Addressing Racism in the Legal System and Our Community
The motto of Fordham Law is “In the Service of Others.” We are committed to addressing racial injustice while responding to the needs of directly impacted individuals. Through our Public Interest Resource Center, we have 22 student-led pro bono projects dedicated to advancing social justice. Our prominent centers and institutes, many of which focus on issues relating to racial justice, include the Center on Race, Law and Justice, already a national leader in the field. These initiatives provide faculty, students, and alumni with a wide range of growing opportunities to actively engage in the struggle for racial justice. While racism intersects with all of our ongoing public service work, there is an urgent need to expand our work to specifically address racism in policing and the criminal justice system.
Action Items and Status
Augment Race and Justice Programming
Launched a webinar series in June 2020 through the Center on Race, Law and Justice and the Leitner Center that attracted hundreds of attendees. The series is continuing throughout the year (learn more). Additionally, the Law School presented the following discussions on race and the law:
Pursue Economic Justice and Educational Equity Work Through the Feerick Center
Help lead advocacy efforts in New York City and New York State via the Feerick Center for Social Justice. Work with consumer rights advocates and court officials to promote more equitable policies and practices related to consumer debt collection actions, especially in light of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on communities of color. Serve New York City residents facing debt collection in the courts through one of the Feerick Center’s signature programs—CLARO, Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office. Become involved with the Center’s Civics Education and Pipeline to Law School Initiative. Work with public middle-school educators to inspire students to consider legal careers and learn, in creative and experiential ways, about core democratic and civics principles. Engage in advocacy to address the structural causes of racial segregation in New York City’s public schools. The Center’s focus is on high school admissions, which affects over 80,000 school children a year. The Center has issued two reports, most recently in May of 2020 in light of the impact of COVID on the application process:
Screened Out: The Lack of Access to NYC Screened Program Admissions Criteria
Public Schools, Public Oversight: Principles and Policy Recommendations During COVID-19 and Beyond
Consider applying for the Amanda Rose Laura Foundation Education Law Fellowship to further advance the Center’s educational equity policy and reform efforts. A new fellowship opportunity is forthcoming to strengthen the Center’s CLARO work.
Focus on Racial Justice Via Public Interest Resource Center (PIRC) Student Groups
Focus on anti-racism work via our vibrant student-run student groups/pro bono projects. PIRC Student Leaders have committed to an added focus on, and commitment to, racial justice. As part of Public Service Day during 1L Orientation, our Domestic Violence Action Center organized a project focused on advocacy for Black women experiencing domestic violence. Throughout the year, our Fordham National Lawyers Guild is continuing its Critical Race Theory programs on the 1L curriculum. Many groups are engaged in a diversity, equity, and inclusion student-run survey to inform actionable next steps. Anti-racism trainings and programming are central to the work of these groups. As we move forward, there is an emphasis on the continual need to fight for racial justice in all of the pro bono work we do.
Advocate for Economic Empowerment Through Fordham Law’s Clinics
Foster collaboration between the Community Economic Development Clinic students and Law for Black Lives (L4BL), the legal arm of Movement for Black Lives, and other partner organizations, like National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA). Among NBFJA’s many initiatives is promoting and supporting Black land ownership (primarily in the South), a crucial aspect of Black empowerment, as property ownership is deeply connected to American ideals and shown to be a major factor in financial stability and wealth accumulation. In addition, promote collaboration between Entrepreneurial Law Clinic students and Start Small Think Big, which helps under-resourced entrepreneurs build wealth by creating successful businesses in underserved communities. The Entrepreneurial Law Clinic helps many entrepreneurs of color navigate challenging legal issues, get access to capital, and address COVID-19 issues.
Support and Grow the Center on Race, Law and Justice
Made a commitment to supporting and growing the Center on Race, Law and Justice. In October 2020, Microsoft announced its donation of $390,000 to support the center’s efforts around policing and technology.
Support the Enhanced Programming from the Alumni Attorneys of Color (AAC)
Support efforts to build and strengthen the organization and augment programming to better serve alumni of color. In June 2020, AAC launched a new series of webinars, “A Series for AAC by AAC: How to Survive and Advance During Challenging Times,” focused on how attorneys of color have succeeded in their careers and overcome professional challenges. Select alumni will be invited to participate in the commissioned climate study to identify key priorities for engagement.
Support Career Development for Diverse Law Students Historically Underrepresented in the Legal Profession
The Career Planning Center (CPC) has partnered with affinity groups to provide programming on career-related topics. In particular, the CPC co-sponsored a program with Fordham’s Black Law Student Association (open to all of the Law School affinity groups) to provide advice to students on drafting strong personal statements when applying to diversity fellowships. CPC also partnered with the Latin American Law School Students Association on a program introducing resources available to better understand and distinguish various law firm cultures and communities. In November 2020, CPC moderated a program on diversity internships, fellowships, and scholarships at which representatives from Morgan Stanley, Winston & Strawn, and the New York City Bar Association presented. In December 2020, the CPC and the Office of Student Affairs conducted a webinar to prepare students for success in advance of Early Interview Week. Moreover, the CPC collaborated with Fordham First Generation Students (F1Gs) on programming, including a “dress for success” presentation and a speaking engagement by the head of an AmLaw 100 firm on tips for having a successful law career. In addition to law school programming, Fordham participated in the New York City Bar Association Diversity Fellowship Program by sending a cohort of five finalists in February 2021 for consideration for placement at various law firms and in-house positions. Further, CPC keeps students informed of diversity fellowships, scholarships, and professional-development opportunities sponsored by law firms.