Law in Contemporary Society

Planning My Practice

The Secret of Cook v. Raimondo

After San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, confronting property tax-based school finance systems seemed impossible. In his dissent, Justice Thurgood Marshall insinuated that there is a fundamental right to education embedded in the Constitution. In an attempt to revisit this issue, the Center for Education Equity at the Teacher’s College has partnered with parent-student school groups to file Cook v. Raimondo. As monumental as this case is, it has not achieved the same level of national support as the movement toward abolishing the school-to-prison pipeline supported by movement lawyers Jim and Alexi Freeman. Source. There are comparatively few community-based organizations openly advocating for the fundamental right to education, very little media attention has been paid to the case and surrounding issues, and the nationwide community of students and teachers are generally unaware of this case. Without community-based support soon, any positive outcome from the litigation may resemble the disappointing and ineffective solutions following Brown v. Board of Education.

A Model for my Practice

Lawyers play a key role in maximizing communities’ power through legal education and support. The Freemans describe some key attributes of a successful movement lawyer from their endeavors to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. First, this lawyer must have a sophisticated understanding of the power landscape around particular issues within each of our communities. Thereafter, they must link their work with organizing, strategic communications, and grassroots-led policy advocacy strategies. A movement lawyer further understands the sources of their opponent’s power and how it compares to the power within the communities they serve to identify methods to reshape those dynamics. In every source from which a community derives its power, there is a legal contribution which can be made in support of the movement. The Freeman’s examples include research on legal and policy contexts, facilitating lobbying visits, negotiation assistance, performing outreach through legal networks, educating members on legal rights, and filing legal complaints.

Planning My Practice

On What Issues Will I Focus?

Using the Freeman’s practice as a model, the first focus area I would like to introduce in my practice involves movement lawyering for the fundamental right to education. This focus might involve performing legal outreach to support groups across the country, educating community members on their existing legal rights to an adequate education, filing legal complaints or documentation for public assembly, and representing students and teachers. Another area that intrigues me is mental health law, especially because of its close relationship with education. I would imagine that this portion of my practice would demand direct client services rather than the skills associated with movement lawyering. Similarly, I have developed an interest in copyright law, especially as it relates to free use and educational materials, and I suspect that this aspect of my practice will depend on direct client services.

Where Will I Host My Practice?

There are a number of reasons why locating my practice in New Y0rk is favorable. For one, the Center for Education Equity at Columbia University is deeply involved in Cook v. Raimondo. If my goal is to embolden grassroots supporters of the fundamental right to education, it would be helpful to be located close to the center of the movement. Additionally, my professional network will most likely be strongest in New York City, though I could expand the “location” of my network by reaching out to lawyers and legal organizations elsewhere. Generally, I think that my practice will best be located in New York City when I initially graduate, but I may venture to Washington, D.C. for the purpose of being closer to policymakers. The consequences of the pandemic, though, lead me to believe that the location of my practice may remain flexible.

How Can Law School Prepare Me and Who Will Help Me?

The most obvious benefits of law school stem from the classes I choose to take. By merely allowing my interests to guide me, the law school can provide me with a basic understanding of the concepts I need to know. Classes like Mental Health Law, Copyright Law, and Planning Your Practice, for instance, are the most logical choices for expanding my basic legal understandings. Outside of the law school, too, it would likely be to my benefit to take courses at the Teachers’ College related to education policy and the law. In addition, professors and career counselors at the law school can provide guidance on how I might plan my practice. Meeting with professors at office hours or for coffee over Zoom has proven beneficial. It is my goal to continue relying on professors whom I trust and with whom I have had positive conversations to support me. Academic advisors at SJI have also clarified much of my confusion regarding the legal profession and my place in it. Finally, I have found a reliable network of students and practicing education lawyers through Columbia’s Education Law and Policy Society. While I was told by other students that dedication to a club can be a “waste of time,” I have found it to be one of the most informational experiences. I intend to continue to rely on this group to grow my network and learn more about my role in the law.

How Much Do I Need This Practice to Make?

I often struggle with this question, mostly because I fear that I am expecting too much from a public interest practice. Yet I am also very aware of the fact that this work is difficult, I will have a highly desirable degree upon graduation, and I want to be able to support a family with children. This is precisely the question that places my different personae at odds. If I set aside my concerns, I would be happy if I were able to provide for myself an annual salary around $100,000 after 10 years of dedication to my practice. I am unsure if this is an ambitious goal, but I have another two years to make adjustments along the way, if need be.

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r8 - 12 May 2021 - 19:56:21 - SarahBrand
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