PILnet and the Leitner Center are launching the Regional Course on Public Interest Lawyering for lawyers and representatives of NGOs in Asia. This 5-week, online course aims to create a channel for young public interest-minded lawyers to gain experience and an international perspective at the outset of their career and build a network among them and relevant existing groups and organizations.
Junior lawyers, recent law graduates and NGO representatives interested in public interest law are welcome to apply to join the course. Applicants with a legal background and familiarity with public interest law in Asia will be given preference. The program will accept 50 participants. The course is free of charge.
The Regional Course on Public Interest Lawyering consists of 5 interactive and interconnected sessions, which include sections of self-paced learning and live webinars/discussions. The course participants can access theory, video presentations, resources, quizzes, and live discussion with expert speaker. Live sessions will be held for five consecutive weeks, one day per week, starting on March 11th 2022 until April 8th 2022. Each live session will last 2 hours and participants will be expected to complete the self-paced portion of the session before joining the live discussion.
- Access to Justice is a foundational concept for the way public interest lawyers think about their societies. This is because the problem of unmet legal needs means that law is not working for everyone and, as a result, that the legal systems may be treating some people unfairly or favoring the interests of some at the expense of others. Recognizing the problem is the first step for public interest lawyers in thinking of ways to address it.
- A closely related concept is Pro Bono Publico, which calls to mind the responsibility of the legal profession in helping to address the unmet legal needs of society by acting for the public good. For the privilege of being able to practice law, all lawyers have a duty to help ensure that the legal system is not just serving the interests of paying clients. How far this duty goes and what it means in practice is viewed differently in various societies, and it is often in competition, or even conflict, with the commercial practice of law.
- Because legal resources are often limited and legal aid insufficient, public interest lawyers have thought about ways to focus their efforts through the concept of Strategic Litigation. The idea is to select and litigate key cases that have the potential to effect change beyond the interests of a specific client. Perhaps because the express premise of this strategy is that some cases can have an impact that serves the public interest, it has become the best known form of public interest lawyering. But it is not the only or necessarily the best approach.
- Another promising approach is Legal Empowerment, which addresses unmet legal needs by using low cost methods, like paralegals. Unlike litigation, which seeks to remedy problems after the fact, legal empowerment seeks to anticipate future problems by providing timely targeted advice that can prevent or mitigate potential harm. Whether this approach can be used strategically to effect broader change, is not yet well established.
- Having examined four key concepts that shape the way public interest lawyers think, the course concludes with a reexamination of the concept of Public Interest Lawyering by looking at some new directions that are now being explored. Informed by social science research and new capabilities afforded by technology, some public interest lawyers are finding new ways to think about addressing the unmet legal needs in their societies.