Student Organization Spotlight: National Lawyers Guild
Are you looking to join a student organization committed to defending civil and human rights?
Just look for the bright green hats.
There are more than 25 student organizations at Georgia State University College of Law, each one providing unique perspectives of the law and an opportunity to build relationships with Atlanta’s legal community. With so many different organizations to choose from (and the abundance of acronyms to interpret), you can become overwhelmed. But for those students who came to law school itching to fight social injustice and defend human rights, the choice is simple… just look for the bright green hats.
The hats are worn by members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and the color is meant to help them stand out in a crowd. Founded as an association of progressive lawyers and jurists in the 1930s, the organization plays an important role in the fight for civil and human rights. In the 1960s, the guild started the Legal Observer program in response to police brutality at protests. According to the national website, legal observers took notes on interactions between protesters and law enforcement, while lawyers defended thousands of civil rights activists who were arrested for exercising free speech.
“If it turns out there are arrests at the protest, the notes that the legal observer takes are actually a work product prepared in anticipation of litigation,” said Megan Harrison, co-founder of the college’s National Lawyers Guild Student Chapter, which was was established in spring 2016. “Students who are legal observers at protests where there are arrests, either planned or unplanned, will have the opportunity to potentially work with an attorney to help with the defense of protesters. Their notes could actually be used in trial, and they may even be called to testify.”
Through the student chapter, students have the opportunity to train as a legal observer.
“It’s a way to get involved now, defending free speech rights and the rights of grass roots movements, and to be active and participatory in our democracy,” Harrison said. Working as a legal observer is just one way the Guild gets law students involved. The organization also provides networking opportunities.
Each year, the chapter hosts an event called “Disorientation,” where NLG members from several law schools including Georgia State, Mercer, Emory, University of Georgia and John Marshall come together and discuss how to survive law school with their values intact, essentially disorientating themselves from the traditional 1L culture that focuses on a more homogenous approach to school and the law. At the event, practicing attorneys meet with students and discuss how to use the law as a tool for social change, and support marginalized and oppressed communities.
Catherine Gavrilidis (J.D.’20) is a Graduate Research Assistant for Law Communications and she serves on the boards of the Association of Women Law Students and Phi Alpha Delta.