A message from the Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic Executive Director
I had the privilege to join Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic as its inaugural executive director this semester, shortly before the spread of Covid 19 dispersed us all to remote work locations. While the stay at home orders have made our work more challenging, the need for our work has never been greater.
The pandemic and its shelter-in-place response have exposed, in a life-and-death way, the underlying systemic inequities long faced by the communities our clinics serve. Our clients need our support more than ever, with the fear of medical and economic risks compounding any already-existing legal problems.
Court closures and the inability to travel or meet in person have made our work more difficult at the same time it is more urgent. But we are not standing down. Our students, staff and faculty have kicked into emergency gear to come up with ever more creative solutions. Within days of the shelter-in-place order our teams had adapted to virtual case meetings and remote hearings, set up complex systems of phone trees to make sure our clients could reach their legal teams, and even developed the ability to conduct full mediations online, complete with virtual breakout rooms. When our teams found themselves literally locked out of the courthouse, they fought in novel ways to ensure our clients could be heard. In addition to legal representation, our teams have led advocacy efforts to ensure our clients’ voices are heard by decision makers on issues such as education, juvenile detention and immigration.
Over the past two weeks, two students from separate clinics remarked that from participating in these efforts, the lesson they’ll carry with them is that in a crisis they must remember to think not just of their own and their individual clients’ needs, but also to attack the greater injustice affecting similarly situated clients.
In my first few months as part of the LLS community I have been humbled by the community’s strong spirit of generosity and commitment to justice. Many departments across campus, from technology, facilities, communications, finance, and more, have played integral roles in keeping our operations going. And students from outside the clinics have asked how they can help respond to the crisis. There is no doubt that the need for access to quality legal service will be even greater as the months go on, as today’s confusion and over temporary renter and worker protections and stimulus relief measures give way to anxiety when these measures expire. We are working to create more student opportunities, during the summer and beyond, to help fill this gap and inspire more students to carry these lessons with them.
As we reach the end of the 19-20 academic year, I hope you’re as proud as I am of what we’ve all accomplished together and of the graduates we will send into the world to seek justice.