To train young lawyers in the general skills of practice and the specific perspective of socio-legal lawyering. We want to establish a fellowship program for recent law graduates from across Maharashtra who are committed to human rights. The fellows will work for 18 months at our organization and then return to their home districts where we will help them to establish their own socio-legal practice by helping them to make connections with local NGOs and providing them with financial support for the first year. We will also put them on track to become members of their local Legal Aid Bureaus. Over time, we hope to develop a network of socio-legal lawyers across Maharashtra, and eventually throughout the nation.
We will employ a rigorous selection process that involves applications by interested students, and then interviews of a select number of them. The interviews will be conducted by members of our staff and several experts from the community. After several days of interviews, we will select our four fellows. Within the selection process, preference will be shown to students from different parts of Maharashtra who intend to return to their home districts. We will also endeavor to ensure equal numbers of male and female fellows.
Rough outline of the program:
For the first three months, newly graduated 2011 fellows will shadow and learn from our staff advocates and the senior fellows (from 2010) who already have a year with the organization. Once they begin to feel comfortable with court procedures, the 2011 fellows will begin to take larger roles in our cases, always supervised by a more experienced advocate. After six months, the 2010 fellows will have completed their term and they will leave to start their own practices. The remaining 2011 fellows will have six months to begin taking the lead on cases with the advice of our experienced advocates. This will be the time that we have the most interaction with them, advising them and training them of the best practices for their cases.
Then, once they have been with us for a year, they will become senior fellows as four new fellows (2012) will arrive and the newly 2011 fellows will have the opportunity to serve as mentors and resources for them. Our organization will use its many links to NGOs to help them get oriented in their home district and will also support them financially for the first year, with the expectation that they will later become financially independent. We will also get them started with the process of becoming members of the Legal Aid Committees within their districts, with the goal of strengthening those traditionally weak institutions.
This project will only become more effective the longer we keep it going and the larger the network grows. We will try to keep spreading our fellows across all of the districts of Maharashtra and eventually throughout the nation. In doing so, we will be giving these young lawyers a start and improving the lives of the members of their communities. Additionally, as the program continues, it will hopefully attract more attention and applicants, giving us a larger pool from which to draw out fellows.
Proven track record of the organization towards building a cadre of lawyers to work with socio-legal perspective:
- 2 days workshop organised for lawyers in Pune in June 2009. There were around 40 lawyers who attended the workshop from 22 Districts of Maharshtra.
- Workshop was organised to build a network with lawyers across Maharashtra to sensitise them on issues of human rights and encourage them to take up cases of marglised groups to take up cases on pro bono basis.
- Some of the lawyers from this network have shown their willingness to work on socio-legal issues if they are given extensive trainings on various issues of human rights.
- There are students from various universities of India interning with us. We give them exposure to various issues of human rights through interactions with experts and field visits. This is to inculcate the values of human rights. Most of these students are in our contact.
The second batch of the fellowship program ends in February 2013; Applications for the third batch can be sent to [email protected] by the end of January 2013.
Currently we are providing fellowships to young aspiring socio-legal lawyers to meet the bare necessities like accommodation, food and local travel. With this initiative program we have been sustaining aspiring lawyers from families who are not in a position to support the son or daughter in their education and this important endeavor. Our mission is to help the young socio-legal lawyer to use law as a tool for social change and to expand access to justice and give the chance to young people to learn how to use law as a tool for social change.
Fellows of Year 2011 – 2012
- Advocate Amit Shinde (SANGLI)
- Advocate Prasad Kashid (SOLAPUR)
- Advocate Roshini Wanawade (YAVATMAL)
- Advocate Savita Khotre (AKOLA)
Some Photos of Fellows with Justice Hemant Gokhale (Supreme Court of India)