Justice Lab is an intensive clinical course where students learn to be lawyers while solving real legal, policy, and practical problems for client organizations. Our work is community-driven. Our vision is powering change.
Professor Anna Carpenter is the Justice Lab founder and director. Learn more about her here.
Justice Lab students represent clients in projects that launch and support systemic reform and social change work in our community. Our clients include community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
In Justice Lab, students explore the many modes of advocacy, outside of litigation, that lawyers can use to advance social change. Students learn traditional lawyering and advocacy models along with strategies and tools from other fields such as business, communication, and design. Students are encouraged to innovate, experiment, and build new advocacy approaches as they serve clients.
Justice Lab projects often focus on social, racial, and economic justice issues. In any given semester, projects may involve criminal justice and prisons, court reform, access to justice, economic development, housing, homelessness, education, mental health, domestic violence, or child welfare.
Recent clients include People’s Legal Aid, the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Initiatives, the University of Utah Prison Education Project, and the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion.
Clients’ goals and needs drive Justice Lab’s work. As a result, students work on new areas of law and policy each semester. Though the work is client- and community-driven, faculty carefully select and design each project to maximize student learning. Throughout the semester, students’ project work is guided and supplemented by weekly classroom sessions, direct faculty supervision, peer feedback, and simulations.
Justice Lab is equal parts demanding and rewarding. Students should expect to spend an average of 20 hours per week on clinic work. Faculty work closely with students and offer continuous, individualized, and goal-directed feedback and reflection opportunities. Students are encouraged and supported in setting and reaching their own learning goals. Students will engage in some or all of the following activities during their time in the clinic:
- Identifying, defining, and solving complex law and policy problems
- Investigating justice and policy problems, identifying solutions, and developing proposals for change
- Developing and implementing advocacy and communications campaigns
- Analyzing public systems and identifying possible reforms
- Analyzing and drafting legislation or regulations
- Advocating for law and policy reform
- Building tools and developing systems that increase access to justice and community well-being
Students will develop and refine the following skills and abilities:
- Research, analysis, and synthesis of law and policy
- Interviewing and counseling clients
- Fact investigation and data collection
- Complex problem-solving
- Collaboration with lawyers and non-lawyers
- Use of empirical data and visualizations as advocacy tools
Strategic communication, including communicating about complex legal and policy concepts with audiences that are not law-trained
- Legal project planning and management
- Law firm administration, including using legal technology
- Storytelling and narrative in advocacy
- Design thinking
Justice Lab Story
Justice Lab will undoubtedly be my signature law school experience. I think many of us come to law school because we want to gain the tools we need to make a tangible difference for good in our communities. Professor Carpenter has created this opportunity where that is happening in real time. The way she pushed us out of our comfort zones was always challenging – but I know I will be a better attorney because of it. – Scott, Class of 2023