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Human Rights Scholar to Join Faculty, Direct Community-Based Clinic

Professor Rachel E. Lopez

February 05, 2013

Rachel Elizabeth Lopez will join the faculty this year and direct the law school’s Community Lawyering Clinic.

Currently a visiting assistant clinical professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, Lopez helped launch a partnership between that school and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City and establish the Guatemala Rule of Law Program. Her scholarship focuses on methods of accountability for human rights violations, corporate accountability and transitional justice.

Lopez received her JD from the University of Texas School of Law and her LLM from Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne. As a law student, Lopez was a Human Rights Scholar and completed summer fellowships at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

She will direct a new law school clinic, which is part of a broader university-wide initiative to engage the neighboring communities of Mantua and Powelton Village and will be headquartered in Drexel University’s Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships at 35th and Spring Garden streets. The focus and mission of the clinic will be community-driven and are being developed through a needs-assessment process that members of the university community are conducting with residents and area business owners.

“The clinic will aspire not only to serve, but also empower community members,” Lopez said. “This community-centered approach will equip students with the skills necessary to be both effective lawyers and leaders.”

Susan L. Brooks, associate dean for experiential learning, said Lopez’s arrival and the development of the clinic represent tremendous opportunities for both the law school and the nearby community.

“Rachel has impressive credentials as a scholar and a teacher who has also initiated a variety of different programs,” Brooks said.

Development of the new clinic is path-breaking, Brooks added, noting that law schools typically launch clinics that reflect the interests of faculty or administrators. The Community Lawyering Clinic will result from a unique process that promotes interdisciplinary collaborations across Drexel as well as partnerships between the university and the community, Brooks said.

“President Fry and Vice Provost for University and Community Partnerships Lucy Kerman have created a very exciting opportunity for partnerships that will benefit the community, the university and our students,” Brooks said.

Some law school activities will move to the Dornsife Center this spring, namely pro bono service projects such as a housing intake clinic and estate planning. The Philadelphia Criminal Record Expungement Project, headed by law school alumnus Mike Lee, will also begin to operate in the center this spring.