Our Story, Our Service, Our Impact
Through innovative connections between law professors, law students, and community members, The Justice Center at Albany Law School promotes justice for marginalized communities, represents individuals who lack meaningful access to legal services, and professionally prepares law students for work that enriches their communities, the profession, and democracy.
Since 1972, The Justice Center has provided free legal services to eligible clients in the Capital Region and beyond and has facilitated public-private partnerships to improve justice systems. In a typical academic year, The Justice Center recruits more than 200 students, representing hundreds of clients and assisting many more individuals and organizations through technical assistance and community education activities.
Our mission is to promote ethical and inclusive legal representation and justice lawyering while teaching students to practice with compassion and sensitivity to individual and community needs.
A Brief History
It began with a jail riot in Attica Prison in the summer of 1971.
Judge J. Clarence Herlihy called for a system whereby prisoners could file grievances. With the Judge’s encouragement, Albany Law School jumped with both feet into the world of clinical education.
The Litigation Clinic was established in 1981 to represent clients in divorce, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, and bankruptcy cases. The Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Project, established in 1983, represented clients with disabilities challenging discrimination in employment, housing, education, and accessing related services in the least restrictive environments.
The 1990s saw the creation of programs like the Domestic Violence Project, which attracted national attention when it won clemency for Charline Brundidge, the first time such relief was afforded in New York for an incarcerated battered woman who killed her abuser. During the 90s The AIDS Law Project became one of the first law clinic programs to serve clients with AIDS or HIV.
In 2000, the Clinic moved to a new state-of-the-art facility. An Investors Rights program, also known as the Securities Arbitration Clinic, began representing investors on securities arbitration matters.
The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic opened its doors to taxpayers who have disputes with the IRS. The AIDS Law Project expanded into a comprehensive Health Law Project, representing clients living with cancer and other chronic impairments. In 2006, Sherry Gold gave a $1 million donation in memory of her late husband, establishing the Barry A. Gold ’70 Health Law Clinical Program Endowment Fund.
In 2013, the Immigration Law Clinic was founded with assistance from the state of New York. In 2015, the Community Economic Development Clinic was launched to assist individuals, community groups, and small businesses, particularly in economically depressed areas of the Capital District.
Most recently, the clinical program attracted a $15 million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest in the law school’s history, which was announced in 2019, along with a name change: The Justice Center at Albany Law.
- 43,600 Hours of Public Service and Pro Bono Work - The Justice Center provided legal assistance to nonprofits, small businesses, immigrants, survivors of domestic and family violence, overburdened problem-solving courts, special victim cases, senior citizens, and other underrepresented groups.
- 140+ Annual Field Placements in various areas of law practice including criminal defense or prosecution, public interest advocacy, government law, science & technology, or in judicial chambers.
- 50+ Students in the COVID Response Corps and working with the Legal Aid of Northeastern New York (LASNNY)—a nonprofit that provides legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford an attorney—to offer a helping hand as LASNNY manages its increased workload.
Change Agents and System Shapers
- In 2021, The Justice Center will prioritize work that addresses the effects of COVID and its disproportionate toll on BIPOC/ALANA community members. Because structural racism is embedded in nearly every legal system, from criminal justice reform to domestic violence, to housing, to health, the Justice Center will draw on the varied backgrounds and interest areas of our students to tackle issues arising in each impact area where racial disparities in legal outcomes exist.
- Because of our established and celebrated reputation as change agents in the community and thanks to our broad alumni and institutional network, we are able to leverage student work on individual cases to change the law itself.
- In addition to the immediate impact of the services The Justice Center provides, the community gains the benefit of the education those experiences provide for our students. Those students go on to serve our communities as skilled professionals who are well-versed in public interest work. Investments in the work we do now will pay off for generations.
The Justice Center received the Capital Region Chamber’s 2018 Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award, recognizing organizations that have excelled in providing outstanding service outcomes, adapting to community needs, and collaborating with partners.
Professors Nancy Maurer and Sarah Rogerson were awarded the 2020 William Pincus Award and 2019 M. Shanara Gilbert Award, respectively, by the American Association of Law Schools. The Pincus Award recognizes outstanding contributions as reflected in scholarship, service program design, and implementation. The Gilbert Award recognizes a commitment to teaching and achieving social justice and providing legal services and access to justice to those most in need.