A just, fair society cannot be achieved without democracy and rule of law. In new democracies and nations in transition to democracy, many people lack the basic legal knowledge, civic engagement skills, and confidence needed to solve individual and community problems and participate effectively in civic life. To bridge this gap, Street Law collaborates with law schools, NGOs, and government agencies around the globe to build public legal education programs, train educators, and develop teaching materials.
Our international programs take a grassroots approach to change, empowering program participants with essential civic skills and knowledge, creating an expectation of enhanced rule of law and greater access to justice. These programs emphasize equipping people with the knowledge and skills they need to:
- access their legal systems and receive fair treatment from the law
- participate in democracy and use their democratic rights responsibly and effectively
- become active supporters of democracy and rule of law and contribute to the creation of a more just, democratic, and prosperous society over the course of their lives
Since 1986, Street Law has implemented a range of projects throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Check out our program map to learn more about our diverse historical portfolio of work outside of the U.S.
Law school-based practical legal education programs—commonly referred to as “Street Law” programs—are innovative programs in which law students teach non lawyers about law, the legal system, and the fundamental principles of democracy. Law students trained in interactive teaching pedagogy teach high school students, disadvantaged populations, and others the basic information, skills, and attitudes they need to thrive as active members of their society.
For example, in a Street Law class focused on contract law, the law student instructors explain in plain language the basics of a contract—what it is, what it is used for, and who enforces it—to build practical knowledge of the topic. Then, the participants engage in a simulated contract negotiation to put that knowledge into practice, develop their communication and advocacy skills, and foster an appreciation for cooperation and finding common ground.
Through this blending of legal content and interactive teaching strategies, program participants build their understanding of practical legal matters and develop the skills and attitudes they need to effectively engage in the democratic processes of their communities. The programs also offer positive outlets for young people to serve their communities and learn to manage conflict in socially acceptable ways, as well as a foundation for strong partnerships with other community and school-based citizenship programs. The programs benefit law students as well. Through preparing lessons and teaching, law students not only thoroughly learn the legal content but also develop and practice the fundamental lawyering skill of explaining complex legal concepts in language understandable to lay audiences.
Street Law has worked with partners on six continents to develop a series of 14 lessons to teach young people about the basic elements of rule of law using its signature, interactive, skill-building methodology.
Street Law is currently designing a roll-out of this program with civil society partners around the globe.