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Legal News: Law Blog - WSJ.com
?Creative Lawyers? an Oxymoron? Not in James Cooper?s World
By Dan Slater
Consider this multinational legal organization: “Creative Lawyers Collaborating to Find Optimal Solutions.”
Creative lawyers? Well, oxymoron or not, it does exist. James Cooper, a law prof and assistant dean at the California Western School of Law in San Diego, heads Proyecto Acceso, a nonprofit group. According to this WSJ front-pager by Matt Moffett, Acceso provides specialized training for Latin legal professionals as well as basic education on the law for the general public, such as Lustrabotas, or Bolivian shoeshine boys, a notoriously downtrodden class.
Accoring to the piece, Cooper, 42, recently brought together 30 shoeshiners, between the ages of 8 and 17, for a know-your-rights seminar from a Bolivian Supreme Court justice and a banker who had once been a shoeshine boy himself. Each of the children got a pair of pants with superhero emblems, and if they continue attending Acceso seminars and learn enough to chat up customers on the basics of the law, they’ll get shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with human-rights slogans. After the first seminar, Carlos Mamani, a 15-year-old who has had to contend with bullies on the job, said he learned something about property rights. “No one has the right to mess with anyone else’s shoeshine box,” he explained.
But Cooper, who used to work at Baker & McKenzie, didn’t stop at Lustrabotas. To highlight deficiencies in legal protections for Mexican workers under the NAFTA, he produced a reality TV show featuring U.S. law students laboring at a Tijuana toy-making factory. The students earned $60 a week for enduring harsh assembly-line conditions and environmental hazards. Another time, he put lawyers from Bolivia and Chile — historical enemies — together for a training seminar aboard a “Justice Train” traveling from La Paz across the Andes to the Chilean coast.
Cooper, an amateur drummer, also uses pop music to explain the new system to the general Chilean public. In 2005, Acceso, along with the German government-aid agency and the Chilean Justice Ministry produced a CD of justice-related songs — “Súbele el Volumen a la Reforma,” or “Turn up the Volume on the Reform;” and “Presunción de Inocencia,” or “Presumption of Innocence.”
“Jamie’s got more energy than 10 people combined,” says Irma Gonzalez, chief U.S. judge for the Southern District of California. “He’s out there.”
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