It is important to have a well - organised and co-ordinated office to run complex legal support. These ideas and suggestions are based on the S11 Legal Support Team and also from large global justice actions in the USA.
Your Activist Legal Support Office may well be in a tent or vehicle if the action is taking place outdoors or in an isolated area. The same ideas and principles apply.
Information on courts, jails, police stations including phone numbers, addresses, hours/days open, and person to speak to or ask for when calling and if they’re friendly or helpful. Also get directions for both public transportation and driving.
Action contact information: convergence centre, medical team, communications team, etc. Medical contact information: phone numbers and addresses of local hospitals and free clinics Information on what streets will be closed, what detours are available, etc.
It's a good idea to think about how you would like the office set up before you do it. Some things to think about:
Where to put wall charts so that all volunteers answering phones can see them How to arrange multiple desks with multiple phone lines that enable all people answering phones to talk without bothering and hear without being bothered.
Finding a quieter space for the computer that's not too removed from the rest of the office
The legal office can use wall charts as part of the information sharing system. The update charts should be on the wall and accessible, so the info coordinator can update them. If your office doesn’t have much wall space, you can make small charts for the contact info and tape them to each desk. Here are the charts you'll need to have before the action starts.
- Street and jail update charts
- Legal team update
- Government contact numbers - phone, fax, addresses, email and websites, if available of jails, courts, judges, mayor, police, police commissioner, prominent state and city officials, influential private citizens
- Legal contacts - Liberty - the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, community legal centres, any other civil liberty organisations
- Legal team contact numbers (note which numbers should not be given out)
- Action contact numbers - convergence, safety team, communications team, medical team etc.
- Medical contact information - local hospitals, free clinics, street medic centre
- Fundraising information - where people can send money for the legal team
- Where is everyone? Have a chart of courts and jails and post it with the names of lawyers and legal team members that can be moved to show where they are.
Make sure you have lots of notebooks on hand - at least two for each volunteer and legal team member. On the inside cover, write a sample entry to remind volunteers of the information that is absolutely necessary. On the back cover, write a key for highlighted categories. Find a safe place to keep the notebooks.
It’s helpful to have a very large map on the wall with location of blockades, one-way streets, detours, locations of jails and courts, etc. marked clearly. Have lots of regular street maps (preferably marked as well) to send with legal teams and runners who need to navigate the city.
There are some contact lists that shouldn’t be posted on the wall, but to which members of the legal team should have easy access. The information might be in a database, but it’s helpful to have it printed out, too, particularly since whomever needs them will often have to call down the list. These lists include:
- Volunteer contact information
- Lawyer contact information
- Legal observer contact information.
20-30 notebooks, pens, highlighters, markers, butcher paper or 3’ X 5’pads, printer paper, file folders, file cabinet, masking tape, push pins, paper clips, binder clips, stapler and staples, post-it notes, phones, clocks.
Training materials documents.