US Legal Empowerment Leadership Course

US LELC Oct 22-27, Mount Madonna Center

We are thrilled to invite you to participate in the first ever US Legal Empowerment Leadership Course this October 22-27 at Mount Madonna Center in Watsonville, CA.

Legal empowerment is an approach that has been embraced by communities and movements around the world–where directly impacted communities transform systems through the process of knowing, using, shaping, and transforming laws. From anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa in the 60s and 70s to fighting climate emergencies today, legal empowerment opens up space for those impacted by injustice to engage in justice transformation. While the vocabulary may be new, many of you engage in legal empowerment every day. If you acknowledge that justice systems privilege the voices and experiences of some–particularly lawyers and other “experts”-while delegitimizing and erasing the voices and experiences of others, then this course is for you. Building off learnings from a powerful global movement, we will bring together 45-50 community organizers, activists, lawyers, researchers, and students in the US to gain a foundational understanding of legal empowerment, learn and build community with one another, and explore actions relevant to our justice struggles.

Applications are NOW OPEN. Apply by April 3, 2023. 

Questions about the course can be submitted to

Who is organizing this course?

This course is being organized by the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law in partnership with Beyond Legal Aid, the Legal Empowerment Network, and a collective of community justice practitioners. The course will be taught by experienced legal empowerment practitioners both globally and here in the US. 

What will the course cover?

The course will offer a range of sessions central to building legal empowerment, and will include tools and resources to support your movement journey. Sample topics include:

  • Introduction to Legal Empowerment Theory and Impacts
  • Role of Community Paralegals
  • Community Led Data Collection
  • Power Mapping for Law and Organizing
  • Community Driven Litigation
  • Case Studies: (Ex.) Environmental Justice, Criminal Justice
  • Building and Leveraging Diverse Collaborations
  • Community-Centered Legal Ethics
  • Challenges and Way Forward – Unauthorized Practice of Law Regulations, Restrictive Court Procedures
  • Community Participant Presentations

What is the format?

This will be a weeklong in-person course slated for October 2023.  The course will run from 9-5 every day and include 2 sessions co-facilitated by presenters and a daily working group session to apply learnings from the course to a legal empowerment issue / challenge that you hope to interrogate. Participants are strongly encouraged to apply only if they can commit to attend all five days of the course.

Who is this course for?

Any organizers, activists, lawyers, legal workers, researchers or students interested in learning how to use law to advance community-centered justice. We strongly encourage advocates coming from marginalized and/or non-traditional backgrounds to apply.

How do you apply?

Applications will be live on February 16, 2023 and we will be accepting applications until April 3, 2023. Selected candidates will be notified in May 2023. 

What does the course cost?

The course will be free for selected participants. Thank you for taking the time to learn about the US LELC. We are excited to build with you!