UB offers summer course on Lawyers as Agents of Social Change

Published June 28, 2012 at 6:31 PM

“In this course, part of the university’s Extension Learning Experience, students will learn how lawyers, jurists and legislators use the law as a tool to implement social change.”
Monica Wallace, Lecturer in Law
SUNY Buffalo Law School

Young people dedicated to changing their world will have the chance to see how a legal degree and legal expertise can lead to meaningful social change in a new inter-disciplinary summer program held at the Chautauqua Institution.

The seminar, “Lawyers as Agents for Social Change” scheduled for Aug. 22-26, brings UB faculty together with other distinguished speakers to explore the role lawyers can have on changing policy and stepping into the role of agents of social change in today’s society.

“In this course, part of the university’s Extension Learning Experience, students will learn how lawyers, jurists and legislators use the law as a tool to implement social change,” says Monica Piga Wallace, lead faculty member and professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School. “We will examine how desired outcomes can be achieved using legislation, litigation and negotiation.”

A small number of students – enrollment is limited to 12 — will visit the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. There they will examine the impact Justice Jackson has on American law as attorney general, justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and as chief prosecutor for the U.S. during the historic Nuremberg War Trials.

“To amplify this unique learning experience,” Wallace says, “students will reside at one of America’s crowning cultural jewels, the Chautauqua Institution in Jamestown.”

The cost to participate is $1,400, and includes transportation, lodging, meals and admission fees to the Chautauqua Institution. To register, students can visit the Lawyers as Agents of Social Change website. The deadline to register is Wednesday, July 20.

View a video on the project.

The first-time summer seminar targets high school students and college undergraduates considering a law career or others interested in how legal training can bring about meaningful change in society and government, according to Hadar Borden, administrative director of undergraduate academies whose organization was instrumental in establishing the Extension Learning Experience. The summer program is a coordinated effort between UB’s Undergraduate Academies and the Law School.

“Students are fascinated by human rights issues and social justice,” Borden says. “This experience allows students to explore how lawyers serve as guardians of human rights, and how lawyers use the law as a tool to implement social change. Students will learn how a career in law can equip them to effect social change at the local, national and international levels.”

“This opportunity allows students to explore the law as a vehicle for social change from many perspectives and to explore relationships between lawyers, jurists, citizens, and the community,” says Bernadette Gargano, also lead faculty member and professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School. “This extended learning experience will be particularly special because we will explore the interrelationships among local, national, and global legal systems, which are, in the end, meant to positively influence the rights of those governed by them, the people.”

Among the highlights of the program are:

– The small number of students enrolled in the Lawyers as Agents for Social Change will have the chance to engage with distinguished professors who share their social change interest in a small, personal setting.

– The summer course focuses on one-on-one opportunities to study the ways lawyers have triggered social change and explore the paths these students can aim for this service.

– The program provides an excellent background to enroll in this fall’s Discovery Seminar, in which students will explore the role of lawyers as agents of social change in the Civil Rights Movement.

– The course includes a tour of a New York State Supreme Courthouse, where those in the class will watch a court proceeding, interact with judges and court personnel and discuss roles and duties with court officials.

– Several guests lectures, including Professor Douglas Neckers, scholar and scientist who has studied the Nuremberg Trials, and Professor John Q. Barrett, a legal historian, biographer of Justice Robert H. Jackson, and professor of law at St. John’s University School of Law. Staying at the Chautauqua Institution also gives students access to the center’s full program of lectures and exhibits. Chautauqua Institution also has swimming, sailing, golf, tennis, kayaking, hiking, a fitness center, and a full compliment of theatrical and music shows, making the Institution what visitors have called a “full service vacation stop for body, mind and spirit.”

– Students will also tour the Robert H. Jackson Center and learn about the life and legacy of Jackson, Supreme Court Justice and lead prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials.

“We are bringing a profession to life,” Borden says. “This can be a game-changer for students. We encourage students to develop a competitive profile so that they have a story to share in personal statements and interviews.

“This will be a story, the inspiring moment when it all clicked. I think we all can identify a time in our undergraduate experience when it all finally clicked – the ‘ah ha’ moment.”