Jeff Anderson’s firm to fund law school’s Zero Abuse Project

He added, “This is just the beginning.”

Mark Gordon, president and dean at Mitchell Hamline, said the school was “thrilled and delighted to be able to expand its child protection efforts.”

In 2013, the law school began a child protection program to promote legal-system reform through education, training, research and the development of best practices. The Zero Abuse Project will advance that program “in a substantial way,” Anderson, a Mitchell Hamline alumnus, told NCR.

An attorney of 35 years working with survivors of child abuse, often those sexually abused by clergy and religious within the Catholic Church, Anderson, who just turned 70, outlined three pillars for the newly launched project: teach, train, do.

It’s through that third action-focused component that the project hopes to recruit lawyers and law firms across the country to practice pro-bono impact litigation aimed at creating better systems and laws for child protection, and holding governments and institutions accountable when they fall short. Law students and faculty will also take part.

Anderson said they’re modeling the approach after the Southern Poverty Law Center, pointing to the success that organization has had in taking on the Ku Klux Klan.

“The impact litigation is a powerful tool that has yet to be fully utilized in child protection. And we believe that our litigation that we bring is impact litigation, but this is to engage others to do it and to do it nationwide and on a volunteer basis,” he said. 

Other parts of the Zero Abuse Project will create a child advocacy clinic for law students, and an online certification program in child protection available nationwide to professionals. The goal of the certification program is to help people who work with children — lawyers, judges, social workers, advocates, among others — better read, and respond, to the signs of child abuse.

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