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Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

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Steps for Starting a Program

The following steps will get you started.  Note: If you are beginning the process of starting a program, we encourage you to go ahead and read the Running a Program section too.

#1 Find allies

If you’re seriously considering launching a Street Law program at your law school, we encourage you to complete our new program registration form (it will take you less than five minutes!). A Street Law representative will contact you to arrange a time to discuss the program development process in greater detail and provide custom advice. We are here to be your ally and provide support as you build your program! 

Identify allies in your community to help your program gain acceptance and support.

  • Begin with your deans, admissions officers, and registrar. Law deans know their mission statement and want to have positive press and relationships with the community. Admissions officers seek unique ways to draw applicants. The registrar is interested in having more course options, especially for law students with a variety of learning styles. 
  • Pro bono coordinators are interested in providing service opportunities for law students to develop their knowledge and skills and contribute to the community.
  • Clinical faculty often support the principle that law students learn by doing, which makes them natural allies for a Street Law program. In many law schools, Street Law is included as a clinical course.
  • Some law student organizations coordinate Street Law programs. Chapters of the Black Law Students Association, Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, ABA, ACLU, or public interest law societies have pursued student-led Street Law programs.
  • Contact your state’s law-related education organizations—they have expertise in educating the public about the law. The ABA website has a roster of civic education programs by state. They may be able to share their expertise and provide outreach to teaching sites and localized lesson plans and teaching methods.
  • Reach out to other law schools with Street Law programs.
 

< STARTING A PROGRAM

#2 Select a program structure

Each Street Law program is different, depending on the opportunities and resources at the law school. However, programs fall into three general models: credit-bearing, pro bono, and law student group models.

In all three models, law students may teach lessons in school, community, or corrections settings and must learn how to conduct interactive, student-centered classes.

Credit-bearing Model

The program is offered as a law school course, often part of a law school clinic, where law students receive credit for their participation. The director/professor who offers the class generally must get the proposed class approved by the faculty curriculum committee. This requires a written justification, along with a syllabus of the class.

Street Law, Inc. recommends the credit-bearing model because it provides law students with supervision in the development and selection of teaching materials, assistance in the development of teaching methodology, orientation to the teaching environment and students, and assessment of teaching in the classroom.

A typical credit-bearing model program includes a law student-led teaching experience at a local high school or community organization. Additionally, it includes a weekly law school classroom component where students are oriented to Street Law and its goals, content, teaching strategies, and classroom management. Law students are also responsible for drafting and evaluating lesson plans for their teaching sites.

Law students are observed while teaching a class and provided with feedback. Law students may be required to keep a journal or use other self-assessment techniques. Student assessments often evaluate the student’s teaching performance, lesson plan development, and participation in the weekly seminars. The course may be graded or pass/fail.

Pro Bono Model

The program is offered as a volunteer opportunity, with a faculty or staff member providing oversight. Law students do not earn credit; students teach because they are interested in the benefits of the program and/or because Street Law may satisfy law schools’ pro bono requirements. Typically, a pro bono coordinator at the law school oversees the program and provides an opportunity for law students to evaluate their performance, discuss challenges, and access resources. Although the pro bono model provides a great deal of latitude, it is important to think about how often the group should meet and what type of teaching site is most compatible with the law school's pro bono structure.

Law Student Group Model

The program is organized and implemented by a law student organization. Typically, the groups are motivated to provide a service to their community and choose to adopt Street Law as their way of providing this service. The best programs involve law students in workshops prior to their teaching experiences, meet regularly to debrief the experiences, provide advice and support to each other during the experience, and celebrate their successes.

The natural turnover in leadership that occurs when law students graduate presents a challenge for this model. Organized and consistent leadership is imperative to the success of this model, as it will have to maintain relationships with the teaching sites. These programs often elect Street Law officers each year to assure a smooth succession in leadership from year to year.  

 
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#3 Develop a program rationale

Starting a Street Law program will require you to describe the basis for your program and its goals to a variety of people—developing a program rationale will help you do this in an organized, well-thought-out way. A rationale will make it easier to enlist the key stakeholders, fund raise, locate resources, and develop an action plan. It also helps everyone use a common language when discussing the project. 

Need some help getting started? Here are some key questions to ask yourself when developing a rationale for your Street Law program. 

  1. Describe the community need that your Street Law program will address.
  2. Will your program take place in a school, community, or corrections site? 
  3. What outcomes will your program aim to achieve? (See Evaluating your Street Law program)
  4. How will a Street Law program help your law school fulfill its mission?
  5. Describe how the Street Law program will benefit each of the following:
    • Participating law students: __________
    • The sponsoring law school: __________
    • The community: __________
  6. Is there already a strong demand for this type of program from law students or will you need to recruit participants?
  7. In what specific ways will you involve alumni and others from the community in your program?
  8. What curriculum/content will you use to teach lessons at your site?
  9. How will you measure success in the first year of your program? How will you collect the data needed to measure success? (See Evaluating your Street Law program)
  10. How will you use the information gathered from the first year to improve the program?
  11. What program expenses do you anticipate?
 
< Starting a Program
#4 Identify funding sources

Your program may need funding for a variety of expenses:

  • The salary of a director or professor in credit-bearing programs, if existing faculty or staff cannot be assigned to the Street Law program.
  • Textbooks or other curricular materials
  • Copying/printing expenses for worksheets and other classroom materials. If your site is a school, it will typically cover the cost copying teaching materials, but community and corrections sites might not provide this service.
  • Field trips to courts or other law-related sites
  • Transportation costs for law students traveling to sites

Some law school programs partner with outside organizations—local, state, or minority bar associations; community foundations; law firms; state and local government; or the school district—to supply funding for needed items.

See Running a Program for specific fundraising tips and techniques.

 
< Starting a Program
#5 Select a teaching site(s)

Street Law programs are taught at a variety of sites in schools, community-based organizations, and corrections facilities. A strong relationship with the site is key to the success of your Street Law program!

Program coordinators must be prepared to sell the program to prospective teaching sites. One strategy for achieving this to emphasize how Street Law can help them achieve their educational goals. In the classroom, this means connecting with the course syllabus and/or any applicable state standards. In community and corrections sites, this means explaining how the addition of Street Law can help them fulfill their mission and meet the needs of their constituents. 

It is helpful to familiarize yourself with Street Law's resources—many program coordinators have found that bringing a copy of the Street Law textbook or sharing other lesson plans/teaching activities gives the program credibility, which helps "sell" it to a potential teaching site. 

Once you have a site on board, it's important to orient the on-site teachers/site coordinators to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their role in the program and realistic expectations of the law students (see Site Preparation).

School Sites

High Schools

Street Law programs are most commonly taught in high schools, where lessons may be infused into social studies classes such as American government, civics, or U.S. history, or as part of a business law class. In some places Street Law may be offered as a social studies elective. Some law schools have even worked in language arts classes and focused on the law through persuasive writing, analysis, and debate. The program works with students at all achievement levels.

Middle Schools

While most Street Law programs take place in high schools because the Street Law textbook targets higher reading levels, middle schools are still viable sites for law school programs. Existing materials can be adapted for a middle school audience or law students can develop their own middle school-appropriate lesson plans and activities. 

Community and Corrections Sites

Underserved Youths

Some law schools focus their Street Law programs on community sites that target underserved youths—LGBTQ youths, teenage parents, young people in the juvenile justice system, homeless youths, and teenagers aging out of foster care. Programs at these sites typically focus on educating young people about their rights and responsibilities under the law and developing life skills.

Sometimes community sites are best suited for modular Street Law classes. Poor attendance and/or high turnover makes it difficult for law students to build on prior lessons.

Students from these populations may be experiencing a moment of high crisis and may find it difficult to focus; however, they are also highly motivated to understand the law as it applies to their lives. It is especially important for law students to be oriented to the scope of their role as teacher—not to get drawn into providing legal advice. 

Youth Clubs/Centers

 Community-based clubs and community centers (e.g., Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs) often offer after-school classes and activities, which present a good opportunity for law students to teach Street Law lessons.

Adult Corrections Facilities

Law students teaching adults in corrections facilities typically focus lessons on family, housing, and employment law. When establishing this type of program, care should be taken so that the prison administration understands the nature of the class—it’s not a class to prepare jailhouse lawyers to sue the institution, but instead a class to teach practical legal information about law and help inmates with re-entry issues.

 
< Starting a Program
#6 Choose teaching materials

Whether your program is developing its own curricular materials or modifying existing materials, Street Law, Inc. can help. We offer a wide variety of teaching materials for law school programs, many of which are free. We can also direct you to high-quality materials developed by other law schools and non-profit organizations.

Highlighted below are some of our recommended materials for law school programs. Please explore the lessons tab to access Street Law’s resource library and learn more about developing your own teaching materials. 

Law students will nearly always want to adapt existing lesson plans to include state law and to meet the special needs of their students.

 
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#7 Recruit law students

There are many ways to recruit law students for the program.

  • Credit-bearing courses appear in the catalog and the Registrar can counsel particular students to enroll in the course.

  • Pro bono coordinators can advertise Street Law along with other volunteer opportunities available to law students.

  • Student groups can make presentations to their membership. Group leaders can host a brown bag seminar about the program.

Technology and social media are great tools to get the word out about Street Law. The law school can add a webpage for its Street Law program with videos/photos of law students teaching.

Established law school programs often find that the best recruiters are law students who have taught the program and encourage their friends and fellow law students to join. Participating law students can be encouraged to bring classmates to visit their partner classroom and take a one-time role in the teaching, like being a juror in a mock trial.


 
< Starting a Program
#8 Pilot your program

It is generally a good idea to have a pilot program to work out the logistics before launching the full program.

Select a few law student volunteers to pilot selected lessons. Peruse the Preparing Law Students section of this website for important information about preparing law students for the classroom. It is especially important that the law students piloting the program have a basic understanding of classroom management and interactive teaching methods. Prior to teaching at the site, they should also teach the lesson plans to other law students to practice their teaching and receive feedback. 

During the pilot period, law students should reflect and share their teaching experience with other law students. Solicit feedback from the on-site teacher/site coordinator and the high school students.

Be sure to celebrate the pilot program’s successes and acknowledge the efforts of the law students involved.    

 
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