This post originally appeared on the Cyberlaw Clinic’s blog on October 15, 2019. Read about other grant recipients of the Legal Clinic Fund here.
The Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic, in partnership with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, is proud to announce the launch of the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA) in the fall of 2019. Directed by Kendra Albert, a Clinical Instructor with the Cyberlaw Clinic and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, IfRFA aims to expand the study of First Amendment, free speech, and freedom of expression issues to include the active participation of legal practitioners and practitioners-in-training who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. The Initiative seeks to cultivate a broader and more diverse community of freedom of expression practitioners, allowing for heightened engagement on a wide range of free expression issues.
IfRFA’s creation was also guided by the principle that the onus of diversity and representation should not fall exclusively on the shoulders of the underrepresented, and that more effort needs to be made on the part of elite institutions to challenge existing patterns of systemic bias. In the words of Initiative Director Kendra Albert, “It’s on those of us already in First Amendment practice to create opportunities for a new generation of law students to see how the issues that matter to them are affected by the First Amendment. The Cyberlaw Clinic is proud to host such an important initiative, and we’re grateful to our clinical community and funders for supporting it.”
This fall, IfRFA will begin accepting applications from students at law schools throughout the United States to select a small group of qualified Fellows for placement at legal clinics specializing in First Amendment or freedom of expression work. Fellows will be given stipends to both perform clinic work as well as the opportunity to participate in facilitated discussions about emerging and ongoing issues in free speech law. The provision of stipends aims to further democratize the application process by relieving prospective participants of the burden of choosing between joining IfRFA or a well-paying job. Once live, the application for the fellowship program will be open to 1L students until early spring of next year, with the in-person programming kicking off in earnest in the summer of 2020.
Tackling challenges to freedom of expression requires the inclusion of First Amendment practitioners who vary in terms of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and ability. Designed to bolster the voices and impact of law students of color and LGBTQ law students, IfRFA endeavors to make free speech practitioners as diverse as the populations affected by freedom of expression issues. The Initiative also aims to widen the scope of issues free speech practitioners can investigate along with arguments and evidence they can marshal.
The Initiative is being advised by G.S. Hans, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School, and Christopher Bavitz, the WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. It has been financially supported by the Legal Clinics Fund, a fund established by Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Klarman Family Foundation.
Information about IfRFA’s application requirements and deadlines will be made available upon the fellowship’s official launch in the fall. To stay up-to-date with IfRFA, join the fellowship program’s mailing list here.