Justice Lab

Taught by: Professor Colleen Shanahan

Justice Lab represents client organizations (including community groups, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies) in a range of systemic advocacy matters. Students develop and advance policy campaigns, design and pilot legal services and access to justice programs, draft legislation and provide legislative advocacy tools, and act as problem solvers and strategic planners. Through this social justice advocacy, Justice Lab students develop expertise in finding creative solutions to legal problems, reflect on the complex social and political aspects of legal problems, and develop strengths in interviewing, research and information gathering, policy, legislative, and strategic analysis, written and oral advocacy, collaboration, project planning and management, professional ethics, negotiation, and media advocacy skills.

In 2017, Justice Lab received the Clinical Legal Education Association’s Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, a national award recognizing one law clinic project each year.  The award recognized Justice Lab’s investigation and advocacy campaign that ended Philadelphia’s decades-long practice of suing, and garnishing the wages of, working poor parents following a child’s incarceration.  You can read more about the juvenile incarceration costs project and watch the NBC News story featuring Justice Lab student Wes Stevenson.

Recent Justice Lab projects have addressed affordable housing, cash bail reform, forensic science reform, and traffic court reform for returning citizens.  Our clients have included Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Montgomery County Public Defender Office, Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, Redeemed PA, and the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project.  You can read more about these projects, access Justice Lab reports, and read press coverage on our News & Publications page.

FOR STUDENTS

Justice Lab students work closely with the clinic director, colleagues, clients, and community members.  Students participate in a classroom component that addresses the theoretical and substantive bases of Justice Lab’s work.  Classroom sessions are also an opportunity to reflect on ongoing client representation, and provide classroom skill development in support of client work, including interviewing, research and information gathering, policy, legislative, and strategic analysis, written and oral advocacy, collaboration, project planning and management, professional ethics, negotiation, and media advocacy skills.

Justice Lab is 6 credits: 2 graded; 4 pass/fail.  Enrollment is by application only.  Interested students should contact Professor Shanahan for more information.

FOR POTENTIAL CLIENT ORGANIZATIONS

Justice Lab considers potential client organizations on an ongoing basis.  We work with clients to shape the scope of our work to fit a single semester (August-December or January-May).  If your organization is interested in becoming a client of Justice Lab, please contact Professor Shanahan.