One of the most striking differences between the first and third Puerto Rico legal clinics has been data. Not only access to the rich new research conducted by our friends at the University of Puerto Rico and elsewhere, but the ability to interview stakeholders of all stripes and compile some data of our own.
On the previous trip, we concentrated on serving immediate needs while laying the ground work for future partnerships and work on the island. We observed and absorbed but asked few questions, sensitive to what was happening around us. As clinical students we were certainly thirsty for data, and noted what we wanted to know more about in the future, but that was not the time to request statistics or probe into people’s experiences.
This year, we have been able to utilize that ground work to pursue more focused individual and group research. We’ve met with and learned from attorneys, professors, civic leaders, scientists, legislators and aides, and not-for-profits. Every connection we make provides more information and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. Every person with whom we speak is eager to provide us with charts, slides, and a shortlist of other folks who can speak on one topic or another.
Beyond this, however, what have been incredibly informative are conversations with community members we’ve befriended along the way. We’ve been able to learn about property issues, government transparency, electrical delivery, and factors driving migration from and to the island, to name a few, from the citizens experiencing these things, as well as the experts studying them.
Good data is key to our ability to perform effective legal research and provide excellent legal service. The ability to access fresh research from island universities will facilitate our work. Learning from and interacting with community members will help UB Law Responds to forge a stronger relationship with Puerto Rican friends and institutions.