The Creative Advocacy Lab is an intensive, one-semester course that explores modes of legal advocacy beyond traditional client representation, re-envisioning lawyers as community educators, problem-solvers, and storytellers. Access to justice requires access to information. We seek to share legal knowledge with people who need it.
What is creative advocacy?
“Creative advocacy is about taking my skills and my privilege as a law student and being able to distribute it and support my larger community. It’s a chance to look outside the walls of the law school and support the community and actual people in the way they experience and interact with legal issues, versus how we learn them in a vacuum.” –Hannah (‘23)
In the face of system-level failures like the widening access-to-justice gap, lawyers need to get creative. The Creative Advocacy Lab seeks to reimagine legal advocacy and expand students’ lawyering skill sets to include tools like design thinking, narrative, plain language writing, and visual communication. This experiential, project-based course guides students through the process of designing a legal informational resource, from defining the problem in collaboration with community partners, to conducting exploratory research, to prototyping designs and soliciting feedback.
Students will engage in some or all of the following activities during the course:
- Researching and analyzing complex law and policy issues
- Defining project learning objectives and drafting a research plan
- Conducting community/user research through interviews, surveys, focus groups, or other information-gathering techniques
- Synthesizing community/user research findings using collaborative methods like insights mapping
- Ideating and prioritizing community-responsive solutions
- Diagramming and visualizing legal information and other complex ideas
- Translating legal concepts into clear and compelling deliverables, such as guides, infographics, and explainers.
- Soliciting feedback and iterating on prototype designs
Students will develop and hone the following skills:
- Conducting legal research targeting community legal needs
- Analyzing legal issues holistically
- Communicating legal concepts in plain language
- Collaborating with lawyers and non-lawyers
- Building and maintaining relationships with clients and collaborators
- Facilitating community-informed design processes
- Engaging in design thinking as a problem-solving tool
- Visually communicating complex information
- Using storytelling⸺including visual narrative⸺as an advocacy tool
“The Lab gave me firsthand experience with the notion that just because things have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean they need to continue to be done that way. And more specifically, when doing something a certain way has proved to be less successful than what justice demands, then radical change may be necessary—or we should at the very least consider radical change as an option. Our legal system is failing so many in so many ways. We need more Creative Advocacy Labs.” –Scott (‘22)
“Since the beginning of the semester this class has challenged me to reimagine the role of the advocate in our system. Before, I thought of a public interest lawyer only in the traditional sense, as one who takes on a case for a client and helps them navigate the legal system through representation. Now, I conceptualize the role of a public interest lawyer as one who makes the legal system more navigable for clients…. I am excited about this expanded view of a public interest lawyer because it gives power to the community to advocate for themselves and takes away some of the negative aspects of the legal profession like gatekeeping and paternalistic dynamics between attorneys and their clients.” –Jess (‘23)
“My experience in the Creative Advocacy Lab has reminded me of the importance in ensuring that there is space for me in the communities I want to help. In the beginning stages of our Lab, I felt frustrated that I was not finding answers to the questions I thought had to be answered. If there is one thing from our Lab that will stay with me forever is the importance of entering these spaces with no preconceived ideas about how things should go…. I am thankful for the ‘mental nudge’ that I got to apply for this Lab because I have learned so much about myself and what I want for my future.” –Dine (‘22)
Projects and partners
Each semester, CAL partners with local advocates who seek to share legal information with their communities.
Spring 2022: CAL partnered with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City to design resources about interacting with law enforcement.
Fall 2021: CAL collaborated with the Faust Law Library, the Utah State Law Library, the Salt Lake City Public Library, and People’s Legal Aid on the Research Your Rights project, an ongoing effort to create accessible video and web content about common legal topics like debt, evictions, and civil procedure.
Advocates: Are you working to promote social justice and serve the legal needs of marginalized communities in Utah? Do you need help communicating complex legal information in clear and engaging ways? Are you interested in creating legal resources rooted in community needs? Partner with the Creative Advocacy Lab! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students: Are you ready to get creative with your advocacy? Applications for Spring 2023 enrollment will open in the fall. In the meantime, please email email@example.com with any questions!