Clinic: Transnational Worker Rights
- Semester: Spring 2023
- Course ID: 697C
- Credit Hours: 6
- Course Type: Clinic
- Grading Method: Pass/Fail Mandatory
- Experiential Credit: 6 credit hours
- Upperclass-only elective
|WED||3:45 - 5:35 pm||TNH 3.114|
The TRANSNATIONAL WORKER RIGHTS CLINIC IS A 6-HR. CLINIC. Students in this clinic will represent low-income transnational migrant workers, who labor in Texas, in legal actions to recover unpaid wages for work they have performed, to combat workplace discrimination, and to enforce other basic employment rights. Students may also engage in related advocacy projects asserting the rights of low-wage workers – especially their right to access the U.S. justice system to fully enforce their employment rights, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The Clinic gives students hands-on experience with civil litigation, basic employment law, public interest practice, and the evolving fields of immigrant employment rights and transnational migrant worker rights. The Clinic seeks to enforce and understand employment rights of transnational workers working in Texas as an example of advocacy for the labor and human rights of immigrants and low-wage working people around the globe. Clinic students will serve as primary legal counsel representing immigrant and low-wage working people in federal and state employment litigation and administrative actions. Students will get the experience of working inside an independent public interest law firm and will be supervised and mentored by several of the nation's leading low-wage employment lawyers.
Depending on the requirements and the current litigation stage of each case, students will variously: interview and advise clients; investigate cases and develop legal action strategies; initiate and manage active litigation; negotiate with opposing employers and their lawyers; prepare litigation documents in the student's cases including pleadings, motions, and briefs; conduct discovery in the student's cases including written discovery and the taking of depositions; research legal issues; develop damages calculations; represent clients in hearings, court proceedings, and mediation; and negotiate and manage the final legal settlement or recovery of damages in the case. The clinic's legal advocacy is based on a community-lawyering model which seeks to accomplish more than just winning individual cases; the clinic also aims to promote systemic reforms that make the justice system more fair for transnational workers and to empower clients with the knowledge, skills, and collective capacity through which they can advance their own employment rights. In addition, the clinic seeks to ground each student's particular casework within the dynamic, emerging field of transnational labor rights advocacy.
Bill Beardall, the clinic director, is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Center, the former Director of the Migrant Worker Division of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and a nationally recognized expert on low-wage employment rights. He has more than four decades of experience representing migrant workers and mentoring young employment litigation lawyers.
The TWR Clinic is conducted in partnership with the Equal Justice Center (EJC), a non-profit public-interest law firm, based in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. The EJC is the leading law firm in Texas specialized in advocating for the rights of low-wage workers. Clinic students get the opportunity to work closely with a variety of EJC lawyers, who are among Texas' leading employment attorneys. In this clinic, students devote the bulk of their clinic hours each week to handling active cases for real clients. This case work includes regularly scheduled office hours at the nearby Equal Justice Center office; regularly scheduled remote office hours in the EJC's robust remote law practice during periods of pandemic shutdown; regular case reviews with supervising attorneys; and essential conferences with clients. During the first week of the course, before starting their casework assignments, students will receive an intensive classroom orientation on low-wage employment litigation practice.
Normally the law practice of this clinic occurs off-campus in the law offices of the Equal Justice Center. However, like many law offices, the EJC has been largely closed to in-person staff and public operations, since spring 2020, due to the pandemic. Nevertheless the EJC law practice and the TWR Clinic law practice have been gradually and deliberately reopening to in-person operations by appointment and by modified office hours. Equally important, the EJC learned from the pandemic how to operate dynamically and successfully as a cyber-practice utilizing innovative electronic law practice methods. Moreover, most other law offices and the entire civil justice system are undergoing a similar transformation. Reflecting this broader transformation across the profession, the EJC and TWR Clinic currently operate as a hybrid in-person/remote law practice, which continues to evolve along with the norms in civil justice system. One salutary effect of the EJC's adaptation to cyber law practice methods has been that TWR Clinic law students are getting an opportunity to learn - along with the rest of the legal profession - the new art of hybrid in-person/remote law practice and litigation. Thus, while the 2023 spring semester clinic law practice is expected to be conducted largely in-person, it has become clear that the judicial system and legal profession are permanently adopting many new and more efficient, remote electronic operations and methods. These remote law practice methods will put to full and effective use by the EJC and the TWR Clinic, giving clinic students an opportunity to learn these pioneering remote electronic techniques and systems. As a result, TWR Clinic students will gain experience preparing them to take their place among the first generation of lawyers adeptly utilizing a new range of remote cyber-law-practice methods.
Throughout the semester, the students' principal casework will be complemented with a regular classroom session that meets once a week for approximately two hours. The classroom sessions will explore various deeper aspects of employment law, rights of immigrant workers, effective litigation practice, and special topics in employment law practice for immigrant and low-wage workers. Classroom instruction will address the challenges of adapting U.S. law and legal practice to our increasingly transnational labor market. Subtopics include: U.S. labor and immigration policy; wage laws, employment laws, and contract law as they affect transnational workers; the tension between immigration laws and labor rights; rights of transnational "guest workers"; civil litigation and representation skills specific to transnational worker cases; employment law practice as viewed from the perspective of lawyers for employee-plaintiffs, lawyers for employer-defendants, and employment lawyers representing government agencies; ethical issues in employment rights representation; and evolving mechanisms for the enforcement of worker rights, regardless of immigration status.
The clinic is open to students who have completed the first year of law school. While there are no prerequisites, students will benefit from previous course work or experience relating to contract law, civil procedure, labor and employment law, immigration law, international law, human rights law, low-wage working people, migrant workers or immigrant communities, and experience related to Latin American communities.
While Clinic clients include U.S. citizens and immigrants from a wide array of continents and countries, a majority of clients are Spanish-speakers from a variety of Latin American countries. Spanish proficiency accordingly is very useful, but is not in any way required.
Questions about the clinic may be directed to Bill Beardall at email@example.com. Please put "Worker Rights Clinic" in the subject line of any communication. APPLY ONLINE: https://law.utexas.edu/clinics/application-information