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First In Nation Collaboration: NY State Courts and CUNY Law School Pilot “LaunchPad For Justice”

November 13, 2009

In a first of its kind collaboration in the nation, the New York State Courts and CUNY School of Law will pilot “LaunchPad for Justice,” an initiative that will jumpstart the careers of new CUNY Law graduates and provide much needed legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. In addition, the Courts will gain another cadre of volunteer attorneys, supporting its efforts at efficient administration of justice.

Chief Judge Lippman said, “I am pleased to announce this important partnership, the benefits of which will be numerous and far reaching. LaunchPad for Justice will provide CUNY Law School graduates the chance to build their resumes with real-world experience; the courts additional aid in dealing with heavy caseloads; and low-income New Yorkers engaged with the court system the legal counsel they desperately need.”

Twelve recent CUNY Law graduates, who are waiting for admission to the New York State Bar, will set up shop in an office at one of New York’s County Courthouses at 80 Centre Street. The graduates will be trained and supervised by practicing CUNY Law Alumni and Court employed attorneys to represent clients in civil matters.

Stepping into new territory, practice orders signed by the Appellate Division Second Department on October 28, 2009 and Appellate Division First Department in November, 2009 will enable LaunchPad participants to appear in Civil Court as “Lawyers for a Day” prior to receiving admission to the Bar. “We have complete confidence in CUNY Law LaunchPad Access to Justice Fellows,” said Judge Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts and Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program. The school’s intensive clinic program has primed them to work with litigants and to quickly grasp the skills they need to be effective in court. Their efforts will go far in helping those without access to legal representation.”

The LaunchPad will focus on housing law, an area that affects thousands of low-income New Yorkers in need of legal assistance. “Providing legal representation to underserved communities is central to our mission,” said Michelle Anderson, Dean of the Law School. “This collaboration with the Courts is an amazing opportunity to increase access to justice and make grads more experienced in a tough job market. We are committed to supporting our graduates as they transition into their careers.”

The six-month pilot program dovetails with the highly successful “Lawyer for the Day project established by Judge Fisher’s office in 2006. The Lawyer for the Day program allows volunteer attorneys, trained by the Court, to provide “unbundled” legal services to meet the immense unmet legal needs of low-income New Yorkers. Unbundled legal services mean that lawyers provide some, rather than all, legal services.

“Unbundling allows our grads to target clients’ most pressing needs,” said Fred Rooney, Director of CUNY Law ‘s Community Legal Resource Network (CLRN), an initiative that connects CUNY Law alum solo practitioners in a community of peer support. Moreover, he said, “The LaunchPad benefits are doubled since our grads are trained and supervised by both Court employed attorneys and by CLRN attorneys,” he added.

To broaden its support to the New York State Courts and to New York’s communities, CUNY Law’s CLRN attorneys who are being trained in an incubator setting will join LaunchPad participants in taking on housing Lawyer for the Day cases. CLRN Incubator attorneys are being trained in bread and butter legal issues to allow them to practice law in underserved communities. “This innovative program allows us to play an expansive role through education and practice in making a difference in the courts and in New York City,” said Dean Anderson.

Legislative funds for LaunchPad for Justice were obtained through the efforts of New York State Assemblymen Adriano Espaillat and Hakeem Jeffries of the 72nd and 57th Districts, respectively. While this pilot program will initially cover legal services for Assesmbly Members Espaillat’s and Jeffries’ constituent areas of Washington Heights, Inwood, Fort Green and Bedford Stuyvesant, we anticipate providing these services throughout the city of New York.

Fred Rooney, Director, CUNY Law Community Legal Resource Network (484) 554 4492
Kali Holloway, Deputy Director (212) 428-2500

ABOUT CUNY School of Law:
Based in Queens, NY, CUNY School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. It trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. CUNY Law consistently ranks among the top 10 law schools in the country in clinical education and has been recognized as being one of the top ten public interest law schools nationwide. Its pedagogy has been heralded by the Carnegie Foundation for its integration of theory and practice. The Princeton Review ranks CUNY Law as having the fourth most diverse law faculty in the nation. It also ranks CUNY Law in the top ten in the nation for best professors, most welcoming to older students, and most liberal student body.


Related Categories: CLRN, General News

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