What Is Legal Advocacy?

December 10, 2021

An A-Z Guide on Becoming a Legal Advocate, from Law School Concentrations to Careers.

With more and more people advocating for human, animal and environmental rights, it’s no wonder law schools see an increasing number of applicants invested in social justice. What many prospective lawyers don’t know, however, is that there’s an entire career path that allows them to channel their passions for advocacy into legal excellence.

One concentration offered at Stetson Law is the legal advocacy certificate, which is a great fit for law school students who want to learn more about being an advocate for their clients or working within a specific area of law to advocate for causes.

Legal advocacy
A legal advocate is someone who works through the justice system to enact social change or to impact the life of an individual. Types of groups that legal advocates often work for include, but are not limited to:

  • Children
  • Victims of abuse
  • People with disabilities
  • Prisoners
  • Victims of crimes or accidents
  • Low-income tenants

Think this concentration would be a good fit for you and your goals? Let’s talk more about legal advocacy so that you can make the jump.

“If you’re getting an Advocacy Concentration,” says Elizabeth Boals, Director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy and Assistant Professor of Law at Stetson. “You’re not just learning about areas of law — you’re learning about areas of law and how to be an advocate for change or for representation within those different fields.”

What to Do Before Deciding on Legal Advocacy

If you’re trying to determine whether or not legal advocacy is for you, then consider volunteering with an organization that serves a niche that you have interest in. For example, if you’re thinking about being a legal advocate for prisoners, then look into volunteering with a nonprofit that works to reduce the rate of recidivism among United States prisoners.

Some legal advocate jobs are also only offered as a volunteer basis, but can be a great way for you to gain experience in your field and work toward picking up a paid advocate role. You’ll want to look into these volunteer positions early on to see if you can gain that experience. Some require a law degree, but some may let you work before you’ve graduated. Requirements will vary by organization or industry.

What’s Required for an Advocacy Concentration?

No matter the concentration you choose in law school, one of the courses you’ll take is trial advocacy, according to Associate Director Stacey Turmel.

“[You’re] going to get experience in a courtroom, experience advocating, engaging in those critical thinking skills, developing facts and evidence, and making a persuasive argument,” Turmel said.

If you decide to pursue a concentration in advocacy at Stetson Law, then you’ll need to apply with enough time left to complete the requirements, get accepted, and also:

Perform 10 hours of pro bono work on behalf of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, on top of the pro bono work required by the university.

Complete at least 21 hours of the approved curriculum and maintain an average 3.0 GPA across those courses.
Participate in required mentoring.

“This is a flexible program that grows as they grow, so that it covers their evolution, from ‘I just want to be an advocate’ to ‘I want to be a litigator in civil rights,’” Director Boals said. “It is a living breathing thing that is flexible and rich and deep, and has a lot of different paths.”

Importance of Mentorship

During your time in the advocacy program, you’ll work with a mentor who will help guide you along. Mentoring plays an important role in laying the groundwork for career connections, according to Associate Director Turmel. “It’s a great way to do things because the best way to get a job is to have a contact that helps you get a job. So from a mentoring standpoint, it certainly supports that networking opportunity, especially in your particular targeted area that you want to get involved in, so I think that that’s really helpful too.”

Types of Courses You’ll Take

There are several courses you’ll have to take in this concentration path so that you get the experience you need to be a successful advocate. Those classes could include:

  • Pre-Trial Practice
  • Family Law Mediation
  • Interviewing and Counseling
  • Child Advocacy Clinic
  • Immigration Law Clinic
  • Veterans Advocacy Clinic

There are many courses that Stetson Law offers to choose from once you start planning your legal advocacy concentration.

“This is a flexible program that grows as they grow, so that it covers their evolution, from ‘I just want to be an advocate’ to ‘I want to be a litigator in civil rights,’” says Director Boals. “It is a living breathing thing that is flexible and rich and deep, and has a lot of different paths.”

Potential Career Paths in Legal Advocacy

If you decide to obtain a legal advocacy certification, there will be many different areas of law where you could practice as a legal advocate. From trial advocate to working with children and families, you’ll have varying opportunities to choose from. Check out some of the potential careers you could have within legal advocacy.

Children and Families Advocate

In this role, you’ll often consult on family-related issues such as custody, adoption, divorce, and sometimes cases of abuse. With your legal expertise, you’ll make suggestions or recommendations to either the parents or the court about what the best route to take would be based on your assessment of the situation.

Disability Advocate

Many times, people with disabilities face discrimination whether it’s at their job or elsewhere. They may need an advocate to help them fight for fair treatment at work or to seek compensation for what happened to them.

Women’s Advocate

As a women’s advocate, you’ll step in to help women in cases where they may be underrepresented, such as rape, assault, divorce, domestic abuse, and more. You may work directly for your local justice system, but could also work for a nonprofit in this type of role.

Environmental Advocate

If you feel passionate about the environment and the impact that humans have on it, then you might end up serving as an advocate in this area of law. You could consult on cases against developers or companies that did something to adversely affect the environment around them.

Elder Abuse Advocate

Sadly, elder abuse cases are on the rise in the United States, and often the victims cannot speak for themselves. As an advocate for the elderly, you would advise on cases where elder abuse is suspected and help the victims or their families with seeking restitution.

Tenant Advocate

If tenants experience unjust behavior from a landlord, then they may need your help to fight a legal battle. This could include getting out of a lease or trying to enforce the landlord to provide livable conditions for people.

Civil Rights Advocate

As a civil rights advocate, you’d work with marginalized communities who’ve had their civil rights infringed upon. For example, you could work with nonprofits like the American Civil Liberties Union or Amnesty International to help people in need.

Animal Rights Advocate

Animals certainly can’t speak for themselves, and if you have a drive to help them, then you could work as an animal rights advocate and advise on cases involving animal abuse, animal hoarders, and others. Organizations like the ASPCA or PETA may rely on your legal knowledge to help them advance their goals.

Want to work toward becoming a legal advocate? We can help.

At Stetson Law, where we’ve been recognized for nearly the last quarter of a century as the nation's top advocacy program, we know that many people decide to go to law school so they can help make a difference in the world. That’s why we offer the legal advocacy concentration so you can get the training you need to successfully advocate for the social justice issues that you’re impassioned by.

When you’re ready to apply, we’re here to help answer questions and assist you throughout the process and beyond. Contact us today to get started.

Topics: Law School Insider Tips