Train Staff

A crucial component of setting up a strategic litigation program is staff and volunteer training. Front-line staff – legal service providers and those running community outreach programs – play an important role in identifying patterns of legal problems requiring change through litigation, therefore it is vital that they understand both the relevance of impact litigation and the current impact themes that have been selected for potential action.

Training on strategic litigation should consequently feature inductions for new staff and volunteers. Impact themes should be communicated regularly to front-line service providers, with refresher training when they are updated or changed.

Front-line service providers must feel confident in using the internal procedures for referring a case that falls within the scope of these impact themes to the strategic litigation team, and protocols for client consultation before taking the case further. Procedures should be clearly set out, easily accessible, and simple to follow.

The staff and volunteers working directly on the strategic litigation program must be instructed regarding:

  • The available fora and their admissibility requirements and appropriateness for different types of cases;
  • Applicable international and regional law;
  • Rules of procedure for filing and pursuing a complaint at these institutions; and
  • Internal protocols for client engagement and media outreach or other communications.

Such training may also include going through internal policies on division of responsibilities between legal and administrative staff, and procedures for soliciting external help mindful of confidentiality. In establishing these policies and teaching staff and volunteers what is to be expected, consider the balance between spreading work out over many people. This may be appealing to busy lawyers seeking future pro bono work, but it is important to maintain consistency and open communication channels.

Strategic litigation is often costly and labor-intensive. Consider flagging the need for external collaboration to all staff when they receive training, regardless of their direct involvement with the program. This practice alerts a wider group of people to the need to activate their network of professional contacts and may boost the organization’s directory of advisers, researchers, interpreters, psychologists, court contacts, and other partners.