Advancing Justice through Legal Social Enterprises

submission by Ngoc.NguyenLA

Organization Name

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ADVANCE

Indicator

Please select the one indicator that is most relevant to your project or organization: Income & Employment

What is your idea and how will it impact your indicator?

:

ADVANCE builds a “Teach for America” for legal reform that produces socially responsible lawyers committed to restoring justice and access to legal services.

An experiential training program to transform how attorneys practice law in L.A., CA, ADVANCE helps millions gain unprecedented access to legal services and lawyers build satisfying careers committed to justice. We train law graduates to become socially responsible attorneys who:

1) deliver legal services through a social enterprise model;
2) make positive changes to a lawyer’s work-life balance; and
3) restore integrity, trust, and access in the justice system for all.

**The Problem**

The outdated practice of law is a major cause of social problems. The justice gap between low to moderate income people and legal services is widespread, and grows as courts and legal nonprofits face budget cuts. In L.A., half of its 10 million residents come to court without a lawyer. Meanwhile, new law grads remain unemployed or enter a dissatisfying profession that is reluctant to help advance legal access.

Currently, legal self-help, nonprofit, and pro bono services have failed to close the justice gap. Public Counsel, Equal Justice Works, Legal Aid, and justice corps provide direct legal services to the poor but lack sustaining forms of revenue and fail to serve a large percentage of the population. Solo practice incubators train lawyers in traditional forms of law practice that ignore social enterprise values. Others, such as DOJ’s Access to Justice, are vulnerable to budget cuts and struggle to attract probono lawyers. Likewise, traditional firms only promote probono assistance and social responsibility as an aside.

**ADVANCE--The Solution**

Our model is the first legal training program that equips lawyers to build careers committed to closing the justice gap and approaches the legal practice as a social enterprise. Based on Harvard’s shared value concept, it dismantles the old law firm model and returns lawyers to the business of service and addressing societal needs and challenges. In the end, ADVANCE not only helps to solve the justice gap by providing access to legal services for the majority of Angelenos, it also helps provide jobs for the nearly 50% of unemployed law school graduates who want to help their community but have no means to do so. In addition, by addressing these two issues facing the legal system, ADVANCE will help alleviate the overcrowding and lack of resources facing Los Angeles court systems.

**The Idea**

A hybrid that places social responsibility at the core of legal services, we create a social enterprise law firm model that trains lawyers to provide affordable and innovative legal services to low and moderate income people.

Consisting of a B corp law firm and training program, new law graduates will enter a 2-year, salaried position to learn how to practice law that advances social responsibility, healing and restored justice. The program includes: trainings; workshops; leadership courses; law practice management courses; mentoring and coaching; online resources; and the creation of easy-access legal “minute clinics” at locations convenient to target populations. At the end, trainees will be equipped to offer holistic legal services in restorative justice, collaborative law, conflict resolution, mediation, and civil and criminal law. Trainees will also learn how to start and manage a law firm that reconnects legal business success with social progress.

Having access to legal representation should never be limited to the rich. Angelenos with low or moderate incomes, or who are unemployed, equally deserve legal representation. ADVANCE delivers justice for this population that has long been left behind. With ADVANCE, the impossible begins to become possible -- a model for justice provided to all.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles? Please be specific.

ADVANCE will serve as a vanguard for the legal profession: inspiring, training, and producing cutting-edge, socially responsible lawyers committed to closing the justice gap in Los Angeles. We help deliver affordable legal services to millions of people, and empower law graduates to become social entrepreneurs and practice law centered in restoring justice.

We focus on three groups affected by the justice system: 1) recent law school graduates; 2) low and moderate income people; and 3) local court systems.

In 10 years, we hope to build a revolution in law that:

1) assists 5 million people currently going unrepresented in court;

2) creates a majority of legal jobs for new law graduates;

3) reduces the number of cases clogging the court system;

and

4) increases the level of job satisfaction and work-life balance among lawyers.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

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ADVANCE is still in its idea stages; however, as mentioned, we have been selected as a semi-finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship, which would fund our organization for the next two years. In addition, one of the organization's founders has seen how her work as a lawyer and social entrepreneur implementing a law firm model identical to ADVANCE's has made positive and lasting changes to low and moderate income people navigating the justice system in L.A. But her experience has been met with challenges when trying to address the needs of a large population. This led her to see potential in creating a training program so legal professionals like her can help people the law is meant to serve.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

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In the first year, we will train 3 new law graduates and serve 500 clients. By year 5, we plan to have 50 socially responsible lawyers graduate from our training program, with 30,000 people served annually.

We also plan to recruit 5 law experts each year for five years to staff the training program. By year 5, we plan to provide training, coaching and mentoring in 6 legal areas: bankruptcy, immigration, consumer law, family law, business law, and civil defense.

Our impact will be measured annually by:

1) # of people served;
2) # of social enterprise law firms launched by alumni of our training program;
3) % reduction of self-represented litigants in the justice system; and
4) data recording clients’ changing attitudes towards the legal system and attorneys.

In 10 years, we hope to:

1) assist 45% of the 5 million people currently going unrepresented in court;

2) create 40% of the legal jobs for new law graduates;

3) reduce by 30% the number of cases clogging the court system; and

4) increase by 50% the level of job satisfaction and work-life balance among lawyers.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

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We plan to work with private and public nonprofits, such as the CA Bar, American Bar Association, Department of Justice, Pro Bono Institute, Taproot Foundation and Public Interest Law Foundation, to garner support for our idea. In addition, we are collaborating with legal experts, scholars, and entrepreneurs across the U.S. that are committed to solving the problems ADVANCE addresses and that promote innovative legal practices such as integrative law and holistic law. Lastly, ADVANCE is a semi-finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship, which has provided more than $31 million in start-up funding to leaders in a variety of sectors to implement bold ideas aimed at affecting social change.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

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Looking back at our measurables, in 2050, we hope that every woman and man in Los Angeles will have a lawyer, no matter their social or economic backgrounds. Access to justice will no longer be a luxury. 100% of the 5 million people currently going unrepresented in court will have legal representation, provided to them by new law graduates who will be equipped and able to serve their community. The court systems will no longer face overcrowding and case overload issues. And lawyers will return to the role they were meant to serve -- stewards of justice.

Discussion
16 Pink-talk-bubble-tail

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Justice is only meaningful if you have access to it. ADVANCE will address numerous issues plaguing the legal system. We need more attorneys for those who can't afford their own lawyer and don't qualify for legal aid. We need more jobs for the numerous graduates who want to help but can't find work. Everyone deserves a legal advocate to help them navigate life's challenges, not just the richest and poorest among us.

by james.gilliam.501
over 1 year ago | Reply

Big support for this program--it will change the way we think about legal education and produce lawyers who will be not only more inspired, but more prepared to take on the social issues we face. Thanks for your work.

by danparziale
over 1 year ago | Reply

Let's broaden the legal playing field, and develop stewardship of justice for all.
ADVANCE aims to give access to legal services and support to everyday folks like myself.
Looking forward to this next iteration of our legal system.

by dpm
over 1 year ago | Reply

Communities are in dire need of initiatives such as this one. I myself have observed people struggling to acquire legal services and I wish groups like this one had existed in those instances. It would have made such a difference. However, it is not too late and the future is now substantially brighter with groups like ADVANCE. This is a most humbling expression of community upliftment in action!

by sapoet85
over 1 year ago | Reply

If justice is to be served, we must level out the playing field. A daunting task, yet measures need to start somewhere. An individual's rights should not be protected by the sum of their wealth but rather by honesty and fairness in the system. Advance seems appropriate in these desperate times where corruption seems to rule the court systems. My impression is that Advance is a grassroots movement with lawyers at the center, taking back their roles and making sure that every person is represented to restore justice. There has to be a radical change in the way we preserve individual rights and Advance seems like the first step toward a healthier and more sustainable society.

by coreanham
over 1 year ago | Reply

If justice is to be served, we must level out the playing field. A daunting task, yet measures need to start somewhere. An individual's rights should not be protected by the sum of their wealth but rather by honesty and fairness in the system. Advance seems appropriate in these desperate times where corruption seems to rule the court systems. My impression is that Advance is a grassroots movement with lawyers at the center, taking back their roles and making sure that every person is represented to restore justice. There has to be a radical change in the way we preserve individual rights and Advance seems like the first step toward a healthier and more sustainable society.

by coreanham
over 1 year ago | Reply

I really appreciate the sentiment of "restoring Justice for all". I do hope you are successful with this!

by djnovajade
over 1 year ago | Reply

Thank you DJ Nova! We appreciate your support and are committed to making this happen. Please spread the word!

by Ngoc.NguyenLA
over 1 year ago | Reply

By my count, at least 3 important issues are addressed here: (1) The under-represented middle class, (1) Unemployment rates of lawyers, (2) overly combative and damaging legal practices and professional environment. People like me who don't qualify for free legal clinics but who would have a lot of trouble hiring an attorney outright can get represented for everyday things, new lawyers learn to hang out a shingle to provide representation to more and more people, and a new possibility for how lawyering is done emerges! All of the lawyers working with ADVANCE could become advocates for holistic, problem-solving, integrative law. I can feel the future breathing a sigh of relief.

by colibriseth
over 1 year ago | Reply

When it becomes easier for people to resolve their disputes in court than by gun we will begin to see a dramatic decrease in violent crime. The legal system to many people, particularly those in low-income communities, is too inaccessible to serve as a dispute resolution option. I work in a middle school in South Central Los Angeles and I cannot even count the number of times my students have completely lost hope because of violence in their communities.

by danny.chen712
over 1 year ago | Reply

Danny, what you are saying is completely right! All of these issues are interlinked. Thank you for your support and for your feedback. Let's work together to make ADVANCE a part of the solution and revolution!

by Ngoc.NguyenLA
over 1 year ago | Reply

I've seen dear friends in need of legal representation and not having the means. This is an amazing initiative that is going to make a big difference for our citizens. Let's contribute for a change and equality.

by ale.yasmin
over 1 year ago | Reply

Nothing is more powerful than an brilliant idea whose time has come, and the idea is Ngoc Nguyen! The world is a better place because she will spend her life seeing to the success of great ideas that serve, heal and uplift humanity. Ideas like "Advancing Justice Through Legal Social Enterprise"..

by mjimer
over 1 year ago | Reply

good luck with Echoing Green and advancing your cause. We need more lawyers working for social benefit, not just personal profit.

by leventhald
over 1 year ago | Reply

I've seen members of my family struggle to find legal representation that they can afford. I've witnessed women stuck in domestic violence situations because they could not afford legal representation nor find free legal services in Los Angeles. I am in full support of ADVANCE and the changes it will bring to our community.

by laracatone
over 1 year ago | Reply

This is truly a groundbreaking and welcome approach to law in the United States. I fully support this idea and hope to see it come to fruition!

by jbhumitra
over 1 year ago | Reply

Pink-ribbon-award-box-icon
Award_topvotedidea
$1,000,000 in total grants
Circle-1-inactive Step1-title-submission-inactive

Submission Began
Tuesday, February 26

Submission Ended
Thursday, March 28
at 12:00 PM PDT

Circle-2-inactive Step2-title-voting-inactive

Voting Began
Tuesday, April 02

Voting Ended
Wednesday, April 17
at 12:00 PM PDT

Circle-3 Step3-title
Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address
Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address

Winner Announced
Wednesday, May 08

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