2) consistent professionalism and participation throughout the course, and (3) final group projects with individual presentations at the end of the semester.
Graduation Requirements Fulfilled By Course:
Writing Requirement
Special Attributes: None
Special Restrictions: Upper Level Section only!
Law Track(s):
Government & Regulation - Related
Social Justice - Related
Bar Subject(s): None
Concentration(s):
Social Justice & Public Interest (Area of Focus)   More information
Social Justice & Public Interest (Concentration)   More information

View Book Information  
Professor(s)

VALDES, FRANK


Biography
Contact Information:
Email: fvaldes@law.miami.edu
Phone: (305)284-1780
Office: G369

HILL, JENNIFER


Biography
Contact Information:
Email: jhill@law.miami.edu
Phone: (305)284-4318
Office: D339