Common Law’s mission is to inform, politicize, and activate New Yorkers in low-income communities by utilizing the legal system as an opportunity for transformation. Common Law’s unique community lawyering model strives to “make common” the laws and legal systems that govern, and often oppress, people’s lives. Our community lawyering model combines legal and political education, story sharing, and collective acts of solidarity and resistance to train New Yorkers to advocate for themselves and, in the process, move from victims to empowered community members.
Our History – Message from Common Law’s Co-Founders
Common Law began around a small kitchen table in an apartment in Queens, New York. As we – three friends from law school – talked over dinner, the conversation focused on how lawyers could support community organizers in their struggle against social, racial and economic injustices. We agreed that there was a need for a new type of lawyering that moves away from a charity model and links individual casework with movement building. We felt that traditional legal representation models often excluded the client from participating in the judicial system and we wanted to make knowledge of the law more common and accessible to communities that had traditionally been marginalized by the legal world. With nothing to lose, we decided to pursue our vision. The rest of the evening and the months that followed were devoted to brainstorming and building what is now Common Law.
Today, Common Law is exactly what we had hoped it would become. We are proud of the unique community lawyering model that we have developed over the past several years and remain grateful to all of the activists and allies who have supported and shared in our work. We have come a long way and look forward to the continued growth of Common Law!
Karen Gargamelli, Jay Kim, and Mike Wang