Karen Gargamelli, Jay Kim and Mike Wang, Co-Founders
Common Law (CL) represents a new type of lawyering model. Its mission is to use the skills and resources of attorneys to support and strengthen organizing efforts in New York City. CL serves membership-driven, grassroots organizations by providing free legal services to the membership. This “bottom up” approach places lawyers alongside activists and organizers, rather than elevating lawyers’ work or separating legal services from social change.
At the heart of CL’s approach are legal clinics that integrate organizing with education and legal strategies. They use “learning circles,” which are small group models, where attorneys, organizers, four to six members, and participants share experiences and learn from one another. Organizers highlight and link the commonalities among individual experiences to organizational campaign goals and help members recognize and deal with structural and systemic abuses of power. CL has provided legal services to homeowners facing foreclosures, tenants fighting eviction and street vendors facing fines.