July 25, 2016

About the Pro Se Boot Camp

The Pro Se Boot Camp is a program started by a group of lawyers who believe that everyone can be their own lawyer.

If only 15 percent of the medically sick could get a doctor, we would be in a state of national emergency. It would be all over the news. But that is exactly where we are at with the legally sick. Most people in the legal system whose jobs, homes, or liberty are at stake–things that in the long term are just as important to quality of life as medical care–have no lawyer. These folks have no idea how to navigate the system on their own. And they usually lose.

We have three options to address this crisis. We can give people more lawyers, we can make the legal system easier to use, or we can train people how to use it for themselves. We’ve tried the first and second option for years, with little success. Lawyers have trouble enough now making a living, asking them to do more work, for free, isn’t a long term solution. Making the system more user friends is a great idea, and we have been trying it for years–but as the world gets more complex, making the legal system simpler remains tough. That leaves training people to get through the system on their own. So that is what we set out to do: Develop a legal education program for the members of the public in the most need of legal help, and the least likely to get it.

Our program has two goals. First, and most importantly, we are empowering those in the most need to navigate the legal system on their own. Many of people will not get an attorney to help with their eviction, their employment dispute, their custody battle. They have been beaten down and many of them believe what they have been told: That they are powerless. By helping them understand the legal system and the available legal tools they have to defend themselves, we hope to empower these women. So we teach them legal writing so they can draft their own legal documents. We teach them about how civil lawsuits work. We teach them about their constitutional rights when they are detained by the police. In short, we teach them how to use the legal system, rather than just being a victim to it. Law school should not just be for the lawyers who will make a living practicing law; it should also be for people who will be representing themselves.

Our second goal is to give people information about specific types of legal problems. So we teach classes on things like bankruptcy, small claims court, child custody, divorce, landlord-tenant laws, immigration law, and how to get a temporary protective order.

The program has been more successful than we could have imagined. We have had hundreds of women through the program now. Their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. There are some great success stories. And community support so far has been incredible.

We have big plans for the future. We hope you will join us.