A win/win program, “LaunchPad for Justice,” will provide legal representation to low-income New Yorkers and help begin the careers of new CUNY Law graduates, thanks to the collaboration of CUNY School of Law and the New York State (NYS) Courts.
“I am pleased to announce this important partnership, the benefits of which will be numerous and far reaching,” said Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “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.”
As the first program of its kind, LaunchPad will run for six months and will also focus on housing law, an area that affects thousands of low-income New Yorkers needing legal assistance. In October, 12 recent CUNY Law graduates, who are also anticipating admission to the NYS Bar, started training with the supervision of practicing CUNY Law alumni and court employed attorneys to represent clients in civil cases.
“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.”
The program also coincides with the “Lawyer for the Day” project, which allows volunteer attorneys trained by the Court to provide “unbundled” (some, not all) legal services to help meet the extensive legal needs of New Yorkers.
Fred Rooney, Director of CUNY Law’s Community Legal Resource Network (CLRN), an ambition that links CUNY Law alum in a community of peer support, also said that “unbundling allows our grads to target clients’ most pressing needs” and that “LaunchPad benefits are doubled since our grads are trained and supervised by both court employed attorneys and by CLRN attorneys.”
“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,” said Judge Fern Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts and Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program. “Their efforts will go far in helping those without access to legal representation.”
LaunchPad is made possible through legislative funds acquired through the endeavors of NYS Assemblymembers Adriano Espaillat and Hakeem Jeffries of the 72nd and 57th Districts. Although this pilot program will primarily cover legal services for the areas of Washington Heights, Inwood, Fort Green and Bedford Stuyvesant, these services are anticipated throughout New York City.
“This innovative program allows us to play an extensive role through education and practice in making a difference in the courts and in New York City,” said Anderson.