The Access to Justice Practicum funds outstanding recent law graduates to work for one year at members of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, tackling systemic problems facing poor and marginalized communities in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. It creates a new channel to diverse public interest law careers, providing participants (“Practitioners”) with hands-on experience and support, including a one-week intensive training program during the year.
The Practicum seeks over time to transform the nature of legal services available to high-needs people across Latin America. Legal education in the region is formal, not practical, and many people lack access to justice. The Practicum will give starting lawyers the opportunity to pursue careers in the public interest.
Partners & Projects
In Colombia, Fundación Pro Bono Colombia will host the Practicum. The Foundation provides representation in individual cases, as well as strategic litigation and structural social-impact projects, including in education and research. The Practitioner will set up a medical-legal partnership, providing legal services at clinics and hospitals to address the social determinants of health and difficulties in accessing health services. Evidence from other countries reveals that such partnerships can yield great benefits for patients’ health and well-being.
The Pro Bono and Public Interest Committee, an initiative of the City of Buenos Aires Bar Association, will host the Practicum in Argentina. With expertise in disability rights, children’s rights and non-profit law, it plans to develop a partnership to support the legal needs of beneficiaries of the Live Network Association (“Asociación Red Viva”, in Spanish), which serves children and adolescents who experience sexual violence and abuse.
In Mexico, Fundación Barra Mexicana, which assists poor communities, and the Centro Mexicano Pro Bono, which targets non-profit organizations, social entrepreneurs, and small businesses, will co-host the Practicum. The project will focus on strengthening pro bono services to victims of gender-based violence by developing a toolbox of legal and advocacy skills necessary for effective pro bono representation of such cases.
The Access to Justice Practicum is funded by the private sector, including law firms and corporations, through sponsorship of individual attorneys for a one-year period. Funders help to select the Practitioners and also can participate in planning and conducting the public interest law training program. This initiative has been launched with the support of the Chubb Rule of Law Fund.
General Electric, through its legal department’s diversity council, led the sponsorships, bringing along Colombian law firm Brigard Urrutia. JP Morgan Chase and Accenture in Argentina also committed to sponsorships.
Become a Practitioner
- Graduation from an accredited law school within the past two years, and license to practice law in the jurisdiction where the Practicum will take place
- Demonstrated interest in public interest lawyering, particularly on issues related to the specific project. See the complete description of the projects here.
- Familiarity with the topic of the particular project for each of the countries. See the complete description of the projects here.
- Excellent legal research and writing skills
- Strong oral communication skills
- Strong external relationship building with emotional intelligence and persuasive communications
- Team spirit, including ease of working with colleagues and partners from varied backgrounds and collaborating in virtual groups
- Strong organizational skills and ability to work quickly and well under pressure, to manage multiple tasks, and to meet tight deadlines
- Strong digital technology and social media knowledge and skills
- Diversity criteria will be taken into consideration
- Compensation will be set based on credentials and experience.
- Practitioners will be hired for one year by the local clearinghouse.
- Applications will be reviewed by a panel from the Vance Center, local clearinghouse and partners-donors.
Support the program
The success of the Access to Justice Practicum will depend on the support of committed donors. Each donation will enable the Vance Center to fund outstanding young lawyers and their host organizations, thus helping low-income people secure access to justice. Donations can be designated for particular projects or hosts or the Practicum generally.
- Can I propose my own project?
No. At least initially, the projects will be designed by the Vance Center in collaboration with participating host organizations.
- Who selects the practitioners? What role does the host organizations play in the selection process?
The Vance Center will coordinate the selection with the funding partners and the host organizations.
- What does the one-week course entail?
The course will have three stages: 1) “hard” lawyering skills needed in daily practice, including interviewing clients and examining witnesses, working with professionals from other fields during litigation, drafting different types of legal documents, oral advocacy skills, and developing a theory of the case, among other topics; 2) non-legal skills essential to effective public interest advocacy, including human rights monitoring, fact-finding, and reporting and developing collaboration with social justice organizations, as part of a broader theory of change; and 3) soft skills critical to representing vulnerable groups, including training on gender, children’s rights, disability and race discrimination and work with individuals from informal settlements and other communities exposed to high levels of trauma.
- Can I participate in the course if I am not selected as a practitioner?
While participation initially will be limited to Practitioners, it may become open to others based on availability.
- How do I find out more about the details of the Practicum projects?
The description of each of the projects is here
For additional information, please email: email@example.com