Law School Partnership Project
What is the Law School Partnership Project (LSPP)?
Fifty years ago a movement of young people changed the world. Thanks to these committed, idealistic reformers, and the institutions that supported them, basic civil rights were realized in the areas of voting rights, education, and employment. But our work is not finished. The greatest civil and human rights abuses of our time continue in the American criminal justice system. And these injustices, suffered by the most vulnerable among us, are disproportionately concentrated in the South. Public defenders, meant to be the ultimate guardians of our Constitution, have been overwhelmed and beaten down. Poor people are routinely processed through a mechanical criminal justice system without an advocate to ensure our system lives up to its ideals. The result is that lives are destroyed, families torn apart, and communities decimated. Without the meaningful right to counsel, all other rights are left unrealized and the promise of equal justice left unfulfilled.
Now is the time for law schools to join Gideon’s Promise, before another generation watches as the right to counsel becomes an even more distant aspiration.
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s guarantee of the hallowed right to counsel1, it is incumbent upon those of us who lead the legal profession to finally make this mandate a reality. Since 2007, Gideon’s Promise has been grooming the next generation of public defenders who are raising the standard of representation every day in courthouses across the South and becoming tomorrow’s leaders who will finally drive the reform movement needed to making Gideon a reality. What started as sixteen passionate young defenders from two public defender offices has evolved into over 200 defenders from thirteen states, and over 30 partner-offices. They are doing the profession’s most important work on the front lines – where change begins! This community of recent law graduates represent this generation’s Civil Rights Movement.
Before Gideon’s Promise, public defender offices in the South were not viable career options for law students seeking careers in public defense. Before Gideon’s Promise, many offices in the region did not look beyond their own communities to hire lawyers. Because of Gideon’s Promise, law students across the country are eager to join this growing public defender movement in the South and defender offices in the region are excited to recruit the best future public defenders nationally. Together we can populate public defender offices where the need is greatest with the country’s most dedicated prospects…but there is a challenge.
Graduating law students need a job offer in hand by early Spring of their third year, early enough to allow them to meet Bar exam registration deadlines. Southern offices, facing the challenges of heavy caseloads and limited resources, are not able to leave positions unfilled for several months while qualified law students finish their third year and go through the process of getting licensed to practice. As a result, despite an army of law students eager to join the community we are building, and many public defender offices anxious to employ them, graduates who could help transform indigent defense are unable to do so.
What Law Schools Can Do
In 2013, we launched the Law School Partnership Program to help us build partnerships between Gideon’s Promise, our partner public defender offices and law schools committed to justice. We are asking law schools to support their graduates for up to one year. In return, Gideon’s Promise will place the graduate in a Gideon’s Promise partner public defender office and provide three-years of training through our CORE 101 Program. The partner public defender office will guarantee that within the first year, the graduate will be moved into a full-time position. Therefore, by providing support up front, law schools can help their graduates secure permanent employment, acquire the training and support they need, and join a transformative movement as important as any in the legal profession.
INAUGURAL LSPP 2013 – 2014 YEAR WAS A HUGE SUCCESS
The kick-off year for the Gideon’s Promise LSPP was a huge success for our partner law schools, southern partner public defender offices, and over a dozen 2014 law school graduates! A total of 10 schools partnered with Gideon’s Promise along with our 9 partner public defender offices to place a total of 15 fellows from across the country. To learn more about this exciting inaugural LSPP year, please read the press release here.
2014 LSPP Participants:
American University Washington College of Law
George Washington University Law School
Harvard Law School
Berkeley Law School
- Gideon’s Promise Announces 2014 Law School Partnership Program Recipients (June 24, 2014)
- Gideon’s Promise Announces 2014 Law School Partnership Project Program Recipients (June 24, 2014)
- Gideon’s Promise Announces Law School Partnership Program (June 24, 2014)
- Gideon’s Promise Announces 2014 Law School Partnership Program Recipients (June 23, 2014)
- BU Law to Award New Fellowship to Students to Work as Public Defenders (Feb. 19, 2014)
- Crime Report: (Sheldon Krantz mentions LSPP as innovative solution to public defender crisis (February 12, 2014)
- Chicago Daily Law Bulletin A Promise That Won’t Be Broke (January 10, 2014)
- Diverse Education: Law Schools Evolve to Meet Social, Economic Changes (January 2, 2014)
- The National Law Journal: Chicago Law Schools Join Public Defender Project (December 30, 2013)
- New Orleans City Business: Nonprofit Tries to Boost Public Defender Ranks (December 4, 2013)
- The National Law Journal: Program Designed to Place Grads in Southern Public Defender Offices (December 3, 2013)
1 On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court decision in the landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright, held that under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, legal counsel is to be provided in criminal cases for defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys.