Breaking down barriers to justice in Washington
In support of the landmark effort, UW School of Law students are making significant impacts through multiple opportunities available at the law school.
Mario L. Barnes, UW Law Toni Rembe Dean and professor of law, spoke at the Alliance’s board meeting this winter.
“UW Law’s approach to improving access to legal services is founded on the institutional belief that members of the legal community have an obligation to reduce barriers to access to justice,” Dean Barnes said.
This is accomplished through four main ways: student pro bono work; experiential learning, which comprises the clinical law and externship programs; and the law school’s participation in the Washington State Bar Association Moderate Means program.
UW Law’s approach to improving access to legal services is founded on the institutional belief that members of the legal community have an obligation to reduce barriers to access to justice.Dean Barnes
Learn how students are breaking down barriers in service of UW Law’s mission alongside stated goals of the 2018–2020 State Plan.
2018–2020 STATE PLAN FOR THE COORDINATED DELIVERY OF CIVIL LEGAL AID TO LOW-INCOME PEOPLE
Formed in 2004, the Alliance for Equal Justice comprises dozens of organizations throughout the state of Washington committed to supporting and providing legal aid to low-income, vulnerable, and marginalized individuals and communities.
Its 2018–2020 State Plan outlines five goals guiding the overall strategy: promote and foster race equity; provide clients with legal education to understand when their problem is legal in nature; increase access for underserved and underrepresented communities; develop and increase holistic client-centered services; and engage in systemic advocacy.
Read the plan in full to take a deeper dive into the goals, strategies and tactics.
WILLIAM H. GATES PUBLIC SERVICE LAW PROGRAM
The Gates Public Service Program is law school’s central hub for public service and public interest law. It aims to educate, empower and inspire students, graduates and the law school community to incorporate public service, equity and inclusion into their lives and careers.
The program facilitates numerous on- and off-campus events, serving as a critical link between the school and the Pacific Northwest public interest legal community. In 2019, hundreds of students took part in various events, which trained students on issues including implicit bias, professionalism, equity and “movement lawyering.”
Students also receive opportunities to foster access to justice through the law school’s Pro Bono Program.
This past year, 32 students received public interest law fellowships supporting summer work that promotes equitable access to justice for underrepresented communities in Washington and beyond. Collectively, students provided nearly 8,000 pro bono hours in 2018–19.
The Gates Public Service Law Program also supports a number of student organizations engaged in public interest law work, such as the Center for Human Rights and Justice.
CLINICAL LAW PROGRAM
UW Law offers 11 in-house clinics that provide free legal services to disadvantaged communities, including two more offered through an exchange with Seattle University. UW Law clinics currently have more than 550 open cases.
In particular, the Race and Justice Clinic actively works to disrupt systemic over-representation of youth of color in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems through direct representation and systemic advocacy.
These efforts include representing youth before the Clemency and Pardons Board, providing community education workshops and conducting collaborative research to spark change.
Similarly, students in the Immigration Clinic represent clients involved in immigration cases in administrative hearings before the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and Immigration Court, principally at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.
The clinic prioritizes representation of detained persons who may be applying for asylum or other forms of relief from deportation, with students serving as first-chair counsel under the clinic director’s supervision.
Public service externships find students getting out of the classroom and into the field, handling real-world legal work under the supervision of an attorney-mentor.
Through a variety of externship opportunities, students develop legal skills and substantive knowledge of the law, solve legal problems in high-stakes situations, and learn what life as a lawyer is really like.
In 2018–19, 22 students served 20 different organizations, contributing a total of 5,100 pro bono hours.
WSBA MODERATE MEANS PROGRAM
The UW Moderate Means Program is the flagship pro bono program for UW Law students, who provide legal assistance to clients within 200–400% of the federal poverty level.
The effort is part of the statewide Washington State Bar Association Moderate Means Program.
In 2018–19, 42 students participated in the program, as part of which they pulled viable cases, conducted intake interviews and connected potential clients with pro bono attorneys — a network some 500 strong.
Over that same period, the program notched 191 intakes, resolved 360 cases and referred 104 more.
Since its inception eight years ago, the Moderate Means Program has helped hundreds of clients with legal advice, representation they could not otherwise afford and clarity on navigating the legal system.