Legal Up! ™ is a collaborative effort under the auspices of the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership, led by United States District Judge Ursula Ungaro in which over 190 prominent local attorneys, judges, and law students provide civic and life skills education to at-risk youth and juveniles in Miami-Dade County.
The Legal Up! ™ program consists of four interactive workshops, which specifically address the challenges delinquent youth face transitioning into adulthood. Each workshop is approximately 2-3 hours in duration and runs from August — July.
The Law workshop/module is designed to teach students what a law is, how laws affect virtually all aspects of everyday life, and why laws are essential to protect and promote the wellbeing of all citizens. The students are given an overview of the criminal justice system and how it operates. Particular emphasis is placed on effective interaction with law enforcement and the court system. Students are then presented with a case study and encouraged to discuss whether the case study actors have engaged in effective behavior. Discussion includes providing the students with the respective rights and responsibilities of clients and their lawyers and encouraging the students to roleplay a lawyer-client interaction. The students then analyze the interaction by applying what they have learned about appropriate lawyer/client communication, the court system, and the responsibilities of legal clients and their counsel.
The Landlord/Tenant workshop/module’s aim is to prepare the students for locating and maintaining safe and affordable housing. This workshop is often paired with the Financial Literacy workshop/module to emphasize the relationship between one’s financial circumstances and what is “affordable.” It opens with a “real-world” exercise, asking the students to identify appropriate housing using actual residential advertisements. The students discuss the appropriate considerations used to select housing, such as cost, amenities, and proximity to transportation, shopping, work and school. The students next are taught how to read and negotiate a residential lease, with particular emphasis on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants under governing landlord tenant law. Additionally, the students learn about the legal concept of “habitability” and, should habitability issues arise, legally effective ways to address those issues.
The Financial Literacy workshop/module was designed and is conducted in partnership with the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida. This workshop/module teaches the students about the concept of credit, as well as how to establish and maintain good credit. The discussion details how the debtor—creditor relationship works, including the consequences of accruing interest, past due accounts, late fees, and the resulting bad credit. The students engage in another “real-world” exercise during which they are asked to set up a family budget and deal with unexpected financial emergencies.
The employment workshop/module educates the students about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. The discussion includes an overview of the law concerning, among other concepts, overtime compensation, minimum wage, and workplace discrimination. The students are taught how to locate employment opportunities and then taught how to draft and submit an effective cover letter and resume. The discussion then focuses on how to prepare for and participate in an employment interview. Students are treated to mock interviews with actual employers. Our participating employers provide invaluable feedback to our students about what employers in their community consider when making hiring decisions.
Accolades and Achievements
- Over 700 at-risk youth have completed the Legal Up! ™ Program
- The Legal Up! ™ team presented at the 25th National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community to foster communication and action among practitioners through the sharing of innovative ideas and prevention strategies.
- The Legal Up! ™ Program was awarded the R. Ray Goode Volunteer Recognition Award in 2007 from the Community Partnership for the Homeless
- The Legal Up! ™ Program was highlighted in both the Florida Bar Journal and The Miami Herald.