The Law Student COVID-19 Pro Bono Support Project is one of the latest groups started by young law professionals online.
As social media use has drastically increased in the past decade, young lawyers and law students have found ways to leverage these platforms for good. Since the COVID-19 crisis began spreading globally, there’s been a surge in demand for legal help: fair paid leave policies, drafting bail motions, petitioning for release from immigration custody, and countless other urgent legal needs.
Alyssa Leader, a third-year law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced to her 8,000 Twitter followers on March 18 that her Law Student Pro Bono Support Project went live after an idea to start helping out with crisis legal projects ballooned into mass interest. “I put a call out on social media, and lots of folks were interested. They passed it on to their friends and it spread from there,” explained Leader in a recent Q&A with Reuters.
With a simple info page, a Google Forms link, and 280 characters, Leader has been able to mobilize a team of over 2,500 law students, paralegals, and paralegal students—all of whom are dedicated to offering remote help to people seeking information and legal teams that need support. Participant numbers continue to grow as online publications, retweets, and repostings spread the word.
Leader’s support project isn’t the first to mobilize quickly via online communities. After the 2016 presidential election, many social justice issues arose out of stricter governmental policies towards migrant families, especially around the US-Mexico border. In response, the Immigration Justice Campaign and American Immigration Lawyers Association mobilized the Dilley Pro Bono Project in 2018 to help reunite separated immigrant families and free them from detention centers, using Twitter to recruit lawyers, law students, and paralegals. The AILA uses Twitter to engage help for other projects as well, including its partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Similarly, Amy Volz and Ha Ryong Jung, recent Harvard Law School graduates, kickstarted a group of over 400 students while they were still in law school to work pro bono for state and local immigrant-friendly policies. They joined litigation efforts in stopping President Donald Trump’s muslim ban, dealt with issues concerning the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, and put together a report about immigration, detention, and asylum seekers which has been cited in litigation cases in Canadian courts.
Their work gained traction through online publications like the Harvard Crimson, Harvard Law Today, as well as several students who shared their foundation, the Immigration Response Initiative, through social media.
Today, over 2.5 billion people in the world have a Facebook account, with the large majority of posts open for nearly anyone to see. Announcements and movements for social change are directed at and leveraged by young adults because of how pertinent social media has become for young Americans. Twitter announcements are exceedingly relevant to the younger generation: according to data by Statista around 40% of all Twitter users in the United States are between the ages of 18-29. And, according to an Aberdeen Group Study, 72% of college graduates use online social platforms to search for work opportunities.
The prevalent use of social media today has made it part of the fabric of our daily lives, including how we gather information and connect with each other. For the legal profession’s newest generation, it also provides boundless opportunities to leverage skills for positive change.
Want to get involved with the Law Student COVID-19 Pro Bono Support Project?
Questions and concerns can be directed to Alyssa Leader.