Sunday, June 1, 2014

Guest Blog on SKILLS: Can Law School Clinics Lobby?

Marcy Karin runs the Work-Life Law and Policy Clinic at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The Work-Life Clinic is an integrated law clinic that works on administrative litigation, legislative and regulatory advocacy, and community education efforts on employment law and policy issues for low-income individuals and nonprofit organizations working on their behalf. This work includes cases and projects related to unemployment insurance, reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, time off, flexible scheduling, unpaid wages, discrimination, reentry, and civil justice for military families.

“Over the past decade, policy advocacy has exploded onto the clinical legal education scene, bringing with it not only the promise of new teaching opportunities, but also the problems of the unknown. Professors that teach in clinics know that there is a fine line between policy advocacy and lobbying, but they do not necessarily know where that line is, or what happens if one crosses it; and so “lobbying” has been relegated to the shadows—a creature of tax, of government funding, of technical disclosure requirements.  The ‘L’ word of which we dare not speak.”

Recently, Kevin Barry (Quinnipiac Law School) and I co-authored Law Clinics and Lobbying Restrictions to thrust clinic lobbying out of the darkness and into the light.  We do this by explaining how the labyrinthine law of lobbying—including federal income tax law, federal and state laws governing recipients of state funding, and federal and state lobbying disclosure laws—applies to law school clinics and how professors might best comply with the law.  The appendices contain questions designed to help professors explore each area of lobbying law to identify when clinic policy work may trigger reporting or disclosure requirements or prevent someone from doing this important work.

With this article, we hope to embolden professors (and, by association, their students) to “lobby” more with a one-stop shopping guide to help traverse this rewarding, but sometimes complicated, terrain.  In sum, YES law school clinics can “lobby”!

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