Mississippi Policy Partners
Mississippi Policy Partners was a partnership between students at Harvard Law School, Tougaloo College (a historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi), the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, and One Voice, a Jackson-based non-profit. The objective of the program was to engage Harvard students in the real-time policy arena in Mississippi by pairing them with members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus to work on emerging policy issues during legislative sessions. Additionally, Harvard students served as mentors to undergraduates from Tougaloo who were legislative interns during the legislative session.
The HLS students spent winter term in Jackson, working with the Tougaloo students and helping the legislators draft and advocate for one or two key legislative agenda items. They worked in on teams to help the Tougaloo students understand legislation, laws, and policy, build the capacity of the legislator, and help research and craft relevant legislation for passage in the legislative session.
Perinatal Care and Infant Mortality
Beginning in January 2009, one law student traveled to the Delta to interview health providers and draft a policy paper about infant mortality in the Mississippi Delta counties. This project included an assessment of the potential outcomes of implementing the Nurse Family Partnership program, a nurse-home visitation program for first-time, low-income mothers, in the Delta. The policy paper was shared widely, and the cost-benefit analysis of the Nurse Family Partnership program was included in a statewide feasibility assessment of this program.
Following on this theme, in spring 2010, Harvard Law School students supported the Tennessee Justice Center by researching the issue of infant mortality in the city of Memphis and the surrounding Shelby County area. To this end, the students contacted local hospitals, schools, community health care facilities, and non-profit organizations to get a sense of the types of services offered to pregnant and parenting women in the region. Students also prepared an assessment report which gives an overview of the issue, examines the current state of affairs in maternal and ob/gyn care, and offers policy recommendations aimed at combating high rates of infant mortality. The report served as a resource for the Tennessee Justice Center as it considered potential litigation related to children’s health care.
The Tennessee Justice Center is a non-profit, public interest law firm which advocates on behalf of the state’s low-income community. The Center focuses on policy issues and civil cases which concern access to the most basic necessities of life, and it emphasizes advocacy work that benefits families across the state as a whole. The Center also hopes to empower its clients through its ability to hold government agencies accountable for their policies and actions.
Small Business Legal Assistance
Harvard Law School students worked with The GrowDelta Initiative to provide legal training for fledgling and existing small businesses in the Mississippi Delta. The GrowDelta Initiative, a collaborative effort between Delta Directions Consortium and Charles Noble from University of Mississippi School of Business, was formed to foster economic growth and development in the Delta. Throughout spring 2010, GrowDelta held a series of trainings on areas of interest to GrowDelta participants: marketing, legal issues, management and finances.
HLS students traveled to the Delta for their spring break in order to prepare and present the GrowDelta legal training on March 20. Students met with local entrepreneurs to learn about their legal barriers, and worked together to compile information about these issues into a manual that could be used by these and other aspiring entrepreneurs in Mississippi. Topics included entity structure, tax, liability, insurance, licensing & permits, intellectual property, and responsibility for employees. After compiling the manual, students presented the information in the legal training for local entrepreneurs.
Student assistance in this area has been particularly important, as there are few legal services agencies operating in the Delta, and no transactional legal assistance available. Thus, lack of knowledge about legal issues in starting a business is a huge barrier for individuals.