Public Interest Law Program

Rationale & Objectives
The Public Interest Law Program (PILP) was established in 2001 with the support of the Ford Foundation for the purpose of developing models for public interest law scholarship and practicein order to promote human rights and social justice, in the belief that these are the fundamental values on which our existence as individuals and a society is predicated. Focusing on the legal track in order to promote these values stems from the nature of legal thinking and practice, which raise ethical and moral issues and are directed towards achieving justice and the fulfillment of rights. Legal work also has a profound and widespread impact as a practice that determines norms, enables the fulfillment of rights, addresses a response to plights and needs, delivers educational messages, reflects social priorities and influences the allocation of resources. Additionally, the modus operandi of social jurisprudence, which stresses partnership with clients and promulgates an approach empowering their ability to represent their own affairs, creates an alternative to the hierarchical reality of power relations, which begets social injustices and inequality.

Target Audience
Jurists concerned with thinking and developing legal knowledge in academia, and lawyers involved with legal practice in every sector: in the public sector, where the activities of lawyers and legal consultants have a widespread social impact; in the private sector, where the cultivation of a pro-bono culture is promoting public interest law practice in new legal fields; and among public interest law practitioners, working for non governmental organizations and in clinical legal education programs in academic institutions throughout Israel.

PILP constitutes a bridge between legal practice and academic tradition. From this position it is possible to make use of the resources of academia as an interdisciplinary body dealing in research, study and development of knowledge and legal instruments, in order to place applied products at the disposal of lawyers involved in the promotion of human rights and social justice. This is being facilitated by the adoption of a broad outlook on legal work in order to examine the existing deficiencies and obstacles, develop legal strategies and tools that are intended to further lawyers' training and professional skills, and create a corpus of knowledge in the various fields. 

Modes of Operation
Activities are conducted along two main tracks:

Examining major and essential fields of content in which legal intervention has effective meaning, including: poverty, economic plight and social exclusion, and issues in the educational field. In these fields of content the Center is involved in developing innovative models to provide legal solutions for acute social problems.

Broadening the knowledge and improving the professional skills of public interest law practitioners, including: developing the field of clinical legal education; dealing with questions concerning professional ethics; creating forums and discussion groups for lawyers involved in complex legal fields such as representing juvenile delinquents; examining the topic of lawyers' secondary trauma; developing legal tools such as tort claims and class action suits to promote human rights and social justice; "Amicus Curiae"; new models of pro-bono legal assistance; and founding the Review of Law and Social Change, which will enable reflexive writing and discussion on public interest law practice in order to create a corpus of knowledge in the field. 

PILP Projects in Substantial Fields of Content
"Law and Economy in the Service of the Community" addresses the needs of populations living in poverty, in the framework of existing economic realities. The project's working assumption is that even in the framework of current policies, which generate enormous economic gaps, it is yet possible to harness the system for the benefit of populations lacking in resources, provide them with tools to contend with their plight, and encourage recourse to channels of business entrepreneurship in order to escape the cycle of poverty and develop new sources of income. The project also focuses on initiatives in support of normative change in the mechanisms that perpetuate poverty, by means of promoting legislation for the provision of credit and banking services to populations living in poverty.

"Law and Education" is intended to develop legal tools for promoting conceptions of social justice, equality and pluralism in education – against the background of Israel's struggling educational system, the infrequent use of legal tools in the field of education, and the fact that significant policies in the field are only rarely anchored in legislation. 

PILP Projects in the Fields of Professional Training for Public Interest Law Practitioners
Developing the field of clinical legal education is an initiative being pursued in recognition of PILP's distinction as providing a vital service to populations lacking in resources on the one hand and overseeing the professional training of students on the other. Towards this end, a mapping of the professional and academic infrastructure in the field of clinical legal education was carried out, in the hope of its development in the peripheral regions and in order to offer professional enrichment to clinical lawyers.

Tort claims as a means of promoting human rights and social justice: This is an innovative model of borrowing a strategy from the field of civil law and the consumer world and applying it in the field of public interest law practice, in order to demonstrate the social costs of the violation of human rights in a reality governed by dynamic market forces.

Developing the field of representation for juvenile delinquents is an initiative being pursued in recognition of the ethical and practical complexities involved, in order to create a platform for discussion, thinking and cooperation among NGO and public service lawyers and representatives of the law enforcement system and aid agencies, and in order to develop codes of professional practice that will improve legal work in this field.

Examining the independence of the organizational framework of Public Interest Law Practice is an initiative being pursued in recognition of the importance of Israeli civil society's robustness and independence as the primary organizational framework in which public interest law is practiced. 

Major Achievements
Development of two new legal fields and their assimilation to the practice of clinical legal education: law and economy for the community; rights and status of refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel;

Development of the "Amicus Curiae" legal tool and the practice of using it to promote human rights and social justice;

Production of a unique and comprehensive legal manual for establishing and developing a small business, in the framework of encouraging business entrepreneurship as a means of escaping poverty;

Development of an ethical code for the representation of juvenile delinquents. 

Among our publications:
"Being Children's Lawyers – summaries of workshops for lawyers representing juvenile delinquents, held at Tel Aviv University in February-June 2003" (May 2003), ed. Attorney Michal Aharoni.

"Somewhere There Is a Place… frameworks and solutions for youth at risk or in distress – auxiliary handbook for lawyers" (May 2003), eds. Attorney Michal Aharoni, Michal Cohen.

"Israel a Safe Refuge? Problems in Israel's Handling of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers – report and position paper" (May 2003), Attorney Anat Ben-Dor, Rami Edot (in cooperation with Physicians for Human Rights).

"The American Friend – the character of the 'Amicus Curiae' in outline," Michal Aharoni, in Hamishpat 10, 255 (2005).

"Lessons of the 'iron hand' – conclusions of research into dealing with juvenile delinquency and violence in the US and Canada" (January 2006), Attorney Michal Aharoni, Attorney Limor Solomon (in cooperation with the National Council for the Child).

"The Legal Manual for Establishing and Developing a Small Business" (November 2006), Attorney Galia Feit.

"From Rights Struggles to Economic Empowerment" (forthcoming in Mishpat, Hevra ve-Tarbut), Attorney Michal Aharoni, Attorney Galia Feit.

Academic Committee:

Prof. Ron Harris, Dean of the Buchmann Faculty of Law

Prof. Neta Ziv, Director of Clinical Legal Education Programs

Dr. Daphna Hacker, Chairman of the Master's Degree Committee





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