Unlock the Bar: A New York Social Movement

Unlock the Bar is a coalition of movement lawyers and law students advocating in New York for a just and equitable legal profession. Recognizing that the Bar admissions process was created to restrict legal power to white men, we formed during the global uprisings for Black liberation to build a legal profession where Black, Brown, and system-impacted voices lead. From law school applications to Bar admissions, the legal profession pushes away voices from the most marginalized communities, perpetuating a classist, elitist, and white supremacist institution. We believe that a truly inclusive, democratized legal system requires the full empowerment and representation of oppressed peoples.

Our present goal is to dismantle the barriers to entry into the legal profession created by the Character and Fitness application. Specifically, we hope to challenge New York State to eliminate all questions about involvement with the legal system including criminal records, family court-involvement, debt, and more, in pursuit of our north-star goal: eliminating the Character and Fitness application altogether in favor of a process that does not apply a carceral mentality to evaluating lawyers but that teaches lawyers to wield the law for liberative principles.

As we fight this system, we want to hear from those incarcerated in New York. If you plan to join the New York bar after release, we would love to include stories of your work on the inside and how it can strengthen your ability to be an attorney on the outside. We plan for our movement and the change it accomplishes to start a domino effect, ending system-impacted discrimination in every jurisdiction in the country, and to ultimately build true community representation. If you would like to learn more or join, please contact Tolu Lawal (tlawal.tl@gmail.com) and Al Brooks (ajb968@nyu.edu ), or write:

Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative

Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub

PO BOX 2516

Alachua, FL 32616