University of Pennsylvania Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Pennsylvania
November 1, 2001
A collaboration between a grassroots welfare rights organization, the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), and a law school clinic that I direct at the City University of New York School of Law (CUNY) offers an experience of social mobilization and law reform.
This Article examines a collaboration between a grassroots welfare rights organization, the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), and a law school clinic that I direct at the City University of New York School of Law (CUNY). Both WRI and the CUNY clinic came into being in response to draconian welfare policies imposed by New York City in the mid-1990s–policies that, among other unfortunate consequences, forced thousands of welfare mothers to drop out of the City University of New York and abandon their pursuit of a college degree. Over the past several years, this joint venture has provided rights education and legal representation to large numbers of individuals, organized grassroots pressure for more humane social welfare policies, and sought, with some success, legislative reforms at the state and local levels.
I present this collaboration as a case study of a purposefully structured, mutually reinforcing interaction between legal advocacy, law reform, and grassroots activism in the poverty context. What emerges from this localized experience is a fluid, multidirectional relationship between social mobilization and law reform, in which each activity can catalyze and in turn be amplified by the other. The WRI activists, the clinic interns, and the individual clients collaborated not solely through case-specific advocacy, but also through group-based transactional approaches, and in ways that reconfigure and redefine the traditional hierarchy of lawyer-client relations. I do not suggest that these very particular and contingent experiences support any firm claims or overarching conclusions. The more modest hope is that this case study might contribute incrementally to the knowledge base of social justice practitioners and help illuminate the relationship between law reform and social activism.
PUBLICATION DETAILSFormat: Research
Publication Type: Journal Article
Geographic coverage, US: NATIONAL, New York
Topics: Social Change
Case type: Income Maintenance
Who Served: Women
How Provided: Law School Clinics
Permalink URL of this page: http://legalaidresearch.org/?p=3914