17 Clinical L. Rev. 615 (2010-2011)
Bridging the Justice Gap: Building Community by Responding to Individual Need

handle is hein.journals/clinic17 and id is 619 raw text is: BRIDGING THE JUSTICE GAP: .BUILDING
COMMUNITY BY RESPONDING TO
INDIVIDUAL NEED
ALIZABETH NEWMAN*
It is the beauty of our legal era that there is no longer a single
correct way to lawyer. According to the literature, the public inter-
est lawyer has progressed on a continuum from a well-intended (al-
beit regnant) attorney acting on behalf of the poor to a (rebellious)
community lawyer, working in collaboration with community groups
to fuel social change. Still, the unmet legal need in low-income com-
munities grows ever larger; as a profession, we are failing to make the
law accessible and the legal process empowering. We have yet to sub-
stantially impact the root causes of the problems our indigent clients
face. As progressive-minded attorneys, we struggle to determine
where to direct our resources, whom to serve, and how to construct
collaborative projects while being mindful of our professional
obligations.
This article examines the unmet need in marginalized communi-
ties and teases out criteria helpful in selecting and evaluating different
lawyering approaches. It reviews a variety of lawyering trends and
identifies a missed opportunity for progressive lawyers to bridge the
gap between aiding isolated, under-served individuals and working
toward social justice by supporting mobilized community organiza-
tions. Rather than choosing to focus our work in one arena or the
other, lawyers can transform the gap itself by turning the breadth of
immediate individual need into an incentive to bring isolated individ-
uals into collective action. The article presents collaborative individ-
ual law (CIL) as a model for doing so. It describes and critically
examines a CIL project to illustrate the model's benefits and potential
pitfalls. It also addresses how CIL can be structured to adhere to pro-
fessional ethics rules and how those rules might be modified to facili-
tate greater experimentation.
* Clinical Instructor and Director of Immigrant Initiatives at CUNY School of Law.
First, I am indebted to Sue Bryant, who has been a constant inspiration and mentor in
clinical teaching and scholarship. I am grateful for the guidance of my editor and the
thoughtful comments of Sameer Ashar, as well as the valuable input from my summer
scholarship support group: Babe Howell, Angela Burton, Douglas Cox, and Nichole
Miller. I have been enriched by the partnerships with the former and current directors of
SEPA Mujer, Concepci6n Mendez and Martha Maffei, and with my colleague, Martha
Garcia. I extend my appreciation to the research assistance of Andrew Burtless, Shelly
Goldfarb, Mona Moayad and Vinita Vamath. I also thank Susan Calvin, Lisa Reiner, Ginni
Stern and Liliana YAnez for their encouragement. Finally, I am grateful to my family,
Omar, Max, Renee and Paul, who generously provided me the time to write.

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